bollywood 101

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I was requested by Deanna to do a Bollywood post, and being the self proclaimed unofficial biggest American Bollywood fan, I would never pass up such a request. So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here is your Cliff's Notes lesson in Bollywood!

If you love musicals, you would love Bollywood. As the name suggests, it is South Asia's version of Hollywood. But as Hollywood puts out a few hundred movies a year, Bollywood puts out over 1000! Granted, many, many of these movies are not up to the standard of Hollywood movies. Actually, I would say only a small percentage are, and even then, if you are a realist when movie-watching, you would pick them all to shreds.

The plots are usually shallow, unrealistic, and full of flaws. The dialogue can sometimes be cheesy. The acting and effects are over-dramatized. But if you can learn to look beyond that, you will discover the beauty these films have to offer. First of all, the settings and costumes are usually gorgeous, and several directors have learned how to play on the colors and scenery around the plot. Fanaa, for example, does a great job with this. In one song and dance sequence, the characters dance through historic monuments, and celebrate a patriotic holiday (pictured left), and then in another song, the backdrop is the stunning Himalayas, which shows the heroine dancing in a red lehenga amid falling red and gold leaves. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, one song plays on the colors of the main characters in New York and the strangers around them (pictured right). It's a feast for the eyes, even if you can't stand their voices.

Yes, the movies are long, but they are full of songs and dancing. This is by far my favorite part of the movies! South Asians can dance, y'all! And not just the women, but the men, too. All you gotta do is watch the fluid-like movements of Hrithik Roshan (main dancer in white in the above clip) and you will be entranced. I would give almost anything to be a dancer in a well choreographed Bollywood movie!

Most movies are based in South Asia, but some have scenes or entire settings in New York, London, Australia, etc. Some show the characters as traditional South Asians, wearing only saris and having arranged marriages. Others show them as modern characters, having Western friends and wearing jeans. But they all seem to have at least some bit of culture in them, which is something I really enjoy as well.

So Bole Chudiyan, the song and dance above, is a good way to tiptoe into Bollywood. You have the beautiful setting and costumes, and a small lesson in a cultural celebration of a karva chauth festival; you have a young love story between Kareena Kapoor (girl in pink) and Hrithik; you have the Indian wife nagging the husband with Kajol (girl in red) and Shahrukh Khan (other guy in white, but with gray scarf); you have the over dramatization with Hrithik's tears and fantasy-sequence of his family's reunion; and last of all, you have Amitabh Bachchan (the older guy with the white goatee), or Big B, as he is called here. He is by far the biggest name in Bollywood, followed by Shahrukh Khan.

My favorite movie is Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which this song and dance is from. If you're gonna watch one Bollywood movie in your entire life, I'd definitely suggest this one! Just give yourself some time - it's over 3 hours long. Don't worry - DVD's have subtitles.

There is so much more I can say, but like I said, this is the Cliff's Notes version. So here are some fun facts about Bollywood:

  • Many writers/directors will give their movies auspicious names according to pundits. This is why most of Karan Johar's films start with a K and have 4 words.
  • Sometimes the actors will even keep the same character names because the previous film did well. For example, Shahrukh Khan and Kajol play love interests in both Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and KKKG - and in both films, their names are Rahul and Anjali.
  • Kajol is Karan Johar's lucky mascot. That's why she shows up randomly in some songs even if she's not in the film.
  • Kajol and SRK are my favorites! (pictured left)
  • Husband likes Priyanka Chopra and Hrithik Roshan the best.
  • Aishwarya Rai (pictured right with husband Abhishek Bachchan) has been on Oprah a few times. Oprah calls her the most beautiful woman in the world. She is beautiful, but more importantly, I think her manager was a genius.
  • At the time, Aishwarya told Oprah she would never kiss onscreen. Last fall, she kissed Hrithik Roshan onscreen in Dhoom:2.
  • My sis-in-law told me that when Abhi and Aish were planning their wedding earlier this year, it was such big news that even Us Weekly put them in the magazine. They called them the Brangelina of Bollywood!
  • Most of the time, the voices during songs are not that of the actors. But sometimes they do their own, like when Abhishek rapped Right Here, Right Now in Bluffmaster.

Now, check out the video!


SouthAsiaRocks said...

hahaha! fun post :) I didn't know that Kajol was Karan's lucky charm... very interesting :)
My personal fave bollywood film is Lagaan! (and if any guys are reading this, it's a sports movie :)) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osdqmItpo9M
haha! fun post! :) Very informative :)

S. Domino said...

Hey- I've seen Kabi Khushi Tushi or whatever it's called. It WAS good. Hmm...video made me want to watch it again. This time I will attempt it in 2 settings instead of all at once like last time.

Laura said...

Hey great blog! Lots of stuff I didn't know about bollywood movies. You are quite the expert! My sisters visited me last week and I got them totally hooked on bollywood movies. They bought several to take back! So much fun.

Deanna said...

Thanks! That is so GREAT!!! You totally weren't kidding about the men being such good dancers. I have an informal list of things I'd like to do before I die and I think I'll have to add 'being an extra in a Bollywood film to the list'. Seeing things like this only reaffirm that my culture must be the tightly wound, inhibited and most-rhythmically challenged on the planet... and I say that with love as I'm one of them:) Thanks so much for sharing!!! This made my day!

alittlewater said...

you are so cute! i miss you guys! life is crazy here and there is alot to adjust to but i'm making it. i have been thinking you and the baby & how you are? please send me the address so i can keep up. i know you told me before but i forgot the address.

ok, lots of love!

Jessica said...

YEAH, I was there from 2003 to 2005; 2nd wave of Tajers, first to move into the house....which means I have fond memories of scrubbing the rooms before initial move-in. :)
I love your Bollywood lesson! :) I miss Shah Rukh, Bachchan, Kajol. It's so much fun!

Anonymous said...

Good article. You seem to have the ability to tolerate 3 hours of bollywood and survive to say nice things about it. Being from India, I find that hard to do myself. I am however surprised by the lack of mention of the movies Lagaan or Rang De Basanti. Both star Aamir Khan and have story lines that are actually enjoyable. The latter lacks the dance sequences you like but boasts some pretty good music. Aamir Khan's movies usually have some thought put into them.
You should check out:
Dil Chahta Hai
Rang De Basanti
I'm sure you'll enjoy them.

valerie said...

this almost makes me want to watch one...almost...

Mom said...

I don't care how much you write about Bollywood, it is NOT going to make me sit down and finish watching KKKG unless someone ties me up and sits on me. If you ever get to dance in one of the movies as an extra, then I will willingly watch!!

Love you.

Aarmel said...

Love this post!!! For those of you who don't like Bollywood movies - check out Don....honestly, best Bollywood movie ever!!!

Anonymous said...

I think this is my first post to your blog, but I just have to say, That playa' got some serious game in the video clip. Them SA's can really boogy down. I am impressed. Here is what I would like to see- instead of the women on one side and the men on the other dancing, we put all the SA's on one side and then the other side is a bunch of Sengalese and then you let them through down and dance until the last person is standing. I would pay a lot of $$ to see that.
--Erik Amick

E-Rob said...

HAHA!! Erik that made me laugh out loud.