August 6, 2008

House Lights: Image is everything — even in Bollywood (updated)

When it comes to making movies in India, the film censors can sometimes be the least of your worries.

Two cases in point: ScreenIndia reports that famed actor Manoj Kumar is taking another actor, Shah Rukh Khan — plus movie producer/director Farah Khan and Sony Entertainment Television — to court. At issue are two scenes in the movie Om Shanti Om, in which Mr. Kumar is lampooned.

[Update 2008.08: BollywoodWorld has details of the contentious scenes.]

The Khans had reassured Mr. Kumar that said scenes would be cut. They weren't. Moviegoers saw the contested material in theatres, and I wouldn't be surprised if Eros International's recent all–region DVD release (two discs in a deluxe package) included it.

So Mr. Kumar is trying to get Sony Entertainment Television to cut the scenes from its August 10 TV premiere.

[Update 2008.08.10: As per BollywoodWorld, Mr. Kumar won his case, and Sony Entertainment Television was ordered to make the cuts. How this will affect Eros' home video release remains to be seen: The same article notes that Mr. Kumar is now working with his lawyer on mounting a criminal case against the producers. Some people do have the power after all.

In addition, Screen India has reported on another court action against the movie's producers — this time for plagiarism. Although rival screenwriter Ajay Monga, whose own credits include Corporate and Fashion, couldn't get an injunction against Sony Entertainment Television's August 10th screening, his case will get a hearing in late September.]

Meanwhile, as per IANS and BollywoodWorld, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee recently found three experts to carefully screen the comedy Singh is Kinng [sic] and see if the movie makers are being unfair to Sikh culture and practices. They're worried that their worst fears will be confirmed, as per the DSGMC's president Paramjit Singh Sarna:

We have formed a three-member committee of experts that will see the movie and based on their feedback further action will be taken....The film's promos showed a Sikh character wearing a turban, while sporting a French cut. This is not a positive Sikh image. The screening should not be allowed until its makers make changes in the portrayal of [the] Sikh character.

They probably should have acted sooner: The film reaches theatres worldwide — including a handful in the States — this Friday. A partial listing was on the Studio 18 website, along with a Liliputian–sized stream of the trailer. (We'd embed a YouTubed trailer here, but it's been pulled. How stingy can you get?)

Meanwhile, there is the issue of the spelling of that title…

[Update again, 2008.08.10: Not only did the movie make it to cinemas worldwide intact, it is reportedly doing very well. And the soundtrack CD on Times–Junglee Music is a huge seller — no doubt because of the presence of such big names as Punjabi music legend Daler Mehndi and American rapper (yes) Snoop Dogg, on loan from Universal.

I saw the movie myself at a National Amusements multiplex (!) in Farmingdale (Long Island, New York), and while the ending was a bit messy for me, it certainly works as the mass appeal popcorn flick it was meant to be. At least star Akshay Kumar has a helluva more class than Mike Myers. ;-)

And I suspect we'll be seeing more of leading lady Katrina Kaif — and understandably so.

Oh, yes: That extra "n" in the last word of the title: Blame it on Mr. Kumar and producer Vipul Shah. In an interview published in India Abroad, writer/director Anees Bazmee let slip that his star and producer added the second "n" "for numerological reasons." Oh.

Finally, I miscredited the movie to Studio 18. It is in fact an Indian Films Company release of a BlockBuster Movie Entertainers/Sari Om co–production. Credit where credit is due.]

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