Will 'Kabhi Alvida...' give NRIs their due?
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Will 'Kabhi Alvida...' give NRIs their due?

The bourgeoning Indian Diaspora is finally set to get a better representation in a Hindi film.

india Updated: Aug 06, 2006 19:43 IST

The bourgeoning Indian Diaspora around the world is finally set to get a better representation in a Hindi film after decades of stereotypes.

It is hoped that ace Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar in his yet another attempt at portraying non-resident Indians (NRIs) on 70-MM with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (KANK) will break the mould.

Starting from Pardes, to Mujhse Dosti Karoge, to Ramji Londonwaley, and even so-called art house films, dream merchants of Mumbai studios have depicted most NRIs as not so good compared to Indians.

Invariably, they are shown as people who get cleansed when they return to their roots and once here they never leave.

New Yorker Anitha Venkataramani put it aptly in her observation that in Bollywood the Indian-American guy is always one of two types.

Either the boy is a rich, amoral and a womaniser whose parents are looking for a girl from India to fix him - for instance Apurva Agnihotri's character in Pardes, or a rich MBA who only wants a girl from India - like Hrithik Roshan's character in Mujhse Dosti Karoge or Abhishek Bachchan in Kuch Naa Kaho.

The Indian-American girl also comes in two types - rich and amoral with a serious alcohol problem - for instance Suman Ranganathan's character in Aa Ab Laut Chalen and skimpily-dressed Kareena Kapoor in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Rani Mukerji in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - or rich and beautiful with a wardrobe comprising entirely of salwar-kameezes and an affinity towards India - like Kajol's character in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

Additionally, more often than not, it takes a hardcore character from India to teach 'these Americans' what the true values of life are and how only Indians understand them.

In Pardes, the goody two-shoes character of Arjun, played by Shah Rukh Khan, is characterised as the 'pure desi' at heart who is so moral he does not smoke or drink like the other immoral Indian-Americans around him.

In Kal Ho Naa Ho, we witness Aman Mathur (Shah Rukh again) coming from India and teaching Naina Kapur how to 'have fun' in her life. Which consists of drinking shot after shot of hard liquor, stripping her clothes off and dancing provocatively with several men at once.

Of course, this is what every Indian-American must consider 'fun' in the confused and stereotyped world of Yash Raj Films and Mukta Arts.

"So these Indian filmmakers need to make up their mind: Are 'cool' Indian-Americans supposed to be more like Arjun or like Aman? Also, time and again, Indians living abroad (specifically in the US and Britain) speak typically Indian-accented English and wear clothes that do not reflect styles in Europe or the (United) States in any way," says Venkataramani.

Johar's mega-budget Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is set entirely in New York. Starring Bollywood's A-list actors - Shah Rukh, Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukerji, Abhishek, Preity Zinta - the film is set for release on Friday.

Hopefully, the film that deals with infidelity will give us a view of people living there who don't all drink and go wild at parties with barely any clothes on. Who don't all look down upon the Indian culture and are not all amoral. Also, bring out a lot of aspects of the American culture that are wholesome.

Johar has always tasted success with all his films - right from his assistant director days in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to his directorial ventures Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham to his productions Kal Ho Naa Ho.

This would be the first time that a Johar film takes up a topic like extramarital affair. Tellingly, Johar had to base the story out of India.

Apparently, he still believes that Indian married men do not betray their wives and had to make an NRI do it. Nonetheless, the promos of the film seem to suggest that he has got some other aspects of NRIs in New York right. Can't wait to see.

The overseas market film-

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

-comes at a time when the money generated by international release of a multi-starrer Bollywood film is crossing the all-India revenues. In addition, live shows by Bollywood stars have become a no-no within India.

The importance of NRIs to Bollywood's economics can be gauged by the fact that British film awards, British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), dedicated a night to Bollywood. Called "BAFTA Goes Bollywood" the event featured screenings, interviews and workshops with Yash Chopra, Preity, Shah Rukh, Aamir Khan and Johar.

Speaking about the importance of NRIs to Bollywood, Shah Rukh was quoted as saying that "NRIs have been important to me", while Chopra reportedly said: "The NRI market is as good to us as the market in India and Britain is number one for us."

BAFTA chairman Duncan Kenworthy said: "The Academy is delighted to host this exciting event, which celebrates and investigates the broad appeal, outstanding creative talent and unparalleled production values that characterise Bollywood cinema."

"With a significant and growing impact on UK audiences, Bollywood films are increasingly popular around the world. We are honoured to bring some of Bollywood's most influential artistes to London, to recognise their achievements and to learn from their expertise."

Bollywood has been in focus in Britain in various ways. Films featuring Rishi Kapoor, Suneil Shetty and others are currently being shot in picturesque locations in north Staffordshire and north Wales.

In fact, it is commonplace to find Amitabh, Shah Rukh, Preity, Chopra or Aamir or an Indian crew shooting in the sylvan countryside.

Eros International, a major film distribution group, announced that it had raised 22.5 million pounds in an offering on London's Alternate Investment Market (AIM). Across Yorkshire, local authorities have begun preparations to host next year's International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards.

Noted choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant has announced plans to present a musical, "The Merchants of Bollywood", across Britain in November, finishing at the West End at Christmas.

The British Tourist Authority in India is leaving no stone unturned to promote Britain as the ideal place for Bollywood to shoot.

First Published: Aug 06, 2006 19:43 IST