BBC TV programmes made by Anita Rani explain what has happened to Bollywood and why it is such a global phenomena…
By Sailesh Ram and Tasha Mathur
TV PRESENTER Anita Rani has made a programme that explores just how much Bollywood has changed in the last decade and says it is a story that had to be told.
In an interview with www.asianculturevulture.com ahead of a BFI presentation of her films this Thursday (August 9), she said she was inspired to make the two-part series, because not only is Bollywood the world’s largest film industry (with over 1,000 movies made every year) – but it is also one that attracts talent from the West and is no longer dominated by just a few families who have a heritage in the business.
In the two 60-minute programmes, ‘Bollywood: The World’s Biggest Film Industry’, Rani interviews Bollywood legend Anil Kapoor, quizzes rising star and controversial actress Kangana Ranaut – who has spoken out against nepotism and sexism in the Indian film industry.
She also goes on sets, a magazine shoot (Sidharth Malhotra) and talks to people both behind and in front of the camera and covers the Padmavati brouhaha which almost brought India to a standstill late last year.
The series is part of the BBC’s Big British Asian Summer season which started today (August 6) and continues for a month.
As well as being shown on the big screen at the home of British film, Rani will join BBC Asian Network Bollywood presenting duo Raj and Pablo on a panel after the BFI screening.
The first of the two instalments is set to be shown next Monday (August 13) at 9pm on BBC2.
Rani told www.asianculturevulture.com: “I’d just finished ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and lots of my peers were going off to dance in the West End and I thought ‘hang on a minute – I would love to make a programme all about Bollywood’.
“Maybe it was an excuse to keep dancing! But also I go to India a lot, I go just to hang out with friends, I go because I’ve made lots of programmes there and see how rapidly it’s changing. I thought nobody has made a programme that really explains and talks about Bollywood and it’s the biggest film industry in the world.”
Her professional commitments had taken her India to a lot and in the programme, she talks about being captivated by Indian films since she was just two years old and how much the industry has developed since it became more professional and run by big studio houses.
“There’s so much more money in the industry now and there’s a lot of young people doing very exciting things, so it seemed like the right time to make it’” she told acv.
She said what really took her back the most was seeing white (Britons) in Bollywood. In the programme she talks to a group of dancers, who say the money and the perks (free flat, their own driver and transport) make it very attractive, even though there is a culture shock initially.
Rani revealed: “The amount of people from the West that are over there – how many white, British girls are there earning a living – that certainly wasn’t the case 10 years ago.”
While Hollywood has been dominated by the MeToo and TimesUp campaigns, in India the story has been a little different. There nepotism and traditional sexism have captured more of the media attention, and many believe it is what stops many young women from achieving their full cinematic potential.
“What I really loved was meeting Kangana Ranaut – this wonderfully empowered young woman who doesn’t have a film background – and encountering her opinions!”
Ranaut is a controversial Bollywood leading lady for many reasons, but her attacks on film families who dominate the industry stung, and sparked something of a backlash in a country still too often preoccupied with social hierarchies.
Ranaut also revealed how difficult it was for a woman like herself from small town India to break into Bollywood.
Rani herself has spoken out about the lack of representation on British TV and has recently launched a podcast where she talks about important issues with leading personalities.
“I know what it means to be the ‘Other’ – whether that is being the only Asian girl in a white school or being an Asian woman in a very white environment generally. I want to tell the story of Others.”
‘Bollywood the world’s biggest film industry’ – BFI Southbank, NFT 3, 6.15pm, Southbank Centre, Belevedere Road, SE1
Info/Tickets: BFI Southbank
BBC 2 – Monday, Episode 1 of 2, August 13 9pm.
Anita Rani Podcast: http://itsanitarani.com/