LONDON: It was the year 2007 when broadcaster Pervaiz Alam brought two legendary actors of Indian cinema together on one platform, facing each other, before an invited audience at the Nehru Centre in South Audley Street in London.

This was rarest of the rare, perhaps, the only one occasion when Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri not only interacted with each other but also answered tricky questions put to them by a large audience and Pervaiz Alam. They talked about their careers, favourite characters and directors. You can listen to the whole conversation here on this site but just sample one question and the response given by the two stalwarts of Hindi cinema, below, in an excerpt from a newspaper.

The word ‘Bollywood’, coined initially by the Western media to refer to Hindi cinema, is derogatory and humiliating, said Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri.

The two actors spoke their minds about the widely used word during a function to honour them by the London-based organisation, India-EU Film Initiative, at the Nehru Centre here on Sunday night.

Speaking before a packed audience on the theme ‘Life and Times in Indian Cinema’, Shah and Puri attacked the Western media for calling them ‘Bollywood actors’. They said the Indian film industry was not happy with the word ‘Bollywood’ and were disgusted at its usage in the media.

“The term Bollywood was used to mock us by the Western press. And it’s just an indication of our own idiocy that we still use it,” said Shah, winner of several national and international awards.

Puri, recipient of the ‘Order of the British Empire’ for his brilliant acting, said in an emotional voice: “Bollywood – whenever Western people refer to it, they mean Hindi films, they say, ‘Oh those song and dance films’. So it is a derogatory term. These terms are created by the media.”

Cautioning the Indian media against using the word ‘Bollywood’, Shah said: “Now the Mumbai film industry refers to itself as Bollywood. It’s like being called an idiot all your life and then making it your name,” he said.

Pervaiz Alam, director of the India-EU Film Initiative, who interviewed the two actors on stage, said: “This is the reason we’ve started distancing away from the term ‘Bollywood’ as more and more film-makers and actors from India are telling us not to use the word ‘Bollywood’, a term, that they often find patronising.

“Also, the term Bollywood has caused much consternation among the filmmakers who produce cinema in India’s other languages such as Tamil, Telugu and Bengali.”

Lord Meghnad Desai, renowned economist and film buff, honoured Shah and Puri with Roman Atticus trophies on behalf of the India-EU Film Initiative. The event was presided over by noted film director Jagmohan Mundhra.

India produces the largest number of films in the world. Bollywood is used to refer to Hindi cinema originating in Mumbai, formerly Bombay. Over time, the word has come to refer to not only the Hindi cinema but also to the entire Indian film industry. The word is a takeoff on Hollywood, the B being derived from Bombay, the earlier name of Mumbai.


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