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The Bollywood saga

Journalist Kaveri Bamzai's book Bollywood Today takes a peek into the spine of tisel town and its true loyalists.

books Updated: Dec 14, 2007 20:07 IST

A handful of colourful characters in Bollywood are keeping the magic of the Indian film industry alive by tapping into the pulse of audiences, says a new book.

"There are a few colourful characters who inhabit Bollywood. They are the men and women who keep the magic alive, who tap into the pulse of audiences every day in darkened theatres across the country," writes journalist Kaveree Bamzai in Bollywood Today.

The writer says there remain a few Bollywood actors for whom the script is a criteria.

"These few people convince stars to do movies - very few in Bollywood actually decide movies based on the script and take them on for reasons ranging from the emotional to the mercenary," she writes.

"These stars and filmmakers, who sell dreams, are also now selling reality, increasingly becoming part of the celebrity machine, a monster that the media has created and constantly fuels."

Bollywood may be behind Hollywood in terms of movies produced, ticket sales and revenues but the Indian film industry is a national fascination which sells magazines and newspapers, makes news headlines and is used to promote everything, from sensual dreams to fabric softeners, from national integration to potato chips.

"Bollywood makes almost 200 movies a year, selling an average of $2.5 billion worth in tickets with worldwide revenues of $1 billion (less than the box-office revenue of Titanic).

The writer also says movie marketing is largely a hit-and-miss game in Bollywood. "Movie marketing, perfected into a science by Hollywood, is still largely a hit-and-miss game in Mumbai, the result of partnerships struck by producers and stars with consumer goods companies looking for a glamorous rub-off.

"There are spectacular songs with actors who lip-sync to playback singers and chorus dancers from professional troupes or junior artistes."

The writer says that Bollywood dominates the Indian landscape as well as the imagination, making news 24x7, whether it is the engagement of two stars, the hospitalisation of a superstar or the television debut of another icon.

"The days when fans worshiped the stars from afar, reading about their tragic, stormy or fantastic lives in fanzines and then watching them thunderstruck in hushed halls, are gone. Bollywood is always on now, and the tabloid reality of the filmmakers is sometimes a poor second to the fantasy it produces," she writes.

The book also attempts a flashback of the golden times of India cinema right from the first Indian full-length feature film Raja Harishchandra in 1913.

It highlights some of the epics of Bollywood -- Devdas, Awaara, Do Bigha Zameen, Mother India, Mughal-e-Azam, Guide, Sholay and others. Bamzai also profiles some of the present generation actors and filmmakers, highlighting their high-points.