Asia India

Going Local: An Insider’s Guide to Pakistan and India’s Film Industry

The Woods, they are a confusing place. Bollywood is just a player in India’s massive cinema scene. Get the low down on Bollywood, Mollywood, Tollywood, and yes, even Kollywood. I am also including Lollywood (you heard me right) even though it is based in Pakistan, because there is nothing that can beat the old school Punjabi classics coming out of there.

Lollywood is arguably the most underrated film industry in this part of the world. There has never been the sleekness, sex-appeal, string of  “super-hits,” or the budget that Bollywood has had over the decades. But then again, it wasn’t funded by the Indian mafia either. During the 1960s, Indian entertainment in almost all forms were heavily censored, and in many cases, banned. This inevitably gave rise to blackmarket dvds, and radio programs playing bollywood dance numbers based out of Sri Lanka. These days, most Pakistanis (and Indians), as well as Desis the world over, get their hit of movies from Bollywood. But in its heyday, Lollywood made a string of the most awesome Punjabi films. Now Punjabi films are relegated to Sikhs from outside India, so you have a handful of Punjabi films with the same weepy storyline and the hero is a Punjabi singer with zero acting ability who is funding the production.

Maula Jatt, which launched the careers of Sultan Rahi (the hero) and Mustafa Qureshi who plays the villain, Noori Natt. The storyline is simple. Maula Jatt is the hero. Noori Natt is the villain. He steals his woman. Maula Jatt kicks ass while wearing a loongi, carrying a gandasa, and gets his woman back with a lot of dishoon-dishoon, and some of the most awesome zingers in the world. There is also a lot of mustache tweaking. Here is the best fight scene you have ever seen:

The Hindi-language films of Bollywood, usually shot in Mumbai (but increasingly shot on location, often in the United States, Australia, or the Swiss Alps), are what defines Indian cinema for most audiences—a masala of melodrama, action, song-and-dance and star-crossed romance. In fact, Bollywood films draw large audiences in the UK, Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Russia, China and many other nations. The current kings of Bollywood are Amitabh Bachchan, his son Abhishek, and of course Shah Rukh Khan, a Punjabi lad who got his start in TV serials twenty years ago.

CHECK OUT: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2002 epic Devdas, an adaptation of the Saratchandra Chatterjee novel, which stars Shah Rukh Khan as a tortured but poetic rich boy who drinks himself to death after an ill-fated romance with the poor girl next door, played by Queen of Bollywood Aishwarya Rai. Here is the scene that sets off Devdas’s downward spiral:

The Malayalam film industry based in Kerala, is often called Mollywood, but much better known as Malluwood. The industry has never been one to follow suit and blazes its own trail. There is a long list of national awards bestowed upon actors and directors of Malluwood beginning with the 1928 silent film Vigathakumaran. Neelakkuyil won a presidential medal in 1954. Like Sandalwood, Malluwood experimented with parallel cinematic traditions in the 1970s. The Golden Age of Malayalam films (the 1980s) was a blend of paralleli cinema and more commercial genres. The big actors include a crop of newcomers and old school gems like Manmootty and Dileep.

CHECK OUT: Vinodayatra starring Dileep who plays his usual role of being a slacker. But there is a twist: he falls in love with a girl who ain’t havin it, so he sets about mending his ways. Okay so not really a twist, but it’s a fun movie! Here is a really funny scene from the movie . . . .  but it has no subtitles. The sound effects in the background and camera angles will clue you in as to when you’re meant to laugh. So there’s that. Here’s the clip:

Home of composer A.R. Rahman who won an oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, the Tamil film industry is no joke. Based in Kodambakkam, Chennai (formerly Madras), Kollywood regularly churns out blockbusters. Storylines follow the same masala protocol, but are a lot more action oriented. Its two biggest stars are Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan, but there are plenty of talented newcomers.

CHECK OUT: A.R. Rahman lends his voice to recent blockbuster Sivaji starring Rajnikant. He plays an NRI pissed off at the corruption he sees upon returning to India. Think he sits back and takes it? No way, Jose Tejas. Here is a scene with some bubble gum action I don’t recommend you try without proper training:

The Telugu film industry centers around Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, a whopping 1,600 acre film studio, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the biggest film studio in the world. Tollywood spits out more than 150 films a year with superstars like Chiranjeevi and Mahesh Babu.

CHECK OUT: The gangster flick, Pokiri. Sorry, I meant, “underworld romance.” It is one of Tollywood’s highest grossing films starring (who else?) Mahesh Babu. He plays an undercover cop infiltrating the gang, but alas he falls in love while battling crime. Dilemma. After watching this badass fight scene, remember that the moral of the story is this: don’t mess with Manmooty. Here is the scene:

Nobody really calls the industry sandalwood even though they have tried to get the name to stick. The film industry of Karnataka, while considerably smaller than its counterparts, produces a box office shatteriing films putting larger film industries (including Bollywood) to shame. While Bollywood was “remaking” every James Bond movie they saw in the 1970s, Sandalwood was experimenting with parallel cinema. Home to four time national award winner, Girish Kasaravalli, and newcomers like Vijay.

CHECK OUT: Hotshot actor Vijay in Duniya, a gritty 2007 drama about a nice boy from a small town . . . . with a very chiselled bod . . . who gets sucked into the underworld.  And then unleashes hell. Check out this scene from the movie:

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