Sunday, 28 January 2007

Bollywood redeemed

Hi, this is Smeeta Smitten, Shobiz kitten...sorry. I just couldn't leave everyone with the impression that yesterday's grim video is what Bollywood is all about.

I grew up watching Bollywood films; my father owned at least 250 and could have started a video shop of his own on the side. My weekend memories are of sitting in front of the India of the 40s and 50s, with Dilip Kumar and Madhubala onscreen, and songs sung by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle (see Brett video below).

Tragic, funny, happy, angry, religious - but always big: in scope, in feeling, in dance numbers. That's what Bollywood is for me. Camp? Of course. It grew up during the time of big musicals, and it was trying to imitate the West. But it always had passion.

Since my parents gave modern Bollywood movies short shrift and scorned most current actors and playback singers, my post-1965 Bollywood awareness is sparse: "Khubsoorat" (Beautiful), "Silsila" (Conflict) and "Muqadar ka Sakandar" (Sakandar's fortune/fate). I spent a lot of my young adulthood turning my back on my subcontinental heritage, hating the arranged marriages, oppression of women, petty arguments between Muslim and Hindu. I wanted nothing to do with it - ever.

About 5 years ago, this film "Khabhi Khushi Khabhi Gham" (Sometimes joy, sometimes sadness) hit the bigtime, not just in India, but around the world. I walked past posters for it, rolling my eyes, thinking, "Oh for God's sake," in the tone I reserve for people who take 15 items in the checkout lane expressly marked for 5.

"White boy" (see "Racism on the cricket ground") was the first to talk it up to me. I knew and trusted him, but wasn't sure yet. He was praising it to the high heavens (still does), but... Finally, CJ and Ali invited me round to their college, sat me down and made me watch. All the elements were there: the unsuitable love match, the parents not giving in, the younger sibling searching, big dance numbers. I laughed, I cried, I complained about pastel coloured saris and the lack of a male equivalent to the trademark "wet sari" scene... and I loved it. This was *my* Bollywood, not my parents'. *MY* actors, actresses, playback singers, not theirs. On that night, I began to claim Bollywood - and my heritage - for my own.

And so, I give you a taste of the real Bollywood. Camp, with a big heart. I love the cheeky actress in red - Kajol - who dismisses the boys when they compare her beauty to the moon. The three main men are all hot, and, by Rama, can they dance (especially Hrithik, the *really* hot one)...and they're straight. Indian dress, Indian dancing, and not a bad Aussie hairdo in sight.



Anonymous said...

Hrithik is the younger one with the green eyes? Yeah, he is hot!

The other brother reminds me of a subcontinental Jeremy Sisto, at least back in his Clueless days. Strange. I don't like the younger sister, though - or that they've put her in pink. (It's better than the yellow stuff in the Brett film. What is it with the weird colours?)

I have essentially no understanding of what is going on, and the normal conventions of space appear to have been suspended, but I've still watched this thing thrice already. There's something hallucinatory about it that makes it mesmerising.

And yes, she'enedra, my soundtrack arrives on Wednesday.


Reiza said...

The more I hear, the more I think I would be absolutely fascinated by Bollywood flicks.

Okay, this does it. I will watch one and I will do it soon. Where do I start, though? Any recomendations?

Irim said...

Hi, girls!

Ari - Yeah, that's Hrithik. You need to see the whole film to see the dance number in which he looks *boneless*, he's so flexible. Enjoy the soundtrack!!

Reiza - Hi!! Welcome over here; it's really good to see you! As for Bollywood, I'd start with this very film: it made it big in England and parts of the U.S., I think, and the story is very accessible, and the musical numbers are loads of fun. The transliteration varies, but the one I'm familiar with is "Khabhi Khushi, Khabhi(e) gham":

There has to be somewhere you can rent it from, though - a lot of Indian sari/fabric stores double as video rentals.

Keep me posted, let me know what you think!!


Anonymous said...

I broke down yesterday and ordered the DVD, after watching the video another three times.


Terribly addictive, this stuff.

She'enedra, could you put the link to the transliteration-with-translation you found somewhere on here?


Irim said...

My preferred transliteration/translation is here:


Irim said...

Hi, I feel like a bit of a Bollywood maniac posting this, but I think you should see the title track, which occurs fairly early on in the film.

It's Diwali, and they're starting the rites whilst the elder son is rushing home. Just to warn you, she draws a sunwise svastika on the tray and puts dots in it as is the Hindu tradition - I know you know it's a holy symbol, but just to warn you.

Here it is with translation and transliteration below:!81BB1E0FAABBC113!796.entry


Anonymous said...

I may yet be converted to Bollywood, as far as watching this particular film is concerned. Mind you, my computer kept on playing the stop-start-stop-start game with me when I tried to watch the clip so thoughtfully provided...

Oh well, it was certainly better than lesson planning for Year Six English...