BOLLYWOOD'S FRAGILE HEROES

Barry Norman started it. A short segment in Film '95 on Bollywood, India's prolific and extravagantly non-naturalistic film industry, and artist Christopher Stevens was packing his sketchbooks for Bombay. Once there, he was less interested in the films than the prodigious hand-painted billboards used to advertise them. Land of the Giants is the result of his eight-week sojourn, an exhibition which contrasts the poor working conditions of the painters with the monstrous slabs of movie glamour they produce.

books: Hooray for Bollywood

Maya Jaggi on sex and violence beside the Arabian Sea; Love and Longing in Bombay by Vikram Chandra, Faber, pounds 12.99

Books Fiction: Dr Johnson goes to Bollywood

THE SILVER CASTLE by Clive James, Cape pounds 15.99

Bollywood hero

Matinee idol Dev Anand has been seducing audiences for 50 years. As a tribute to him opens in the UK, Lalit Mohan Joshi meets the Gregory Peck of the Indian film industry

Welcome to Tinseltown, India

Clive James's new novel perfectly captures the complexity of Bombay, says Tim McGirk

How a Bombay mix put the heat on MTV

An Indian youth channel has outstripped its flagging US rival. Jemima Hunt reports

Obituary: Raaj Kumar

Raaj Kumar was one of India's most popular and stylised film actors, best remembered for his flamboyant looks and stylish dialogue delivery in a cinematic career which spanned over four decades.

The Bollywood version

This Cyrano de Bergerac has a nose like a bhindi, and Roxanne retires to an ashram. Michael Church on the National Theatre's Bollywood make-over

Obituary: Devyani Chaubal

Devyani Chaubal, journalist: born Maharashtra state 1942; died Bombay 13 July 1995.

`Bollywood' superstar heads west

David Lister reports on the `Dustin Hoffman of India' appearing at the National

Theatre: Moti Roti, Royal Court, London

If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, then Sadhana (Mamta Kaash), an Indian living in Britain, prepares dishes that are the culinary equivalent of a knife in the belly. The husband who has long oppressed her dies - dispatched, she believes, by her handiwork with a brick of lard and a few bags of Tate & Lyle. "It was my cooking that killed him!" she exclaims to her brash Trinidadian sister Dolly (Sakuntala Ramanee). "Madhur Jaffrey is my guru!"

Eastern promise: London's Tom Allen Centre is bringing Asian comedy to a wider audience. Dolly Dhingra welcomes a new generation of stand-ups

When it comes to comedy, Asians are accustomed to having it handed to them on a plate, or rather, thali. Most of it comes as light relief in Hindi movies where the humour relies heavily on stock characters such as the village idiot, the bungling buffoon or the obese hopeful romantic. But the Tom Allen Centre, in London's East End, which hosted an Asian Performers Comedy Cabaret in May, the second this year, is at last leaving audiences with something to think about.

BOOK REVIEW / Bollywood still lives: Show Business by Shashi Tharoor: Picador, pounds 15.99

THIS novel begins almost as farce and ends in widescreen panoptic drama and acute personal pain. The perfect medium for such a sweep of matter is film. For a story set in India, the perfect medium is of course Hindi film. In India, film has a mystic power and its main characters are near-gods. Often religious in content, shown to multitudes, sometimes on huge outdoor screens that glow like apparitions over an enchanted crowd hunkered down in the street, Hindi films are the embodied dreams of millions of the poorest people on earth. Their stars are some of the richest, most known, and therefore most powerful, people in India. The film-making quarter of Bombay and its people make up what is known as Bollywood, a community as vulgar in some ways as Hollywood itself, but still - just - publicly respectful of religious and sexual codes of good observance and behaviour.

Obituary: Manmohan Desai

Manmohan Desai, film director and producer: born Bombay 26 February 1937; married 1969 Jeevanprabha Gandhi (one son, two daughters); died Bombay 1 March 1994.

THEATRE / Telling tales from Bollywood: Lift: Sarah Hemming on a spoof of Indian films, Yerma in Punjabi, Chengdu Theatre Co and the Hanoi Water Puppets

AS THE title credits for Moti Roti roll up the big screen, and soupy music floods through the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, at that ear-drum- threatening pitch specially reserved for B-movies, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd strayed into the wrong auditorium. Keith Khan's drama begins with a 10-minute snatch of crudely shot film, in which a young Indian man is seduced at a party by a luscious, screen-filling temptress. But just as she looms towards him (and the audience), glossy lips puckered for the big kiss - whoosh, the screen is whisked away and there are the characters on stage, some decades later, reduced to life size and marital misery.
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