Bollywood Speed

In March, we showed RAGE in Bombay as part of a small festival of British films, called FROM BLIGHTY WITH LOVE. The screening took place simultaneously in 11 cinemas in four cities and I did a Q and A via live webcast from Bombay, with the audiences from the different cinemas texting in their questions. I was pleased to note that the jokes in RAGE got swifter and more knowing laughs on this continent – which boasts a larger number of English speakers than the UK, US and Europe combined – than almost anywhere else.

Our first night in Bombay, intriguingly – given the invisible setting of RAGE – featured an invitation to a fashion show, but the highlight of my trip was a visit to Bollywood’s Film City to watch a nightshoot for “No Problem”, starring Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Akshay Khanna.

The set was a South African street, the extras were young female tourists dressed in skimpy outfits, and between set-ups the director, Anees Bazmee, explained his working method to me. He writes the script by speaking the idea aloud to the actors: a long improvisation which is recorded and then transcribed and edited. By the third ‘talk-through’ the script is complete. I watched him direct using a microphone linked to a PA system which boomed out over the set. Because virtually all Indian films are dubbed he even gave instructions during takes. And he told me he was shooting three films this year, with a month in between each one to edit.

All in all, a salutory lesson in speed, stamina, ingenuity and new ways of using an oral tradition.

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