Organisers promise "bigger and better" Bollywood festival in Prague

This evening sees the grand opening of the third annual Prague Bollywood Festival - a celebration of Indian film that brings the colourful sights and sounds of the Indian subcontinent to the Czech Republic. This year the festival begins at the arthouse Aero cinema in Zizkov before moving on to the Kino Svetozor off Wenceslas Square. So is Bollywood slowly winning the hearts and minds of the Czech people? Rob Cameron spoke to organiser Sangita Shresthova to find out.

"We're hoping not to move Bollywood mainstream - I think it's too early to do that - but really to catch a broader audience than people who really seek out unusual films in the Czech Republic. So we're really hoping this will catch people's attention as they walk through the [Svetozor] passage. Yes, it's going to be bigger and better. Everything's bigger and better this year!"

What makes Bollywood so special? Why is it so popular around the world?

"I think Bollywood is special because it's a completely different way of story-telling that people aren't used to if they watch Hollywood films and western cinema. It's not a linear narrative, it's multi-linear, so you actually have a lot of digressions, and these digressions include songs, dances, comedy strips, fights. It really touches melodrama in a very interesting sense. And also it really touches on some of the universal themes in life in a way that is unusual for some people outside of India."

Bollywood's sometimes described as a rather naïve artform.

"Yes it's described as that. But I think that actually comes from a lack of understanding of the way Bollywood works. I think - I know - that there are a lot of inter-textual references in Bollywood films and people read through them. If audiences are not trained in watching these films they actually don't see through them and they actually stop at the first level. So there's a reason for the naïveté."

You told me last year that there was a serious side to the festival. You said - I think these were your exact words - that it helped encourage multiculturalism in a very tangible way. Do you still believe festivals such as this can help to change attitudes in a society which is undergoing transition, like Czech society?

"Even more so than last year actually. I'm completely convinced about this. There's a real opportunity to do something different, and I think entertainment is the best way to go, if you really can encourage a dialogue. And it happened last year - people met who didn't know each other, from Czechs to Indians to Americans and they enjoyed something different together. That's the best way to go, rather than giving people lectures and educating them."

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