Bollywood's Overseas Achievements
Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna – Never Say Goodbye - on the subject of infidelity has been declared the biggest Indian hit overseas. It is said to be doing roaring business in U.S.A., U.K., Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The box-office figures of Bollywood films in the foreign market establish the fact that Bollywood films have finally carved a niche for themselves internationally, especially in the U.S. where they do more business than films from any other country. Besides, many big Hollywood studios want a share of the action in Bollywood’s busting film industry. While Bollywood’s growing global business may be a recent phenomenon, its international connection dates back to decades ago when top Hollywood stars like Stewart Granger, Ava Gardner and Barbara Rush came to India to star in films like Bhowani Junction, Harry Black and the Tiger and so on. French director Renoir shot his award-winning film River in India while more recently Richard Attenborough won eternal fame for his Gandhi, which had a huge Indian cast. On the creative side, there had always been an exchange of actors between Bollywood and the Western countries, especially Hollywood. In the 1950s Sabu, the ‘Elephant Boy’ from Mysore made a name for himself in Hollywood while comedian I. S. Johar was featured in character roles in films like Harry Black and Death on the Nile. Toby Stephens played an important role of a British officer in The Rising – Mangal Pandey. Australian actress Tania Zaetta caught attention playing Arshad Warsi’s foreign wife in Salaam Namaste. The key role of a foreign documentary filmmaker in Rang De Basnti went to the British stage actor Alice Patten. Aishwarya Rai continues to make the whole country proud of her achievements with many international film projects of big banners, besides winning the British Government’s The Next Step World Diversity Champion Award (2005) and invited to be member of the International Jury at the Cannes. For the first time in 25 years, Bollywood producer Yash Chopra was invited as a member of the International Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival. Apart from these exchanges which are increasing every year, Bollywood has the distinction of achieving awards and acclaims in international film festivals which are chronicled hereunder as a tribute to Bollywood’s 75 Years of Excellence:
Karma (1933): Made by Bombay Talkies’ founder, Himanshu Roy, Karma has the distinction of being the first Indian film to have premier of its English version in London. The film gave Devika Rani, the heroin and Hindi cinema’s first lady, instant fame and rave reviews by the press in London for her outstanding performance.
Amar Jyoti (1936): V. Shantaram’s adventure classic featuring Durga Khote in the most memorable role as the Pirate Queen, has the distinction of being the first Indian film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival.
Sant Tukaram (1936): Directed by Vishnupant Govind Damle, the classic film that chronicles the life of Tukaram, Maharashtra’s famous 17th century poet-saint won the Special Recommendation Award at the Venice Film Festival.
Ram Rajya (1943): Vijay Bhatt’s alltime greatest mythological is the first Indian film to have been premiered in USA at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York. Cecil B Demelle, one of the greatest makers of historical and mythological movies (Ten Commandments, Sampson and Delilah) wrote a personal note to Bhatt after attending the premier, “Greetings from one director who is still trying to make good pictures to another director who will make great ones long after I am gone.”
Neecha Nagar (1946): The film directed by Chetan Anand and written by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas was the first Indian film to win the coveted Grand Prix Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (1946).
Awaara (1951): Raj Kapoor’s wonderful film swept people off their feet not only in India but also in Russia, China and many European countries. In Russia especially, Raj Kapoor became the living legend of cinema and received tumultuous welcome after the release of the film in Moscow.
Do Bigha Zamin (1953): Bimal Roy’s brilliantly directed film, beautifully photographed and most touchingly acted by the entire cast, was the recipient of a Special Mention at Cannes (1954) and winner of the Special Progress Award at Karlovy.
Boot Polish (1954): This R. K. Films production, the life affirming and rich cinematic experience, won Special Mention at Cannes Film Festival and its director, Prakash Arora, nominated for Golden Palm.
Jagte Raho (1956): A chillingly honest and stark Raj Kapoor film, Jagte Raho won Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1957) Crystal Globe Award for its director, Sombhu Mitra.
Do Aankhen Bareh Haath (1957): One of the finest movies ever made, V. Shantaram’s DABH won Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival (1958) and Samuel Godwyn Award at the Golden Globe, USA (1959).
Mother India (1957): A gem from Mehboob Khan in the Golden Age of Hindi cinema, Mother India was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1958, which it missed by a single vote.
Teesri Kasam (1966): A sensitive and poetic film produced by renowned lyricist Shailender, Teesri Kasam won nomination for Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival (1967).
Ankur (1974): Shyam Benegal’s unforgettable debut in Hindi, Ankur was nominated for Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival (1974).
Nishant (1975): Yet another brilliant film from Shyam Benegal, Nishant was nominated for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1976).
Mrigaya (1976): Mrinal Sen’s most artistically made movie, Mrigaya won nomination for the Golden Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival (1977).
Bawandar (2000): Based on real events, Bawandar – Sandstorm, directed by Jag Mundhra and dominated by Nandita Dass’ compelling performance and the visually shining deserts of rural Rajasthan, won the Bermuda International Film Festival Award for Best Film.
Lagaan (2001): Ashutosh Gowarker’s classic, set in India in 1893, the film won Academy Award (USA) nomination for Oscar – Best Foreign Language Film.
Apart from the above international awards and nominations won by films from Bollywood, Indian cinema is also proud of the achievements of filmmakers of Indian origin settled abroad, who have either gained from their initial experience in Bollywood or have grown up watching Bollywood movies:
Mira Nair: Born in India and based in New York City, Mira worked on her own independent short films, eventually winning the Best Documentary prize at the American Film Festival for India Cabarets. Her feature film Salaam Bombay was nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988. It won the Camere D’ Or for Best Feature Film and the Prix Du Publique for Most Popular Entry at the Cannes Film Festival. Mississippi Masala – an interracial story set in the American South and Uganda, starring Danziel Washington and Sarita Chowdhry, won three awards at the Venice Film Festival including Best Screenplay and Audience Choice awards. Monsoon Wedding became one of the most popular foreign language films in U.S.A. and U.K. It was the winner of Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Film Festival and Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Hysterical Blindness – HBO original film, won Golden Glob for Uma Thurman and three Emmy awards.
Deepa Mehta: Described as “Canada’s most internationally renowned woman filmmaker, Deepa produced and co-directed Martha, Ruth and Edie, a film based on works by Alice Munro, Cynthia Flood and Betty Lambert. It was screened at the Cannes International Film Festival and won the Best Feature Film Award at the 11th international Film Festival in Florence in 1988. Fire (1996) won International Jury Prize for the Best Film at the Verona International Film Festival (1997). Water, starring John Abraham, the final film in Deepa Mehta’s trilogy on the elements following Fire (1996) and Earth (1998), had world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival and selected as Canada’s entry for the Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards (2007).
Gurinder Chadha: Born in Punjab (India), former BBC reporter Gurinder Chadha is being labeled as the mascot of Punjabis in England as her film Bend It Like Beckham reflects the aspirations of a generation of Briton-born Indians caught between their roots and British surroundings. This most gloriously quirky and delightfully feel-good British Indian movie became a rage in the U.K. and the U.S. Earlier Chadha created a sensation in the British cinema circles with her first movie Bhaji On The Beach (1994) which won Jury Prize at Locarno, a BEFTA nomination for Best British Film of 1994 and Best Newcomer to British Cinema Award for Gurinder Chadha. This film was the opening night film of 2000 Sundance Film Festival and also won Chadha the award for the Best British Director in the London Film Critics’ Circle.
Shekhar Kapoor: After winning awards and acclaims for his Bollywood movies Masoom, Mr. India and BBC’s Bandit Queen, Shekhar Kapoor shocked Hollywood Cinema by winning eight Oscar nominations for his film Elizabeth, which he made in England. He is now working on his next grand project Buddha with the blessings of Dalai Lama and support of Hollywood superstar Richard Gare.