Listen up, students: you can now immerse yourself in your favorite Bollywood movies, and when your parents ask you what you’re up to, you can genuinely say, “I’m studying!” Yes, Bollywood is getting a lot of izzat. It’s being taught at Pratt Institute. An entire class is devoted to Amitabh Bachchan! Its very hard work – involves sitting through lots and lots of Bollywood musicals and then discussing them! You get to drool over Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai and this semester the course could be offered for credits at Pratt Institute. That’s like being told your butter drenched giant tumbler of popcorn and huge soda qualify as a weight-watcher’s meal!
The course is the brainchild of Mareena Waheeda Daredia, a filmmaker who’s had several photography exhibitions. She is especially equipped to teach Bollywood since she grew up living and breathing cinema. One of her distant relatives was a co-producer on the legendary Mughal-E-Azam in the 40’s before he migrated to Pakistan; in Pakistan one of her uncles was into bringing in films and having them dubbed while another was on the censor board! She herself grew up in Dubai where Hindi films, dubbed in Arabic, were shown on public television every Thursday. Recalls Daredia, “All the video stores were owned by Indians or Pakistanis, so there was no shortage of Hindi films.” Her father was mad about dialogues, and so they would have to sit through several rewindings of popular film videos.
“It’s important to be taught, it’s the biggest industry in the world in terms of production it beats Hong Kong, it beats Hollywood by far,” says Daredia, “It needs to be standardized and taught and people need to understand that’s there’s a lot more than songs and colorful cinematography and costumes.”
Daredia teaches Bollywood cinema by the decades and there are special classes about cult classics, and the films of icons like Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt. Recently she opened a screening of Kal Ho Na Ho, which was shot in New York, to the entire university. She says, “I feel whatever I was doing was working, because they showed up and they were able to identify with NY City and see what a more modern film is like.”