Nowadays Switzerland is to Bollywood what the Far East once was to Hollywood: an enticing paradise, heaven on earth. Bollywood, the greatest dream factory on the Indian subcontinent, is the most productive film industry in the world. The studios in and around Bombay bring over 800 productions per year to the screen. In comparison, Hollywood manages only 600. Romantic comedies make the best box-office draws as Bollywood films, formulaic stories with the right mixture of emotional ingredients like happiness and despair, love, rage and grief, surprise and heroism. Romantic song and dance numbers are staple Bollywood features. The films last three hours on average and include at least six songs in which the singing and dancing hero and heroine swear eternal love for each other, whether this fits in with the plot of the film or not. Some of the song and dance numbers are shot in Switzerland. Lush Alpine meadows, white peaks, shiny railways and picturesque chalets make the ideal setting for Bollywood stars singing their tuneful declarations of love. The song routines used to be shot in Kashmir, Indian mythology's standard land of longing. But political unrest and border disputes with Pakistan have pretty well ruled out the Kashmir valley as a location. Switzerland, with its impeccable infrastructure and its mountains - just as beautiful as Kashmir's -, has become the most popular substitute. And now more feet of film are shot per year in Switzerland by Indian film crews than by native ones. So Switzerland has long been a fantasy focus in the everyday life of Indian film fans (and given the audience figures you could simplify that by saying in everyday Indian life): as a mixture of the national clichés that are known all over the world and the images of longing that Bollywood films project on to the Swiss Alpine meadows. "Bollywood. The Indian Cinema and Switzerland is a Museum für Gestaltung exhibition based on a joint research project with the Seminar for Film Studies at the University of Zurich. It uses clips from films, stills, photographs, posters, models and clay figures to illustrate how the emotional landscape called "Switzerland" has been constructed in the Indian cinema - a landscape that we think we know so well, and that we can in fact rediscover from scratch in this exhibition. Edition Museum für Gestaltung Zürich is publishing an illustrated reader to accompany the exhibition. The research project was made possible by funds from the Gebert Rüf foundation.
Bollywood - Das Indische Kino und die Schweiz, Edition Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Ein illustriertes Lesebuch, ISBN 3-907065-95-6, CHF 50.-