Jun 282010

Poster for the open-air 'Bollywood' evening in Liège

On Saturday evening, Kaberi & I found ourselves invited to help introduce an open-air screening of the ‘Bollywood’ film Dilwale dulhania le jayenge (The big-hearted will get the bride) in Liège. Now, I cannot claim to be an expert in ‘Bollywood’ films, not least because I don’t understand Hindi. However, in recent years, Kaberi has introduced me to the better-known films of this genre through subtitled versions.

Dilwale dulhania le jayenge DVD cover

For the past four years, there has been a Short Film Night in Liège’s place Saint-Étienne. This year, for the first time, the non-profit organisers of the evening, ProMusea and d’Une Certaine Gaieté, joined forces with the Indo-Pakistani community of Liège to project a ‘Bollywood’ film. Of course, in terms of film duration, this is to pass from one end of the scale to the other.

Dilwale dulhania le jayenge, whose poster slogan is ‘Come … fall in love’, was an obvious choice of film for this first ever ‘Bollywood, mon amour’ evening. Earlier this year, the film set a record for becoming the longest running film in an Indian cinema: over 700 weeks. Not surprisingly, it’s usually listed in people’s ‘Top 25 Bollywood films’ and has a high popularity rating on IMdB.

No doubt helped by the perfect weather, the organisers estimated around 800 people came to see the film. A temporary bar and discothèque had been set up in a garage opening onto the square. The evening began with a performance by the ‘fanfare sauvage’ band Pouet en Stock , whose style is reminiscent of the music from Emir Kusturica’s Underground. It led to a fun atmosphere for the start of the film.

Dilwale dulhania le jayenge does rather fit the stereotype I’d mentioned in my post about My name is Khan: “a 3-hour [plus] romantic film … in which the main characters burst spontaneously into song on the slightest pretext and dozens of dancers appear from nowhere to join them in a series of dazzling song-and-dance routines”. You can get an idea of it from this extract.

People begin to arrive for the screening in place Saint-Étienne, Liège (Belgium) - Photo: Alain Bonjean

It stars the same main actors as My name is KhanShahrukh Khan and Kajol. Even if the dialogue was almost entirely in Hindi, the film evidently kept the attention of the mainly French-speaking audience, as revealed by the cheers, wolf-whistles, etc, late into the night.

I have to admit that, when we heard that the film would be starting at 10.30pm (which is when it was dark enough to project something onto a white screen), Kaberi and I doubted whether many people would stay until the end. Although some people left as it got later and slightly cooler, the majority of people stayed until the end and applauded. Since it was 1.35am by then, it was an impressive illustration of the entertainment value of ‘Bollywood’ films. Dilwale dulhania le jayenge certainly hadn’t felt like it had been over 3 hours long.

I was interested to see that the film was shown on a 12m, inflatable screen using a high-definition digital projector. The sound installation was also powerful enough to handle the outdoor setting. Kaberi and I, who were sitting in the front row, came away with the idea that the different language versions of Shyama could be projected the same way … practically anywhere.

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