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Bollywood comes to Michigan Law

September 6, 2013
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Law students watch the Bollywood film "3 Idiots."

The savory smell of samosas mingled with the Hindi spoken by the actors on the big screen and laughter of the audience. If you closed your eyes, you could easily imagine yourself at a movie theater in Mumbai.

But this cinematic experience was far from India. It was at the Law School at University of Michigan, and the audience was aspiring lawyers watching their last Hindi film for a mini seminar.

The course, “Hollywood, Bollywood and the Law: The Globalizing Entertainment Industry,” is taught by professor Vikramaditya Khanna. He is the one who brought the Indian snacks to the showing of “3 Idiots” – a screwball comedy about two friends going back to college in search of their third friend.

“Food adds to the overall experience as it is very common when viewing Bollywood movies at cinema halls in India to have food like samosas, pepsi, chai, chaat,” he said.

"3 Idiots" was a blockbuster in 2009.

“3 Idiots” was a blockbuster in 2009.

Khanna said the popularity of Indian films has been increasing in the U.S. over the last few years, and students had been interested in the global interactions of Bollywood, which produces more than 800 films a year. The films have an audience of more than 3 billion with a big following in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The mini seminar met six times during the academic year. Over the course of the year, the class has tackled some complex Bollywood and legal issues, such as intellectual property, comparative financing of films in India and the U.S., the variation among the media markets and the international distribution and marketing of Bollywood movies.

Cali CopStan who took the class as a second-year law student said students also discussed how Bollywood and Hollywood film markets have merged. She has become more interested about the internationalization of the Bollywood industry.“When ‘Lincoln’ came out last year, we didn’t know that it was largely funded by an Indian film entrepreneur,” the student said.

The class made a lasting impression on Ji Won Kim, who had never watched a Bollywood movie. “I am plugged into the Bollywood gossip now, and even have favorite actors and actresses,” Kim said. “One music video we watched in the class inspired me to buy the DVD, and I watched it over the break!”

Kim plans to continue the tradition of Bollywood nights and visit India in the near future. “A few classmates and I have made lists and plan to have our own Bollywood movie nights in the future.”

With the success of the mini seminar, Khanna says he is offering it again this year. “I will probably add a little more on the TV markets and discuss how different areas of law influence the Bollywood market,” he said.

This story first appeared on Michigan’s World Class.

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