Review 2017: Arts & Culture

The Festival of Lights or Diwali has made an impact in Britain and brings colour in other parts of the world. It is a religious festival portraying peace, happiness and hope. And as far as Indian festivals go, it used to be the only one which was remotely heard off outside Indian sub-continent. But in recent times, Indian spiritual culture is becoming popular outside the realms of the Indian diaspora with the rise of Festival of Colour (Holi) and other festivals like Shivaratri and Navaratri. Diwali is now celebrated in The Whitehouse and Downing Street as well as Times Square and Trafalgar Square.

Bollywood continues to break barriers, and Indian film artists and technicians are breaking into Hollywood. The subject of India’s hockey players in the era of WW2 and thereafter was filmed in Yorkshire. Directed by Reema Kagti, the film is an increasing number of Bollywood productions which prefers to shoot outside India where they can access real locations rather than having to build sets.

Productions are also going outside London as the costs in the capital are making filming prohibitive for many investors.

Within a decade, Bollywood investments have reached record levels, and an increasing number of productions have the budgets to film globally. Film production has increased from under 5 to 22 in 2015-17, and the spend has increased by over 400% to nearly £70 million. These figures are still relatively low compared to Hollywood productions like Star Wars. The Transformers and The Mummy.  But Bollywood powerhouse is rising at an extraordinary pace Indians are making their marks. Notably, Dev Patel, who received worldwide acclaim in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire nearly a decade ago has won a BAFTA for his role in Lion. The film examines the role of an Indian man who was separated from his family in India as a young child and was adopted by an Australian couple. Wanting to learn about his family heritage, he used Google Earth to find his way back home. The film is based on a true story of Saroo Brierley and stars Hollywood icon Nicole Kidman who is Australian.

Bend it Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha has directed another poignant film examining the lives of millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who were uprooted in what was the largest migration of people in history - the partition. In fact, Gurinder Chadha’s family members were impacted during the partition.

On a sad note, Bollywood lost some of its considerable talents. Amongst those well known in Britain included veteran actor Om Puri who died at the age of 66 after suffering a heart attack.

Renowned for his distinct face and has been successful in both mainstream and art films, Om Puri had a list of gritty performances to his credits. He made his name in Britain in East is East and also had a cameo role in Richard Attenborough's epic on Mahatma Gandhi.

A versatile actor, Puri was known for his roles in Indian, Pakistani, British and Hollywood films. He was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to the British film industry in 2004.

“I have no regrets at all. I have done quite well for myself. I didn’t have a conventional face, but I have done well, and I am proud of it,” he once tweeted to his followers. other Bollywood icon who crossed over to western audiences was screen legend Shashi Kapoor who died after a long illness who will be fondly remembered for his talent, charm and humility.

The younger brother of Raj Kapoor, he came from the emphatic Kapoor clan which has dominated the Indian cinema screen for decades.

To the British audiences, he was well known having married to Felicity Kendal’s sister, Jennifer who sadly has died from cancer in 1984. Kapoor’s role in several Merchant Ivory was the catalyst to his western audience appeal. It was in 1963 that he collaborated with Ismail Merchant and James Ivory in The Householder. This was followed by Shakespeare Wallah in 1965 and the 1970s Bombay Talkie with his wife Jennifer Kendal. In 1983, he starred in the Cannes entry Hear and Dust with Julie Christie and Greta Saatchi. 

Fond of the theatre, he and Jennifer had established Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre which numerous Bollywood stars have performed at during their careers.

His notable Bollywood roles were in features such as "Jab Jab Phool Khile" (Whenever The Flowers Bloom, 1965), "Kabhi Kabhie" (Sometimes, 1976), and "Kalyug" (Age of Downfall, 1981). He was also adored for his role opposite Bachchan in the hit movie "Deewaar" (The Wall, 1975) in which he delivered one of Hindi cinema's most famous lines -- ´Mere paas maa hai´ (I have a mother).

Causing political turmoil and sadly risking the lives of its lead actress, Dipeeka Padukone, is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati which has caused huge protests in India and there is a campaign to ban it from British cinemas. It is sad that and abhorrent that people’s lives are threatened because a few individuals do not agree with its content. India is a country of tolerance and a path we much continue to follow.

The protest is over the belief that the film insults a legendary 14th- century Hindu Queen Padmini who immolates herself rather than fall prisoner to a conquering Muslim ruler.

The film’s distributor in Britain, Paramount Pictures says it is reviewing the UK release amid reports that the producers wanted to clarify the situation in India.