When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

TOPIC: bollywood

food / travel

How The Sari Conquered The World

The prestigious Design Museum in London – named European Museum of the Year in 2018 – is currently staging a landmark exhibition, The Offbeat Sari, all about this item of dress and the clamour of attention it is enjoying.

London Calling: How does India look from afar? Looming world power or dysfunctional democracy? And what’s happening in Britain, and the West, that India needs to know about and perhaps learn from? This fortnightly column helps forge the connections so essential in our globalising world.

The curry has conquered the world; the sari less so. It is, in concept, the most simple of garments: a single piece of unstitched fabric. In execution, it’s really tricky to wear for those who don’t have the knack. All those pleats – the tucking in – and then the blouse and petticoat which are part of the ensemble. Quite a palaver.

When Western women wear a sari – often as a perhaps misguided token of cultural respect – you often wish they had stuck to a trouser suit. And in its heartland, the sari is nothing like as ubiquitous as it once was. Among young urban Indian women, as far as I can make out, the sari is saved for high days and holidays.

Yet the elegance and versatility of the sari, as well as its timeless quality, have caught the attention of fashion gurus and designers, desi and otherwise. The prestigious Design Museum in London – named European Museum of the Year in 2018 – is currently staging a landmark exhibition, The Offbeat Sari, all about this item of dress and the clamour of attention it is enjoying.

Watch VideoShow less

Art Or Islamophobia? How A Bollywood Blockbuster Is Stoking Tensions In India

Bollywood film The Kerala Story has done huge numbers at the Indian box office after public support by Hindu nationalist parties. But the film is facing claims it is Islamophobic propaganda that peddles conspiracy theories about Muslims.


NEW DELHI — India's Supreme Court has ordered the state governments of West Bengal, in the northeast of the country, and Tamil Nadu, in the southeast, to ensure that the Bollywood film TheKeralaStory is screened everywhere.

The movie is based on the true stories of three women from the state of Kerala, in the southwest of India, who were allegedly forcefully converted to Islam and forced to join the terror outfit ISIS. TheKeralaStory has been a box office smash in India, becoming the second highest grossing Hindi film of 2023.

However, it has faced litigation and protests in the states of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, with accusations that it is Islamophobic propaganda that is promoting the agenda of Hindu nationalists.

Keep reading...Show less

Bollywood Is Finally Showing The True Colors Of India's Holi Festival

Holi is much more than just throwing petals and colored powders. In addition to being a celebration of life, family and fertility, its songs and dances can also be a vehicle to warn against life’s dangers, or depict intimate moments where the saris are wet and the bodies can touch. And the Bollywood film industry too is progressively moving away from a sanitized depiction.

My first Holi in India was not an enjoyable one.

Amritsar. 1990. I’d missed the train to Pakistan — seriously... — so I took a three-wheeler to the border at Wagah. Although the driver was somewhat anxious, the fare was too good for him to turn down.

Ignored by lurking terrorists (were there really any?), we did astonish several jawans soldiers crouched behind their sandbagged posts, but were soon hit, inevitably, by a carrier bag of cold water, the rest of the journey being bumpy, chilly and soggy.

Keep reading...Show less

K-Pop To Catalonia: How The Metaverse Can Turn Local Culture Global

Glitchy online museum tours are a thing of the past. From Barcelona to Bollywood, the metaverse is bringing immersive cultural experiences right into our homes.

Between environmental costs, COVID and criticisms of digital nomads hurting local economies, the world is questioning the magic of travel — and increasing the time spent in front of screens. Although the meager form the metaverse has taken today can’t replace the smells, tastes, or exact luminescence that make discovering new corners of the world so thrilling, it may soon be dropping local adventures from far away lands into our living rooms.

While the guided tours of museums and online concerts that we all tested out during lockdowns were often glitchy and underwhelming, the beginning of 2022 has seen regional cultural initiatives from around the world flocking to the metaverse, a virtual reality world where people can interact and have experiences as they do in the real world.

Keep reading...Show less
Jasvinder Sehgal

Why This 66-Year-Old Actor Is Like A God In India

Moviegoers are turning out in droves to see Kabali, a new Indian film featuring superstar Rajinikanth. What's all the excitement about? KBR journalist Jasvinder Sehgal attends a pre-dawn premiere to find out.

BANGALORE — At the Balaji theater in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, fans of Indian actor Rajinikanth are rejoicing the release of his new film, Kabali.

Among them is Rajendran Mahadevan. The 42-year-old fan pours milk on the poster of his favorite hero and covers it in flowers. This Hindu ritual is a way of wishing the film success. "It's just like a festival celebration," Mahadevan says. "Only we're even happier today than when we're at festivals."

Watch VideoShow less
Hubert Prolongeau

India's Disturbing Obsession With Fair Skin

India's entertainment industry casts people with dark skin as cursed and low class, an idea the culture has strongly, if sadly, embraced. The only winner is the cosmetics industry.

MUMBAI — Nina is sitting at a table in Coffee Day, a popular café with Mumbai students. As her friends arrive, they join her and order iced coffee drinks and donuts. Nearby, the cinema Eros is screening a current hit movie called R... Rajkumar, aBollywood film directed by Prabhu Dheva and featuring two rising stars: Shahid Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha. Both are beautiful, merry, in love and … fair-skinned.

Nina's skin is rather dark. "I have an aunt who could not stop offering me some whitening cream," she says. "One day I told her that I had seen her applying this cream on her skin for 20 years and that there were no significant changes." Painful memories come to her. "I always knew I was dark-colored. At school, white little girls were chosen to represent the class. One of my teachers even said to me that I was good but too black."

Watch VideoShow less
Sophie Mühlmann

The Bollywood Kiss Heard 'Round The World

India and Pakistan are arch enemies whose ongoing Kashmir conflict shows no signs of ending. So will the film kiss between a beloved Pakistani actress and an India heartthrob be censored?

SINGAPORE — Pakistan's censor is already sharpening its scissors after Humaima Malick, the country's most famous and highest-paid actress, kissed an Indian in her most recent movie.

Pakistani censorship authorities bear down hard on love scenes on principle anyway, but for some patriotic hardliners this trans-border kiss amounts to consorting with the enemy.

Watch VideoShow less
Frederic Bobin

A World Of Illusions: Inside The Bollywood Fame Factory

MUMBAI – Shilpa Dhar is wearing fake eyelashes, jingling bracelets, and cherry-red nail polish. She tilts her head as she speaks, which makes her jet-black hair twirl around her neck.

She smiles because her friends have told her she has a nice smile – so she smiles all the time now. “I have a Kareena Kapoor smile,” she giggles.

Watch VideoShow less
Alex Rühle

Wanted: White Western Tourists For Role In Bollywood Movie

Up close, on set and in search of extras inside India's over-the-top movie scene.

MUMBAI – I’m in Bandra, a suburb northwest of Mumbai, on the promenade by the beach. The sun is about to set, and Altaf Mehta* has just bought himself freshly squeezed melon juice.

He’s tired after his eight-hour day at a job requiring him to do the opposite of what most of the touts do along this stretch – instead of trying to sell tourists something, he’s proposing paid employment. Day after day, he recruits white Western tourists as extras in Bollywood movies.

Watch VideoShow less