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Bollywood in Indianapolis

January 13, 2009
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While "Slumdog Millionaire" isn't a Bollywood film, the Golden Globe winner does play with some of the conventions popularized by the Indian film industry--including the joyful dance sequence that ends the film. 

"Slumdog's" box office and critical success may bode well for a long-running series of Indian film screenings at Georgetown 14 Cinemas. The lastest offering--the kung fu/romance/comedy/musical "Chandni Chowk to China"--opens this week.

At a preview, I found the film both charmingly over-the-top and frustratingly familiar. It's lowly-vegitable-chopper-turned-hero plot has been done a thousand times. And our heroes shameless mugging wouldn't be out of place coming from the cast of a Sid and Marty Krofft kids show from the 1970s.

But Bollywood isn't know for its originality. Rather, the pleasures are in the details. And you aren't likely to see an American film with as many audacious leaps as this one. A father figure whose seat-of-the-pants kicks sends the hero flying high, a magical umbrella that our heroine uses at just the right time, and a battle that leads to an army of knocked out villains raining down wouldn't pass muster at the first writers meeting if the movie came from Hollywood. Add in a hilarious airplane lugging bin sight gag, a suprising splattered bug, and dance sequences that can pop up out of nowhere, and you have something unique--at least to American eyes.

Do these elements justify the overly familiar plot played out over a numbing 168 minutes? For me, no. But now that I've seen the pleasures Bollywood can hold, I'm going to keep my eyes open for more. And now, thanks to Manoranjan Inc. and its arrangement with Georgetown 14, I know where to look. For more details, click here.
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