Bollywood: Up close and personal
An ageing Indian superstar, a veteran of 30-40 'dacoit' films, fires his director and vows to ghost direct the 41st caper that will not only be 'different' but also a 'super-duper' hit.
The producer, the son of a makeup man, and the assistant director of 71 films dreams of mounting the biggest production that Hyderabad city has seen.
Caught between the two, in a typical Hindi masala movie setup, is an out-of-work Hollywood actor whose insistence on a bound script and coherency makes him look like a fool.
Bollywood Calling is a hilarious take on the workings of the Hindi film industry. From compulsive late-comings to new dialogues written every day to lack of credible characterisation, Nagesh
Kukunoor's Bollywood Calling captures the Hindi film industry in all its glory.
Pat Stormare (Pat Cusick), out-of-luck, high-on-alcohol, is a bummed out B-grade star of American action films for whom life cannot get any worse. His wife walked out on him and he has been handed a death sentence in the form of cancer.
Escape from reality comes in the form of Subramaniam aka Subra (Om Puri), a Bollywood producer who has conjured up the largest production in Hyderabad city: Maut-The Death.
Subra believes he will pull off a casting coup if he can get a Hollywood actor to play the long-lost brother of aging Indian superstar Manu Kapoor (Navin Nischol). "I have seen your film, Bloodfeather 62 times," Subra tells Pat.
Bloodfeather, in case you haven't guessed, is one of those sidey Hollywood action flicks which has the hero bashing up a couple of goons with a few blondes clinging to his bulging arms. Pat's introduction to the big bad world of Bollywood and its cast of characters happens on his first day on the sets.
There's the lead hero and the star of the film, Manu, a self-absorbed hero who sports a toupee that, along with his balding head, masks his fading aura. Heroine Kajal (Perizaad Zorabian) is a starlet who has perfected the art of playing a bimbo. She hides her razor-sharp mind and a sharper tongue. There is also the all-white clad director (Kunal Vijayakar), who gets thrown out of the film after he rubs superstar Manu Kapoor on the wrong side.
Pat soon learns to accept Bollywood's eccentricities like the lack of subtlety in dialogue delivery, the loud clothes, the melodramatic crying scenes and the complete lack of logic or characterisation that makes masala films.
He prances around trees in blue satin pants, sunshine yellow shirts and red cummerbund singing Sajanee and mouths the kutte, kameene dialogues with ease.
To complete his adventures in the madcap world of Indian films are irritants like last-minute location changes, new script pages every day and an interfering hero.
As producer-turned-director with a heavy South Indian accent, Om Puri is brilliant. He carries the film on his shoulders. While the industry he mocks might lack characterisation or sanity, Puri ensures that he makes Subra very believable.
From grovelling before superstar Manu Kapoor to carrying a pouch strung on his wrist, Puri makes Subra very familiar. He is the kind of producer that movie journalists run into every day.
The surprise package is of course Pat Cusick. As the bewildered outsider who slowly learns to accept Bollywood's ways and even starts enjoying it towards the end, Cusick is endearing. He is the audience's man.
Navin Nischol completes the troika of brilliant performances. With his smug air of false humility, an exaggerated sense of self-worth and arrogance he is very true to life.
Debutante Perizaad Zorabian who plays Kaajal is the only one who seems to be miscast. While she does a commendable job of a starlet who pretends to be a bimbo, she doesn't look the part of a Bollywood actress.
After the insipid follow up called Rockford to the refreshing Hyderabad blues, Kukunoor had the critics questioning if Hyderabad Blues was not a flash in the pan. With Bollywood Calling, he clearly emerges as the kingpin of the genre of the low-budget Indian English language films.
Shot in just 34 days, Kukunoor has managed to make a movie on Bollywood's quirks without adopting a holier-than-thou attitude. With this movie, he has clearly proved his flair for making small, honest and
off beat films.
Bollywood Calling is not without flaws. There is an air of laissez faire about it. The script lumbers on. There is a home video kind of feel to the movie and sometimes Bollywood's eccentricities have been treated very flippantly.
But witty and irreverent, Bollywood Calling is a laugh-a-riot. Enjoy its idiosyncrasies.