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Love in Our Time:
Bollywood Comes to Broadway
Love at Times Square
Love at Times Square

March 5, 2003 | When you think of the austere steel, cement and glass towers of New York the last cinematic genre that comes to mind is the bright, cheerful, smiling Bollywood musical. That genre, which entertains the multi-lingual Indian population with love stories and happy endings is as far from the gritty street stories New York is known for as you can get. But Bollywood legend Dev Anand didn't see the strangeness of the pairing as an impediment. His latest film, Love at Times Square, mixes Indian characters and music with American locations and a universal love story.

"In India people ask me 'why are you making Love at Times Square?'" Mr. Anand recently told Cinema Gotham. "They don't know what it is all about. I say Times Square is New York and Times Square is America. [The film] is not 'Love at Kanat Place, New Delhi' or 'Love at Flora Fountain, Bombay.' It's Indo-American. Times Square is foreign to them. The American feel is foreign to them. [But] the emotions are familiar to the Indian sentiment. The music is Indian. The orchestration and the beats are international. They understand what I'm trying to say."

The main story of Love at Times Square is simple enough: Girl meets boy. Girl meets another boy. Girl has to choose between two boys. Anyone familiar with the crazy world of Bollywood musicals, however, shouldn't be surprised to learn that Love at Times Square doesn't just connect the dots between these plot points. There's ample melodrama, plenty of sub-plots, dozens of minor characters, and lots of sweeping, melodic music. Additionally, a violent kidnapping plot appears out of left-field after about two hours of romantic comedy. And characters criss-cross the country, from New York to California and back, throughout the film without any noticeable jetlag. Viewers unfamiliar with the Bollywood style may be shocked by the cheerfulness of the film but this is a style carefully cultivated over time. After all, India's is by far the world's largest film industry.

Dev Anand in New York
Dev Anand in New York

The eternally youthful Anand (he turns 80 later this year) first found himself drawn to Times Square over thirty years ago. "I came to New York to receive an award. I was strolling around and I came upon Times Square. That was a Saturday evening and Times Square on a Saturday evening is glorious. You see people from all parts of the world smiling, laughing. Not knowing one another, you're with one another."

Thirty years later he missed a connecting flight from San Francisco and found himself back in New York. "It just happened and I said 'what shall I do?' I walked down and again strolled across Times Square. And that again happened to be a Saturday evening. That was 2 1/2 years ago. I then spent the new year's eve at Times Square and [that] was mindblowing." That was when inspiration struck. "I said, 'look I want to say something about Times Square. What shall I say? Let's have something that is universal in concept. Maybe a love story. Okay, what sort of a love story? Maybe from an Indian point of view. Indian boys, Indian girls, Indian atmosphere. Hindu-American and yet the feel of Times Square.' And the 21st century was about to dawn. I said 'let my film start at the dawn of the 21st century.'"

Anand's film was shot largely in India but a half-dozen trips to the US allowed him and his cast to add enough location footage to get the right feel. Love at Times Square shows America from a uniquely foreign perspective: Indians can probably identify New York and Silicon Valley (the film's other major setting) for the opportunities immigrants have found there. Tourist spots like the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge are visited. But there is also something sincere and touching in the diversity of the backgrounds of the characters. Some are rich, flying from coast to coast at the drop of a hat, while others are just trying to get by, pay the rent on their tiny New York apartments and still send some money back home to the family. As Mr. Anand says, "the dreams of Indians are to come and prosper here. The opportunities are here."

(Heenee Kaushik)

Anand also found himself with the need to address the attacks of September 11th. "My story starts in 2001 and ends in 2002. In between the World Trade Center happened and right then I thought to myself something very disastrous has happened, something that people will not forget in New York. And the span of the story being 2001 and 2002 I cannot skip out this particular incident. So, I incorporated it. I said 'down with terrorism.' We're suffering from the same thing in India like you're suffering. It's a common cause. And I'm sure it's a very emotional thing."

Even in the massive Indian film world Dev Anand is a giant. Beginning his career in 1940's, he's worked his way up through the ranks. "I started as a struggling actor, starving in Bombay," he recalls. "I got a young lead and I'm still doing the leads after fifty-six years of experience. As I grew in stardom as an actor I graduated to something higher than acting. The ultimate is making a film, putting a point of view that is yours across to the world. Write it, produce it, direct it, and, if you have a good role in it, also act in it. I started my own company in 1949 and it's still going strong. 80% of the movie people in India have come out of my company."
Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman<br>
      in 1965's Guide
Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman
in 1965's Guide

He also started breaking down barriers long before Love at Times Square. "I was the first [Indian actor] to collaborate with Americans," he boasts, referring to his starring role in the classic 1965 Hindu adaptation of Pearl Buck's Guide, which was shot simultaneously with an American version. And he's looking to break down barriers even today. "Motion pictures can be made anywhere in the world. I want to produce and direct from this country again and [Love at Times Square] is the starting point. Now I'm dying to make this new script which needs the top American stars. It's based on something that just happened. I don't want to reveal it yet but it's growing in my mind. I will not leave this country until this script is ready. I'm not going to leave that easy!"

As for Love at Times Square, Anand is having trouble securing the kind of release that he feels the film needs. "I needed to attack the press," he says. "My original plan was different. I told them I wanted to release the movie on the 31st of December 2002, at the dawn of 2003, and give it a big, big splash in Times Square, but i couldn't do it single handedly." Hampered by low-budget distributors, the film saw a short run in New York (in Times Square, no less) but Anand wants more. "When I say Love at Times Square, 25% of New Yorkers must see this picture! This was my dream!" Making matters worse is the rampant DVD bootlegging problem in Asia. "If you don't do the DVDs someone else will. What I'm trying to do now is get hold of a good American distributor and splash it in a good, stylish way. We're not asking for people with a lot of money. We're asking for ideas, ideas on how to bring the film into the hearts of the world. All my movies are on DVD but I make movies in 35mm widescreen cinemascope! Without the theatrical I'm hurt!"


Love at Times Square web-site (clips, video, audio, etc...)



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