Hina P. Ansari’s relationship with Bollywood goes way back to the burgeoning of the industry. Her grandfather was a multi-faceted filmmaker known as one of the leading and first film noir directors of the Mumbai-based industry. She has made a name for herself in the fashion and entertainment industry with over 14 years of experience, and brings to bear her knowledge of Bollywood and fashion this Sunday as she leads a tour of Bollywood Cinema Showcards for the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the ROM. In the lead up to her Fresh Perspective tour, we had Hina answer five questions.
You have had a lot of experience in Canada and internationally working in the entertainment industry. Do you find anything distinct about the Canadian entertainment industry rather than anywhere else?
The Canadian entertainment industry is smarter and more intellectual. Style seems to outweigh substance in the other international markets. However here, style comes from substance.
There is no lack of celebrity culture centred around Bollywood or Hollywood, and in many ways you’ve been in the thick of it. What do you think drives the obsession people around the world seem to have with celebrities?
That is an age-old question. From the days of following every fashionable move that Liz Taylor took (along with her staggering jewelry collection and her equally staggering love affair with Burton), the fascination with celebrity is not new. Even at that time Liz knew what her fans—who in turn buy the movie magazines—wanted, which is why she hired her very own photo retoucher.
From my own experiences watching it from both sides of the velvet rope in Bollywood, Hollywood and Toronto, the fascination probably comes from the idea that their favorite characters on screen are actually living breathing human beings with the same flaws, struggles and challenges, as well as many a celebratory moments, just like we do. For Bollywood it’s a sense of escapism, which clashes with reality. For the Hollywood fan, it’s more focused on the reality than the character they play. The fascination is a very multi-layered phenomenon and just like how the pyramids were built, we will always question, wonder and ponder the endless fascination of celebrities.
What connection have you had to Bollywood through your career?
My grandfather (N.A. Ansari) was a director/producer/writer/actor during the mid 1950s. He was known for his film noir—was nicknamed the “Hitchcock of India”. All the A-list stars from the 1960s would work on his film as a training ground. Because of that my family friends were extended family members of those who worked with my grandfather.
You describe yourself as a “social media addict.” What do you think is the power behind these developing tools and where do you think they are going?
It’s the insatiable appetite for instant knowledge. Instant gratification combined with our ever decreasing attention span. First was cable news. Then came the 24-hour cable channels filled with shorter and shorter soundbites. Now its facebook, twitter, linkedin etc, etc. The immediacy of knowledge is palpable and a great equalizer, from captains of industry to the ordinary Joe. Twitter especially shows that you don’t have to be an exclusive member, or be invited in. You just sign on and follow. The immediacy is amazing. Great research tools for journalists like me as well as for those who just want to know what Kim Kardashian is doing. It’s all things to all people and its only just beginning. We haven’t seen its full impact just yet.
Unfortunately in my opinion reporters /TV shows are becoming a bit lazier as they would rather have the people do the reporting instead of them doing the job. Seriously if I hear one more anchor asking us to tweet them an idea for a story….
What importance do you give to the fact that the Showcards on display have been hand-made, given that you have worked in industries guided by largely non-tactile technology?
It’s a lost art. I am so glad to see that the ROM had the foresight to include this installation in their repertoire. Just like hand written letters where you see the conversation develop before you, with the crossed out word here and indentation there, in this case you see the emotion of not only in the image but of the artist. That is truly unique. You sense humanity in a largely superficial industry.