By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 13, 2007 at 9:20AM
India Splendor, five days of pageantry dedicated to Indian film, fashion and fine art, opened Friday with a thoroughly non-Bollywood film, Chak de India. The sports drama, a rarity in Indian films, unspooled at the Academy, preceded by two trailers for other Yash Raj Films, a first surely for that august theater.
After the screening of the Shah Rukh Khan starrer, the film‚Äôs writer and director participated in a Q&A with the UCLA film school‚Äôs dean Robert Rosen. Jaideep Sahni, the writer, said the idea for the movie came to him after seeing a tiny write-up in the sports section about the Indian girls‚Äô hockey team. ‚ÄúFirst of all athletes are underdogs in India,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúAnd women are double underdogs and when the sport is (field) hockey it‚Äôs a triple underdog.‚Äù
Fortunately for Sahni, director Shimit Amin didn‚Äôt mangle his vision. The pic used non-pros for team members. ‚ÄúWe picked women who could play,‚Äù Amin said. Khan came on board and although there was one nightmarish day when the pair thought they couldn‚Äôt get Bollywood‚Äôs ‚ÄúKing Khan‚Äù by the time the women were trained to play hockey, he had the dates available to shoot with them.
On Saturday, India Splendor paid tribute to Bollywood showman Raj Kapoor with a screening of some 30 minutes of Bobby Bedi‚Äôs documentary Kehta hai Joker (The Clown Speaks). The footage ended with Kapoor‚Äôs filmology to Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai (The Land Through Which the Ganges Flows) when his long partnership (on and off screen) with Nargis ended and Padmini entered the scene.
Afterward, his son Rishi with wife Neetu and son Ranbir spoke with journo Mira Advani Honeycutt about Raj, his songs and relationships. Maybe it was because of the passage of time, but Rishi actually spoke about Nargis ‚Äî a relationship that was likened to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
During the Q&A that followed Rishi recalled that his father started as a clapboy, but really wanted to be in front of the cameras. So he would always turn to the camera and announce the take. One day the actor‚Äôs beard got caught in the clapboard, which he didn‚Äôt notice as he was turned away. Kedar Sharma, the director, ‚Äúgave him a tight slap,‚Äù Rishi recounted his eyes gleaming with fun at the thought.
Filled with toe-tapping music, the documentary would be a treat to Kapoor fans, but documaker Bedi said it was not yet available for home theater fans. Something for Sony Entertainment TV to think about?
Later this week, we are all looking forward to meeting Bollywood's Golden couple, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. She's a Bachchan now.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]