maximum-cityIn Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City, I recall a part where he speaks of the wonder of the Bollywood film industry, since it’s a place where all types of people come together and work. Mehta‘s take on the recent events in Mumbai and its relation to Bollywood is beautifully said and worth a read:

Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass dream of the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most popular form of entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them, every Pakistani and Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake architecture of the Taj and the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols of the city that gives the industry its name. It is no wonder that one of the first things the Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to shut down the Bollywood video rental stores. The Taliban also banned, wouldn’t you know it, the keeping of songbirds…But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market, and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and party harder. If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are you going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid? So I’m booking flights to Mumbai. I’m going to go get a beer at the Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and watch a Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn’t have to be just economic.

(Read Mehta’s full article from the New York Times HERE.)

Mehta’s other Bollywood related articles include:

Bollywood Confidential and Welcome to Bollywood.

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7 thoughts on “Bombay

  1. Hi Sita-ji, thank you for sharing this. (I’ll be linking to your post.) Suketu knows Bombay well. I can particularly relate to this bit, and my school friends, many of whom I spoke to this week, reminded me of it:

    “In the Bombay I grew up in, your religion was a personal eccentricity, like a hairstyle. In my school, you were denominated by which cricketer or Bollywood star you worshiped, not which prophet.”


  2. I’m sorry, but the last part of that quote reminds me a bit much of George W. Bush and Co. telling the American people that to support their country after the 9-11 attacks, they should go out and spend more. And this in the middle of the last recession. (Of course, people eventually did spend a lot more – mostly on credit, unfortunately.)

    I’m afraid I find Mehta’s article confusing and a bit inadequate. If he wants to work toward a world where everyone can have a decent life, what else would he propose besides asking the people who can afford it to come over and spend more money? Because I doubt that’s going to help the millions and millions of poor people all that much.

    And by the way, most of the Bollywood movies that I’ve come to love (mostly the older ones, I guess) preach against rich people who are greedy for money, champion the poor, and talk about finding better values or even a better system altogether.

    I know it’s a bit of a contradiction considering that a few people got very rich off these movies, but I do love them in part for that content.

  3. theBollywoodFan-ji,
    So sorry to hear about your home town. I thought of not posting anything, but Mehta’s words said it well.

    In his Bollywood Confidential article, I love this part:
    In a building full of immigrants in Queens, an Uzbek man once cornered me in a dark stairwell. I’d been mugged before, and I thought, Oh, no. As he towered over me, he started singing, “Ichak dana bichak dana . . . ” a Bollywood standard from the 50’s.

    Namaste Richard-ji,
    Yes, I see your point. I think in the aftermath of such insanity people want to fix things and blame people and somehow try to make it right, so Mehta’s word were impassioned for sure, and perhaps could be seen as misguided in some ways. But also read that hey says, Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive government. Bollywood has a tendency to simplify complex situations, e.g. rich=bad, poor= virtious, but I too love the struggle of the underdog stories too. I really like Mehta’s Bollywood Confidential article I linked in more than the one I directly quoted in the post. His book Maximum City takes a closer look into some of the corruption in Bollywood, in particular involvement of Dawood Ibrahim in funding projects.

  4. Meri priy saheli Suzy-ji, PLEASE forgive me for being AWOL from your most fantastic and wonderful creation: I have missed it! My schedule has just gone nuts these days, and I am sorry that I haven’t been able to take my usual side trip… However, today is a new day (“jennifer thank you..”!!!!!!), and since I am leaving the country in three weeks – and you are TOO – for our beloved Bhaarat Ma, I most definitely wanted to check in, and thank you once again for your passionate and affectionate blog! Talk to you soon, saheli!

  5. jen-ji,
    Quite exciting to see the personal comment from Amit-ji (#19) on his blog:

    We’ll talk soon, or run into each other somewhere around Delhi, “Jen, is that you?” It will sort of be like Fanaa, and I will be blind like Kajol, thus won’t be easily recognizing you. I hope I don’t end up with a tour guide who secretly has another line of work. Trying not to give a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen Fanaa yet.

  6. the post punk cinema club-ji,
    Yes his articles I linked in here were great. I should have pretended that I wrote them. ;) You know I’ve seen Mehta interviewed before, so I would have recognized him, especially if he spoke, but I missed him in the film, darn. I will have to see it again to look for him. Thanks for pointing that out. I hope someone will comment about what scene he was in.
    Sukriya dost. :)

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