A Bollywood surprise at the LA Central Library

These are the words of one of my most influential and valued mentors:

There is teaching. There is learning. Then there is the insignificant.

While I did not take them too seriously at first, I am beginning to learn that she knew well what she was saying. And no learner can not love libraries. Visited the Los Angeles Central Library today. The inscription on its facade makes for a thought-provoking entrance:

"Books alone are liberal and free. They give to all who ask. They emancipate all who serve them faithfully."

The library is a fantastic facility (here is its Wikipedia page) in the heart of Downtown LA, one of the better business districts in the country from my experience. I was loving the vibe as I entered, listening to Ishq Ada Hai from Ada, which only added to the mystique. Stopped at the Library Store, and fell in love with this beautiful tie (the online store page seems to assume the visitor is a woman, what with the 'man in your life' -- what's up with that?). And then I stopped for a couple of postcards on the way out and was pleasantly surprised to see this:

Per the cashier, they had several others that sold fast, which is interesting. Also interesting is that this postcard was printed in the E.U., by an organization named Bizarr with a Munich, Germany address. How cool is that? Anyone seen Do Anjaane?


Anonymous said...

That is very cool. Just another sign that Bollywood is quickly penetrating not only American culture, but also the global culture. There are even a few teachers at my high school who are huge fans of some Bollywood films.

Bollywood has quite a presence on the shelves of my local library too. About ten years ago when I first started going there, there were no Hindi films available for check out. Now I’m simply surprised at the variety.

Of course they have the art house films long popular among international audiences such as Water, Earth, Iqbal, Mr. & Mrs. Iyer, etc. But they also have some of the classics (Mera Naam Joker, Mughal-e-Azam, etc) and some of the recent commercial hits (Dhoom 2, Chak de India, Vivah, Gangster, Taal, to name a few). Unfortunately they also have some of the worst that Bollywood has to offer - that a public library would waste its funds on the likes of ‘Apna Sapna Money Money’ or ‘Good Boy Bad Boy’ is quite upsetting.

Getting films off the shelves is practically impossible. As soon as one is shelved, someone else checks it out. The only way to really get a hold of one is to reserve it online and pick it up on hold. Having volunteered at the library for many years, I know that members of the South Asian community are some of the most frequent, regular visitors.

There's also a pretty amazing inter-library exchange system in place. If my library doesn’t have a particular film, then chances are that I can find that same movie from another library in the state of Illinois. All I have to do is place a request, and within a week’s time it is shipped to my library at no cost to me. How cool is that! This is especially helpful for getting those really hard-to-find films.

Haven’t seen ‘Do Anjaane’. Hadn’t even heard of it before this post, to be honest.

On the Munich based company, I know that Bollywood has taken Europe by storm. Bollywood films are regularly aired on the top movie channels there. A few years back, Veer-Zaara had the distinction of being the first Hindi film to be released at Paris’ largest cinema, the Grand Rex, where it received a grand welcome. Veer-Zaara also had an unparalleled response from the both the media and public in Germany, where its DVDs and soundtracks were the highest-selling foreign titles. I recently read an article about a popular magazine in Germany that focuses on how to live the ‘Bollywood lifestyle’ - how to cook, dress, and basically live the “South Asian” way, I guess.

Though I was in Los Angeles on a family vacation two years ago, we didn’t see the library, nor did we really explore the downtown district. We mainly focused on the touristy spots. If I'm ever there again, I'll try to make a visit. In terms of architecture, it looks pretty interesting.

I’ve also heard great things about the library in downtown Chicago, the Harold Washington Library. Unfortunately, living in the suburbs hasn’t given me the opportunity to really explore the city.

Anonymous said...

Nice tie. I love the library! I bet they have a great Hindi movie selection at that library.
I haven't see Do Anjaane, but this is a sure sign to see it. There are several summaries at IMDB, but I'm always partial to rAgOo's reviews, which you can see here:

rAgOo lives in Canada and has the Hindi reviews on IMDB on lockdown!

All the best,

Filmi Girl said...

I'm glad the LA Public Library is such a treat! Public Libraries tend to be sadly neglected in big citites. Our own, here in DC, is awful. They've suffered budget cut after budget cut....

The one I used to work for in Cambridge, MA always had a nice selection of BW movies, though!

theBollywoodFan said...

Salek: Sounds like demand exceeds supply for BW films at your library! That's very cool! Do you know which magazine from Germany focuses on the Bollywood lifestyle?

The LA Central Library has an excellent foreign films section, one that makes me feel like I am in a toy store...the only other experiences that compare are at an electronics store or a Lego store :) You ought to check it out on your next visit. And yes, it is a very interesting library from an architectural standpoint too.

I am with you on the not-so-good movies being somewhat of a waste of funds, but chances are the people who order them try to have a mix of the films and do not necessarily know which ones are hits or misses. Still, here is to better research!

Sita-ji: Thank you for the link! I have yet to see which Hindi movies they have (they have so many foreign films, and I was lazy yesterday to not consult the catalog :), but surely they must have several!

Filmi Girl: I hear you. The budget cuts have affected the LA Public Library system too. There was a piece by Julie Andrews in the LA Times I believe, not too long ago, that discussed the cuts.

It's a wonderful library, though, and I'm sure the people there will keep it that way. I was awed when I first walked in...and the postcard made it better! :)

Anonymous said...

Namaste library friends!
salek, we have that same system in Minnesota of being able to order state wide as well as city and county wide. Minneapolis public library has about 130 Hindi films and the surrounding county library system has an additional 150 or so. They also have a very small collection of Tamil and Telugu movies. I haven't tapped into St. Paul's (the other city to the twin cities) or their Ramsey county collection.

Like salek I just order them online to be delivered to the branch of my choice. So easy! Often it's faster than Netflix. I've found my netflix Hindi movies often come from Texas (lots of movie ordering desis down there I suppose) and take a long time to arrive and are often in poor condition compared to the library DVDs. I've seen that New York's public library has about 450 Hindi films, and of course I checked that the LA library had around 300 and I imagine the surrounding counties must have a lot more.

Like salek, my local library system has most of the art house films, the classics and then some in the "WHAT!?" category. I too have wondered why they have some of the best Hindi movies and some of the silliest end up in the same place. I figured that some are simply sent to the library from the distributors. That's how I can justify the and/or that someone was just assigned that job and didn't know what they were doing. I've thought of submitting a list of must haves to the library. Maybe I'll do that soon. :)
filmi firl, that's nice that at least there was a good selection of bw films. I just hope that the more people check these films out the more the library will order. Viva the library! I mean Jai library!

theBollywoodFan said...

Sita-ji: The library systems do make the logistics convenient. They do have a lot of movies, and I shall hope to check them out!

And that's a great thought about writing with recommendations. I think I shall too! Do share your list once you compile it.

Jai Library! (sounds like a film title!)

Anonymous said...

The name of the magazine is ‘Indien Magazin’. My German isn’t great, but I’m pretty sure that translates to “Indian Magazine” (how creative). The official site is www.indien-magazin.com but it is entirely in German. If you click on the Pressestimmen link on the far left side, it should take you to some English articles which provide some more information.

Making a list of films to recommend sounds like a great idea and I too plan on submitting one.

"Jai Library" was hilarious :)

How about "Libaries Zindabad" as well?