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Release: Sept. 6, 2000

UI course brings Bollywood to Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A collection of films that have been critically acclaimed around the globe but have never played in Iowa City will be shown this semester as part of a new course offered jointly by four University of Iowa departments. The weekly film screenings for the course are open to the public, offering a rare local opportunity to view the popular Hindi cinema produced in Bombay and consumed around the world as "Bollywood."

The course was conceived of and is taught by Philip Lutgendorf, an associate professor of Asian languages and literature, and Corey Creekmur, an associate professor of English. They said the course fills a gaping hole in the UI's distinguished film studies program, which for a variety of reasons has not offered courses on Indian film, despite its worldwide popularity and influence.

Lutgendorf said the primary reason such a course has never been offered has been the lack of high quality prints of Indian films with English subtitles. But the advent of DVD technology has changed that, making such films accessible to American students.

"The course will be slanted a bit toward more recent films because those are available, but we'll also show some early films that have been adapted to DVD," Lutgendorf said.

Lutgendorf and Creekmur said they don't expect students to know much if anything about Indian film when they enter the course, but they hope by December students will have gained an appreciation for the genre, including its history, some of its great directors and major stars, and its recurring themes. Students will also study the ways in which Indian cultural traditions and modern, international influences come together in Indian cinema.

"We want the students to get beyond the cliches," Lutgendorf said. Indian cinema is so different from the American version that many Americans dismiss it as "weird" or "incomprehensible." Indian films tend to be quite long -- three hours or more, they almost always include numerous musical and dance sequences, and they don't conform to the genre categories found in American film. Indian films may combine comedy, tragedy, action, romance, and melodrama in a single picture.

In addition to providing students with a broader understanding of film, the course will also enhance students' literary studies, Lutgendorf said. The last half of the 20th century saw an explosion in Indian literature written in English, and these works often contain numerous references to Bollywood films and stars.

Film screenings are on Monday nights from 7-10 p.m. in Room 221 Chemistry-Botany Building and are free and open to the public. Some films may extend beyond 10 p.m. The schedule of remaining films is as follows:

Sept. 11: Sant Tukaram ("Saint Tukaram," Prabhat Talkies, 1936, Marathi)
Sept. 18: Shree 420 ("Mr. 420," Raj Kapoor, 1955, Hindi)
Sept. 25: Mother India (Mehboob Khan, 1957, Hindi)
Oct. 2: Devi ("Goddess," Satyajit Ray, 1960, Bengali)
Oct. 9: Sholay ("Flames," Ramesh Sippy, 1975, Hindi)
Oct. 16: Deewar ("The Wall," Yash Chopra, 1975, Hindi)
Oct. 23 : Mirch Masala ("Spices," Ketan Mehta, 1985, Hindi)
Oct. 30 : Dil Se ("From the Heart," Mani Ratnam, 1998, Hindi)
Nov. 6: Pardes ("Other Country," Subhash Ghai, 1998, Hindi)
Nov. 13: Hum Aapke hain Koun…! ("Who am I to You?" Sooraj Barjatya, 1994, Hindi)
Nov. 20: Satya ("Truth," Ram Gopal Verma, 1998, Hindi)
Nov. 27: Hey! Ram ("Oh God!" Kamal Haasan, 2000, Hindi)
Dec. 4: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ("Something Happens," Karan Johar, 1998, Hindi)