Bollywood films and New Hampshire might not seem to go hand in hand. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an interested audience just waiting for the chance to see selections by the most prolific filmmaking industry in the world.
The New England Classic Bollywood Festival is back for a second installment, and this year it will feature a variety of films, including a classic, a modern Bollywood film, a documentary and a live dance presentation.
“It’s just going to be a much better mix this time,” said Dan Szczesny, festival organizer and Hippo co-founder.
About 150 to 200 people attended last year, and organizers are hoping for a similar showing this time around. The festival is designed to appeal to the entire family. The festival will take place on Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theater in Wilton.
“If you like good cinema, where in New Hampshire are you going to find Bollywood films?” Szczesny said. “This is the place to be.”
The festival will include the 1983 documentary film There’ll Always Be Stars in the Sky, the 2009 film Road, Movie, a live Masala Bhangra dance workout, and the Bollywood classic Sholay. “Bollywood” refers to the Hindi-language film industry in Mumbai.
“It’s really a film festival for people who love film,” Szczesny added.
People in the United States often don’t understand how much impact and influence Bollywood has worldwide. Szczesny sees a pretty clear connection between Bollywood films, which typically include singing and dancing, and many of the most popular television shows today in this country, such as Glee or Dancing with the Stars. Szczesny said Hollywood films typically cost significantly more to make than Bollywood films but Bollywood produces far more films — he said it makes double the films, with Hollywood selling about four billion tickets and Bollywood selling five billion annually.
“It is literally a movie factory,” Szczesny said.
The feature film, Sholay, which was made in 1975 and is set in rural India, is a film that has ties to classic Westerns. The rural setting gives it a Western feel. Szczesny said there are scenes that pay tribute to what Americans know as classic Westerns. However, many of those classic Westerns, “spaghetti Westerns,” have roots in Bollywood Westerns, which Szczesny called “curry Westerns.”
“It’s one of the most popular films ever made,” Szczesny said of Sholay. “In India, they never ask if you’ve seen Sholay; they ask how many times.”
There is a scene in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Robert Redford rides a bicycle. There is a scene in Sholay where the actor rides an ox. It’s clear the filmmaker is paying homage to the spaghetti Western, Szczesny said.
“It’s a film-lover’s film,” Szczesny said.
The Bollywood filmmaking tradition began as a full-day event for villages. Filmmakers would arrive in a village and the idea would be to draw out the entire village to see the film. How to do that? Put a little bit of everything in the film. So there’s singing, there’s dancing, there are comedy scenes, there’s drama, there’s action — it’s all in one long movie. In a lot of cases, filmmakers would release songs in advance of the showing to help draw in villagers. Bollywood filmmakers aren’t targeting specific demographics when they put together films; they’re targeting everybody.
The style can be off-putting for people used to Hollywood films. But if viewers understand the reasoning and the tradition in advance, it makes for an enjoyable time and an interesting film, Szczesny said. He said the films’ style is referred to as masala, or a spicy mix.
“Every film you see is everything,” Szczesny said.
Szczesny became interested in Bollywood films on two fronts. His wife is Nepali and has long been interested in Bollywood films. But even before he met her, he remembered watching the movie Ghost World. In one of the opening scenes, a character is watching a Bollywood film in which there is an interesting, if not strange, scene.
“I was curious, too,” Szczesny said. “What is this crazy style of film?”
A fan of music, Szczesny fell for Bollywood particularly because music plays such a prominent role in Bollywood films.
“Especially if you’ve never seen a Bollywood film, but if you like movies, then there is no reason you wouldn’t like something in the [Bollywood film festival] day,” Szczesny said.
The festival costs $12. Indian snacks will be available as well.
The proceeds from the festival will benefit the Holy Cross Family Learning Center in Manchester. The Center teaches English classes and citizenship classes.