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"RAJU CHACHA" Star Struck in Hollywood
By ANU KISHORF, GANPATI
India Post L.A. Bureau
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LOS ANGELES: The biggest blockbuster Bollywood/Hollywood World premiere and gala party at the end of the millenium year was held at one of the hottest movie capitals of the world... Los Angeles, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. Smasffits.com, a music/entertainment site, attracted celebrities like entertainment entrepreneur and tennis legend Vijay Anuitraj, who sponsored the event.
Proceeds from the premiere benefited the Indian American Cultural and Educational Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1990 by Inder Singh. The night's festivities included a press conference with local journalists, photographers, TV personnel from CNN, Zee TV, followed by a cocktail reception, the screening of Raju Chacha and an exclusive dinner.
Bollywood in Beverly Hills? Sound strange? Not to Anil and Ajay Devgan, the latest dynamic Bollywood brother duo who wanted nothing less than the most lavish and most extravagant reception for the highest budgeted Indian film Raju Chacha (Uncle Raju). Starring Ajay Devan, his wife Kajol, and veteran actor Rishi Kapoor, produced by Devgan Entertainment and Software Ltd, the film is being promoted by the star couple and directed by Ajay's cousin brother Anil Devgan. The event marks the first time that an Indian feature film was premiered at this prestigious location in Hollywood. Raju Chacha is also the first joint production for the celebrated Bollywood actor couple since their marriage less than 2 years ago.
The evening began with a white stretch limousine purring to a stop outside the auditorium and Kajol floated out swathed in a charcoal black sari, teamed with an intriguing high collared,'Iong sleeved shimmering blouse which only deepened the mystique further. With minimum makeup and tossing of her glorious shock of hair, Kajol displays the same capacity for joy and freshness on screen as well as off screen. The rest of the team sported sophisticated black ensembles in keeping with America's penchant for black attire at classy gatherings.
Why Hollywood and not Mumbai? was the constant cry from the press to the Bollywood cast. "We realized that Raju Chacha is for Indians everywhere, in India and outside," said the very suave, very debonair ay very smooth actor/producer, Ajay Devgan. But what about Indians in India? Would they not be offended? "Not at all," affirmed Ajay Devgan. "In fact they should be proud that we managed a world premier of an Indian film." "We wanted to bring India here today! This was the challenge" said Ajay Devgan "and we pulled it off."
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The film estimated at a cost of 8 million US dollars is one of the costliest productions in Bollywood boasting of spectacular special effects to capture the imagination of both children and adults with fantasy and surrealism. The locations spanned continents, from Austria to Ooty and Simla in India. Rumor has it that some 800 people worked on this production. "It is a massive operation," conceded the low-key soft spoken and friendly debutante director,, Anil Devgan. "But in India, we always work on such a large scale. We are used to it. But it is also extremely difficult. The key is to letting your cast and crew know exactly what you want from them and being disciplined." Luckily for Anil Devgan the glitz and glamour of Bollywood and its heady combination with Hollywood leaves him unfazed and refreshingly genuine. "The toughest job in the business is having cameras and microphones pointed at you," says Anil. "I am still not used to the attention."
So what is the message that Anil Devgan wants to give to Hollywood and NRI audience with Raj Chacha? "This is a family film. A fun film about kids, for kids and adults. Families today are falling apart, this film honors the value of family. It also has all the elements of Indian cinema for a perfect balance of romance, comedy, action."
The message is being heard loud and clear. Bollywood films certainly define the Indian American culture today and that can be a huge responsibility. "We don't create culture," explains Ajay, "we simply show it as it is." Greatly influenced by music, trends, styles and language in Bollywood films, the decision to premiere abroad reflects the growing overseas market for Indian films.
Industry analysts speculate that Indian distributors are earning much more from the overseas market than at home. The business sense behind this premier is to let the actors get closer to the NRI's. The excitement you can generate from this event has only intrigued the NRI audience so much more.
And no one understands the NRI's Bollywood mania as well as Munish Gupta, Vice President of First Serve Entertainment. Gupta is a key figure responsible for this novel and extraordinary combination of Bollywood in Hollywood. "All these people are my friends. It only makes sense to bring my friends together!"
Meeting the stars is undoubtedly always exciting, and extremely entertaining. The press bantered with Kajol about her slim figure, "It's surely not luck," she confessed. Her dream co-star in Bollywood as well as Hollywood is Ajay, Ajay and still more of Ajay.
Is this woman for reel? "Marriage is one the best decisions I have made in my life and no it has not interfered with my popularity in Bollywood." Her favorite character she explains is her role as "Anna" in Raju Chacha. "She's the kind of girl. I want to be.
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An optimist, good hearted, fiercely believes in herself and able to stand up to her beliefs." Passionate about husband and the industry Kajol contends that it was not one particular inspiration that led her into the business. Her actress mother Tanuja may have influenced her but in the final cut it was Kajol's personal choice.
Kajol's face lights up like a child when she talks about her films.
"For someone who hasn't experienced Bollywood films, it is an experience never to be missed.
It is like being on a diet of boiled veggie's and then suddenly you are given ice cream candy!"
The musical score is composed by the famous Jatin-Lait team. In line six in second paragraph.