Bollywood retakes: Literary adaptation and appropriation in contemporary Hindi cinema
ix TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter Page I. INTRODUCTION: THE QUEST FOR LEGITIMACY IN CONTEMPORARY POPULAR HINDI CINEMA 1 Popular Hindi Cinema's Legitimacy Problem 4 The Fraught Term Bollywood 6 Bollywood and Globalization 11 Origin Anxiety Under the Global Eye 13 The Illegitimate Script-less Film 24 Adaptation Studies' Struggle for Legitimacy 27 Bollyworld 36 Notes 39 II. SHAKESPEARE ADAPTATION IN CONTEMPORARY HINDI CINEMA: PREGNANCY, ADAPTATION AND ILLEGITIMACY IN MAQBOOL 41 The Continued Importance of Shakespeare-to-Screen Adaptations 47 A Brief History of Indian Shakespeare Film Adaptations 52 Macbeth and Succession 59 Maqbool as Macbeth 63 Pregnancy in Maqbool and Throne of Blood 72 Maqbool and Fathering/Unfathering 79 Future-less Heirs 80 Notes 88 III. HOLLYWOOD TO BOLLYWOOD: THE CONTEMPORARY HINDI REMAKE OF POPULAR AMERICAN FILMS 89 Bollywood's Predilection for Unauthorized Borrowing 89 The Anxieties of Borrowed Plots and Pirated DVDs 93 Mediating Neo-liberalism through Adaptation in Shakti: The Power 97 Mediating Morality through Adaptation in Phir Milenge 112 The Films' Devotion to Work Ethic 115 The Films' Devotion to the Corporate Father 116 The Logical Turn to the Law 118
X Chapter Page The Films' Devotion to the Arts 122 The Law of the (Corporate) Father 126 Notes 132 IV. HOLLYWOOD DOES BOLLYWOOD: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE 134 The Publicized Adaptation of Q &A 143 The Pirated Adaptation of Maximum City 146 The Novel Q &A 150 Slumdog Millionaire Synopsis 161 Significant Deviations from the Novel in Slumdog Millionaire 164 Deewar Redux: The Shadow of Amitabh Bachchan 168 Notes 177 BIBLIOGRAPHY 180
1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION: THE QUEST FOR LEGITIMACY IN CONTEMPORARY POPULAR HINDI CINEMA "Cinema constantly remakes itself, but whether this is understood as homage, imitation or theft depends ... upon historically specific technologies such as copyright law and authorship, film reviewing and exhibition practices." (Constantine Verevis, Film Remakes, 176) "Is it [Bollywood] meant to suggest that the cinema is imitative and therefore deserves to be rechristened to highlight this derivativeness? Or is it in fact the opposite: an attempt to indicate a difference internal to the dominant idiom, a variation that is related to but distinct from the globally hegemonic Hollywood?" (Madhava M. Prasad, "This Thing Called Bollywood") In 2002, while living with a host family in Jaipur, India I was introduced to my first Hindi film theater experience. Three generations of family and I piled into a compact car and drove to the city outskirts where a brand-new metroplex shone in the darkness of the otherwise undeveloped landscape. My host-father paid 200 rupees per seat at the ticket
2 counter before we were admitted by a uniformed security guard to the marble-floored palace. We admired die indoor waterfall and gleaming concession stand before settling into plush, reclining seats. The previews lit up the 70-foot screen while the enormous speakers enveloped us with sound. About half an hour into the three-hour film I had the feeling that I had seen this movie before, but that was impossible. And yet the feeling of knowing, but not knowing persisted. At the intermission, as I cradled my plastic cup of machine-made Nescafe chai, it dawned on me that I was watching an Indian remake of the American made-for-TV movie Not Without My Daughter (1991), itself adapted from a memoir. That film tells the story of a white Christian, American who travels to Iran with her Iranian husband. The woman and her daughter are held hostage in her husband's orthodox Muslim household, represented as backwards in its sexist and cruel customs. The Indian remake we were watching, Shakti: The Power (2002), had radically reworked the source film into the Indian context and, in a surprising move for a film with obvious Hindu nationalist overtones, dropped the Muslim reference altogether. Instead Shakti uses Bihar, an Indian rural state that is frightening to many Indians for its reputed lawlessness, as a stand-in for that terrifying and thus fascinating, othered world that Iran represents for many Americans especially after the 1979 hostage crisis and the Iran-Iraq war. Intrigued by these cross-cultural textual transactions, I felt compelled to investigate why in the world an Indian director would take a racist, pro-American, made- for-TV movie and adapt it to the Indian context into a different but equally problematic commercial Hindi film. Little did I know at the time that the world indeed figures prominently in the choice to remake an American film just as the security guards, the
3 corporate tea and plastic cup, the songs booming from the surround sound featured in music videos or as cell phone ringtones, the entire metroplex experience bought for a ticket price ten times that of a ticket in the old movie hall in the center of town is part of a new-world experience, a Bollyworld experience that is a product of a century of filmmaking and recent global economic shifts. In an Indiatimes article titled, "Made There, Remade Here," Nikita Doval cites the usual complaint about Bollywood's use of Hollywood films: "Others call it plagiarism, Bollywood calls it inspiration. But the fact is that remaking hits—and that includes everything from Hollywood blockbusters to south-Indian success stories—is Bollywood's favourite formula." Journalism about adaptation in popular Indian or Hindi cinema typically begins or ends with a list of recent adaptations from Hollywood, often barely related to the source text that the journalist "reveals." In an article titled "The Dragnet of Plagiarism" by Khalid is one example. Indian cinema's entire form, and century-long oeuvre including cinema photography, editing, directing, acting and film music, are taken to task: Originality never has been and perhaps never will be the strong point of Indian cinema. Not only are the stories liberally pinched, but in every department of film-making a definite western stamp is more than visible. Hence, the technical excellence, we speak of with such pride is nothing more than a facsimile of the Western films. The trend to emulate the West began right from our silent cinema, with carbon copies of Flash Gordon serials hitting the Indian screen.
4 While Khalid correctly identifies an early and consistent relationship with Hollywood, one that Kaushik Bhaumik describes in "Lost in Translation" as "a contested space between subaltern and hegemon," (202), it has been from the start a relationship that has plagued the perception of Indian cinema: "Right from the beginning Bombay filmmakers and artists were keyed into developments in Hollywood. This very interest, however, has proven a contested terrain in the ways in which the industry and its products have been evaluated at home and abroad" (201). Bhaumik sums up the dilemma: "Charges of being a Hollywood clone have dogged the development of the Bombay film industry in all phases of its history" (201). These charges against popular Hindi cinema, as derivative in both concept and aesthetic execution, created a legitimacy problem for the industry and its films. Popular Hindi Cinema's Legitimacy Problem Popular Hindi cinema has a long history of detractors since its inception: Indian intellectuals, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian upper and middle classes, and film critics both Indian and foreign. The majority of film critics who encountered popular Hindi cinema treated it with distain or confusion. Ravi Vasudevan explains that the popular Hindi film was not taken seriously due to its "derivativeness from American cinema, the melodramatic externality and stereotyping of its characters, and especially for its failure to focus on psychology in human interaction" (134). Rosie Thomas summarizes the most negative reception as: "the films are said to be nightmarishly lengthy, second-rate copies of Hollywood trash, to be dismissed with patronizing amusement or facetious quips" (117).
5 Addressing the contemporary non-Indian reception of popular Hindi films, also known as "masala movies" for their combination of multiple genres and formulas to reach the broadest demographic, Heidi Pauwels explains that: A typical 'masala movie' may seem naive and simplistic to the untrained Western eye and ear. Film audiences in the West, long weaned from the musical, are so steeped in Hollywood's tradition of'realism' and (alleged) innovation, that they may have difficulties in appreciating this decidedly 'other' cinema with it predilection for song and dance, its self-conscious camera work, and its (supposedly) 'formulaic' approach. (2) The study of Indian popular cinema has only recently attained legitimacy in academia. Indian popular cinema faces two major obstacles in finding its place in film scholarship: the first is the focus by academics on Hollywood and European auteur films to the exclusion of other national cinemas and genres. This point is well illustrated in chapter two; recent anthologies about Shakespeare on screen continue1 to omit India's long history of Shakespeare adaptations in theater and film since 1775 (Trivedi). Rajadhyaksha and Willemen reiterate that there has been "a near-chronic omission from most global film histories" (10) of popular Hindi cinema. Given the apriori disparagement of their primary object, when popular Hindi film scholars began their work, it inevitably began with a defense and explanation of the form of Hindi cinema, including its seeming narrative lack. Vinay Lai and Ashis Nandy state the problem for studying popular Hindi cinema in an academic context: Nobody has any problems with lowbrow literature ... Their status is known and the producers and writers for such books also know their place.
6 Serious journals do not review them; university libraries do not catalogue them ... Entirely different is the reaction to lowbrow cinema ... there is no intrinsic generic legitimacy for lowbrow cinema as mass entertainment, not even as a window to the social universe of South Asia. There is even less legitimacy for the cinematic language and narrative style developed by such cinema ... What legitimacy they may well ask, can there be for films that often lack a script, where the script is altered by actors of demand, and even bystanders chip in with observations and suggestions? (xiv-xv) Lai and Nandy refer to popular Hindi cinema's different relationship with the written script when compared to Hollywood—an important point in regard to the derision of popular Hindi cinema and in adaptation-to-film studies that I will return to. Popular Indian cinema is now being accommodated, and even celebrated in the academy and on the ground, moving from illegitimacy and disgrace to the transnational phenomenon that has been labeled Bollywood. The Fraught Term Bollywood Madhava M. Prasad asks in "This Thing Called Bollywood" the question that all Indian film scholars must grapple with: "Is it [Bollywood] meant to suggest that the cinema is imitative and therefore deserves to be rechristened to highlight this derivativeness? Or is it in fact the opposite: an attempt to indicate a difference internal to the dominant idiom, a variation that is related to but distinct from the globally hegemonic Hollywood?" The term has been prolifically used in the western and Indian press and by
7 the Indian film industry itself for marketing, since at least the 1990s, making it impossible to disregard the term's currency. The name Bollywood itself demonstrates the conflicted relationship that popular Hindi cinema has with its own use of foreign source texts. A combination of Bombay and Hollywood, the term's birth and its parentage are contested within Indian film scholarship and the Indian film industry. Bollywood is frequently assumed to be a new term introduced in a film article in the mid-nineteen eighties2 and then came into extraordinarily popular usage, especially outside of India from the mid-nineteen nineties to the contemporary moment. As the second epigraph of this chapter indicates, the tension between popular Hindi cinema and Hollywood resides within the moniker itself. In attempting to trace the elusive origin of the name Bollywood, Prasad suggests an imperial history arguing that the term "should be traced back to the older term "Tollywood" used by an American producer referring to the Tollygunge areas of Calcutta/Kolkata in the 1930s." The Oxford English Dictionary claims die term Bollywood comes from "H. R. F. Keating's 1976 novel, Filmi, Filmi, Inspector Ghote" (OED). Nitin Govil examines the plot of Filmi, Fimi, Inspector Ghote in which, "detective Ganesh Ghote investigates a murder on the Bombay set of Khoon ka Gaddi" (202). Ghote then ponders the film title Khoon ka Gaddi: "It meant Cushion of Blood. No, surely not. Ah yes, gaddi in the sense of a rajah's seat of honor. A throne. Yes, Throne of Blood, that sounded more likely" (Keating in Govil 202). Govil follows this DNA trail to Bollywood's convoluted heritage: "Even at the original scene of the crime, Filmi, Filmi suggests a re-enactment: the novel that purportedly mentions Bollywood for the first time concerns a Hindi film production of Macbeth that
8 references another cinematic transposition of the Shakespeare play, Akira Kurosawa's 1957 film ..., released in the US as Throne of Blood" (203).3 The hybrid genealogy of the term Bollywood then "suggests a term implicated in a palimpsest of translations, copies, and remakes. Bollywood's messy, originary mimeticism is born out by Prasad's etymology of the term" (203). Indian cinema's origin then is one of mixed heritage reflected in its content and distinctive aesthetic form. Foreign influences, technological, studio and content-based, served as at least partial catalyst for Indian popular cinema to develop and publicize an indigenous cinema even under colonial rule. When the first Lumiere films arrived in India just seven months after their premier in Paris in 1895, they came to colonial Bombay. Cinema, then, arrived at the same time that the desire for self-determination and recognition within India were frustrated. The independence movement labeled Swadeshi, or "own-country," was also launched in 1895. The logic of swadeshi applied to economic and business choices and became a platform for the newly formed Congress Party. The aspiration for an indigenous cinema, culturally distinct from western cinema, is reflected in the often repeated anecdote about D. G. Phalke, who is considered the father of Indian cinema. Phalke wrote that while viewing The Life of Christ (1906) he longed to see Hindu gods and sacred landmarks on film: "I was mentally visualizing the gods, Shri Krishna, Shri Ramchandra, their Gokul and Ayodhya ... Could we, the sons of India, ever be able to see Indian images on the screen?" (Pinney 97). Phalke's experience is cited as the impetus for his first feature film, Raja Harishchandra (1913) based on a Hindu epic story well known throughout India. Phalke adapted new technology through well-known Indian narratives and archetypes that became known generically as "mythologicals" for their representation
9 of ancient epics. The importance of this often-repeated anecdote is in its repetition—it has become part of the mythology of India cinema's specifically Indian origins, reified in its repetition to become the public of Indian cinema's beginnings.4 In fact most Indian cinema history celebrates Raja Harishchandra as India's first feature film when evidence suggests that Pundalik (1912) preceded it (Rajadhyaksha and Willemen 225). However the narrative of an indigenous cinema pieces together more efficiently with given chronology. Phalke reiterated the association between his films, and thus Indian cinema, and the Swadeshi movement: "My films are Swadeshi in the sense that the capital, ownership, employees, and stores are Swadeshi" (Rajadhyaksha and Willemen 225). Raja is often credited as India's first full-length feature, not only because it was one of the first features created, but because it helps create an origin narrative for early Indian cinema. Vijay Mishra claims in Bollywood Cinema that: In the films that establish this genre [the mythological] we see the Indian mind taking hold of one of the greatest achievements of modernity and transforming it into a thoroughly local form. But even as the form triumphs and metatextual absolutisms continue to frame its ideology (Bombay cinema is an allegory of the nation in the making), it begins to rethink its own connections with history (in a peculiarly hybrid, postcolonial fashion), as well as its own coercive or deconstructive capacities. (16) Put simply, Indian cinema, international from its inception, was created as Indian out of technological adaptation and adaptation of the epic and of foreign films such as the Life of Christ. As Mishra points out, it is a cinema history that is immediately born with a complicated and self-reflective relationship to its parentage. This is a factual point that
io scholars of Indian film address in terms of nationalism, spectatorship and social identity, but rarely in terms of literature-to-film adaptation or film to film remakes. Hollywood films and Indian epics are certainly not the only influences on Indian cinema. A plethora of inter-art forms helped shape the medium: folk theater, Parsi theater troupes which performed Indian and British playwrights, melodrama theater from the 1930s, stylized Indian calendar art, British theatrical practices, devotional practices that effect spectatorship (specifically that of darshan), various regional cinemas that are not considered part of the dominant Bombay film industry, Hollywood melodramas and musicals from the 1950s, foreign films and artistic styles like German Expressionism and Italian Neo-realism. Indian cinema's intertextual form is not unusual in this sense. The individual case studies that follow in the chapter will help trace the diverse influences on popular Hindi cinema to counter the claim that the industry is only derivative of either the Indian epic or Hollywood films. Another overlooked point is the fact that cinema has been both transnational and rooted in adaptation since its inception. Phalke's films were shown in London, where he had earlier traveled to buy and learn about equipment. Winal Dissanayake writes: What [the Phalke] anecdote [...] points to is a series of binaries that underpin the discourse of cinema in those continents: binaries of Westernization and indigenization, tradition and modernity, the local and the global. Any discussion of these cinemas, and the trajectories of their development, must necessarily address these crucial issues (143). Put simply, Bollywood must be contextualized within the forces of globalization. Lai and Nandy elaborate upon Dissanayake's notion writing that: "Popular culture,
11 especially popular cinema, now began to look like a crucial battleground where the battles between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, the global and the local were being fought through the re-negotiation of myths and fantasy life" (xxiv). The claim of this dissertation is that this "crucial battleground" between various binaries, which simultaneously rebuilds itself as it is demolished, is the site of adaptation, both acknowledged and unacknowledged. Adaptation, and contemporary popular Hindi cinema are sites of anxiety, which these films dramatize. Bollywood and Globalization Popular Hindi cinema very recently has a new place in the current global order. Long dismissed by academics and critics, popular Indian and Hindi cinema, now inaccurately referred to as a monolithic Bollywood, has come to serve as a metonym for India's publicized economic growth, an increasingly visible and powerful diaspora and its global cultural influence. One cannot, in the contemporary discourse about India's economic growth, talk about globalization without discussing India and one cannot discuss India, seemingly, without invoking Bollywood. Examples of this phenomenon are plentiful in mainstream western media: A 2006 Time Magazine feature titled "India, Inc." begins with the provocative quote: "Brash, messy, and sexy, India's biggest city embodies the nation's ambition. How Bombay is shaping India's future—and our own" (Perry 40). The threat of Bombay to the west as the ghost of the future is clear. This feature also includes a smaller feature on Bollywood titled "Hooray for Bollywood" written by Mira Nair, a director well-known in the west.
12 Early Indian films were distributed internationally since Phalke's first feature film in 1913, without gaining much attention from western Europe or Hollywood, where the dominant cultural institutions "authenticate" and create canons for cultural products like film. Parts of Africa, Eastern Europe and East Asian countries have a long trans-national relationship with, and appreciation of, popular Hindi cinema. However, India's economic, cultural and political relevance in the world has not only grown significantly enough that the western media has not only taken notice, but has been insistently, and inexplicably, linked modern India to Bollywood. We do not, for example, see the same phenomenon with China, which threatens western hegemony at least on the same level as India, (the "Chindia phenomenon" as labeled by the international press). However, ever time China's economic strength is invoked by the press, the national film industry, or genre specific industry of kung-fu films, is not evoked in the same way that Bollywood is called in to stand for contemporary India as a thriving former colony or/and as an economic threat, which includes encroaching on Hollywood's global cultural and economic dominance. Ashish Rajadhyaksha argues in "The Bollywoodization of the Indian Cinema" that, even though film brings in less revenue than other cultural industries related to music or the internet, "Film continues to remain the most prominent presence, the figurehead of the global 'Indian' culture industry" (25). Arguably the most helpful definition of Bollywood is to indicate a new direction in commercial Hindi film in the 1990s that targeted the growing visibility, spending power and presumed nostalgia of a professional Indian diaspora. The influence of this diaspora combined with the growing domestic middle class, market deregulation and DVD culture helped fund new genres of film that became known in the press as Bollywood films. With popular Hindi cinema's growing
13 acceptance in the west, the term Bollywood has moved from a pejorative term for lowbrow popular cinema to a marketing term, culminating in a "Brand Bollywood." Scholars have also been affected by this turn; they no longer must begin articles by explaining what Indian cinema is or approach it from a defensive stance. Conference panels, scholarly articles and books, courses on Indian cinema and abundant, often celebratory, journalism continue to proliferate. A new journal, Bio-scope, with an editorial board comprised of the top ranking Indian cinema scholars, just released its first issue. The shift in public awareness, allows for everything from more nuanced articles to funding for academic jobs and courses. Origin Anxiety Under the Global Eye Approaching Indian cinema through theories of adaptation intervenes in disparaging discourse and silence about Bollywood's appropriation of various source texts rather than assuming a mere lack or simple mimicry. While Indian cinema is increasingly an object of scholarly analysis, adaptation in Indian cinema remains an under-examined topic by the majority of scholars. Heidi Pauwels' introduction to Indian Literature and Popular Cinema: Recasting the Classics, published in 2007, makes this point explicitly, "While the relation of'film and fiction' has been studied extensively for Western films ... that is not the case for Indian popular cinema" (1). The goal of Indian Literature and Popular Cinema is to "counter the stereotype that this cinema, recently (and controversially) labeled 'Bollywood,' is a rip-off of Hollywood, by foregrounding its extensive engagement with Indian literary traditions" (1).
14 Pauwels concludes by calling for more scholarship that is not based on western film scholarship. However, she does so by first suggesting that "South Asian diaspora viewers may feel exposed when their cinema is compared to the mainstream fare in the West. There is a need for serious work mat helps understand the popular Indian movies on their own terms without unhelpful value judgments dictated by Hollywood pundits" (2). This dissertation, instigated before Pauwels' book was published, extends her observation to argue that naturally spectators of recent popular Hindi cinema experience an anxiety. Due to the standards and harsh judgments that equate these films not only with an inferior aesthetic but with an under-developed model of modernity, citizenship and taste under the auspices of globalization, how could an Indian director or popular Hindi film fan not feel anxious when the global eye has turned so explicitly towards popular Hindi cinema to define modern India? Only in the last decade has the dominant global media, and Hollywood, turned its (if ironic) gaze towards Bollywood as Bollywood takes up a larger slice of the international market share and public consciousness. Anxieties about proper circulation are coming into the international public discourse more frequently due to globalization and the linking of contemporary India's economic potential and threat to Hollywood. Bollywood then dramatizes certain anxieties about being viewed within films and in the public discourse around them. Ashish Rajadhyaksha explains that "Bollywood clearly is reconfiguring the field of the cinema in important ways. What does it pick as translatable into the new corporate economy, what is it that this economy leaves behind? This would be as important a cultural question as an economic one" (26). The anxiety of adaptation is