a public event
At James Bridges Theater
UCLA Film & Television Archive Presents
FILMI MELODY: SONG AND DANCE IN INDIAN CINEMA: Friday, October 21 – Sunday, October 30
The Archive’s 2005 showcase for some of the best products of Indian popular cinema has a few new wrinkles. We are now calling it Filmi (rather than Bombay) Melody, in order to suggest that the exuberant music and melodrama so closely identified with the Hindi commercial cinema produced in Bombay (Mumbai) are truly pan-Indian.
Also, this year’s series celebrates the work of three of contemporary India’s top stars:
Amitabh Bachchan, the industry-defining “angry young man” of the 1970s, voted the “greatest star of stage and screen” of all time in a BBC online poll and still a major leading man in his 60s;
Kamal Haasan, the chameleon superstar, arguably Indian cinema’s leading method actor, who has dominated South India’s Tamil-language movie industry for two decades;
and Shah Rukh Khan, a new kind of Bollywood megastar whose popularity owes an unprecedented debt to audiences in the global Indian diaspora.
This is still, of course, a celebration of melody, because the music in popular Indian films continues to be an excellent early warning system of stylistic changes on the horizon. One of the most hopeful recent developments has been the rapid growth of a sharply focused neo-classical movement among younger actors and directors. Remakes of Golden Age classics have been released or are in the works, and one of the past year’s biggest hits, choreographer Farah Khan’s directorial debut MAIN HOON NA (I’M HERE NOW), is a frank and affectionate homage to the sort of high-’70s masala movies parodied a generation earlier by Manmohan Desai in AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY. The changes are especially evident in the way songs are being picturized. In some of the best new Bollywood movies, such as Ashutosh Gowariker’s SWADES (2004), the hero sings while sauntering along a country road like Dev Anand or slouching over a piano like the young Raj Kapoor. He no longer feels obliged in every case to do what lyricist Javed Akhtar calls “aerobics” in front of a chorus line of item queens.
As the title character of last year’s crowd-pleaser MUNNA BHAI, MBBS, would likely put it: “Lose the tension, yaar. Relax and enjoy.”
US Premiere • New 35mm Print
(1987) Directed by Mani Rathnam
Chosen by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 best films, Mani Rathnam’s career-making thriller has aged amazingly well, due in large part to Kamal Haasan’s nuanced dramatic acting in the title role. This godfather look-alike was based on the career of real-life Tamil-born boss-of-bosses Varadarajan Mudaliar, who ruled Bombay’s Dharavi slums in the 1970s. Kamal Haasan plays the lightly fictionalized Velu, the son of a murdered union leader who becomes a smuggler and then a lordly mob boss who sticks up for the downtrodden. Rathnam carefully preserves the dignity and the credibility of his gang lord anti-hero by never asking him to synch to playback; the de rigueur musical duties are always justified by narrative context (a floor show in a brothel) or handed off to a high spirited side-kick (Janakaraj). When Velu does kick up his heels during a festival celebration, in a moment of personal triumph, he kicks them up in character.
Producer/Screenwriter: M. Rathnam. Cinematographer: P.C. Sriram. Music Director: Ilaiyaraja. Lyricists: Ilaiyaraja, Pulamai Pithan. With: Kamal Haasan, Saranya, M.V. Vasudeva Rao, Janakaraj. 35mm, in Tamil with English subtitles, 155 min.
Tickets are also available at the theater one hour before showtime: $7 general admission; $5 students, seniors and UCLA Alumni Association members with ID.
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