The mendhi design I got at a recent Bollywood event (serendipitously occurring right as I'm obsessed with Bollywood). The temporary pigment stain comes from crushed up henna leaves combined with oils and other ingredients. I stood in line for almost two hours waiting for this so I was sad it wasn't as good as other mendhi designs I've gotten before. But I had to give the woman a break. She'd done at least 50 other designs that night.
While I was waiting my turn I had fun watching the crowds dance and picking out Bollywood songs the DJ played that I recognized.
The music, the dancing, the melodramatic acting ...
Bollywood movies have been a favorite escape for me since college, when several dormmates would show Indian movies during weekly movie nights. My first Bollywood movie was the Academy Award-nominated "Lagaan," which is set during British colonial-rule and focuses on Indian villagers taking on their local British authorities during a cricket match in order to not pay a ridiculously high lagaan, or tax. Plus there is a romance, because what is a Bollywood movie without a love story ... and many musical numbers with huge casts ... and a three-hour running time?
I think my love of Bollywood is really an extension of my love of musicals. I grew up adoring the Rodgers and Hammerstein films and MGM spectaculars. If I wasn't reading, you could find my 8-year-old self watching "Easter Parade" with my grandma, dancing in front of the TV to "Fan Tan Fanny," or belting out "Oh What Beautiful Morning." I was always an odd child.
Photo credit: DeaQuartet.co.uk
After falling out of favor, musicals have made a semi-comeback in Hollywood thanks to films like "Moulin Rouge" and "Chicago." But Bollywood has always been about the singing and dancing. To some American viewers, the plots and acting of some of the films might seem implausible. How exactly did that dancing couple suddenly get transported to a meadow in Switzerland?
I don't care. I find the fantasy of Bollywood irresistible. When I need to be carried away, a Bollywood flick will do that. I know that India is not just like the epic, glitter-strewn country depicted in its movies, just as the U.S. is not same as it is often depicted in Hollywood movies. But, from my non-expert eyes, the whole point of Bollywood seems to be embracing the celebratory aspects of Indian culture, allowing people to forget about their cares and be swept away by their emotions. I think that's what any good movie does.
Like it did last year, my local art museum recently had a Bollywood week, and I went and saw nine hours of Bollywood - "Om Shanti Om," "Veer-Zaara" and "Dhoom 2." So right now I'm a Bollywood addict. I've scoured YouTube looking for Bollywood clips, read Wikipedia entries on the history of Indian cinema, and topped off my Netflix queue with several Hindi movies.
However, I think I may need to taper off soon. I've caught myself quietly singing Hindi songs as I walk to the gym, dreamt of Hrithik Roshan walking in slow-mo towards me as a catchy whistling tune plays in the background, and teared up at the thought of being separated from my one true love for more than two decades because he's been falsely imprisoned defending my honor. I could be reaching the overload point. That's OK. The next time I need a singing/dancing/drama fix, I'll turn to Netflix.
Enough of my describing Bollywood. Here's "Maahi Ve," a wedding lovesong in "Kal Ho Naa Ho" that makes my heart jump every time I hear it. I especially love it when Shahrukh Khan (or really the person that does his singing) shouts out "Everybody Sing!" You'll probably want to as well after watching it.
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Movies: Shawshank Redemption, Amelie, Rushmore, The King of Kong, Grosse Pointe Blank, American Beauty, Gigi (NOT Gigli), North and South (BBC), Mostly Martha, Casablanca, Good Will Hunting, Monsoon Wedding, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Clue, Bollywood films