Two Film Series Spotlight Indian Cinema’s Dual Traditions

In the Village Voice:

Amitabh With some high-profile releases in the past few years, increased press coverage, and tourist-friendly phenomena like Bombay Dreams, the Bollywood brand is quickly finding its place in American pop culture’s mainstream masala. Now, two uptown series attempt to flesh out the recent history of Indian cinema. Lincoln Center fetes mega-luminary Amitabh Bachchan, touted record-book-style as “the biggest film star in the world.” The title of Bachchan’s tribute is inspired by a 1999 BBC online poll that named him Superstar of the Millennium. Bachchan bested not only Sir Laurence Olivier and Charlie Chaplin but presumably Sarah Bernhardt and David Garrick; Bachchan’s sheer number of film roles—almost 150 since his debut in 1969—was no doubt a decisive factor. In his first hit, the violent revenge narrative Zanjeer (1973), the towering, baritone-voiced actor established the model for his later on-screen persona: the “angry young man” who takes on the powerful and unscrupulous but displays a charismatic decorum between smackdowns. In keeping with Bollywood’s market-friendly smorgasbordism, Bachchan served as Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, and Sylvester Stallone rolled into one.

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