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On the box

12 Jun 2012

Bollywood is a concept that I find both foreign and yet unusually comforting.

It may have something to do with the fact that the actors break into random song-and-dance numbers from time to time but, after all, we do see that on Glee every week (if you’re still watching).

Personally, I find Bollywood wildly entertaining and yet a little bit cheesy in that late-night infomercial sort of way. And a new four-part series from the SBS captures all of this brilliantly.

Bollywood Star follows the journey of wide-eyed Australian hopefuls, who are all vying for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – to star in an upcoming film of the popular genre.

At first glance, the series appears like it could play out like an Australia’s Got Talent-style show (with an Indian twist) and, for the most part, this is achieved. The three stereotypical judging types are present: the warm female judge; the mean old man judge; and the younger (but still mean) male judge.

Watching them interact with the contestants was familiar but fresh at the same time – with the hopefuls forced to act, dance, sing and even answer a questionnaire about their favourite aspects of Bollywood.

Many of the acting scenarios involved contestants improvising scenes where they were either a housewife, a prostitute or a boyfriend of a pregnant girlfriend.

This not only made the format seem unique and interesting, but also illuminated a hilarious truth – half of the contestants didn’t know anything about Bollywood at all. In the first episode, there was actually a contestant who thought that The Guru (a Mike Myers film) was his favourite Bollywood film. The reaction from the judges basically said it all: Australians, for the most part, just don’t get it.

Like every talent show, there are the ones with tough personal stories, that are meant to make you want to rally behind them with your texting fingers (just in case they need your help to progress). But one of the best parts of this series is that the outcome is solely in the hands of the judges.

The next episode sees a team of would-be Bollywood stars, selected from the hundreds that applied, travel to India for the next stage of the process and so on and so forth until one remains.

Bollywood Star is not only an entertaining program, it also serves as a great entry point into all things Bollywood. It’s definitely worth a look.

Bollywood Star airs Saturdays on SBS ONE on Saturdays at 7.30 pm

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