Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Holidays and Bollywood

2006 has offered a boost to the marketeers of Bollywood films in the UK -- and provided film and media students with a good example of how film distribution works. The Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan, which because it is part of the lunar calendar occurs approx. 11 days earlier each year of the Gregorian calendar. In 2006 Eid was celebrated on 23/24 October in the UK. This coincided with the Hindu festival of Diwali, which also moves in relation to the Gregorian calendar, but always occurs at roughly the same time of year. This year it started on October 21 and lasted for several days.

The coincidence of the two festivals meant that both of the two major UK Asian communities were looking for family celebrations at the same time. The Bollywood distributors held back major releases so that there was nothing playing in Bradford last week, in order to concentrate on the holidays this week when they opened two big films, the romance Jaan-e-maan and the action film Don (a remake of a 1978 Amitabh film with Shahrukh Khan in the lead). An interesting short piece in the Guardian G2 on Monday October 23 by Saima Raza describes how Bradford Asian families now see the Eid festivities as the perfect time to go to the movies.

I went into Bradford yesterday and it was buzzing on an afternoon with changeable weather. Since it's half-term as well, Cineworld was packed and I gave up trying to get a ticket, going to see Zinedine Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait instead. Since the Hollywood offer is pretty dire at the moment (with the exception of The Departed), the two Bollywood films could take up to five screens out of fourteen at various times of the day. It will be interesting to see how the two films fare in the weeks Box Office Top 15.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Not Cashing In

I enjoyed the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line very much. It had some of the best sound of any Hollywood films that I've seen /heard -- the opening sequence at the prison was sensational. I've long been a Reese Witherspoon fan -- Election was a revelation -- and I was equally impressed by Joaquin Phoenix. It was only a few weeks afterwards when I reflected on the BBC4 documentaries on Cash that I started to have some doubts, not about the quality of the film but about the story. Johhny's daughter from his first marriage, Rosanne, was critical of the film and what she thought was a misrepresentation of her mother, Vivian. Rosanne's sister Kathy was also critical, feeling that the film gave the impression that her mother had been a drag on Johnny's career.

This had an impact for me because although I've always liked John R. Cash as a performer, I've always been a bigger fan of Rosanne. After his death in 2003, I bought some albums from the Cash back catalogue and got into him again, but my passion for Rosanne's music from the 1980s had cooled a little. Then I discovered how easy it was to digitise my vinyl LPs. Suddenly I was back into Rosanne's music in a big way (and that of one time husband Rodney Crowell, who produced a lot of her best work). I then debated whether I should acquire her latest album, Black Cadillac. I knew it was written at a time when she was reflecting on the death of not only her father and stepmother June Carter in 2003, but also her mother in 2005 and her step sister. Could I cope with an album completely focused on the death of loved ones? In the end, I was convinced by the reviews and I got the album. What an astonishing piece of work. Deeply moving, but not at all maudlin. It has some of the best melodies and lyrics I've heard for a while and sounds as good as 'Seven Year Ache' or 'King's Record Shop', my favourite 80s albums. Perhaps I'll consider the 90s albums next.