Shah Rukh Khan's Chalte Chalte at South African University to mark Bollywood centenary
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The University of the Witwatersrand marked the centenary of Indian cinema with two special events - a week-long screening of five famous Indian films from different eras and a talk by academic Dilp Menon, Director of the Centre for Indian Studies, titled 'Making a Song and Dance of it: taking Bollywood seriously'.
Cinema buffs got a taste of how Indian cinema has developed from director Franz Osten's Achhut Kanya of 1936, in which an untouchable girl and a Brahmin boy fall in love, but the strict caste system threatened to keep them apart.
Other films showed the recurrent social themes of poverty, Muslim-Hindu tensions, politics and corruption, as well as the love stories of the new generation as reflected by Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherji in Chalte Chalte.
Geeta Pather, the recently-appointed Indian-origin Director of the Wits Theatre which hosted the screenings, said the celebration had been inspired by her childhood experiences of Indian cinema in Durban, which is home to three-quarters of South Africa's 1.4 million Indians.
"I grew up on a diet of weekly double feature Indian movies on Saturday nights at Adam's Cinema in (the huge Indian township) of Chatsworth," Pather said.
"We loved the drama - the tearful heroines, the very villainous villains and off course the romantic leads who made all our hearts beat a little faster and provided fodder for overactive teenage imaginations. This event is a tribute to the role that Bollywood films played in the lives of the Indian community whose cultures were marginalised in apartheid South Africa," she added.
Pather said the diaspora's obsession with Bollywood serves to affirm their culture and even identity in foreign lands, showing the power of Indian Cinema.
Menon gave a detailed expose of how the history of Indian cinema had attempted to use a popular medium to address social issues and family lifestyles.