I made an effort this year to watch some Bollywood flicks, and a few Tamil movies (aka Kollywood) too. Like Hollywood, star power goes a long way in Indian cinema. Take Shahrukh Khan, for example. I attended the Regal Cinema in Mumbai during my trip to India last year. It seemed like everybody showed up the night I went to see “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi,” which means “marriages are made in heaven.” It’s basically the Nutty Professor with Khan playing the Jerry Lewis part. Nice story, good songs and 167 minutes long. But people came in droves and I had to sit in the balcony.
Rajnikanth, the Tamil superstar of the last 2 decades, starred in “Padaiyappa,” made in 1999. In this movie, he rejects a beautiful woman who seeks revenge at every turn. I snapped a picture of billboard featuring him and a state politician that I spotted in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. After I saw a couple of his films, I realized his considerable star power.
The Kerala film industry in India, not to be outdone, calls itself “Mollywood.” I remember one time in Kochi, I came across a horrific car wreck. Falling back in horror, my female companion screamed and told a few movie cameramen, who seemed to be just standing around, to get an ambulance. They explained that they were shooting a movie and the wreck was an elaborate special effect. Upon inspection, we realized that the victim was a painted mannequin and that the wrecked car was a stage prop.