Why isn't Bollywood canon?

This forum is for discussing tournament formats, question styles, strategy, and such.
Post Reply
Pascal Plays Poker
Lulu
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:58 am
Location: Beavercreek, OH

Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Pascal Plays Poker » Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:46 pm

If quiz bowl is willing to ask about obscure Hungarian movies like Satantango and others, why is Bollywood so unpopular? I understand there is a general stigma towards Bollywood movies, but not all of them are bad! They do merit exposure! After all, Bollywood is even bigger than Hollywood!
Hari Parameswaran
Beavercreek High School '19
Georgia Tech '2?

User avatar
justinfrench1728
Wakka
Posts: 111
Joined: Sun Jun 25, 2017 11:34 pm

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by justinfrench1728 » Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:50 pm

Pascal Plays Poker wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:46 pm
obscure Hungarian movies like Satantango
Sátántangó is hardly obscure. Also, it has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Justin French
UCLA

User avatar
Smuttynose Island
Forums Staff: Moderator
Posts: 509
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:07 pm

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Smuttynose Island » Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:55 pm

Directors such as Satyajit Ray are occassionally clued and asked about. As is often the case with more niche topics, Indian film content is naturally limited by a lack of exposure as well as the small space occupied by film in the distribution. There is certainly room for intrepid writers to change this!
Daniel Hothem
TJHSST '11 | UVA '15 | Oregon '??
"You are the stuff of legends" - Chris Manners
https://sites.google.com/site/academicc ... ubuva/home

User avatar
Fuddle Duddle
Memerator
Posts: 729
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2016 12:31 pm
Location: East Lansing, MI or Naperville, IL

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Thu Dec 20, 2018 10:30 pm

If you mean Bollywood as in "Indian popular film", the Satantango comparison doesn't really hold water; they'd be in different parts of the distribution (art vs. trash). I'd also be interested in seeing an expansion in Nollywood content but recognize basically no one would convert that.
Jakob Myers
MSU '21, Naperville North (IL) '17
"No one has ever organized a greater effort to get people interested in pretending to play quiz bowl"
-Ankit Aggarwal
Probably not going to play again for a hot sec

User avatar
UlyssesInvictus
Yuna
Posts: 821
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2011 7:38 pm

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:33 pm

Satyajit Ray IMO comes up more frequently than Krasznahorkai, but at the rates we're comparing it's definitely just subjective. (With all due respect to Justin) they're both fairly arcane to even regular college playing levels, and _definitely_ to high school level players.

I actually tried to do significant research on Bollywood for when I was writing FILM, and I just had a lot of trouble finding good academic film to write about that wasn't obscenely difficult for the playing audience I desired. There's more popular Bollywood that's easier to write about it (and which I did include!), but then that's more trash-type content, not academic.

It may be a natural question to ask then, why is East Asian film so popular in comparison? And for that you'll have to ask the Academy, it's not really a Quizbowl centric issue at that point.
Raynor Kuang
quizdb.org
Harvard 2017, TJHSST 2013
I wrote GRAPHIC and FILM

User avatar
UlyssesInvictus
Yuna
Posts: 821
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2011 7:38 pm

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:35 pm

An Economic Ignoramus wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 10:30 pm
I'd also be interested in seeing an expansion in Nollywood content but recognize basically no one would convert that.
And excuse me, but someone (I think one of the Kirk-Davidoffs?) first lined my FILM Nigeria tossup, so don't count your chickens!
Raynor Kuang
quizdb.org
Harvard 2017, TJHSST 2013
I wrote GRAPHIC and FILM

User avatar
AKKOLADE
Sin
Posts: 15276
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 8:08 am

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:14 am

Pascal Plays Poker wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:46 pm
If quiz bowl is willing to ask about obscure Hungarian movies like Satantango and others, why is Bollywood so unpopular? I understand there is a general stigma towards Bollywood movies, but not all of them are bad! They do merit exposure! After all, Bollywood is even bigger than Hollywood!
Satantango is one of the 100 greatest films of all time, per They Shoot Pictures' amalgamation rating. Also, the length of the film provides an easy hook.

I only get six results for Satantango on AseemDB, four of which focus on the film version at a glance (2016 MYSTERIUM, 2016 MUT, 2015 ACF Nationals, and 2013 Fernando Arrabal). Meanwhile, I get 22 results for Satyajit Ray searching the DB there.

The inclusion of Bollywood under the pop culture distro is a separate issue, which will likely be inhibited by the lack of accessibility to those films as a part of mainstream American culture.
Fred Morlan
PACE President, 2018-19
International Quiz Bowl Tournaments, co-owner
University of Kentucky CoP, 2017
hsqbrank manager, NAQT writer (former subject editor), former hsqb Administrator/Chief Administrator, 2012 NASAT TD

User avatar
justinfrench1728
Wakka
Posts: 111
Joined: Sun Jun 25, 2017 11:34 pm

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by justinfrench1728 » Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:06 am

Smuttynose Island wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:55 pm
Directors such as Satyajit Ray are occassionally clued and asked about.
UlyssesInvictus wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:33 pm
Satyajit Ray IMO comes up more frequently than Krasznahorkai
AKKOLADE wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:14 am
I get 22 results for Satyajit Ray searching the DB there.
TIL there is only one Indian director.
Justin French
UCLA

User avatar
AKKOLADE
Sin
Posts: 15276
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 8:08 am

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:13 am

Ray does have 5 of the 11 Indian films listed on TSPDT. For the other directors:

Guru Dutt - 1 results (Scattegories '13; Pyaasa was mentioned without Dutt's name at the 2018 NSC)
Ritwik Ghatak - 0 results
Mehboob Khan - 0 results (Mother India was clued in Scattegories 2)
Ramesh Sippy - 0 results
Fred Morlan
PACE President, 2018-19
International Quiz Bowl Tournaments, co-owner
University of Kentucky CoP, 2017
hsqbrank manager, NAQT writer (former subject editor), former hsqb Administrator/Chief Administrator, 2012 NASAT TD

User avatar
Cody
2008-09 Male Athlete of the Year
Posts: 2312
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:57 am
Location: Richmond

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Cody » Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:24 am

I think there is room for Bollywood in the trash film category in college qb, as Bollywood is important. But it's pretty obvious why Bollywood does not come up much at any level: it is quite difficult. If you were to toss up the most popular Bollywood film ever, it would have much lower conversion rates than a run of the mill recent-ish Hollywood film.

There are good arguments to be made for including popular foreign film in the trash category. "Bollywood is even bigger than Hollywood!" is an empirically false statement for the areas in which quizbowl is played, and is not one.
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I wrote lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
Quizbowl at VCU

User avatar
UlyssesInvictus
Yuna
Posts: 821
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2011 7:38 pm

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:53 am

AKKOLADE wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:13 am
Ray does have 5 of the 11 Indian films listed on TSPDT. For the other directors:

Guru Dutt - 1 results (Scattegories '13; Pyaasa was mentioned without Dutt's name at the 2018 NSC)
Ritwik Ghatak - 0 results
Mehboob Khan - 0 results (Mother India was clued in Scattegories 2)
Ramesh Sippy - 0 results
Taking the use of TSPDT to go on a tangent, can some of the other film buffs here comment on how applicable its canon is to like, actual academic film canon. To clarify, when I was doing FILM research, I really loved TSPDT because it was a great jumping off point for finding new films, but I had a lot of trouble finding similar "literature" (for lack of a better word) that jived with how highly ranked some of the TSPDT films were, which felt odd to me because its rankings are statistically generated from other rankings. Do film buffs/students feel like TSPDT accurately represents how well-studied some of those films are, or is it just that when you're searching things on the internet, it's going to be really pop culture biased?
Raynor Kuang
quizdb.org
Harvard 2017, TJHSST 2013
I wrote GRAPHIC and FILM

User avatar
Fuddle Duddle
Memerator
Posts: 729
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2016 12:31 pm
Location: East Lansing, MI or Naperville, IL

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:20 am

AKKOLADE wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:13 am
Ray does have 5 of the 11 Indian films listed on TSPDT. For the other directors:

Guru Dutt - 1 results (Scattegories '13; Pyaasa was mentioned without Dutt's name at the 2018 NSC)
Ritwik Ghatak - 0 results
Mehboob Khan - 0 results (Mother India was clued in Scattegories 2)
Ramesh Sippy - 0 results
I've seen Mira Nair come up quite frequently in film-related literature I've read; where does she figure into all this? It's also probably okay to have at least a few trash questions that straight white men are not the target audience of, and some Bollywood question content should be part of that.
Jakob Myers
MSU '21, Naperville North (IL) '17
"No one has ever organized a greater effort to get people interested in pretending to play quiz bowl"
-Ankit Aggarwal
Probably not going to play again for a hot sec

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 3007
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Brooklyn

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Auroni » Fri Dec 21, 2018 4:08 am

AKKOLADE wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:14 am
The inclusion of Bollywood under the pop culture distro is a separate issue, which will likely be inhibited by the lack of accessibility to those films as a part of mainstream American culture.
I suppose this might be true of mainstream American culture as it is conceived of by white American audiences, but quizbowl at every level is played by a lot of people of South Asian descent, to whom this stuff is very accessible, and people who have been reached by the global appeal of the pop culture from certain countries (such as South Korea, Japan, India, and the UK, to name a few examples).
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

Pascal Plays Poker
Lulu
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:58 am
Location: Beavercreek, OH

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Pascal Plays Poker » Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:26 am

The OP was mostly facetious, but to expand seriously upon my argument:
  • The idea behind listing "an obscure Hungarian movie like Satantango" was based upon the impression that Indian film directors seemed to be under-asked when compared to European, Iranian, and east Asian directors. Other than Satyajit Ray, none of the other directors that Fred listed seem to come up at all.
  • However, the main argument for this OP was trying to include more Bollywood movies in the trash distribution, as I don't know much about Indian art film in the first place. The other thing that was also on my mind yesterday was the India film tossup at NSC that included Lagaan along with Apu Trilogy. If Lagaan, was considered to be famous enough to be included on that list, why so? I could be wrong, but Lagaan doesn't necessarily have more publicity than a Don or Sholay would.
  • Yes, Bollywood will be extremely hard for non-Indian audiences to get. But if quiz bowl is willing to ask questions about food and other aspects of culture leaning on the obscure side, then I believe it should also be willing to include more Bollywood in "Mixed Academic." People already get exposure through Netflix.
  • The final thing that kind of upsets me is that there seems to be a general stigma towards Bollywood movies. Yes, the industry is inundated with a lot of sappy, crappy movies with impossible action scenes. But there are a lot very well-made movies too.
Hari Parameswaran
Beavercreek High School '19
Georgia Tech '2?

User avatar
women, fire and dangerous things
Tidus
Posts: 613
Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2009 5:34 pm
Location: Örkko, Cimmeria

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:21 am

Bollywood is an interesting case because it's a huge industry but is very underdiscussed in Western film criticism and therefore underrepresented in canons like TSPDT. (Ignoring Ray and Ghatak, who worked outside of the popular Bollywood tradition, there are only four Bollywood films on the current list.) There's a lot of artistically interesting work done in Bollywood, but even hardcore Western cinephiles tend to be mostly unfamiliar with it. (Or to dismiss it: even pinnacles of Bollywood like Pakeezah or Amar Akbar Anthony can be hard to reconcile with the aesthetic principles we use to judge, say, European art film.)

There's some room to correct for this, I think, just as we can deliberately push against the male-dominated nature of the canon in various fields, as long as we're responsible with difficulty. As always, novelty should be balanced with what the field is actually likely to know. Scattergories is a bad example because it's a hard vanity tournament, but the reason I wrote a tossup on "Dutt" for Scattergories 2 was so I could clue several of the most famous Bollywood movies of all time (Awaara, Pyaasa, Mother India, and Kaagaz Ke Phool) in the same question, so people only familiar with a handful of Bollywood films would have multiple entry points into the question.
Will Nediger
-Proud member of the cult of Urcuchillay-
University of Western Ontario 2011, University of Michigan 2017
Emeritus member, ACF
Writer, NAQT

User avatar
AKKOLADE
Sin
Posts: 15276
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 8:08 am

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:48 am

women, fire and dangerous things wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:21 am
Bollywood is an interesting case because it's a huge industry but is very underdiscussed in Western film criticism and therefore underrepresented in canons like TSPDT. (Ignoring Ray and Ghatak, who worked outside of the popular Bollywood tradition, there are only four Bollywood films on the current list.) There's a lot of artistically interesting work done in Bollywood, but even hardcore Western cinephiles tend to be mostly unfamiliar with it. (Or to dismiss it: even pinnacles of Bollywood like Pakeezah or Amar Akbar Anthony can be hard to reconcile with the aesthetic principles we use to judge, say, European art film.)

There's some room to correct for this, I think, just as we can deliberately push against the male-dominated nature of the canon in various fields, as long as we're responsible with difficulty. As always, novelty should be balanced with what the field is actually likely to know. Scattergories is a bad example because it's a hard vanity tournament, but the reason I wrote a tossup on "Dutt" for Scattergories 2 was so I could clue several of the most famous Bollywood movies of all time (Awaara, Pyaasa, Mother India, and Kaagaz Ke Phool) in the same question, so people only familiar with a handful of Bollywood films would have multiple entry points into the question.
This is a good post and breaks down my feelings on it pretty well.

I went on Box Office Mojo and since I'd already found this data, I wanted to share it anyway. Here's what I think are the top grossing Bollywood films are from the past three years in the U.S. market. There's no way to filter by country (as far as I can tell), so I just went by titles and definitely missed any that were translated into English.

2018: Padmaavat, 111th, $11.8 million
2017: Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, 105th, $20.2 million
2016: Dangal, 129th, $12.4 million

At least regarding the 2017 list, I wouldn't have thought too much of a trash set having answer lines on the two movies surrounding Baahubali's placement, CHiPs (a semi-notable failure) and The Circle (another failure notable for being a rare Tom Hanks turn as a villain). I can't say the same for Dangal (The Light Between Oceans and Fifty Shades of Black didn't register much with me beyond the latter being the Wayans project I expected from the title).
Fred Morlan
PACE President, 2018-19
International Quiz Bowl Tournaments, co-owner
University of Kentucky CoP, 2017
hsqbrank manager, NAQT writer (former subject editor), former hsqb Administrator/Chief Administrator, 2012 NASAT TD

User avatar
yeah viv talk nah
Lulu
Posts: 71
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:01 am

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by yeah viv talk nah » Fri Dec 21, 2018 11:24 am

AKKOLADE wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:48 am
women, fire and dangerous things wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:21 am
Bollywood is an interesting case because it's a huge industry but is very underdiscussed in Western film criticism and therefore underrepresented in canons like TSPDT. (Ignoring Ray and Ghatak, who worked outside of the popular Bollywood tradition, there are only four Bollywood films on the current list.) There's a lot of artistically interesting work done in Bollywood, but even hardcore Western cinephiles tend to be mostly unfamiliar with it. (Or to dismiss it: even pinnacles of Bollywood like Pakeezah or Amar Akbar Anthony can be hard to reconcile with the aesthetic principles we use to judge, say, European art film.)

There's some room to correct for this, I think, just as we can deliberately push against the male-dominated nature of the canon in various fields, as long as we're responsible with difficulty. As always, novelty should be balanced with what the field is actually likely to know. Scattergories is a bad example because it's a hard vanity tournament, but the reason I wrote a tossup on "Dutt" for Scattergories 2 was so I could clue several of the most famous Bollywood movies of all time (Awaara, Pyaasa, Mother India, and Kaagaz Ke Phool) in the same question, so people only familiar with a handful of Bollywood films would have multiple entry points into the question.
This is a good post and breaks down my feelings on it pretty well.

I went on Box Office Mojo and since I'd already found this data, I wanted to share it anyway. Here's what I think are the top grossing Bollywood films are from the past three years in the U.S. market. There's no way to filter by country (as far as I can tell), so I just went by titles and definitely missed any that were translated into English.

2018: Padmaavat, 111th, $11.8 million
2017: Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, 105th, $20.2 million
2016: Dangal, 129th, $12.4 million

At least regarding the 2017 list, I wouldn't have thought too much of a trash set having answer lines on the two movies surrounding Baahubali's placement, CHiPs (a semi-notable failure) and The Circle (another failure notable for being a rare Tom Hanks turn as a villain). I can't say the same for Dangal (The Light Between Oceans and Fifty Shades of Black didn't register much with me beyond the latter being the Wayans project I expected from the title).
Just to clarify a bit, the Baahubali franchise is technically a Tollywood (Telugu film industry) product, not a Bollywood one (though I guess in this thread we are using "Bollywood" as a catch-all for Indian cinema in general).

Somewhat related to this point, I just wanted to mention that other regional Indian cinema industries like the Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, and Malayalam industries also have a lot of great films that I feel could fit into the quizbowl canon (at much higher difficulties of course). Although I can unfortunately pretty much only vouch for Telugu films (e.g., Mayabazar and the art films of K. Vishwanath), there are definitely other landmark films in other regional Indian languages that could find a place in the canon.
Ani Perumalla
Farragut '15, Maryland '19, Penn State '??

bkmcavoybickford
Lulu
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue May 15, 2018 6:40 am

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by bkmcavoybickford » Sat Dec 22, 2018 8:45 am

Pascal Plays Poker wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:26 am
  • However, the main argument for this OP was trying to include more Bollywood movies in the trash distribution, as I don't know much about Indian art film in the first place. The other thing that was also on my mind yesterday was the India film tossup at NSC that included Lagaan along with Apu Trilogy. If Lagaan, was considered to be famous enough to be included on that list, why so? I could be wrong, but Lagaan doesn't necessarily have more publicity than a Don or Sholay would.
Lagaan is the only Bollywood movie whose name I could have come up with. Admittedly, I know nothing about Bollywood, and my knowledge of Lagaan is only because we watched it at the end of the year in one class.
Benjamin McAvoy-Bickford. Smith 15-18. East Chapel Hill 18-?

User avatar
Panayot Hitov
Wakka
Posts: 245
Joined: Mon May 30, 2011 1:59 pm
Location: Northfield, MN

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Panayot Hitov » Sat Dec 22, 2018 1:40 pm

Mira Nair is more Parallel Cinema than Bollywood. Bollywood really should be canon in quizbowl, but tbf it is really treated as separate from the "western canon" in most film studies classes, so it's not like quizbowl is a glaring outlier. In terms of important directors that should come up more, Guru Dutt and Mehboob Khan certainly come to mind (can we get a tossup just on that facial expression Guru Dutt has when he sees his true love that he knows he will never be able to consummate? best in cinema imho). For actors, I think that a SRK or Bachchan question, at the very least, would work pretty well.

Edit: tl;dr I agree with Will
Paul Kirk-Davidoff
Oakland Mills High School '14
Carleton College '18

User avatar
ErikC
Wakka
Posts: 192
Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2016 12:44 pm

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by ErikC » Fri Dec 28, 2018 6:11 pm

To address the initial point: Bollywood isn't canon because it's not generally studied academically. I'd definitely say part of this is Western-centric attitudes. Academic quizbowl film questions generally draw upon what you might encounter in film studies. In comparison, classic Hollywood has been studied academically for quite a while, even movies made in a studio system similar to what today produces superhero blockbusters.

Straying away from the movies people do read or hear about through the criticism world (which includes plenty of non-Western countries) is a great way to get dead tossups. On Facebook Will Nediger made a good point that even the parts of the "western canon" aren't too easy to tossup for an academic tournament, drawing from consideration data from CMST.

I really think in this case, India is unusually worse off than almost every part of the world, comparatively speaking. While I like Auroni's point regarding the target audience of being quizbowl being diverse, I don't think Indian cinemas have really had their break in the West yet. Parallel cinema really doesn't have too many "canon" films that I would expect to see in tournaments below Nats difficulty.

As usual, the best way to make such a change is to write the questions yourself, and Will and Raynor have started that ball rolling themselves. I do think there will be a limit to how much you can tossup, however, unless Indian cinemas have a break-out moment like countries like Iran or South Korea have.
Erik Christensen
University of Waterloo - School of Planning Class of '18
I write trash
Defending VETO top scorer

User avatar
Muriel Axon
Tidus
Posts: 713
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:19 am

Re: Why isn't Bollywood canon?

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Jan 01, 2019 9:20 pm

Pascal Plays Poker wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:26 am
However, the main argument for this OP was trying to include more Bollywood movies in the trash distribution, as I don't know much about Indian art film in the first place. The other thing that was also on my mind yesterday was the India film tossup at NSC that included Lagaan along with Apu Trilogy. If Lagaan, was considered to be famous enough to be included on that list, why so? I could be wrong, but Lagaan doesn't necessarily have more publicity than a Don or Sholay would.
I wrote that question, which clued from The River (by Renoir), Pyaasa, The Apu Trilogy, and Lagaan -- four films that are neither all from the same era nor in the same language. This decision was just a matter of convenience. Lagaan hit the right balance of being famous in the West (more than the ones you mention) and being plausibly arty enough -- although no question, there are better Bollywood movies. It wasn't the most artful question, I admit.
Shan Kothari

Plymouth High School '10
Michigan State University '14
University of Minnesota '20

Post Reply