Lights! Camera! Action!

A movie about the movies.

Need an insider’s glimpse at the chaos that is constitutional to the making of regular Bollywood fare? "Bollywood Calling" takes you on tour!

Pat Stormare (Pat Cusick), an out-of-work, B-grade Hollywood actor, is at the bottom of the barrel, with a severe case of alcoholism, a wrecked marriage and a diminishing acting career. Diagnosis of cancer makes him no happier. Then like a shot out of the blue, his agent coughs up one final proposal - a leading role in a maverick Bollywood flick.

Enter Subramaniam (Om Puri), aka "Subra". A South Indian producer with an off-the-wall film plot, Subra tries roping in Pat for one of the principal characters in his film, "Maut", a story whose biggest claim to fame is the insertion of an American!

Predictably, Pat follows the Silk Route to the land of movie mania, and is initially appalled by the amateurish way things run- the absence of a ready script, the tardiness of the crew and cast, the hero-worshipping of the, well, hero, and the other minutiae of authentic Bollywood movie-making.

The movie has a take on practically every episode in the making of a Hindi flick, from the unorthodox methods of selecting heroines, to the clout demanded by popular actors, to the predicaments faced by powerless directors. Kukunoor has aimed at a wider canvas, attempting to go global with this, his third venture after "Hyderabad Blues" and "Rockford". Charting a theme that is popular, though shadowy, he opens a side-door into the sets, showing you a performance that is as close to the real thing as they come. However, the movie lacks an uninterrupted narrative flow, giving the viewer a slightly disoriented impression, and while its script is nothing to boast about, snatches of dialogue retain the wisdom of philosophy. 

The mood is certainly animated - humour bouncing off terrific acting performances, with Om Puri the lead comic. Virtually the king of Hinglish comedy, this star of films like "East Is East" and "City Of Joy" carries his character to believable heights. The situations themselves mirror nuances of Indian culture and personalities, poking slight jibes at their hypocrisies and double standards, but eventually, evoking empathy for their characters.

This article was first published on 15 Nov 2001.