Monday, January 12, 2009

Bollywood, Take Me Away

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:
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.


shelgo said...

I agree that it was fantastic, and containing myself from jumping up and dancing or walking slowly with the wind blowing my hair was nearly impossible.

If you look up the movie on Amazon; it's $52!

shelgo said...

"Your drunken gait... O God Almighty! Take my heart away!"

ap said...

How about these lyrics from a song in Veer-Zaara called "Do Pal"? The caravan of dreams stopped for a few moments,
and then where did you walk off, and where did I?
This story of hearts lasted only a few moments,
and then where did you go, and where did I?
Was that actually you, or was it a ray of light?
Was that actually you, or was it a smiling flowerbud?
Was that you, or was it the rain of dreams?
Was that you, or did a cloud of joy pass overhead?
Was that you, or did a flower bloom?
Was that you, or did I find a whole new world?
The caravan stopped for a few moments,
and then where did you walk off, and where did I?
This story of hearts lasted only a few moments,
and then where did you go, and where did I?"