As promised, I am publishing here (see below for link) an article she recently wrote for the Toronto Star. The Star published it on January 6, 2004.
For the record, I am looking for your work published by or in the mainstream press. And if you could limit the published date to within the last six months, that would make it current and relevant. Thanks!
TORONTO STAR, Jan. 6, 2004. 01:00 AM
Bollywood extends its reach
More movie plots set outside India
Indian filmmaker subs T.O. for NYC
© APARITA BHANDARI
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
New Delhi foreign locales, especially the musical numbers these movies are famous for. Usually part of a dream sequence, these songs take the hero and heroine to the Swiss Alps, the deserts of Egypt, and even Niagara Falls.
A new trend in many Bollywood movies, however, is to set parts of the plot outside India. It’s a matter of India’s film industry acknowledging the growing South Asian diaspora, which spends big money to catch a Bollywood flick.
Toronto was a recent Bollywood beneficiary when one of India’s premier film companies, Dharma Productions, copied the Hollywood custom of using T.O. as a stand-in for NYC – at the same time most Hollywood houses stayed away
because of SARS.
The film is the latest Bollywood hit Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Be Or May Not). It’s the third offering from Bollywood whiz kid Karan Johar, who turned writer-producer with the film.
It’s a New York story, says Nikhil Advani, the film’s director.
“(Zinta) plays a girl who travels to Manhattan to work and study,” explains Advani, who lived in New York for a month to research the city’s vibe.
“(Ali Khan) plays a young Manhattan bachelor, whose parents may live in Long Island or Connecticut. And Preity is a very regimented and strict character, very focused, like New Yorkers. But like the city, which can be cold on the surface, she too has a heart.”
It’s hard to miss the American angle in Kal Ho Naa Ho – the American flag unfurls across the wide theatre screen, as Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan serenades Zinta, singing the Bollywood version of the Roy Orbison hit “Pretty Woman.” And the opening lines of the movies do include “Yeh hai New York” (This is New York).
But look closer and you’ll see hints of Toronto: the film’s stars dining in a downtown Toronto restaurant; scenes of the TTC trundling by; actors reading Canadian newspapers.
“I’ve grown up with Hollywood movies set out in New York,” says Advani, reeling off names of directors with a New York penchant, including Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese and Edward Burns.
“And when I researched those films, I found that most of them were shot in Toronto. Toronto offered a lot – a similar skyline to New York, similar architecture. And of course, the cost is almost one-third of what we’d spend in New York.
“But then when we started shooting, we found it was necessary to shoot in New York. We just weren’t getting the vibe. New York has such an essential character. We shot only two scenes and one song in Toronto.”
Within a week of its release, Kal Ho Naa Ho collected a cool $2.8 million (Cdn.) in India and $2.5 million (Cdn.) outside India. In the U.K., it opened at No. 6 and registered the highest per-screen average for the week. In the U.S., it just missed the million-dollar mark during its first weekend. It’s commonly acknowledged that Johar aims his movies at what are called non-resident Indians (Indians living outside India) and resident non-Indians (Indians living in India who largely reject Indian society).
Johar’s previous two directorial ventures were Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happens) and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness). Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had a marginal non-resident Indian plot, with Bollywood brat Salman Khan starring as an England-residing suitor. The movie’s university sets looked more Beverly Hills 90210 than any Mumbai or Delhi school.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, however, saw Shah Rukh’s errant son character take off to England after a major family spat with his towering father, played by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. Shah Rukh had made the ultimate filial boo-boo by marrying a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
And Kal Ho Naa Ho, while being a New York story, still has a plot that reads like any other Bollywood story: New Yorker Naina Catherine Kapur (Zinta) has the weight of the world on her shoulders, with a family forever squabbling because of a horrible secret. Enter “angel-in-disguise” Aman Mathur (Shah Rukh), who’s in New York to treat his heart condition. Mathur brightens up
Kapur’s life. Kapur falls for Mathur, although he is dying. Naturally, Mathur pushes Kapur towards best friend Rohit Patel (Saif Ali Khan). Copious tears and some laughs ensue.
Bollywood aficionados in New York were amused with Johar’s geographical gaffes. Kapur, who lives in Queens, jogs all the way to Central Park, or regularly ends up at the Brooklyn Bridge, in pensive moments, in a manner of
Bollywood lovers in Toronto are also chortling at the way Toronto masquerades as New York.
“Who are they kidding,” reads one message on a South Asian Web site based in Toronto. “They are showing TTC and (Canadian newspapers) and PMCL (a Greyhound service that serves Central and Southern Ontario) and Canadian flags and calling Toronto NYC.”
“They were also on (King Street),” reads another post. “Most of the shots with Saif Ali Khan (were) in Toronto. It was soo exciting to see Toronto and all the TTC buses.”
For some Torontonian viewers, such liberties are part of typical Bollywood fare.
“It’s a beautiful story, I think, and if Bollywood movies can shoot songs in Europe and Vancouver, even when the story takes place in India, then why can’t they do that in this movie,” reads another post.
Wherever it’s set, Kal Ho Naa Ho has tapped into a successful formula. It is still playing at Toronto’s Albion Cinemas at 1530 Albion Rd. in Etobicoke.