Monday, March 8, 2010


In a remarkable article by Anupama Chopra in the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times this Sunday the agenda for collaborations between Indian filmmakers and American distributors was laid out. Taking Kites (2010)--produced by Rakesh Roshan, and starring his son Hrithik--as a template, here's what to expect in the future from Bollywood films with North American aspirations (all quotes are taken from Chopra's article):

Shorter run-times: Brett Ratner (the director of those timeless classics of world cinema Rush Hour 1, 2, and 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand) "offered to re-edit 'Kites' and make it more accessible for mainstream America. Working with [editor] Mark Helfrich...Mr. Ratner pared the 118-minute film to 90 minutes." That means that 25% of the film (which, at less than 2 hours, was already quite lean by Bollywood standards) was cut.

Fewer songs: The parts that ended up on the editing-room floor included "elements that 'just wouldn’t translate,' including a song sequence featuring Mr. Roshan." Yeah, American audiences just can't accept a hunky leading man who sings and dances--just ask Gene Kelly.

Dubbed dialogue: "...the dialogue for all the characters, except the two leads, [was] dubbed by American voices." There's no way to sugarcoat this: dubbing is an abomination.

Multi-national casts: "Meanwhile Mr. Ratner has already figured out his next move: 'I would love to make a movie in Bollywood,' he said. 'I would do American stars in an Indian musical. That’s my idea.'" Right. Indian cinema just doesn't have enough appealing, charismatic stars. Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee or Kajol couldn't possibly carry a movie on their own. Sticking second-rate American actors into Indian musicals will make them so much better!

So welcome to a future where everything that makes Indian cinema Indian is stripped away. You can have it if you want it; you'll find me re-watching Mughal-e-Azam (1960) instead.


  1. Ugh. DO NOT WANT. This makes me very sad.

  2. Aaaand, all of my worst suspicions are now confirmed. I want the Indian cut! The "Westernized" version seems like it's going to leave the soul on the cutting room floor. :-(

  3. Ness, this is a prospect that makes me sad, too. Chopra mentions that before he re-edited Kites to fit his narrow view of American expectations, Brett Ratner "had seen only a few Hindi films." Just who you want to be re-shaping Bollywood movies for the American market: someone almost entirely ignorant of Indian cinema.

    Ajnabi, I have the feeling that you and I (and lots of other people) will be hunting for the Indian cut from now on--and let's hope that there is one. Rakesh Roshan is quoted in Chopra's article as hailing the hack job on his movie as "a step forward." My fear is that Indian filmmakers aiming for North American success will soon produce movies that don't have to be re-edited for the American market, because they'll have been manufactured from the start to appeal to people like Brett Ratner.

  4. I'm ready to suffer through it just to do a compare/contrast on the viewing experiences.

    Who watches dubbed films anyways?! What are we - German?

  5. FilmiGirl, even watching just the Indian version of Kites might involve some suffering--the Rakesh Roshan writing, directing and producing credits don't inspire much confidence, and the previews we've seen have not been very promising. But I'd be very interested in what you have to say about the differences between the two versions.

    For me the issue is less with the quality of the film, and more with the way that it's being altered to fit the supposed tastes of a mainstream American audience. Here's a short preview of the sorts of delights these mainstream Americans, whoever they are--apparently I've never met one--will get to experience in the dubbed version: