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Desi Films Foreign Fans

A community of international bloggers is devoted to chronicling Bollywood and its evolution

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza |
May 31, 2012 1:54:18 am

A community of international bloggers is devoted to chronicling Bollywood and its evolution

He worked with popular film personalities of the ’50s and ’60s,including directors Nanubhai Bhatt,Homi Wadia and actor Tabassum,and was a star in his own right. Yet,few Indians remember Pedro. However,the chimp who featured in films such as Pedro,Zimbo Comes To Town and Tarzan Aur Gorilla inspires US-based Michael Barnum,whose blog about Bollywood films is called Pedro (The Ape Bomb).

While the blog has several posts,with video clippings,that chronicle the chimp’s career,Barnum’s focus remains B-grade Indian cinema. “I dig out B-grade action films and mythologies for the kitsch they offer. Over the years,I have watched thousands of Indian films,collected over 500 film DVDs and 400 posters,some of which date back to 1929,” says the 48-year-old. The fun with kitsch apart,Barnum’s interest is genuine and his blog is a treasure trove of film trivia and rare stills.

In the blogosphere,there are several others like Barnum. There is a fairly large community — close to 30 — of Bollywood bloggers of international origin. Nearly a dozen of them are hugely popular and enjoy a following of more than 1,000 people. Greta is the creator of the popular blog memsaabstory and Cassidy is behind Cinema Nritya Gharana. Both are from the US. The ones that surprise are Sanni Bjorn’s …So They Dance,Angela Ambroz’s Post-Punk Cinema Club and Barbara Skoda’s Babsko and Bob’s Let’s Talk About Bollywood from as far away as Finland,Fiji and Austria and France,respectively.

It is usually the vibrancy and drama of Indian cinema that arrests these bloggers’ attention. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas was one of the first Hindi films that Cassidy watched. So mesmerised was she by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit’s dance that it kindled in her a passion for Indian classical and folk dances. “I was deeply impressed by the aesthetics and the stylised dance movements,” she reminisces.

Cassidy,who started to blog about Hindi films in 2009,changed the focus to Indian dance forms in Bollywood and regional cinema in 2010. The blog now has rare video clippings of performances from Indian films that date back to the ’20s. “Watching performers,such as South Indian actor Kumari Kamala in her younger days,often gives me such joy that it’s almost akin to a spiritual experience,” explains Cassidy.

Unlike her,Bjorn is a masala film buff and South Indian actor Vikram is her current favourite. Her posts and reviews reflect how,without tapping into day-to-day film gossip,one can chronicle the evolution of actors and Indian cinema by merely observing the nuances. “Vikram,the Tamil star who also acted in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan in Hindi,is the perfect example of a versatile actor. I also love the care and effort that Aamir Khan puts into picking his projects,” comments Bjorn,whose favourites include Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam,Parvarish,Andaz Apna Apna,3 Idiots,Wanted,Jab We Met,Omkara and the Tamil film Anniyan.

It is often a challenge for these bloggers to source Hindi films. While internet remains their key source,they also depend on websites such as eBay and Amazon and Indian and international DVD stores. Also,friends,fellow bloggers and readers from India or those visiting the country come handy in sourcing films,posters and other material. Years of exposure to Indian cinema has had varying effects on them. While Cassidy takes her role as a chronicler of Indian cinema seriously,Barnum understands Hindi even though he can’t speak it. Bjorn has even made several trips to India.

Greta is unique. Apart from gaining a follower in Deepti Naval and becoming friends with Rajkumar Hirani,she has developed a reputation as the queen of Indian film trivia. She recollects,“When I met Aamir Khan on the sets of 3 Idiots,he kept throwing trivia questions at me,trying to beat me. We had a long debate on Raj Khosla’s debut film. And I had to correct him; the answer is Milap.” Khan helped her meet the late Shammi Kapoor,Greta’s favourite star.

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