Bollywood for Beginners

Mixed Media
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When you hear the word “Hollywood,” images of glitz, glamour, and movie stars probably come to mind. What do you picture when you hear the word “Bollywood”? If you envision Indian movies with songs and dances woven into the plot, you’re close. But “Bollywood” doesn’t encompass all of Indian cinema; rather, it is the realm of Hindi-language films produced in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in India.

The comparison to Hollywood is understandable given the huge volume of Bollywood films emerging on the market today. A typical Bollywood plot centers on a handsome young man and beautiful young woman involved in a romantic story punctuated by song and dance numbers that reflect their relationship’s trials.

At Netflix, the online DVD distributor, you can find hundreds of Bollywood films. In last year’s Humko Deewana Kar Gaye (Utv), a young Indian man moves to Calgary, Alberta, and falls in love with another expatriate Indian. To spice up the plot, both lovers have already committed to arranged marriages—to other people. Despite the movie’s Canadian content and the potential conflict between traditional and modern Indian customs, the film merely turns into a strange romance showcasing oddly mixed traditional dances, disco moves, and hip-hop.

The film Veer-Zaara (Yash Raj) features Shah Rukh Khan—a Bollywood star—as an Indian pilot who falls in love with a Pakistani woman. The film offers references to the Pakistani-Indian conflict, stunning scenery of northern India, and some entertaining dance numbers. However, the challenge for new Bollywood viewers is getting accustomed to three hour melodramatic plotlines, mediocre acting, and subtitled viewing.

Is Bollywood just a “B” version of Hollywood? Not quite. The 2001 film Lagaan (Sony) shows the potential for Indian cinema to capture a worldwide audience. Beautifully produced and boasting a talented cast, the movie recounts a conflict over taxes between Indian villagers and British colonists in the 1890s. You can comfortably watch Lagaan with your kids too. For adults, I recommend the films of Mira Nair, particularly Monsoon Wedding (Universal), a Bollywood-style film that mixes a serious tone (note: the film touches on child abuse) with comic romance.  

Bollywood films offer a distinctive set of colors, sights, and dance in a unique genre of film that, admittedly, requires some acclimation but ultimately will give you another view of the world and of cinema. www.yashrajfilms.com www.lagaan.com www.mirabaifilms.com

Book Club Members What is your church book club reading? Send your recent reading list to editorial@thebanner.org; we’ll share top reading choices.

The Angolitereviewed by Phil Christman Jr.Would you believe that one of America’s finest magazines is produced entirely by prisoners? This remarkable bimonthly, the first prison publication in the United States, blends news and analysis with memoir and poetry from behind bars. You’ll learn more about crime, punishment, poverty, and injustice from one Angolite than from six months of Newsweek or Maclean’s; it’s essential reading for anyone concerned with the real moral state of our culture. And it’s never less than fascinating. Subscribe at http://www.corrections.state.la.us/lsp/angolite.htm.

Oh! Gravity by Switchfoot
reviewed by Robert N. HosackSwitchfoot is the biggest modern rock group in today’s Christian music world to have achieved crossover success. In their latest studio project, the band builds on their successful sound, charting new territory with an edgier rock record. Arena rock choruses and art rock anthems accompany smart, spiritually provocative lyrics to produce a well-crafted and compelling release. From “American Dream,” which questions a country where “success is equated with excess,” to condemnation of “this modern machine” in “Circles,” lyricist Jon Foreman challenges the materialism of our Western consumer-driven culture. (Sparrow) www.sparrowrecords.com

Henry’s Freedom Boxby Ellen Levine
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen FeddemaYoung Henry’s mother says, “Do you see those leaves blowing in the wind? They are torn from the tree like slave children are torn from their families.” Henry realizes the truth of her words when he is sold. Years later, separated from his wife and children, he longs for freedom. Underground Railroad supporters help him realize his plan to mail himself to freedom. Emotionally gripping illustrations from Kadir Nelson complement this heroic story based on the life of Henry “Box” Brown. (Scholastic) content.scholastic.com

Gatty’s Taleby Kevin Crossley-Holland
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen FeddemaIn 1203, 15-year-old Gatty and eight others embark on a pilgrimage across Europe to Jerusalem. When the leader, Lady Gwyneth, points out that each brings a skill to the group, Gatty thinks, “I haven’t got no skills these people need.” Though Gatty is unaware of her gifts, Lady Gwyneth realizes that she’s “like a diamond before it’s cut and polished.” Challenged by inclement weather, devious people, disease, and financial worries, the pilgrims continue to Jerusalem. This young adult novel paints an accurate (sometimes gritty) and intriguing picture of the medieval world. (Orion) www.orionbooks.co.uk

Divided by a Common Heritageby Corwin Smidt, Donald Luidens, James Penning, and Roger Nemeth
reviewed by Wayne BrouwerTwo Calvin College (CRC) professors and two Hope College (RCA) professors teamed to explore the past, present, and possible combined futures of these sister denominations. After a marvelous review of their lone and shared histories, the scholars dig into recent surveys that show commonalities between the memberships, especially in the U.S. Midwest, where 19th-century Dutch immigration still shapes the churches significantly. Few surprises emerge in this exhaustive review. Relatively small denominations, aging members, and marginal growth potential cause the authors to believe that survival needs, rather than strong confessional initiatives, are most likely to bring some form of merger. (Eerdmans) www.eerdmans.com

The Lowdown

What Ails You? Athol Dickson’s novel The Cure features Riley Keep, a homeless former missionary who stumbles on a cure for his alcoholism and finds more danger in the process, including the danger of self-reliance. (Bethany) www.bethanyhouse.com The Cure for Boredom: Do your kids need some midsummer distraction? Try TuxTyping2, a free downloadable computer game that uses Tux the Penguin to sharpen typing skills. Find it at http://tuxtype.source forge.net/. Another Round, Please: Thirsty, the latest album from Grammy-nominated gospel singer Marvin Sapp, is set for release this month. (Verity) www.marvinsapp.comAcross America: July brings the end of Christian musician Mark Schultz’s 3,500-mile bike trip across America; he’s been biking for The James Fund, which addresses the needs of widows and orphans. Check his video blog at www.mark-schultz.com.

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