The Blog: Bollywood Edition
In no particular order:
Dil To Pagal Hai ("The Heart Is Crazy"). This movie contained a lot of silly stuff about fate, a very silly ending, and some spectacularly silly scenes of people frolicking in fields, including a few places where Madhuri Dixit throws herself to the ground with romantic abandon, except that every time, it looks like she just tripped, so you're worried, until you realize that she is prostrate due to being enraptured rather than injured. Despite all that silliness, three things in this movie charmed me completely. (1) It's a movie about a dance troupe; consequently, the dancing is really, really good. (2) By the end of the movie, I just adored the character of Nisha (played by Karisma Kapoor). There's a scene where she's angry with god and yells at the sky; I loved it, and also loved Rahul for being such a good friend to her (a lot of people in his situation wouldn't be). (3) The song/dance "Koi Ladki Hai" wins the prize for cuteness, in addition to which, it demonstrates one of my favorite things about Bollywood movies: they use monsoons to great dramatic effect ^_^. Watch it here -- really, do -- and as you watch it, keep in mind these lyrics. The children sing: "With the gait of a horse, with the majesty of an elephant, O king of the rains, where are you from?" The guy sings: "I know a girl, when she smiles, it rains." The girl sings: "I know a boy, when he sings it rains." So cute! I especially love the part where they go to the hospital to cheer up Nisha, who sneaks out against her doctors' orders. I... can't explain the part where they roll Shah Rukh Khan back and forth on a table. Just... don't ask me. This movie is directed by Yash Chopra and stars Karisma Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan, and Madhuri Dixit.
this dance at the best engagement party ever. This movie is directed by Nikhil Advani and stars Preity Zinta, Shah Rukh Khan, and Saif Ali Khan.
Chalte Chalte ("While Walking"). This movie is funny and surprisingly sweet-but-not-too-sweet. It includes a moment I love love LOVE when the man, Raj, is crying, and the woman, Priya, goes to him to see what's wrong. His response: "I just felt like crying." One thing I love about Bollywood is that tears are not a sign of weakness. Strong people, both men and women, are always crying. And then they get up and do strong things, just like a lot of frequent criers do in real life. I just love this! Chalte Chalte is directed by Aziz Mirza and stars Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji (whose name I've seen transliterated in various ways: Mukherjee, Mukherji, Mukerjee).
gorgeous and dramatic scene that is peppered with the world's most hilarious subtitled lyrics. For example, "A besotted lover has appeared at your door" and "Your love story has reached a critical juncture." I don't know how accurate these translations are, or, if accurate, whether the sentiment is as funny/sweet in Hindi as it is in English -- in this sense, the movie I watch will always be different from the movie a Hindi-speaker watches -- but the surprising use of language is one of the things I love about these movies. It's especially touching when a dramatic or sad scene is awkwardly expressed in the English subs. Somehow, the feeling still comes across and lodges itself in my heart even as I'm laughing. With Veer-Zaara, I'm not kidding about the beauty and the drama -- this movie is sad and powerful (and very, very long. I mean, they're all long, but some feel longer than others). This movie is directed by Yash Chopra and stars Shah Rukh Khan (in the role of Veer), Preity Zinta (in the role of Zaara), and Rani Mukerji (IMO, in the role of the hero!).
wikipedia article is interesting. Apparently Swades it was well-received critically in India but a flop at the box office. There seems to be ambivalence. Anyway, I liked the characters and relationships.
And finally. FINALLY! Are you ready for this?
Om Shanti Om. Oh, my word. I don't even know where to start. If you're only ever going to watch one Bollywood movie, watch this one. If you're going to watch a few, watch this one last so that you're better able to get the inside jokes. This movie is about the Bollywood film industry -- it takes place on Bollywood film sets -- and as such, it parodies its own art form. This gives the movie license to be even MORE over the top and even MORE ridiculous than these movies usually are. It's hilarious, it's completely sweet, it's beautiful and flashy, and when you buy the DVD, it comes with this hysterical foldout poster of a shirtless Shah Rukh Khan that I don't know what to do with because I'm no longer in high school and therefore don't have a locker. This movie is awesome. There are no words. And there are a few specific things about it that make me really happy. For example, it was directed by a kickass woman, Farah Khan (who directed Main Hoon Na, which I've plugged here before). Also, in this movie's item number (follow the link for a definition), instead of the usual item girl slinking around pointlessly, there's an item boy, and gracious me, he embraces his item-ness with the appropriate fervor. This movie, and especially that song/dance I just linked to, could be the dictionary definition for "over the top." Some of the lyrics: "There was a time when flowers were blooming all around.... What a time, when I was drunk on youth! But that time was short and I got hurt. Now I'm a wanderer, and a lover of disco, and as I wander around, my heart is full of the pain of disco. Pain of disco, pain of disco, my heart is full of the pain of disco!" When I watched it with a friend last week, she kept saying "OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD." If you watch the dance, be sure to appreciate the "earth-wind-water-fire" theme. The special features are also worth watching, and are even subtitled, so you won't get a headache from people switching from Hindi to English and back again five times in the course of a single sentence. Watch the bloopers. It's really funny to see SRK cracking up while filming "Dard e Disco." Oh -- and in Om Shanti Om, unlike in Billu, all the reference to the actual lives of SRK and of many other real-life actors feel completely adorable and appropriate, rather than distracting. And the fate stuff that's so common in Bollywood movies and often has me rolling my eyes -- that also fit perfectly into this movie. Directed by Farah Khan, starring SRK and introducing Deepika Padukone, who I thought did a wonderful job. WATCH THIS MOVIE.
(Relatedly, my friend and fellow writer Sarah Prineas just got back from India and has a fun Om Shanti Om-related story -- read about it here. ^_^)
Goodness, this post is so long. I was going to mention more movies (there are some really important ones I haven't mentioned yet!) and also list some of the books I'm reading, but I've already been going on for way too long, so I'll merely mention the book sitting next to me at this very moment: The Cinematic ImagiNation: Indian Popular Films as Social History, by Jyotika Virdi. I'm trying to educate myself so that I can better understand what I'm watching. I have no doubt that I'll post about Bollywood again. And next time, it probably won't be All Shah Rukh All The Time. He has been my gateway drug, but I've got a bunch of movies in my queue now that star other people. I solemnly swear that this is true.
Penultimately, a disclaimer: the term "Bollywood" makes a lot of people unhappy. It's a name that wasn't chosen by the industry itself -- I've read in the Virdi book and elsewhere that it was invented by the Indian English press -- and as such, it sort of suggests that Bollywood is Hollywood's poor cousin, or its imitator, or that Bollywood's identity depends, in some large way, on Hollywood, none of which are true. Unfortunately, the term has stuck and is used now by the industry itself. So I use it, too, for lack of another term, and as a shortcut for the Mumbai film industry.
And finally: here are a couple rare moments of (adorable) joy from Devdas. The first is a song called "Chalak Chalak." It basically extols the merits of madeira (sample line: "this madeira showers a rain of memories"), it's sung by Udit Narayan, Vinod Rathod and Shreya Ghoshal, and it's danced here by SRK (as Devdas), Jackie Shroff (as Devdas's friend Chunnilal), and Madhuri Dixit (as Chandramukhi).
And here are my strong women, one proper lady and one prostitute, finding friendship and joy in life. This song is called "Dola Re Dola," is sung by Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shreya Ghoshal and Kay Kay, and is danced here by Aishwarya Rai (as Paro) and Madhuri Dixit (as Chandramukhi).
How I love those ladies!