Cornerhouse’s monthly programme of films which celebrate Indian Cinema, offering a unique opportunity to learn about India’s multi-faceted culture and long history of filmmaking. Spanning classic, new, fresh and noteworthy Bollywood films, this is an opportunity to enter a world that’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced!
Bollywood and Beyond starts with a series of films celebrating the world’s best-loved actor and hero, the Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan.
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Unlike traditional Bollywood films this has no songs, but instead is a well paced character study of Vijay, the 60 year old who falls in love with his daughter’s friend, Jia, aged 18, when she comes to stay in the college holidays. It’s all set on Vijay’s estate (so in his world) – an isolated teahouse plantation – that also plays a large part in the film, it’s a lush sea of green and blue that ‘conceals’ the affair. It’s certainly not the India we’ve seen recently in films such as Slumdog Millionaire; this is one is privileged yet ordinary and safe. The strong, sophisticated cinematography applies a blue tint to create an isolated feeling completely avoiding any hint of hot and steamy clichés.
This really is a chance to see Amitabh acting rather than ‘performing’ and shows why he should considered one of the greats (and for me is definitely preferably to Kevin Spacey in American Beauty!). He plays a successful photographer, whose creative spirit is re-ignited by the arrival of the headstrong Jia. His performance is subtle and measured; sincere emotions often through the nuance of an eye movement.
The themes of the film are universal; where in mainstream films we might be used to seeing more explicit physicals betrayals, emotional infidelity is far more serious and destructive. Vijay tears both himself and his family apart with his feelings.
The director Ram Gopal Varma is an accomplished Indian screenwriter and filmmaker and has produced a wide variety of films in Hindi and Telugu. One of his most famous works Satya, Company and D is a gangster trilogy often likened to The Godfather. Varma himself also states this one of Amitabh’s best performances ever.
Sarah Perks, Programme & Engagement Director, Cornerhouse
Whilst Amitabh Bachchan is more critically acclaimed for his iconic appearances in films such the 1970s classics SHOLAY and DEEWAR, it is his appearance in DON (1978) that remains a personal favourite of mine. It might lack some of the polish of his other major works and without doubt some of the acting may be best described as ‘broad’, but for me DON tops them all with its sheer vibrant energy. The film gathered together a top cast which saw Bachchan supported by such Bollywood stalwarts as Zeenat Aman, Pran and Helen and the script by Hindi cinema legends Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan has it all: car chases, memorable songs, dancing, martial arts fights, over the top bad guys and fabulous fashion. Interestingly, DON was thought to have flopped when first released but the success of its most fondly remembered song, ‘Khaike Paan Banaraswala’, turned things around and it went on to become a major hit and one of the periods most loved works. To top it all it has the major superstar of the period playing two parts (move over van Damme!). Forget the recent Shahrukh Khan remake and take this rare opportunity to see the original Bollywood gangster at his frantic, unstoppable best.
Andy Willis, Reader in Film & Media at University of Salford and regular Cornerhouse contributor
Our rolling monthly programme of films celebrating Indian Cinema, offering a unique opportunity to learn about India’s multi-faceted culture and long history in filmmaking. Spanning classic, new, fresh and noteworthy Bollywood films, this is an opportunity to enter a world that’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced!