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Bollywood goes back to roots
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Rural India seems to be beckoning Bollywood once again.
In Mahesh Dattani's "Morning Raga", Shabana Azmi, who several years ago spearheaded the movement towards grassroots cinema in Shyam Benegal's "Ankur", is back playing a rustic character.
Director Ashutosh Gowariker who attended the premier of "Morning Raga" with his wife is amazed at Shabana's skills. "I must say earlier on filmmakers wanted to say something and they said it through Shabana Azmi.
"In her own way she's paying the earlier debt back by supporting a script like 'Morning Raga'. A good script always needs to be backed by a talented and saleable actor. A great performance from Shabana has become the unexpected.
"But the most amazing part of her performance in 'Morning Raga' is Shabana's Carnatic singing. She was amazing. Her detailing in the rendition, the rhythm or expression in really lengthy shots are all mesmerising."
Gowariker's appreciation of Azmi's rural portrayal is highly significant in the light of the fact that he too is all set to carry forward the movement of going back to the roots.
His eagerly awaited "Swades" espouses the same almost-extinct feeling. Like the male protagonist Prakash Rao in Dattani's film, Shah Rukh Khan in "Swades" leaves his adopted home in the US to return to his roots in India.
Over the years, Hindi cinema has rapidly moved out of the villages.
Until the 1980s, a large section of the films produced in Mumbai were village-based. Satellite television and the ensuing ascendancy of MTV culture, whereby rural India moved en masse into the cities, killed the charm of village drama in Bollywood.
Significantly, Gowariker's 2001 epoch-making epic "Lagaan" was the first important film in Hindi to take cinema back to the village.
Now, three years later, he idealises village life in "Swades" by showing Shah Rukh embrace rural life with both hands.
In between there was Apoorva Lakhia's "Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost", which attempted to take audiences back to the village. The film failed.
But that doesn't seem to have deterred the likes of Dattani and Gowariker.