Put a bunch of Indians in a room together and once we’re done talking about food (sorry that always comes first!) we’ll gravitate towards the topic of our Filmi Duniyan. Boy, do we live vicariously through our cinema! And what a hot button topic it is. It truly transcends all barriers. Bollywood- the great connector of 1.2 billion people. A very thin Lakshman Rekha separates the reel from the real. And mostly we don’t see it. We live our lives with the same emotion and drama that we see on screen. We can readily burst on demand into filmi dialogue or song because there is one for each of life’s great moments. Many many years ago when Sadhana got married, an entire battalion drank itself silly. A few months back Abhi married Ash and not Rani – causing much angst and taking of sides in the fan community. It was the topic of discussion at Desi gatherings around the world. Polls were conducted, votes were cast, there was endless debate. How slighted we feel when our actors dare to flout public opinion and make their own decisions in their personal lives! We put our stars on a pedestal and deify them. And why not- with as many stars as there are gods, it’s pretty easy to get the two confused. Check out this picture featured in the Deccan Chronicle (Chennai 9 August 2007). Members of the ‘Big B Club’ in Bikaner worshipping a giant size picture of the big man himself, and feeding it a laddu, no less. Ask anyone South of the Vindhyas to close their eyes and picture Lord Krishna and they will see none other than N.T Rama Rao in all his glory. Not to mention the temple built for actress Khushboo by crazed fans. With stars in our eyes, we promptly invite them to rule the country once their glittering career is over; MGR, NTR, Jayalalitha, Sunil Dutt for Mayor, Amitabh for President. It's like we want to keep them in sight forever. That probably explains why we have allowed Dev Anand to stick around for as long as he has. Mr Evergreen with his unbearable antics who played the high school kid till he was 60 and then graduated to college, his only change in attire being a pair of suspenders to indicate that he had ‘grown up’. How he managed to nab some of the best songs of his time is beyond me. This also goes for Biswajit and Rajendra Kumar and poker faced Joy Mukherji and even Rajesh Khanna once he lost his boyishness and started cultivating his paunch. But not only do we tolerate them, we continue to watch them till they are practically incoherent, at which point we give them a Lifetime Achievement Award. My favorite Filmi situation; three long lost brothers (who of course are blissfully unaware of this relationship) giving blood to their mother. She cannot recognize them as she lost them when they were very little, plus she is blind and has TB. Defying all scientific logic, tubes are inserted into each of their veins and it is carried simultaneously direct into the bloodstream of the mother. Later in the same movie, the mother takes a flower to the operation theater where she believes her son is being operated. She knocks on the door when the operation is in progress. “Darwaza Kholiye doctor, mujhe patient ko phool dena hai” she right royally demands. But, Bollywood ko sab maaf Hai. Amar Akbar Anthony remains one of my favorite oft-watched movies to date. For a nation full of geeks universally acknowledged for our logic and intellect, we have no qualms accepting the hero who miraculously survives the 6 bullets that ravaged his body, the dog that witnesses his master’s murder and of course turns avenger, the impossible fight scenes atop hanging cliffs and airplane wings in mid-flight, the husband who calls his wife long distance and sings a half hour song to her…oh what we will endure in the name of entertainment. The whole world has long dispensed with the ‘musical’ mode, but we party on, with our trademark singing and dancing around the trees. We lap it all up and we love it. We love our commercial cinema, our art movies, and our spoofs. We are in the Oxford dictionary now and our actors are going global into the world of Bollywood with an ‘H’. More than once I have seen non-Indians flock to see the Great Ham Shah Rukh Khan in movie theatres outside of India. With the interest generated in India in general today, our super prolific ‘film industry’ is finally getting the attention it deserves. Way to go, Bollywood!