Bollywood films used to play regularly in Bangkok cinemas, but Hollywood has since dominated the big screens. In the past year or so, Bollywood films have been making a comeback, thanks to the efforts of Bollywood Thai, which organizes first-run Bangkok premieres of the latest Hindi-language films. The weekend screenings have been popular with the community of overseas-born Indians and expatriates. Seeing their success, Thailand's biggest multiplex operator Major Cineplex has decided to get in on the action, and is organizing the Bollywood Film Festival from October 9 to 18, playing such movies as the his Om Shanti Om as well as more recent fare like Kaminey and New York. Lekha Shankar explains more.
Story by Lekha J. Shankar
Barely has one recovered from the heavyweight Bangkok International Film Festival when there comes news of yet another film festival -- the Bollywood Film Festival, for the first time in Thailand.
It looks like Slumdog Millionaire has resurrected the magic of Mumbai’s cinema, even in Thailand.
The festival has come about at the initiative of the Major Cineplex group, who are keen to screen Bollywood films on a regular commercial basis, as they were once screened, more than three decades back.
This festival will be their first public announcement of their interest in Bollywood cinema and will be a "testing-ground" to check Thai tastes.
Bollywood films were screened regularly at public theatres in Bangkok more than three decades back and were very popular, especially as they were often dubbed in Thai. But with the upsurge of Hollywood cinema, the Bollywood movies died out.
In recent years, their only presence was during weekend screenings at select theatres by the pioneers of Bollywood cinema in Thailand, Bollywood Thai.
The screenings were held on the same weekend as the films' release in India, for fear of piracy. Despite of the high ticket prices, around 300 to 400 baht, the sizeable Indian community in Bangkok was excited to keep in touch with the latest releases from Mumbai.
Seven of these new releases figure in the forthcoming Bollywood film festival.
For the Indian community, the films will not be new, but for the non-Indians, they are an exciting introduction the "new" Bollywood cinema fare.
Here is the festival line-up:
- Jodhaa Akhbar -- A lush, spectacular historical drama about the Mughal king Akbar and his Hindu wife Jodha, starring the stunning beauty Aishwarya Rai and the hunky Hrithik Roshan.
- Rock On -- The new-age music film starring charismatic actor-director Farhan Akthar has become a kind of cult film with the youth in India. It will also be screened at 8pm on Monday, October 5 at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
- Luck By Chance -- A lively comedy, with Farhan Akthar again, as a starry-eyed youngster wanting to make it big in Bollywood. Supporting him are indie actress Konkona Sen Sharma and the hit pair of the '90s, Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia.
- Kaminey -- This stars the two new superstars of today, Shahid Kapoor and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra in an arresting tale of cops and robbers, grittily told by the dynamic director Vishal Bhardwaj.
- New York -- A much-talked-about drama of terrorism set in New York City in 2001, where the dashing trio of supermodel John Abraham, singer-actor Nitin Mukesh and the London-born Katrina Kaif make a rivetting combination.
- Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi -- Shah Rukh Khan is a simple man leading a humdrum life when he meets his total opposite and finds love in a flamboyant, fun-loving, vivacious woman (Anushka Sharma).
- Om Shanti Om -- The super hit of superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and the debut film of model Deepika Padukone, which made her a star overnight. If there’s one Bollywood film that will set your feet tapping, it’s this one, with its superlative range of songs and dances.
The gala opening of the Bollywood Film Festival October 6 is an invitation-only event that will be presided over by Major Cineplex president Anawat Ongkvasith and Indian Ambassador Latha Reddy. The cocktail reception will be followed by the screening of the 2007 blockbuster Om Shanti Om.
The Bollywood Film Festival will be held at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) from October 9 to 18, with screenings at 7 on weeknights and 1, 4.20 and 7.20 on Saturdays and Sundays. All films will have English subtitles except for Om Shanti Om which will have English and Thai subtitles. The complete schedule is at the Major Cineplex website.