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Juhi Chawla: the changing face of Bollywood

Thursday 24 Mar 2011 10:10 p.m.

By Elizabeth Puranam

The Indian Film Festival opened in Auckland tonight but if you think it's all song and dance sequences, think again.

One of the biggest film industries in the world has a changing face.

Juhi Chawla is one of India's biggest movie stars; since bursting onto screens in the 1980s, she has embodied the stereotype of Bollywood.

“Earlier I was in the popcorn films, the campus romances, doing all the dancing around trees,” she says. “The very Bollywood song and dance films, I've done those but I've outgrown them.”

Chawla is in New Zealand with director Onir Dhar to promote their critically successful film I Am.

With content including homosexuality, prostitution and child abuse, it's a far cry from the usual Bollywood fare.

“There is a new cinema that's coming out of India which is the new brave India, I feel,” Dhar says.

“We are confident enough as a nation to talk about and look into the conflicts and dilemmas in our own society, address it, because we're ready to talk about it.”

Talk about it, maybe, but not fund it. Dhar had to raise money from social networking sites and borrow from friends to make the film.

As co-owner of the cricket team the Kolkata Knight Riders, Chawla probably has enough.

She says she wants to use it to help change the perception of Indian cinema.

“I believe Onir is a very genuine person, so I had no doubt that if he's wanting to put together a film, it's in the right hands.”

The Indian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond is on in Auckland until April 3.

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