Thursday, 23 February 2012

Rishi Kapoor lights up scratchy Indian Week launch at LSE

The perennially charming Rishi Kapoor lit up proceedings as India Week, the London School of Economics’ week-long celebration of all things sub-continental, got off to a rather disappointing start Monday night.  
Despite the setting being one of the world’s leading centres of learning, the event, which promises to celebrate the dynamism and upward mobility of modern India, was distinctly low brow and lacked polish.
Four decades of appearing in Bollywood cinema however has given the legendary Kapoor a singular polish.  He was humble, effervescent and displayed impeccable manners and injected plenty of Bollywood glamour to the proceedings.
Joining him on stage was Professor Rachel Dwyer, of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and a woman whose remarkably intimate knowledge of all things Bollywood led Kapoor to exclaim “She knows more about my family than I do!”
Whilst the opening night of India Week was meant to be a panel discussion about Bollywood cinema in general, the conversation between Kapoor and a clearly star-struck Professor Dwyer diverted into a trawl through what is certainly a quite prolific and celebrated career in cinema spanning 42 years.
Beginning with Rishi Kapoor’s first appearance on the big screen, as a toddler in one of his father Raj Kapoor’s films, to his most recent and arguably most critically acclaimed incarnation – as the fearsome, Qawwali-singing pimp Rauf Lala in ‘Agneepath’ – the discussion meandered at a pleasant pace through Kapoor’s career, taking in his love life and work with iconic directors such as Manmohan Desai.
Aside from Professor Dwyer’s brief and enlightening defence of Bollywood’s melodramatic tendencies, the evening failed to shed any light on the impact of Indian cinema and its’ increasingly global relevance.
India Week, organized by the Indian Society of the London School of Economics, aims to highlight all aspects of India’s rise as an economic and cultural superpower and will host a number of high profile speakers aside from Rishi Kapoor, including Shiv Nadar of Hindustan Computers Limited and Anvar Hasan of industrial behemoth TATA.
Significantly, India Week is open to the public for the first time since its inception.  The Indian Society and its academic advisors have given themselves a terrific remit with the aim being to address the successes as well as concerns in a wide variety of fields; from Bollywood and philanthropy to politics and the economy.
Providing the proper context is imperative for its success and Monday night’s inauguration lacked just that.
Thankfully, things can only get better.
-    Vijitha Alles
For event tickets, visit

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