Local Cinema to host Bollywood Extravaganza

By Mark Schiffer

om-shanti-omThis Sunday, October 18, Amherst Cinema will be presenting Farah Khan’s 2007 Bollywood smash hit, “Om Shanti Om.” Garnering a total of $39 million at the international box office, “Om Shanti Om” is currently the 7th highest grossing Hindi film of all time. Critics have compared this film to “Singing in the Rain,” to an extent. This is because the film’s goal is to pay homage to and parody the well-established clichés and staples of classic Bollywood cinema, much like “Singing in the Rain” does with Hollywood musicals.

Starring the current toast of the Hindi cinema scene, Shah Rukh Khan (who is of no relation to the director) and newcomer Deepika Padukone, “Om Shanti Om” tells the classic stand-by tale of two star-crossed lovers who perish, are reincarnated and find love in their new forms. While this ordinarily would be considered spoiling the story, there never really is a question of the outcome. The reincarnation tale is a well-established trope of the Bollywood film industry.  Farah Khan’s take on it, however, may prove to provide a somewhat more unique experience for audiences than one might expect.

“Om Shanti Om” sets its story in the world of the Bollywood film industry itself, allowing the interactions between the characters to be an examination of the very world that created it. Even the musical numbers have been described as tributes in themselves, allowing for a self-reflexive quality that for some may allow for these sequences to work as both commentaries and as an homage. While the film has received some criticism due to its more uneven qualities, it is difficult not to accuse the entire Bollywood film world as being  uneven when viewed on the same terms as Hollywood films. The key to enjoying most mainstream Hindi films seems to be to simply relax, and to allow the films produced under such to act as escapist works. The many positive reviews this film has received have made of this quality.

“Om Shanti Om” also marked Farah Khan’s second major directorial success in the Bollywood world. Prior to her 2004 debut with “Main Noon Ha” (which also starred Shah Rukh Khan), she was mainly known for choreographing musical sequences in both Bollywood and non-Bollywood films. She is probably most famous for her work on the films “Monsoon Wedding” and “Vanity Fair,” the latter starring Reese Witherspoon, and based on the novel of the same name by William Makepeace Thackeray. Khan has won the Filmfare Best Choreography Award (which is Bollywood-specific) five times through her extensive work on Hindi films. When Farah Khan recently emerged as a director as well, her already known talent made it no stretch for her to become the second female to be nominated for the Filmfare Best Director Award.

“Om Shanti Om” has been the seventh-highest grossing Hindi film of all-time since its 2007 release. Its extravagant musical numbers and humorous insights into the Bollywood industry have won it acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Interested filmgoers are encouraged to head to Amherst Cinema this Sunday at 1 p.m. for the showing.               

Mark Schiffer can be reached at [email protected]