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Journalism of Courage

As Bollywood reckons with uncertain future, a throwback to when Christopher Nolan called Hindi films ‘fundamental’

As Bollywood faces an internal crisis, Christopher Nolan's comments from 2020 might serve as an important reminder for filmmakers that cinema remains among our nation's most beloved cultural exports.

Christopher NolanChristopher Nolan has often spoken glowingly about India. (Express photo by Amit Chakravarty)

Christopher Nolan is the world’s most successful mainstream filmmaker. He has to his credit the mammoth superhero films Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, the science-fiction spectacles Inception, Interstellar and Tenet, the war drama Dunkirk, and the period dramas The Prestige and the upcoming Oppenheimer. His films have grossed a combined total of over $5 billion worldwide, which translates to roughly nearly Rs 40000 crore. But did you know that he once called Hindi films ‘fundamental’ to the success of Hollywood movies?

He told IANS in 2020, “(With) my trips to Mumbai, I started engaging more and more with Bollywood and the broad strokes of those movies. They happen to (have the) real fundamental reasons that we watch cinema, and I think Hollywood cinema has lost some of that in some ways.”

Nolan’s association with India goes back to The Dark Knight Rises, which was filmed partially in Jodhpur. He returned to the country for Tenet, which also featured sequences set in Mumbai, and featured Indian actor Dimple Kapadia. In fact, he’d even met with Anil Kapoor for a role in Inception, but that didn’t materialise.

Nolan continued, “They are wonderful, kind of fundamental. I call them fundamental subprimal movements. These types of films really engage the audience on a sensory level. It is a very valuable thing to re-inject into Hollywood cinema. That sensory engagement, where you use sights, sounds, and music and everything to have very operatic experiences, I think some of the primal elements of Indian cinema very much suggest that. It is something I really enjoy engaging with.”

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An ongoing debate has been raging about the declining interest in Bollywood films, which is in contrast to the steady rise in popularity of South Indian language movies. In recent months, many South Indian language films — RRR, KGF: Chapter 2 and Pushpa: The Rise — have done exceedingly well not only in local markets but also in the Hindi belt. But major Hindi films — Samrat Prithviraj, Jersey, 83 and most recently, Shamshera — have bombed at the box office. Nolan’s comments could be a reminder for filmmakers about the value that the world attaches to Bollywood films, which remain our nation’s most beloved cultural export.

First published on: 30-07-2022 at 08:12:57 am
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