Singing The Praises Of Bollywood Films Bollywood churns out more films than Hollywood each year, and Bollywood films are drawing huge new audiences in other parts of Asia and across Africa. Though they have historically been fairly formulaic love stories, some filmmakers are now breaking out of that mold.
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Singing The Praises Of Bollywood Films

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Singing The Praises Of Bollywood Films

Singing The Praises Of Bollywood Films

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JOE PALCA, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Joe Palca in Washington. Say "movies" in America and people typically think of Hollywood. But the Oscars reminded us there's another movie capital in the world: Bollywood. In fact, Bollywood churns out more films than Hollywood each year, and Bollywood films are drawing huge audiences in other parts of Asia and across Africa. The vast majority of Bollywood films still follow a similar pattern: a love story that ends happily ever after with lots of elaborate song-and-dance numbers along the way. But now, some producers are breaking that formula.

Today, we look at the Indian film industry, why its popularity is growing, what it tells us about Indian culture and a quick guide to the best of Bollywood. And on that last point, give us a call, because we'd like to know what your favorite Bollywood film is and why it's better than anything you've ever seen coming out of Hollywood. Our number here in Washington is 800-898-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our Web site; go to npr.org and click on Talk of the Nation. Aseem Chhabra follows Bollywood. He's a columnist for the Mumbai Mirror, and he joins us from our New York bureau. Welcome.

Mr. ASEEM CHHABRA (Columnist, Mumbai Mirror): Thank you.

PALCA: So, I guess the first thing we have to make clear is that "Slumdog Millionaire" is not a Bollywood film.

Mr. CHHABRA: That is true. I mean, it is - it has tones of Bollywood, it has the Bollywood ethos, and of course, breaks into a big Bollywood song and dance at the end. But it's a very Western film, basically. It's set in Mumbai, where Bollywood - basically, all the Bollywood films are made.

PALCA: So, that's what I was hearing, was that the ending of "Slumdog Millionaire" was sort of an homage to Bollywood?

Mr. CHHABRA: I would say, yes, yes, and in fact, you know, throughout the film, you listen to the soaring soundtrack by A. R. Rahman, who got the Oscar for the soundtrack as well as the song "Jai Ho." He is the number-one Bollywood film composer, not just in Bollywood; in South India also he's very big. The song "Jai Ho" was written by Gulzar, who's a very well-known lyricist and a film director in Bollywood also. So, it's certainly was an homage to Bollywood.

PALCA: OK. So, give us a little geographical understanding here. You said that Bollywood is in northern India?

Mr. CHHABRA: I wouldn't say that. Mumbai the capital of the state of Maharashtra, which is sort of - it's along the Indian Ocean on the western flank of India. Mumbai used to be called Bombay and hence the name Bollywood. You know, it was the Indian popular - popular Hindi-language film industry set in Bombay. It was the Hollywood of India, basically, and hence the name Bollywood came about. But Bollywood, by the way, is only about a third of what India produces. I mean, India, as you rightly said, produces the most films in the world, about 800 to 900 every year. There's a large chunk of them are coming from different - these four states in south India. There's a whole film industry also in the state of West Bengal, which is in the east coast of India. There're pockets of other film industries. But Bollywood remains by far the most popular; it sort of crosses over different regional and language states.

PALCA: So, is Bollywood - I mean, is it, as we think of Hollywood, a place, or is it a concept? I mean, obviously, it's a place, but when you talk about a Hollywood film, you're not just talking about a place but a style of filmmaking.

Mr. CHHABRA: Well, that's also right to say about Bollywood. You know, in Hollywood, in the Western world, when we think about films, we think of different genre films: There are comedies; there are dramas; there's occasionally musicals; there are lots of action films; there are horror films. A Bollywood, typical Bollywood film, has all these elements to them, definitely romances, definitely songs, so hence the musical; there's definitely drama; there's definitely comedy because the Indian audience, the basic Indian audience, they expect that, and so, Bollywood films normally are a concoction of all these different genres together, although things are changing slowly.

PALCA: I see. Well, yes, you were saying, so things are changing slowly, as in - I was suggesting in the beginning that there's more of an edgy quality or those are the films being made outside of Bollywood?

Mr. CHHABRA: In fact what's happening is - it's really interesting. In the last, say, 10 to 15 years as India's economy has been liberalized and cable television is exploding in India and, you know, now you get DVDs of practically every film that's made in the West, especially the American indie films, the European films, the Asian films, there's a whole group of young filmmakers in their 30s, some in their 40s, who grew up with a staple diet of Bollywood. But they've have also been watching non-Indian cinema. And what they're developing is this whole style of filmmaking - sometimes it'll be just an action film; sometimes it's a film that's looking at the underworld, the crimes situation in Bombay, for instance - but there is definitely an inspiration of Bollywood. Most of these films are still being made in Mumbai, Bombay. They'll have songs, but the characters don't necessarily break into songs and dances. So, it's a more realistic way of filmmaking, very exciting, and yet there are touches of Bollywood.

PALCA: Hmm. Well, let's hear what our listeners have to say, and let's go first to Caroline in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

What's your comment?

Question?

No Caroline. OK, let's try Rachel then in Denver, Colorado - sorry, Rachel in Denver - oh boy, pressing all the wrong buttons. Hold on, Rachel in Denver, Colorado.

RACHEL (Caller): Hi. I get Bollywood movies from my library. I get almost every one that comes in. And the - my favorite one that I've found there so far is "Paheli," and it's a Rajasthani folktale, but it's also got a lot of women's empowerment themes, like the woman gets to choose who to love and it's not her father or her husband or her - the society telling her. She gets to make the choice, and it's gorgeous, too.

PALCA: Aseem Chhabra, do you know that film?

Mr. CHHABRA: Yes, I know that film, actually. It's a beautiful film, and it was India's official entry for the Oscars, the foreign-language Oscars, about four or five years ago. I don't exactly remember the date. And the gentleman who produced the film, his name is Shahrukh Khan, who is the leading actor in Bollywood, and he also acted in the film. And it was definitely rather different than your run-of-the-mill Bollywood films. A, it was a folktale. It was set outside of, like, the city; it was set in Rajasthan. And some beautiful stories, and yes, it is a story about a woman's empowerment. A woman actually has to make a decision in terms of a perfect husband that actually is a ghost, whether she wants to live with a ghost or her real husband.

PALCA: Hmm. And Rachel, before you leave, I want to ask you, you said you download all the Bollywood films. What this - why made you interested?

RACHEL: Oh, well, first of all, I borrow them.

PALCA: Oh, borrow them, sorry.

RACHEL: From the library.

PALCA: I'm into digital thinking here.

RACHEL: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PALCA: But yes, libraries, yes, very important.

RACHEL: Yep. Well, my daughter is adopted from India, and so, that's what got us interested in that.

PALCA: I see, OK. Well, thanks very much for that call.

RACHEL: Yeah, thank you.

PALCA: I wonder, Aseem Chhabra, I saw a film. I don't know - I'm going to try to describe it and you can tell me if it's Bollywood or not - but it was a film about a football player who was disgraced in a match between India and Pakistan, and he's then subsequently asked to become the coach of a women's team in India.

Mr. CHHABRA: Yeah, it wasn't a football; it was actually field hockey.

PALCA: Oh, field hockey, yes, that's right.

Mr. CHHABRA: Yes.

PALCA: So, you know that film, because - I mean, I actually started watching it because the person sitting next to me on an international flight was watching it, and I didn't really know anything about it, but I found it very captivating.

Mr. CHHABRA: It's called "Chak De India," and actually, the same actor I mentioned earlier, Shahrukh Khan, was in this film also. Now, that's an example of a film that's been made within the framework of Bollywood and yet it is a very different film. It does take up some realistic issues, and what I really liked about the film was that the women who acted, you know, who are part of the team, each one of them got a chance. Their personality, their characters, were very well-written, and so, the superstar in the film was Shahrukh Khan, who was the coach of the team; he doesn't sort of take over the whole film. Every supporting character gets a role, and it's a very inspiring movie that really changed the mood in India. People loved it.

PALCA: Well, I have to say, I found it very interesting. But as I - as you were talking, I realized it didn't feel like Bollywood and I guess I was right that it wasn't exactly Bollywood. Let's take another call now from Daryl in Sacramento, California.

DARYL (Caller): Hi, I'm not Indian-American, but I've been following Bollywood movies for the past few years, and you were asking earlier for favorite Bollywood movies. One of my favorites is a movie called "Dhoom 2."

PALCA: "Doom 2"?

DARYL: It's spelled D-H-O-O-M.

PALCA: Oh, oh, I was thinking of the videogame, but OK.

DARYL: No, no, not the videogame, no. What I loved about "Dhoom 2" was that it had over-the-top action, had some broad comedy, had a great cops-and-robbers story, even though it was preposterous. It was a fun story. And it had great dance numbers and music, including a dance number with Aishwarya Rai-Bachan in this leather outfit. It was just incredible. And what I loved about it is that it just gives you a great mix of everything that's entertaining, and the actors looked like they're having a great time even though they knew it was a preposterous story. They didn't care, and they just were having a good time.

PALCA: I'm just wondering, Daryl, where did - and where were you able to get a hold of this movie?

DARYL: Oh, I went to see it in the theater...

PALCA: Oh.

DARYL: In Fremont, California.

PALCA: Interesting, interesting. Aseem Chhabra, are Bollywood films make it into American theaters?

Mr. CHHABRA: Yes, Bollywood films, actually - practically every major Bollywood film that's made in India gets released in the U.S. and North America the same day, so whatever the Friday it opens. Now they open in theaters - I live in New York City, and there are a couple of theaters in New York City where Bollywood films run. It so happens that most of the people in the audience tend to be South Asians, I mean, Indian-Americans and the people from other South Asian countries and a trickling of other Americans who are interested in it. Major publications - the New York Times, LA Times, Boston Globe, Village Voice, Time Out New York - they all review Bollywood films now. So, it is, there for, you know, Americans to non-South Asians to also see, yes.

PALCA: OK. Daryl, thanks very much for that call.

DARYL: Thank you.

PALCA: Is there - I mean, I haven't looked, but do you know if Netflix or one of those other mail-order film companies, can you get the films that way, too?

Mr. CHHABRA: You can get Bollywood films on Netflix. In fact, Netflix has a very large collection of classics from the '40s and '50s, and that's probably one of the best if people want to start off by, - really, where you start and what films to catch, I mean, you can probably get a sampling of films from Netflix, yes.

PALCA: I see. Do you have a favorite, or should we ask you that later?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHHABRA: Do I have a favorite?

(Soundbite of laughter)

PALCA: Yeah, a favorite. Somebody is going to ask eventually.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHHABRA: That's a very tough - there's so many. But "Chak de India," the one you mentioned, the one about the field hockey, I think that's one of my favorite films. A few years ago in 2001, there was a film "Lagaan," which was nominated for the Oscars in the best foreign-language film. It's almost a four-hour-long film about, again, it's about cricket. These villagers, they learn to play cricket against their British masters and very moving, inspiring story with lots of songs and dances.

PALCA: OK. Aseem Chhabra, we have to take a break, but we'll get to more of the Bollywood films you have to see in a moment and talk about those films and what those films tell us about India. And if you're a Bollywood film, what's your favorite? Tell us why, 800-989-8255. I'm Joe Palca. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

PALCA: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Joe Palca in Washington. Today, Bollywood 101: India has a prolific film industry with huge movie stars and fans all around the world, including here in the United States. If you're a fan, tell us which is your favorite Bollywood film and what makes it so good. The phone number is 800-989-8255. Send us your picks by email; that address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our Web site; go to npr.org and click on Talk of the Nation. Now, we've asked Amitava Kumar to give us a hand. She - he is a - I'm sorry - he is a professor at Vassar College and a contributor to Vanity Fair. We've asked him to give us the five must-see Bollywood films. He joins us today from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Welcome to the program.

Dr. AMITAVA KUMAR (English, Vassar College): Thank you very much.

PALCA: So, I know this is an impossible question because, you know, everybody is going to have an idiosyncratic list, but where would you tell people to start if they wanted to get the five top films from Bollywood?

Dr. KUMAR: They would go to "Sholay," S-H-O-L-A-Y, "Sholay," as a film, which has been one of the highest grossing films, and it has all the characteristic marks of what one would think of as a Bollywood film: melodrama, violence, sex and dance. So, that's where they should start. It's a little dated, in my opinion. So, one should come for a more contemporary version, that is the film, "Satya," S-A-T-Y-A, or "The Truth," which is a film that Danny Boyle was very much inspired by in making "Slumdog Millionaire." But you know, Bollywood, apart from its mark of excess and extravaganza, is also something - that's also been a very strong strain there of films that deal with social realism.

So, for that, I would suggest very much a film like "Ankur," "The Seedling," A-N-K-U-R, by the filmmaker Shyam Benegal. That starts for us the new wave in Indian cinema, a bit of a certain very fine sensibility, an eye for social observation and injustice. And so, that would be number three. And I would add to that a film like "Phoolan Devi" or "The Bandit Queen," by Shekhar Gupta, which some people in the U.S. must have seen. And finally, for a film that actually in some ways reflects some of our diasporic(ph) identities and it also still has lots of songs and dance, a film like "Monsoon Wedding" by Mira Nair would be number five.

PALCA: Well, I think that's one that a lot of people in this country might be familiar with. Actually, as you were speaking...

Dr. KUMAR: Yes.

PALCA: We got an email from Amit, who says, my favorite movie is "Sholay," borrowed from "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," and there are a lot of other movies like those that I enjoy. I like the movies from the '70s and '90s mainly because it had common man as the subject matter. But lately, Bollywood is showing movies where everyone is filthy rich and someone whom I can't connect with. But there are a lot of thought-provoking movies made in Bollywood than - I'm sorry, there's a lot of thought-provoking movies made in Bollywood than Hollywood. I guess she means more. I'm a staunch Marathi movie supporter and think some of the movies are better than Bollywood as well.

Dr. KUMAR: True.

PALCA: I should point out that we are also - in addition to Amitava Kumar, we have with us on the program Aseem Chhabra, who is a columnist for the Mumbai Mirror. And Aseem Chhabra, what did you think of Amitava Kumar's list?

Mr. CHHABRA: Oh, that's a perfect wonderful list. And thank you, Amitava.

Dr. KUMAR: Sure.

Mr. CHHABRA: I've seen his list before in Vanity Fair. But there's also, as I mentioned earlier, there's this whole interesting movement that's happening these days in Bollywood. There's a film that just came out about a month ago, less than a month ago. It's called "Dev.D," so it's D-E-V and then the initial - just the letter D. It's a contemporary story, but it's based on an old classic novel called "Devdas," which has been made into films in different languages in India a number of times. And it's a contemporary story about a lover who, sort of, because of mistakes he makes, this man is not able to, sort of, meet the woman of his dreams and marry her. And then there's a whole self-destruction that he goes through, drinking himself to death. In this case, he takes drugs because this is set in 2009. Very powerful, very well-made film, very - visually very striking film. Last year, there was a film called "Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!" So, it's O-Y-E, lucky, oye, a story about a small-town, small-time crook, a thief, really, in a certain part of Delhi, which captures New Delhi's - sort of the Punjabi community. Again, a very realistic and a very fun way of looking at, you know, life in India, contemporary life in India, with a whole bunch of folksongs, with Punjabi folksongs, and yet it has tones of Bollywood.

PALCA: Let's take a call now and go to Sima(ph) in Nashville, Tennessee. Sima, welcome to Talk of the Nation.

SIMA (Caller): Thank you. I do have - as I was listening to it, I have two corrections. "Bandit Queen" was by Shekhar Kapur, not Shekhar Gupta. And as for "Monsoon Wedding," Indian people living in U.S. did not like it at all. I actually went with some of U.S. friends, and they didn't understand it the first time. So, I went with them to see it to make them understand, and they didn't like it at all because of the subject matter, because it's a touchy-feely subject. My thing about Bollywood - I am all Bollywood fan, and our friends, when we get together, we at least watch one movie. The best one that came out recently is "Welcome to Sajjanpur." And it's a story about a letter writer, which is very much a (unintelligible), simple, plain story.

My husband is not very much a Bollywood movie fan. He doesn't watch very much movies at all. But my - thanks to Bollywood, it has kept - helped us keep up Hindi language alive. We are Hindi speakers. And for my girls, no matter how much I try to teach them, their spoken language comes thanks to Bollywood because they love watching it. They don't like all of it because of the modern-ness of the movie. There are so many movies that I have to screen them now. It used to be you could put one in and they could watch it. Now, you have to screen it. The old-time thing that no kissing allowed in Bollywood films is not true anymore, and that is very disappointing for me in the last five years, I would say. So, what do your guests have to say about that?

PALCA: Well, let's hear. Thanks very much for that call, Sima. Amitava Kumar, what about that?

Dr. KUMAR: It's true that, in many ways, the sort of social violence you see on the streets of India is what you also see therefore on the screen. So, in the way in which - we are living in a much more explosive and more tension-filled society, a society that is driven with more and more contradictions, it is but unavoidable that some of this will also come into cinema. I would, in fact, argue that a part of it is borrowed from Hollywood. It's as if Quentin Tarantino has come to Mumbai. And so, that gives to urban violence a more sleek edge and you see that in some of the movies. As to, you know, the conservative apprehension about sexuality, I think it's high time we have that, because for a long, long time, Indian cinema, displaying and - laboring under Victorian codes of morality, would portray a certain coyness because when a couple needed to kiss, you had flowers coming in together, and that was - you know, the bodies were replaced by flowers touching each other. And I think it is - for a society to be able to see itself and to be able to see itself clearly on the screen, it's very important that there be violence and that there be the portrayal of sex in a way that is present on the streets and in the homes of our people.

PALCA: Let's take another call now and go to Amy in Provo.

AMY (Caller): Hi. I also love "Lagaan;" it's one of my favorite movies. But also another one that - I'm a mom in my 30s and I have three young children, and we love "Kal Ho Naa Ho" because we love the dance scene from (unintelligible). And my six-year-old daughter loves to watch it on YouTube, and we, like, have learned the dance moves. And ever since our obsession with Bollywood, all of a sudden, my kids, like, they want to eat Indian food and they think it's so exciting to - for - they don't watch all the movies because they're way too long. But they love - we love to watch all of the dance scenes together, and it's been really fun. I recently ordered even a DVD off the Internet called "Bollyrobics," where...

(Soundbite of laughter)

AMY: It's an aerobics video with Bollywood moves. And I've heard that there's this new thing in clubs, even, in health clubs, where they have a whole exercise routine that's done to Bollywood-type dance scenes. And we're into (unintelligible) music. I mean, we have no connection whatsoever to India - never even been there, would love to go someday - but Bollywood films have really been an introduction to us to a lot of different aspects of Indian culture. I'm sure it's probably not completely valid, but it's been really interest - it's been fun for us and for my kids to kind of experience other cultures through Bollywood film.

PALCA: OK, well, that's interesting, Amy, thanks for that. Amitava Kumar, what - does it make you smile when you hear that?

Dr. KUMAR: Indeed, indeed, in fact, I'm certainly going to order "Bollyrobics," because I think...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. KUMAR: It would do good to the whole family. My daughter loves to dance to these, and I, you know, I'm a, how shall I put it, frequent purveyor of YouTube videos for my family whenever I watch these things. You know, in the '60s, for example, it was only places like Russia that were exposed to Indian cinema, and so, it would be songs from Raj Kapoor films that would be hummed by people, and in China, too. In these countries that valued in some ways the grammar of social realism, you had the appeal of these films. While the wilder films, with more songs and dances, the spectacular films, have not been that popular, or at least were not at that time, but now, they are a real focus of attention in the West. And you know, much as I am myself a fan of social realism, I do want to say that these films are very, very exciting, and the portrayals are such that you do feel the rhythm of that country; you feel - you witness the colors, and it's a riot and I love it.

PALCA: All right. Amitava Kumar, thank you very much for joining us and giving us your top-five list, and we'll put that up on our Web site so if people that didn't catch it the first time around, they can go there and figure out what it is.

Dr. KUMAR: Thank you very much.

PALCA: Amitava is a contributor to Vanity Fair. He joined us today from the studios of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Now, you know, we've been talking about Bollywood. The Hollywood film is typically about entertainment, but in the recent years, that's been changing. Hollywood has begun to tackle some social issues, and I'm thinking about this year films like "Milk" or "Frost/Nixon." The same thing is happening in Bollywood, but to what a degree? Well, I've asked my next guest to answer that question. Shashi Tharoor is an Indian author and commentator and a former U.N. undersecretary general. He joins us today from his home in New York. Welcome to Talk of the Nation.

Dr. SHASHI THAROOR (Indian Diplomat; Author): Thank you. Good to be with you.

PALCA: So, we've been talking a little bit about the kinds of changes that are going on in Bollywood, that it's basically entertainment. What do you have to say?

Dr. THAROOR: That's right. I mean, 90 percent of all Bollywood movies are basically escapist. That's the idea. People live tough lives and they like to spend their money going to the movie theater to get away from those realities. No one wants to go and see grim social realism very much. They want to go off and see an impossible fantasy world full of beautiful people dancing and having fun and action and romance and excitement, and that's the staple. But there is a small percentage of more ambitious films being made within the Bollywood mainstream; that is, they don't depart fundamentally from the idiom of Bollywood filmmaking, and they'll have long exposition(ph) and songs and all of that, but they'll tackle more serious themes.

A few months ago, for example, was the release of an outstanding Bollywood film, perhaps, certainly, in my view, deserving of being in anyone's top five, a film called "Taare Zameen Par," which is about dyslexia, but done in an amazing way. I mean, it's a movie that is very accessible, it's not either sort of hokey or grim, and at the same time, it tackles a serious subject that hadn't ever been tackled in an Indian movie before. That was one example.

If one went back a couple of years, in a very different spirit, again, very much within the mainstream Bollywood tradition, but trying to do something special was a film called "Lage Raho Munna Bhai." This is reprising a character who'd already had a big hit in a movie a couple of years earlier as a sort of gangster with a heart of gold. And this gangster in this movie essentially discovers Gandhi and values and principles of the Mahatma and lives by them, in the course of actually trying to achieve slightly nefarious ends. It's an extremely well-made, very funny film. I showed it to American friends who caught it instantly, said it actually does appeal beyond the borders of India. But it was a huge hit in India, and suddenly the expression "Gandhigiri," sort of, you know, Gandhi's way of doing things, suddenly became commonly used in India because this film suddenly made it fashionable to think about what the Mahatma stood for again.

PALCA: We're talking with Shashi Tharoor; he's an Indian author and commentator. Also with us is Aseem Chhabra, a columnist from the Mumbai Mirror. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I'm sorry, I might have just interrupted you there, Shashi Tharoor. What were you saying?

Dr. THAROOR: No, that's fine. I'm just really saying that it's entirely possible for Bollywood to succeed the limits of escapism, making films that are both commercially accessible and popular and at the same time tackling more ambitious themes than Bollywood typically did during its heyday of the '70s and '80s.

PALCA: OK, let's go to Stacy in Sacramento, California.

STACY (Caller): Yes, my favorite Bollywood film was "Lagaan" as well, and my husband is from Punjab, and I appreciated the history lesson that was in that movie, as well as the humor.

PALCA: Interesting, OK. Aseem Chhabra, there's been a debate - as Stacy was just saying, that there was a history lesson. There's been a debate in American films, historical films, about how accurate they ought to be. I mean, is there an obligation, for example, when somebody does something about the trial of John F. Kennedy, to be absolutely historically correct, or can you take license for dramatic purposes? What's the attitude, would you say, in Bollywood toward dramatic license?

Mr. CHHABRA: Well, "Lagaan," the film which I had mentioned earlier, Stacy also mentioned, was complete fiction, although it's set during the British colonial period, say, about 100 years ago. There was a film that was released just last year, about the same time about a year ago; it was called "Jodhaa Akbar." It's a story about Emperor Akbar and his wife Jodhabai, who was a Hindu Rajput princess. And there was a lot of debate in India; in fact, there were a lot of protests also, because some people belonging to the Rajput community actually said that Emperor Akbar never married a Hindu princess. And so, that debate has still continued, whether the director actually took the license and sort of extended his history to suit his dramatic needs, but it's a beautiful film. It's, again, about three hours and 45 minutes long. I mean, sometimes Bollywood Hindi-language films tend to be pretty long, but it has some great songs, great dramatic moments, and so, you can enjoy the film and get a taste of history of India, although it may not be the absolute perfect history as such.

PALCA: I see, and is "Lagaan" also on your list, Shashi Tharoor?

Dr. THAROOR: Oh, yes. "Lagaan" definitely would be on my list, and in fact, there are two very fine Indian movies centering around the game of cricket. "Lagaan" is more of, sort of, classic mainstream Bollywood fare, and there is another film called "Iqbal" about a deaf-mute boy whose ambition is to play cricket for India and his struggles and travails and how he finally makes it. It's an extraordinary, inspiring film. It's an interesting thing that cricket is now coming into Bollywood in a big way, because they're trying to capitalize on the extraordinary passion that Indians have for that sport. And there is a movie coming out shortly - it hasn't come out yet - called "Victory," which is about an Indian cricket victory in Australia, something which hasn't actually happened yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PALCA: Well, we're going to have to leave it there, I'm afraid. Thank you very much for joining us. Shashi Tharoor is an Indian author and commentator; his most recent book is "The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone;" he joined us from his home in New York; and also, Aseem Chhabra is a columnist from the Mumbai Mirror. Coming up, a controversial proposal to limit the powers of the Supreme Court: Do justices need term limits? We'll talk about it next. I'm Joe Palca. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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