World ? Asia ? India ? Mumbai

Mumbai: Bollywood

Catch a Bollywood Blockbuster

You can't say you've properly done the biggest film-producing city on earth if you haven't gone to the cinema to catch a blockbuster, or tried to. Listings are found in daily newspapers, where you can also determine quality and even figure out the storyline by reading reviews written by contenders for the world's bitchiest critic; alternatively, ask your hotel concierge for recommendations. Of course, you can always get completely into the swing of things by picking up a copy of one of Bollywood's gossip magazines. Filmfare and Stardust not only fill you in on what's hot or what's not, but are crammed with glossy, airbrushed close-ups of silver-screen idols. Cinemas that also offer historic Art Deco appeal include once wonderful but now run-down Eros Cinema (opposite Churchgate Station; tel. 022/2282-2335); and lovely Liberty Cinema (tel. 022/2203-1196; a short walk from Eros, near Bombay Hospital), where upper-stall tickets (the best in the house) still cost just Rs 60 ($1.35). Besides the Bollywood melodrama, you get to admire the wonderful Art Deco interiors, with majestic high ceilings, white cedar and teak paneling, '60s-style soda fountain, magnificent huge etched mirrors on the stairwells, mock fountains, and old movie posters.

Bollywood Celebrity: High-Octane Overdrive

It's inevitable that the world's biggest film industry (twice as many films are made here as in Hollywood) would produce a host of celebrities, but in India stars are worshipped with the fervor usually reserved for gods and goddesses. Sadly, the virtues associated with religious idols often don't apply to the stars themselves. In 2002, when one of Bollywood's high-octane celebrities, 37-year-old Salman Khan, got slam-drunk and skidded onto a sidewalk, killing a man who -- like so many of Mumbai's citizens -- lived on the pavement outside the laundry where he worked, it turned out to be one of the media events of the decade, with arresting officers ordering prints of the front-page photos of themselves "posing" with the superstar, and readers rallying behind the "unfair" treatment of their hero. Khan's stardom proved to be his "get-out-of-jail-quick" card; he spent a mere 17 days in prison, claiming it was his chauffeur who had been behind the wheel. Frankly, it will be a miracle if he is ever convicted.

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