Hollywood to Bollywood in Five Steps

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The Indian filmmaker lives a decidedly hectic life. The torrent ofHollywoodfilms released every Friday greatly strains him.  How is he supposed to churn out indigenous versions of all these movies at the pace at which they hit the screens? With utmost reluctance he selects from the innumerable smash hits only those that have set the Western Box Office on fire. Video in hand, he plunges into the world of “Lights! Camera! Action! ” 

But wait. Not just yet. There are five things he must do first. 

The Script

The producer must find an enterprising scriptwriter who will do justice to theHollywoodfilm, by retaining the Western theme and adding an Indian touch. But should the original screenplay be inspiring enough, then the scriptwriter may easily be dispensed with, and an efficient translator employed instead.

The translator’s job is simple. He/she simply has to purloin a duplicate of the original English script and copy it down word for word. In today’s day and age, the advent of sophisticated English-Hindi conversion software has rendered the human translator redundant. In the case of foreign language films, though, it is possible that a highly qualified interpreter will have to be hired.

The Cast of Characters

The next step in the filmmaker’s schedule is to assemble the cast. Actors and actresses that bear the most (or as much as surgically possible) resemblance to the real McCoy, must be signed up, and briefed on the character they have to portray.

This phase is accomplished swiftly, as all the actors’ tasks are cut out – literally, their role is neatly snipped out from the original film reel. 

Costume and Makeup

Though these two aspects are an integral part of the filmmaking process, they exert no real pressure on either the producer’s mind or his budget. The actors simply pick out some favourite outfits from their own wardrobe, and the actresses … well, one meter of cloth is usually enough to cover their needs. 

It is only when the producer dares to make a period film that he must hire a costume designer, whose job is somewhat difficult. It is not the designing of the costumes that agonizes him/her, but the prospect of clothing beautiful young women who are, from birth, allergic to any fabric, especially in areas like the midriff, legs, underarms etc. The costume designer must employ all the arts of flattery at his command to convince the nubile heroines to don such little-revealing dresses. 

On beholding the struggle of the costume designer, it is hardly surprising that the producer leaves the cosmetic wonders entirely to the experts. He need know only one thing about makeup, which is that most actors/actresses shed up to 5 kilos at the end of each day when the powder and paint is peeled off. 

The Shooting Stars

In the following weeks, the shooting of the film commences. The filmmaker arranges for the stars to be transported to the foreign location that has been chosen for shooting the romantic scenes. Once all the trees and greenery there have been exhausted for the dance sequences, the cast and crew return to the good old homeland where they continue their prancing in another scenic (but decidedly Indian) place.

When it is unanimously felt all around that an ample number of songs have been shot, the artists get down to serious business. They must now recall and deliver their dialogues that have been carefully translated from the original (with due regard to slang and other colloquialisms). The actors are seasoned professionals and thus require no more than fifteen takes per scene.

The Title is Vital

It falls to the producer’s lot to imaginatively baptize his film. ‘Tis not so easy as you think. Gone are the days when a simple Hindi word or phrase served as the film’s title. In the present day it is essential that this Hindi title be followed by a few choice English words that describe the central theme of the film, in keeping with the trend set by films like Daag – The Fire, Shakti – The Power, Karz – The Burden of Truth, and Dhund – The Fog, to quote some examples. 

This convention is followed, not with the purpose of catering to the vast English-speaking public of India, but to provide an adequately universal title so that when the day comes for the film to be viewed at the Oscars, the Academy members will have little or no trouble understanding its sensitive plot. 

Back to…

Thus in five stages the producer completes his flim, and can now take a well-deserved break of satisfaction, for his masterpiece is sure to be a winner at the BO (Box Office, not the other thing).

But then, who has time to wait and see its performance, when another zillion movies are out there just waiting to be Indianised?


  1. This post is absolutely spot-on, Gargi. The spate of new releases, I think you will guess which movies I am talking about, have been just lifted from Hollywood. Few catchy songs are thrown in, exotic foreign locales add to the visual delight and for the heroines’ clothes, its less the better.

    Where is the originality in our movies. If they aren’t copying western movies, they are remaking older classics and ruining them. Or they are cashing in on the sequel fever.

    Enjoyed the post a lot 🙂


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