By Subhash K Jha
BOLLYWOOD: Honestly, everyone loves a good Bollywood song and dance. But to see Kevin Spacey doing The Lungi dance at recently concluded IIFA (India International Film Awards) event at Tampa Bay in Florida was a very painful ordeal for all concerned.
It was an insult to the Lungi and to Bollywood, not necessarily in that order.
I am sure it wasn’t easy for Mr Spacey either. The guy is a veritable legend on home turf. For those who came in late Spacey has won the Oscar for his performances in The Usual Suspects and American Beauty.
So what was he doing tying that Lungi around his trousers and wriggling ridiculously?
Trying out a bit of Bollywood, I suppose.
But is this the Bollywood we want to sell to the West?
I thought IIFA was supposed to promote Indian cinema in the West. Instead, over the years it has become a joyous jamboree of Bollywood stars, an annual all-expenses paid vacation in some exotic spot of the world where all that is really promoted is the a handful of Bollywood stars, never Indian cinema.
And pray how can Bollywood cinema be represented without Amitabh Bachchan? A bit like selling Agra to tourists without the Taj Mahal, no?
Also, when have we seen INDIAN cinema being represented at IIFA? Was there even one representative from cinema in any of the many Indian languages at Tampa Bay? Rajnikanth? Vikram Gokhale? Kamal Haasan? Prosenjit? Mohanlal?
Restricting the menu purely to Bollywood entertainment-oriented cinema, IIFA and other global awards tell the West every year that we only make films where our characters sing and dance, sing and dance….and then they sing and dance some more,with or without the Lungi.
Out West specially in America, Indian cinema is considered a big song-and-dance joke. Travolta thinks we make only musicals. I don’t blame him. He hasn’t been shown anything else from Bollywood. That perception of Indian cinema as monkey’s business had just begun to change with Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox. The film made Western audiences sit up and take notice of our cinema as being more than a mere naach-gaana circus.
Now with Kavien Spacey’s embarrassing Lungi dance, we seem happy selling the touristic image of India as a land of the eternal song and infinite dancing.
The Lungi dance with Kevin Spacey reiterates the image of Indian cinema as a primitive streetside taamsha, in a very American context. Whan an actor of Spacey’s stature gets into Bollywood costume, the Lungi as it happens to be, to do a joyous jig, he is very clearly saying…. Hollywood accepts Bollywood’s traditional image.
Spacey’s Lungi dance is the cinematic equivalent of an American tourist donning the national costume in a barbaric Asian or African country.
“No matter how wild or exotic you guys want to be, we will humour you,” said Spacey in not so many words.
I’d love to know what he told his family about the IIFA show when he went home after the show. (Did he get to pack the Lungi and take it home?).
Oh yes , there was John Travolta too. He said he loves Bollywood cinema and that girl from Ram Leela.
Deepika Padukone wasn’t even born when Saturday Night Fever was released.
This is her chance to teach Travolta the Lungi dance.