I like what you call Bollywood. What this book is all about that’s what I am about. This is what
I do this lights this camera this Masala, this is me. I love it. I grew up watching it. I’ve
clapped, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed. And I hope I can do this till the day I die. You cross one
hurdle you achieve one more landmark; you get hysterical about what to achieve after. How can you
not come back for more? There’s always a greed for more.
An insider’s look at the glitz grit and grandeur of Bollywood the world’s largest film
Lights camera Masala is a celebration of contemporary Hindi cinema popularly known as Bollywood.
The book documents the fascinating pricess of making a typical commercial Hindi film through the
adventures of a pair of fictitious characters called Vijay and Ravi as they endeavour to make a
Bollywood film of their own.
Famous film personalities –form seasoned scriptwriters such as the Salim Javed duo, to celebrated
actors such as Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai and renowned directors like
Ramesh Sippy and Karan Johar-all share their experiences and provide fresh insights into film
making. Light Camera Masala also records the stories of the behind the scenes people who are such
an intrinsic part of the Bollywood machinery- a light boy, a make up artist and a choreographer,
among others. Featuring the emergence of stars as brands and culminating with the glitzy IIFA
awards the book is a visual extravaganza.
First of all let’s deal with the issue of the word Bollywood. Several Hindi film industry
practitioners, who rank amongst the great and the good dislike it because they perceive it as a
pejorative term the general thinking being that India’s national cinema does not deserve an
appellation derived from Hollywood. Also since the powers that be have changed the city’s name
from Bombay to Mumbai, the term Bollywood is no longer relevant in any case. Arguments can be
made on either side; on the one hand, it is common knowledge that Hindi cinema shamelessly and
repeatedly plagiarises from its western counterpart, so what’s wrong with tag? On the other India
produces more films than any other country in the world films that have a unique cultural
resonance all over, so does the industry deserve to labour under this label.
The fact remains that Bollywood has like it or not become instantly recognizable shorthand to
describe the Mumbai based Hindi film industry both in India and internationally. Therefore in the
absence of any other pithy term to describe this industry, we will continually use Bollywood in
the text. Apologies to those who find this offensive, but we use the word with the greatest
possible respect to describe an industry that we breathe sleep, shoot write about and above
everything else love.
And while we are on apologies many of the revered Hindi film industry practitioners in this book
have been referred to by their first named, rather than the standard practice of using surnames.
This is not because we are on first name terms with them, but because of the sheer number of
similar surnames within the industry. For example a Khan could be Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir, Saif
or Zayed, while a Kapoor could be Rishi, Randhir, Kareena, Shashi, Shammi, Anil or Raj. Further,
there are several chopras Sippy, etc. hence the decision to use first names in the interest of
The rise and rise of Hindi cinema has been well documented. Anecdotes about actor/director Raj
Kapoor’s popularity in Russia or the success of the film Devdas (2002) in France are legion.
Instances of Hindi films dubbed into Bahasa Indonesia and beamed on national television in that
in that country or the extended run of Amitabh Bachchan films in Cairo theatres and in addition,
there is more than twinge of pride in the hordes of Indian tourists passing through Leicester
Square when they see a bold and beautiful poster advertising the latest Bollywood extravaganza on
the Empire cinema display board. That’s why, elsewhere in this book, Shah Rukh khan says without
a trance of irony that he is the biggest star in the world. Because Bollywood stars are indeed
quite simply the biggest stars in the world.
There is of course the advantage of population India boasts of over a billion people. Then there
is the 20 million or so Indian diaspora plus the fanatic following the films enjoy in
neighbouring countries and diaspora. And if we add the millions of Bollywood fans in palaces as
far flung as the Arab world the Caribbean south east Asia and Africa the numbers far outweigh the
reach of say a Tom Cruise movie.
While the films themselves are celebrated and their makers idolized. Not much is actually known
about the process through which a typical Bollywood product is realized. Rather than do a dry
exposition of this process, we decided to approach the practitioners themselves and get their
version of how the gigantic Hindi film machinery works. Their experiences and anecdotes are the
soul of this book we have managed to gather a fair representation of the best-known people in the
industry and have recorded their views. There are omissions some of the people approached were
busy and could not give us the time for an interview. Make no mistake; this is neither a manual
nor a textbook. Rather this is a snapshot of a period in time covering a few months of 2005 and
2006. Like a good Hindi film, we have provided a few flashbacks as well, but not beyond the
1970s. And then of course there are the photographs the pictures, that provide a unique view into
this maddening chaotic yet endlessly fascinating industry.
Before we proceed further, it is necessary to explain exactly who vijay and Ravi are. The mid to
late 1970s saw the flowing of the buddy movie in the Mumbai film industry or as is commonly known
within that industry, a two hero project with the marquee name taking top billing and a slightly
lesser star taking second films like Haath ki Safai (1994) Khel Khel Mein (1975) Chacha Bhatija
(1977) and Asp ke Deewane 1980 are excellent examples of this genre. However they did not feature
the biggest star Hindi cinema had ever known: Amitabh Bachchan.
Amitabh was called ‘Vijay’ in many of films. It was his lucky on-screen name. The name ‘Vijay’
encapsulates the essence of 1970s Bachchan a Bachchan fondly remembered even today when he has
managed to transform himself into an elder statesman of Indian cinema. As Ramesh Sippy, who
directed him in Sholay (1975) says, he remains a formidable force in any film.
The 1970s was the decade that made Amitabh Bachchan and firmly established him –or his alter ego
Vijay as the angry young man. Vijay was the epitome of cool, the lanky laconic man who never lost
his nerve had a killer throwaway line delivered in a deadpan voice for every occasion and
remained casual and unflappable punctuated by bursts of terrifying intensity or madcap comedy.
The extremely handsome Shashi Kapoor was the ideal foil to Bachchan. He belongs to one of the
first families of Bollywood filmdom. His father, Prithviraj Kapoor was a huge star in the early
years of cinema while massively popular too. The Kapoor family is in its forth generation now,
with the well established actresses Karisma and Kareena.
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