In the last few years, Bollywood seems to have focused in on itself with several films highlighting the Indian film industry - which celebrates 100 years of filmmaking this year.
One of these Bollywood films about Bollywood is Farah Khan's 2007 film Om Shanti Om. It is presented as a loving homage to the Indian film industry and pays tribute to stars past and present. As Om Kapoor (Shah Rukh Khan) receives his film award, he repeats a speech he gave years before he was a big star:
I have wanted you so much and so badly it's true that the entire universe has conspired for me to get you. They say if you want something with all your heart then the entire universe will help you get it! Today you all have given me everything that I wanted. Thank you. Thank you very much. I am thankful to you all that you've turned my dreams into reality.
I feel like the king of the world! Thank you for making me believe that, just like in our films, in life too, finally in the end everything is okay. Happies Endings! And if it is not happy then it's not "the end" my friends. The film is not over yet!
But the film industry is not all glitze, glamour, and good times. Getting your "big break" in Bollywood, Kollywood or Hollywood can be difficult. And if you do become a star, you are faced with a whole different set of issues.
If you are new to Bollywood, here are 5 films that dramatize some of the opportunities and challenges of a those working in the Indian film industry.
Description: Vikram Jaisingh (Farhan Akhtar) comes to Mumbai to become a film actor with the help of friends who have achieved some modest success in Bollywood. He meets Sona Mishra (Konkona Sen Sharma), a rising young star, and they fall in love. When he gets his big break, she faces a major motion picture disappointment. What do you do when those you love obtain the success you are so desperate to achieve? How do you continue to hold on to your friendships when people and paths change? What does it really mean to be successful in Bollywood?
Why I Love This Film: The opening credits of this film are like a love letter - reminding you that it takes many different people performing many different tasks to support the Indian film industry. While the focus of the film is primarily on Vikram, the film portrays the struggles of those working in all levels in Bollywood. Each person has a personal story to tell and no one is absolutely sure that the decisions they make today will contribute to their triumph tomorrow. Friendships are built, broken, and repaired as people strive for that elusive goal of success.
Words of Wisdom: Vikram meets Shak Rukh Khan at a party where the superstar shares the following advice, "Vikram, stardom is a cocktail. A heady cocktail of fame, power, money. It can be dangerously intoxicating. But I learned something early on. Never forget those who were with you when you were a nobody. Because only they will tell you the truth no matter what."
Description: Billu (Irrfan Khan) was once best friends with Sahir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan). But while Sahir went on to become a film star, Billu has led a difficult life. What happens when you lose touch with your best friend? What happens when he soars to success while you fall on hard times? What happens when he comes to your town and your neighbors know you know him personally? Given the crowds that follow a superstar around, would you even be able to meet him? Would you want to?
Why I Love This Film: The film reminds you that we are all connected. Despite our status in life, we share the same humanity. The film also shows the uniqueness of India with high-tech equipment used by the film industry juxtaposed against the technology-challenged world in which Billu lives. The film also shines a some light on doing location shoots.
Words of Wisdom: Frustrated with school manager Mr. Dubey, who is spouting off nonsense about film stars, Sahir Khan responds, "... you talk as if you know the actors well. The film fraternity is a family. A family. There is kinship amongst us. And just like every family, we love each other and we have our disagreements. ...In real life we are just ordinary people. We like little things. We find joy in little things. We also get angry about little things."
Description: Full of Bollywood dreams dispensed by his mother, Sameer Behl (Shahid Kapoor) moves to Mumbai to become a star. He moves from Delhi to Mumbai and lives on a shoestring budget, getting a series of low-paying jobs - including teaching a dance class at a local school - while he pursues Bollywood opportunities. How do you live your life while you are working for your "big break". What do you do to pay the bills while you are waiting? What do you do when Bollywood promises are made then broken? How do you keep from losing hope?
Why I Love This Film: Watching Sameer Behl makes you believe that with hard work, talent, and a good dose of luck, your dreams can come true. What makes this film stand out is that Sameer Behl and his friend Tina Sharma (Genelia D'Souza) are willing to play the Bollywood game by the rules, even when this causes heartbreak. When Sameer steps just a bit outside the rules to inject some heartfelt honesty into the game, his star shines.
Words of Wisdom: During a Star of India competition, Sameer leaves Mumbai to go back to Delhi to deal with a family crisis. When he returns, film director and competition judge Rajeev Sharma, (Mohnish Behl) tells him that he can no longer compete. Sameer pleads with him, "Sir, I don’t mind losing once I’ve given it a shot. But I don’t want to lose not having tried at all. The talent that doesn’t get a chance is worthless. Sir, you belong to the industry. You know that people spend a lifetime waiting for the right opportunity. Just give me one chance …"
Description: Focused on the South Indian film industry. Reshma (Vidya Balan) runs away from home on the eve of her wedding and manages to get take a small part in a film where she "gets noticed". When you are passionate about becoming a film star, what lengths are you willing to go to break into and rise to the top of the film industry? The film is inspired by the life of Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati (1978–1996), better known as Silk Smitha, an actress known for her erotic roles. However, the character is meant to be an amalgam of the personal lives of several famous actresses.
Why I Love This Film: Silk is unique, unpredictable and very self-confident. She becomes a sensational silver screen siren and is not afraid to flaunt her ability to entice. While she achieves great fame and fortune, she doesn't appear to be aware of the negative aspects of her rise to stardom. She gives what she believes people want. When she realizes that not everyone views her achievements as success, she performs a dazzling denouement.
Words of Wisdom: After Silk receives a film award for her work, critic Naila (Anju Mahendru) tells her, "...what you're doing today is a rebellion. Years from now people will call it freedom. Stay as you are, like a storm. Don't think too much. Because if you do, you'll fade away."
Description: After rising to the top of the Bollywood film industry, star Mahi Arora (Kareena Kapoor) is starting to lose her shine. How do you function in an environment where everyone is trying to get ahead? How do you stay on top when everyone is looking for the next big star? How do trust people when you feel you've been betrayed? How do you forgive and forget? What happens when you break a trust to save your career?
Why I Love This Film: This is a stark portrayal of someone who transforms from a confident superstar into someone who questions herself and the motives of everyone around her. As you take the journey with her, you realize you are witnessing a scared little girl trying everything to hold on to her dreams which are being ripped away from her bit by bit. In the end, she finds a satisfying solution to her personal struggles.
Words of Wisdom: Aging actress Shagufta Reza (Helen) offers the following analysis of the film industry while sitting with the star in Mahi's air-conditioned van, "We didn't have these vans when I was a young star. We would open an umbrella, sit under it and start shooting. ... The entire film unit would do things together. Directors, heroes, heoines, side actors, junior artists, everyone had a good time. That's why nothing seemed difficult, I guess. In those days, relationships were valued a lot. And now its fame and success. ...Whatever fame gives us it takes away a lot more from us. In the glow of glamour, we fail to see how much we have lost. When we realize it, it's often too late."
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features the trailers for each of the films mentioned above.
If you like this post, check out our other Friday Five lists.