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Baz Luhrmann, the Australian-born director of the 2001 Oscar-nominated Moulin Rouge, says he was inspired to make a musical when he watched a Bollywood film on a trip he took to India with his wife. The resulting piece of work is infused with a distinct masala flavor and generously borrows from Bollywood in the styling of lavish production numbers. Luhrman, knowing the limited attention span of Western audiences, kept the film's running time to a respectable hour and a half.

Some of the director's Bollywood touches are obvious: the romance, the melodrama, the costumes, the heroine's jewel-encrusted elephant apartment, the Indian-themed climactic production number. But consider some of the subtler elements. Luhrman throws musical styles, locations and time periods at his canvas like Jackson Pollack throws paint at his. Characters drop out of nowhere and break into song. The greasy, mustachioed villain is a caricature of evil and the star-crossed lovers stare into each others eyes with gooey longing.

What's most striking about this film's success is the way Luhrmann has respectfully and lovingly drawn from the Bollywood tradition and, at the same time, captured the rapt attention of the Western masses.
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