Indian Film Season

Channel 4’s annual Indian film season returns this September 29th (until November 9th) with sixteen films including a selection of recent Bollywood blockbusters (Chennai Express, Goliyon ka Raas Leela Ram Leela, Kai Po Che) and a six-part documentary season titled “Cinema on Cinema” that provides an unusual journey into the world of Indian film.

Although India is in love with its cinema, past film chroniclers have served its history poorly, as a result little visual material remains of the early years of film production. This situation is slowly changing thanks to the younger generation of filmmakers who are recording this important aspect of India’s cultural life, while making engaging stories of remarkable people obsessed by the movies.

The season begins with Battu’s Bioscope, the witty story of a travelling cinema (projector, screen and truck) run by Battu and his 80-year eccentric and often drunk assistant, as they travel to remote villages and small towns persuading villagers and tribes of the magic of cinema.

Exploring a different theme and aspect of Indian filmmaking, the season is introduced by each of the documentary filmmakers, starting with the lively Pancham Unlimited, a profile of the hugely influential and excellent film composer, the now deceased R D Burman. The mystery of D G Phalke, known as the father of Indian cinema who, disillusioned with filmmaking, made his way to Benaras, is unravelled in the experimental film Rangbhoomi. Taking centre stage in The Human Factor are Hindi cinema's unsung heroes — the Lords, a Parsi family of Jazz and backing musicians, whose association with Indian film began from the first talkie in 1933. An American in Madras reveals the little-known and surprising story of American Ellis Dungan who journeyed to India in the 1940s for a short holiday and stayed 15 years, directing countless classic Tamil films in Madras.

A video parlour owner, Shaikh Nasir, in small-town Malgaon, became famous when he decided to remake an iconic Bollywood movie to great success. Then he set his sights on Hollywood. In the delightful and humorous Supermen of Malgaon, Nasir casts a local spindly loom worker to star as Malgaon’s Superman. The run of documentaries concludes as the immeasurable impact of stars and their fandom is highlighted in Bhaijaan that tells the story of a Salman Khan look-a-like who lives in small town India and whose identity depends entirely on the popular and controversial 50-year old film star.

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