Movies like "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Monsoon Wedding" might not be Bollywood films, but their references to Hollywood's sister cinema are a gateway to the genre's vibrant colors and energy.
Sonoma Film Institute invites the community to explore Bollywood culture with the screening of "Kal Ho Naa Ho" ("Tomorrow May Never Come") on Fri., Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. in Warren Auditorium, Ives 101.
This hugely entertaining Bollywood film is directed by first timer Nikhi Advani and produced and co-written by Karan Johar, director of "Kabhi Khushie Kabhi Gham." Set in New York City, "Kal Ho Naa Ho" is the tale of Naina (Preity Zinta), who has faced a family tragedy and whose life is filled with responsibilities. Enter Aman, who moves into her neighborhood and enlivens her world. There is lots of music, emotion, humor, and dazzling cinematography.
"Most people in America still don't know what a Bollywood film is," says Ajay Gehlawat, an SSU professor who is an expert on Third World cinema and pop culture and genre studies.
"This trend of Bollywood becoming more Westernized in style blurs the line of what Bollywood is.There are increasingly MTV-style song and dance sequences and increasingly Western culture in their clothing. It's like a house of mirrors. The name itself is a reference to Hollywood. Then you have films like "Slumdog Millionaire" that are referencing Bollywood," says Gehlawat.
However, "Kal Ho Naa Ho" is the genuine article. The story of two men who fall in love with the same troubled women allows for fantastic dance and song sequences and a hyper-real use of landscape.
But while true to its roots, "Kal Ho Naa Ho" is also evidence that the convergence of cinema goes both ways. Filmed entirely on location in the cosmopolitan city of New York, "Kal Ho Naa Ho" was an early player in the trend of featuring non-resident Indians in Bollywood films.
Gehlawat is professor in the Hutchins School of Liberal Arts. His research explores the role of cinema, specifically, Bollywood cinema, as a supplement to the process of enlightenment.
For more information on SFI or a complete list of upcoming films, visit http://www.sonoma.edu/sfi/.