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Is Hollywood going Bollywood?

By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Unique love scenes in films are like scoops of eternity...never to be lost. Never to be collected in a clasp... only in a gasp. When I watched the sumptuous sensuality of Rob Marshall's Memoirs Of A Geisha it became progressively clear that international cinema careens more and more towards Oriental expressions of emotions, specially love.

Watch that last elegiac moment of stolen tenderness between Ziyi Zhang and Ken Watanabe where he tells her he has loved her ever since he saw her as a little girl. It could be a moment out of Yash Chopra's way-ahead-of-times Lamhe...

Or it could be that heart-stopping moment in Black where the blind and deaf Michelle asks her teacher to make her feel like a woman. Such complexities of expression tend to transpose the rites of love-making away from a level of eroticism to a plane of spiritualism.

As the ultra-romantic Gulzar says, "Love starts with the physical and then moves beyond the body." Hindi cinema has been doing that quite regularly. My favourite love scene would have to be the 'More piya' raas-leela song sequence in Sanjay Bhansali's Devdas. The way the camera caressed the contours of the divine-erotic love lyric, the splash of water, the swish of the veil being pulled off and the impact of the camera as it heaved and swayed like a boat in a turbulent emotion....they all added to Shah Rukh and Aishwarya's sensuous presence.

This was a far more electrifying moment of love than the over-rated Dilip Kumar-Madhubala 'like-feather-like-song' frolic in Mughal-e-Azam.... I find a similar aura of tense romanticism in recent Hollywood films. Check out the looks-oh , those smouldering looks!-which Joaquin Phoenix throws at Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line....Or that great on-screen chemistry that Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni share in Fun With Dick&Jane.

Didn't Dick and Jane remind you of our own Bunty and Babli? Didn't Abhishek Bachchan in Bluff Master remind you of Will Smith in Hitch? And didn't Abhishek in Dus remind you of Will Smith in Bad Boys?

Didn't Nana Patekar and John Abraham in Taxi No 9211 remind you of Jamie Fox and Tom Cruise in Collateral? And doesn't the over-hyped Telugu star Siddharth in Rakeysh Mehra's extraordinary Rang De Basanti remind you of the tycoon's son in Arthur Miller's All My Sons where the conscience-stricken son shoots himself dead after he discovers his dad had been selling those faulty spare parts to the army aircrafts that killed a soldier.

Familiar terrain...Though Rakeysh has no clue about All My Sons. This healthy give-and-take of ideas between Bollywood and Hollywood has now come to a place where cinema from the two disparate worlds can have the same face.

Is Hollywood becoming more and more like Indian cinema? ...This is the thought that raced through my mind while watching Memoirs of a Geisha. The mounting of the story could be Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan, the sumptuous colours were from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, the poetic lyricism seemed derived from Kamal Amrohi's Pakeezah and the raw hurting realism about gender equations came from Madhur Bhandarkar's Chandni Bar.

One sees all of these in the exquisite literary adaptation that's Memoirs Of A Geisha. This isn't the first time in recent movie-viewing experiences that we have come away with the feeling that Hollywood is getting more and more Oriental in its depiction of family values and in understanding the layerings that linger in the search of family ties. I had seen moments in that excellent biopic on the life of blues singer Ray Charles which could've been straight out of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black...These had to do with the responses of the blind young protagonist trying to come to terms with his blindness.

A mother in distress about her handicapped child's future or a sister grappling with her sibling's illness ..isn't that what Black and 15 Park Avenue were about? Now watch Toni Colette and Cameron Diaz do the sister angst in In Her Shoes.... More than ever , the West seems to value those very emotions that Indian cinema seemed to be losing out on.

For a while now Indian filmmakers had become almost apologetic about displaying our cultural roots on screen. No more. We as a nation producing the largest number of films can gush at Geisha because we know that story of a little girl who was kidnapped into a brothel and groomed into growing up to be a poised sex worker. J.P. Dutta calls her Umrao Jaan. And it's no coincidence that the poetic tawaif is played by the international face of Indian cinema.

Rob Marshall Saab, Aapki kya 'Rai' hai?

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