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Photographs and Text
© Jonathan Torgovnik

By Dirck Halstead

I want to tell you a story.

Many, many years ago, after I had covered the Vietnam War for United Press International, I was in Bombay, India, doing a story for Look Magazine. My supplies had been impounded by Indian customs, and I was whiling away the time waiting to get my film back, by lying in the sun on a resort beach.

I noticed a girl walking into the surf, fully clothed. She just kept walking, straight ahead into the sunset. Concerned, I swam out to her, just as she began to sink below the surface. This is not a hero story. I was 5"11, she was just over 5 feet, and the surf was an even 5"6.

I brought her back to shore. She was crying. I took her to my room, and tried to comfort her. She was broken-hearted. Her father figure, on whom she had a crush was a movie mogul. After promising her the world, he had cast her out from the studio. She was a movie star. Her name was Bambi. She took me down to the theatre district in Bombay, and there she was on posters. She was like Madonna to millions of adoring fans.

This was my introduction to the Indian film industry.

It is the biggest in the world. It turns out far more films than Hollywood, and in fact, most of the rest of the world combined (with the possible exception of China.) The movies are filled with romance, lust, action, and of course thousands of dancing maidens (generally being drenched by massive hoses.)

Young photographer Jonathon Targovnic, on a walk-about of the globe following his service in the Israel Defense Force, must have found himself on one of those same Bombay beaches, where the humid air is filled with jasmine, and currents of love.

He started to explore this incredible world of Indian film. Where as writer Edgar Allen Beem, writes in Photo District News." movie stars were treated like gods, where fans made pilgrimages to the graves of famous actors, where actors became political leaders, where millions of awestruck fans escaped the quiet desperation of their anonymous lives by projecting themselves into the blockbuster epics of love and violence, song and dance."

The Indian film industry is a photographer's dream, rich in color and imagery. And not a publicist in site.

Looking at his photographs, I am swept back into the heat of my youth.

And I wonder, what ever happened to Bambi?

© Dirck Halstead

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Bollywood: An Interview with Jonathan Torgovnik
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