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Posts Tagged ‘LSD: Love’

The Hindi New Wave

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 9:07 AM

*A still from LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhoka

By Ben Rekh

Published in FILMMAKER Spring 2010

Namaste! Welcome to Indian cinema. The world’s largest film industry, India produces more than 1,100 films per years, roughly a third of which are Hindi-speaking or “Bollywood” films. A world play on “Bombay” plus “Hollywood,” Bollywood is known the world over for stories of true love, its signature bright colors, and its non-stop singing and dancing. But there is a new movement currently underway in the Indian film industry, and it may just be what the subcontinent and the world needs. Similar to what happened in Hollywood in the 60’s and 70’s, Bollywood is undergoing a massive cultural shift in content and consciousness. There are new voices and new audiences that are reinventing Indian cinemas as a major player on the global stage. This is the Hindi New Wave.

“This new generation is making films because they want to make films, not because they want to make money,” says Anurag Kashyap, the undeclared pioneer of the Hindi New Wave. At 37, Kashyap has directed seven motion pictures across all genres – think Steven Soderbergh in the 90’s. Kashyap plays by his own rules. And now, both Hollywood and Bollywood are chasing after him wanted a piece of the action. Danny Boyle hired Kashyap as a consultant on Slumdog Millionaire after seeing the slum sequences of his terrorist-themed film Black Friday. Kashyap recently signed an unprecedented nine-picture deal with UTV Motion Pictures, the most progressive film studio in India. With more than 30 credits to his name as writer, director and producer, Kashyap leads an army of creative rebels behind him. “There are the new voices of the new people.”

In 2009 Kashyap’s Dev. D broke into Bollywood and created mayhem with its revolutionary style and controversial content. A clever reinvention of the classic Bengali tale Devdas, the film explores themes and storyline previously taboo in India. An alcoholic spinster trolls drugs and prostitutes on the dark streets of Delhi. A young schoolgirl is ostracized by her friends and family after her sex video circulate around the country. The film was a forceful punch to the face of Bollywood bubblegum. Kashyap describes the origins with his collaborator and leading actor, Abhay Deol: “Abhay told me a story he wanted to do about a man who falls in love with a stripper, and this guy was self-destructive like Devdas.” Adds Deol, “No one had ever imagined this modern spin on the classical tale. At its core, the film is about addiction, a theme as relevant today as ever.” Made for under a million dollars, Dev. D gave voice to the angst of the country’s youth and became an instant cult classic.

“We went from having only one TV station that would play for only two hours a day to the 24-hour programming of MTV,” explains Deol, citing the opening up of the Indian economy in 1991 as a major influence on the new filmmakers’ credo. “Our generation saw the transition happen in our lifetimes.” In addition to Dev. De, actor- producer-youth icon Abhay Deol stars in several groundbreaking films including the international co-production Road, Movie and the darkly comedy Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! The latter is co-written and directed by the third axis of the New Wave, visionary filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee.

Born and raised in Delhi, Banerjee wowed audiences with his first two films, Khosla Ka Ghosla! Portrays a suburban family terrorized by an underworld landowner who lays claim to their abode. Oye Lucky! Charts the incredible rise and fall of one of Delhi’s more notorious thieves. But nothing could prepare audiences for his last venture, LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhokha, a shocking portrait of India’s modern youth. The first digital feature produced in India, LSD follows three desperate and disparate tales, all told via the protagonists’ cameras. In the first, an aspiring filmmaker directs a campy Bollywood remake, falls in love with his lead actress, and finds his life in danger when they elope in the real world. The second, shot entirely in the pharmacy from the POV of security cameras, follows the store supervisor as he manipulates his female co-worker into unknowingly starring with him in a sex tape to pay off his debts. Peeking out from hidden cameras, the third film follows a reality-show reporter collaborating with an ex-model to catch a leading pop star in a video sting operation. The genius of the film unfolds in how the stories are woven together, the final disturbing picture becoming clearer at every step. It’s a brilliant cinematic experience, a film whose psychology is as rich as the best of today’s international cinema.

The beauty of the New Wave filmmakers is that though they are provocative in their content, their sensibility is distinctly Indian. There is song and dance in Dev D; it is just under a black light with pop-and lockers from London. There is romance in LSD, but it is manipulative, desperate, and complex. And Abhay’s heroes are disillusioned and angry. India is a young country, with nearly 70 percent of the population under 30. And they are coming out in droves to support the new cinema that reflects a closer reality to their own.

Slumdog kicked open the doors in Indian-themed stories around the world, but it was still a British and American production,” admits Kashyap. Deol adds, “The true change will have to come within.” Like Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg of the American ‘70’s, Kashyap, Banerjee, and Deol boldly tackle contemporary issues that resonate with their country’s restless youth. And like the Easy Riders and Raging Bulls that came before them, theirs are not art house films. This is the new mainstream cinema in India. While Bollywood’s shimmering glitz fades across the world, the Hindi New Wave is poised to explode onto the global cinema stage. If people around the world think Slumdog Millionaire is the real India, they have no idea what’s about to him them.