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Bollywood Calling

OKAY, SO Bollywood is easy to make a spoof of, think about the organised chaos that exists not to mention the specimens that make up that world.

So when someone who has lived in the US in a different work culture and ethos takes a look at it, it is bound to be a bit baffled, a bit comic, but at the bottom of it all is the complete wonder at what is Bollywood.

Let's not forget it entertains 90 per cent of the population in this country with a passion not many other things can.

A very real world with real people, not caricatures they may appear at the outset, a lot of genuineness beneath the hypocrisy and superficiality and something most Indians won't have trouble identifying with.

Except that it is not pure Bollywood- it has got a bit of Kollywood, a bit of whatever name is given to it in Andhra Pradesh and that one supposes makes up the world the director and writer Nagesh Kukunoor is talking about.

The journey into this circus as Nagesh sees it, is through the eyes of Pat Stormare (Pat Cusick), an alcoholic, end of the road actor in for really bad times. And his agent is hell bent on his 25 per cent commission and a new lease of life for his client (Pat) and so literally pushes him into the willing arms of Subramaniam (Om Puri) Subra for short (makeup man's son who has turned producer) and has the bright idea of casting an American in his pot boiler along with a larger than life ageing Indian star Manu Kapoor (Navin Nischol).

Of course the film within film has to be one of those countless movies where brothers separated by birth are reunited; about dacoits very popular in the 70s and 80s, about songs and dances and about scenes for which there are no scripts, about false egos and colour, about confusion, mayhem and passion usually associated with the making of a masala film.

Pat is baffled with this chaotic way of working and there are some really funny moments when he tries to understand why they do what they do.

Maut (the death) is this ``completely different'' film that is being shot and through it all comes the slow and steady change in Pat from an uncertain confused actor to a fully competent Bollywood hero - the process ranging from the truly comic to the tinges of tragedy that define their lives.

The first half of the film moves at a reasonable pace which makes viewing enjoyable but flags as it progresses.

The change of heart from the absurd to the real is predictable, trifle filmy sometimes. And if the director is mocking or taking pot shots at the film industry in India, or even calling it an honest no holds barred look at it, he has done it with a degree of finesse.

Om Puri does a marvellous job as Subra. How many south Indians are going to appreciate this is yet to be seen. He almost carries the film on his shoulders.

Navin Nischol as Manu is surprisingly very good, Perizaad Zorabian as Kajal (through whom Pat learns that physical attractions need not necessarily mean love and that the bimbette approach is the best way to learn other people's secrets) puts in a terrific effort - while Pat plays what he seems, very well indeed! -- a B grade actor. But adequate.

For Nagesh a chemical engineer-turned-filmmaker, this is his third film after the immensely successful Hyderabad Blues and Rockford.

He retains much of the freshness he displayed in his first film and his straightforward and open approach to questions and opinions are what make his films entertaining. If you can watch Pritish Nandy Communications, Satyam Entertainment's ``Bollywood Calling" without analysis, then it is certainly worth your while.

CHITRA MAHESH

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