03 January 2010

Lights Camera Masala: Making Movies in Mumbai

I've been reading Lights Camera Masala: Making Movies in Mumbai, a coffee table book about Bollywood with pictures by Sheena Sippy and text by Naman Ramachandran. Before I take it back to the library I thought I'd write down a few tidbits from the book which amused me:

  • I'd heard before that Karan Johar liked to use the letter K in his movie titles because he'd been told that it was an auspicious letter for him. But according to this book, the K business goes further than that: apparently when he was born, he was given an entirely different name, but then when he was only six days old, his mother just woke up that morning and decided that his name should start with a K instead, so she changed it to Karan (p. 228*). His original name, would you believe it, was Rahul. (Rahul, of course, was the name of the hero in both of the first two films he directed, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.)

  • On page 115 there's a full-page shot of Abhishek Bachchan wearing a custom-made basketball jersey**.

It looks like it was from the same photo shoot as the current background of Abhi's twitter page!! (I am easily amused.)

  • And finally, something of an answer to a persistent question of mine: why are films in India so quick to be labeled as hits or flops after what seems like very little time in the theatres? I've gotten the impression that a film which has a poor opening weekend is immediately relegated to "flop" with almost no chance for redemption. What about next week and word of mouth for building an audience? Can't more than one movie at a time do well at the box office? Well, maybe not: "In a country dominated by cavernous single-screen cinemas with a large number of seats, multiplexes were virtually unknown until the late 1990s . . . " (p. 226). I had never thought about the impact that the type of movie theatre (single screen vs. multiplex) would have on the overall movie business. If a single-screen theatre doesn't make enough money on a certain movie in the first few days to justify keeping it going, they have to try something else as soon as possible. A multiplex can afford to show the blockbuster as well give a chance to the smaller movies, and can keep them playing longer by moving them around from bigger to smaller screens or back again as demand requires. While the number of multiplexes is increasing, there are still tons of single-screen theatres throughout the country affecting the economics of how long movies can be kept alive at the box office.

  • Oh, and one last thing: yes, the photographer of the book, Sheena Sippy, is the sister of director Rohan Sippy, and the daughter of Sholay director Ramesh Sippy. She is also married to Kunal Kapoor (no not this Kunal Kapoor :

but Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor's son Kunal. I couldn't find a picture for him.

*It took me forever to find that page number. I wish there were an index to the book.

**Purple cloth with yellow and white vinyl-looking trim, with the word "Abhishek" sewn across the top of the chest, and the number 69 sewn on the front, also in yellow vinyl, in case you can't see it very well.