Bollywood king says new age dawning for Indian film

Indian Bollywood film director Rajkumar Hirani, left, and actor Ranbir Kapoor during a screening of the Hindi film ‘102 Not Out’ in Mumbai on May 1. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Bollywood king says new age dawning for Indian film

  • ‘Before there was a belief that you had to have songs’
  • ‘Now people are completely experimenting with the subject matter’

BUSAN, South Korea; Bollywood box office king Rajkumar Hirani believes a new golden age is dawning for the Indian movie industry as filmmakers look outside the box to tell more varied stories.
“Before there was a belief that you had to have songs,” said Hirani, the man behind a string of Bollywood hits including the global sensation “3 Idiots.”
“Now people are completely experimenting with the subject matter.”
Even those directors who continue to include songs are also exploring “much darker themes” — and still enjoying massive box office success, he said.
A case in point is 55-year-old Hirani’s latest offering, “Sanju,” which the director has brought to this year’s 23rd Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, the largest of its kind in Asia.
“Sanju” is based on the real-life story of the rise and fall of Indian star Sanjay Dutt, who was born into Bollywood royalty but was jailed after being accused of involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks of 1993.
The director admits the project was a risk given the often-grim nature of the story, which includes gritty scenes of drug taking and its lead character’s descent into depression.
But the strong box office returns have convinced him that audiences want a wider range of options from Hindi language films.
“Sanju” has so far grossed $80 million, placing it third on Bollywood’s all-time global earners’ list, according to The Times of India newspaper.
“It’s very much a human-interest story about battling your demons,” said Hirani. “It’s a very different kind of film than I have done before.
“While I was making it, everybody thought it was a mistake.”
But Hirani said he was more confident the film might succeed after seeing the reaction of Dutt, who was released from jail in 2016, at a preview screening.
“He saw it three days before its release and I was watching him,” said Hirani. “He was crying and after that he sat at home and drank for three days, so I knew it had worked.”
As a director and producer Hirani has reaped box office gold with a diverse range of films, from comedies including “3 Idiots” (2009) and alien-on-earth hit “PK” (2014), to the sports drama “Final Round” (2016) and now on to “Sanju.”
Experts say the Indian film industry is on track for record earnings in 2018, after surpassing last year’s $2.1 billion mark by the end of the first quarter.
Across all languages, India now produces more than 1,000 movies a year — several hundred more than come out of Hollywood.
Increasingly these films are finding a global audience.
Hirani’s “3 Idiots” — the tale of three friends struggling with the pressures of getting an education — was a ground-breaker in terms of international box office success, with around $30 million in international takings.
Hirani said Bollywood filmmakers are expanding their own horizons as their audience grows, both domestically and globally.
But the filmmaker stressed he had found no magic wand for making great cinema.
“I don’t think there’s ever a formula for success in film,” said Hirani. “If there was, everyone would share it. I’ve been fortunate
“I guess one of the principles I work with is make the film for yourself not an audience. At least then one person will like it.”
“You can’t judge what the world will like,” he added. “If you laugh at the jokes you are writing, if you can cry at the emotional scenes, then hopefully the audience will too.”
But for all the guidelines, Hirani says, early on it’s hard to predict what the final product will look like.
“Every time you start a new film it’s like digging a new well. You are not sure what you might find.”
The Busan International Film Festival runs until Saturday.


World-famous Italian opera house debuts in Kingdom

Updated 16 June 2019
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World-famous Italian opera house debuts in Kingdom

  • Organized by the Saudi Culture Ministry, “An Italian Opera Journey” took place at the King Fahad Cultural Center
  • Only registration was required to attend the free event, which sold out almost instantly

RIYADH: Residents in Riyadh were treated on Friday to some of the best that Italian opera had to offer, with a performance by the symphony orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala Academy, which made its debut in Saudi Arabia.
One of the most famous opera houses in the world, dating back almost 250 years, the academy offers world-class training in all disciplines of symphony, opera and ballet, under the supervision of famous musicians.
Organized by the Saudi Culture Ministry, “An Italian Opera Journey” took place at the King Fahad Cultural Center.
Only registration was required to attend the free event, which sold out almost instantly, with 3,000 music lovers, artists and poets enjoying an hour of beautiful tributes to classical music.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The show opened with a surprise performance of the Kingdom’s national anthem by Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahiti, who received a standing ovation for her rendition.

• Al-Bahiti was invited by the Saudi Culture Ministry to perform at the event as part of its efforts to showcase national talents.

The show opened with a surprise performance of the Kingdom’s national anthem by Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahiti, who received a standing ovation for her rendition.
Al-Bahiti was invited by the ministry to perform at the event as part of its efforts to showcase national talents.
The orchestra was conducted by maestro Pietro Mianetti, and featured performances by soprano Francisca Manzo and tenor Ricardo Della Sciucca.

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3,000 music lovers, artists and poets enjoyed an hour of beautiful tributes to classical music in RIyadh.

Some of the most iconic pieces from 19th-century Italian opera were performed. At the end of the show, a standing ovation led to an encore.
Deputy Culture Minister Hamed Fayez took to Twitter to express how much he enjoyed the evening.
“A beautiful night spent with the esteemed La Scala opera at the King Fahad Cultural Center in Riyadh, amidst a wonderful crowd, with an exceptional performance from our Italian guests,” he tweeted, posting photos.
The performance is one of the ministry’s efforts to attract high-quality artistic events that enrich the Saudi cultural landscape and enhance quality of life.
The Kingdom’s first opera house will be built in Jeddah, and is scheduled for completion in 2022. The institution aims to become the new home of a Saudi residence orchestra.
The Kingdom has also seen the opening of a music institute by famed Egyptian violinist Mahmoud Sorour, with a second music institute in the works.