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!


birthday party

We went to a good friends' birthday party last week. It was at their house about an hour and a half from ours, almost across the state border. They told us it started at 7pm, and we thought that meant South Asian time, so we left at 6:15. But they had already started the celebration by the time we got there! This family all received such joyful hearts a few years ago, and so of course the party started with wholehearted and jubilant music. It was so loud, we could hear it as we came down the street!

So this is what we arrived to:

I'm in here - can you find me?

What about husband? ;)

After the music and speaking (husband was asked to speak too) we gathered on their patio for ice cream, and sang "Happy Birthday" about 3 times!: Later, some guys even asked husband to show them how to play it on the guitar, so then we all sang it again! After cake, we had dinner and sat around and talked. I had lots of language practice that night! They wouldn't let husband and I leave without making us take home enough leftovers for a week.

And here is a little boy who was there that kept showing me his picture on his mom's camera phone: Something funny about South Asia (and East Africa too!) is that the people may not have a lot of money, but they always have nicer cell phones than us.


is that a breeze i feel?

This picture may seem weird, but it is a summertime milestone. Not only is our AC not on in the middle of the day, but our screen door is open, letting in a breeze! The high today was only 93 (heat index of 98). For about a week now, we've been sleeping with the AC on only about half the night. Is this really August weather? Two years ago, when we arrived in South Asia, we stayed the last half of August in the Capital, and I remember being miserably hot. Was it hotter then, or was I just adjusting from the "normal" weather of the States to the hot weather of South Asia? Either way, hopefully this week is indication of a light at the end of the tunnel!


kaun hai jo?

Kaun hai jo = Who are you? Well I think it means that anyway. There's a cheesy song on Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham with that title, so that's where I picked it up.

Every now and then, I get a comment on my blog from people I don't know. It's always fun and a big surprise because I figured I was lucky if my mom was still reading it. I have Sitemeter on my blog that shows where people are reading my blog, or who has referred them, etc. But there are many I don't know. Who's my Polish reader, my Seattle reader, my Florida reader? What about the Kentuckian, the Dallas-ite, and the Slovakian? I don't even really know who my hometown readers are.

I'm dying to know, so tell me...kaun hai jo?



Today is exactly 2 years since we arrived in South Asia. Has it really been 2 years already?

The boss has brought us through so many trials and triumphs, joys and fears, frustrations and achievements, grief and lessons learned, and good and bad situations. He is always faithful, and we know he will be with us through our remaining 10 months with this term, and the many trials and triumphs, etc, that will inevitably come.

I think today calls for a Top 10, don't you? Favorite South Asian Times of the Last 2 Years:

10. Finally getting a bb gun to arm ourselves against the monkeys.
9. October in the Himalayas.
8. Learning to converse, however badly, in another language. Better yet, learning to read and write in another script.
7. Mango season!
6. Watching Chini get all mad over the monkeys.
5. Dancing at the sangeet at the first wedding I attended here.
4. Discovering things that make life a little easier here in the Capital, like all the deliveries.

3. Visiting the grand palaces, historic monuments, forts, and ruins located all around this country.
2. Beginning my love affair with all things Bollywood.
1. Seeing lives that have been changed - both mine and nationals.


cultural thoughts

Jaya said something to me the other day that I found very interesting.

Her son is 13, and went on a class outing the other day to watch Spiderman 3. Funny, it never sounded weird until I just typed that a class outing would be a movie. Maybe it was for English class or something? I know their schools don't have air conditioners, so maybe it was just an excuse to sit in cool air for awhile. Anyway back to the story. After she told me they saw it, I remarked that I thought it was a good movie and asked what he had thought of it. Jaya looked a bit scandalized and said he had come home and told her that there had been much kissing in the film! She was so upset that their teachers had taken the students to watch a movie that had kissing in it! Not to mention it was a co-ed group. As I've mentioned before, Bollywood movies rarely have kissing in them. They will do things that are shocking to us as Westerners, like suggestive dances or kissing each others' necks. But apparently kissing on the mouth is worse, in their worldview. Jaya told me that she and her husband have been very careful to not let their son see movies with kissing, and so up until he was 13, he hadn't seen any of that. She said this is why he isn't allowed to watch English movies, because, to quote her, "I don't think Hollywood would know how to make a movie if there was no kissing in it." She herself rarely watches English movies because they embarrass her, even the ones, like Spiderman 3, that to us as Americans seem tame.

None of this really took me by surprise because I've grown accustomed to their ideas of modesty and public displays of affection. I was a little taken aback that Jaya's 13 year old had never seen a movie with kissing until last week, but even then, I wasn't shocked. But I thought about it later, and began wondering. I love South Asia and feel like I'm relatively adjusted by now. Things that bothered my American-ness at first arrival, I don't even bat an eye at now. But the one thing I still have a hard time with is the way many of the men stare here. I'm not an expert by any means, but in the few cultures I've traveled to - East Africa, a modern Arab country, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, Mexico, the US, and South Asia - I have never been stared at or harassed the way I have been in South Asia. I don't mean to put all men here down, but it is very noticeable.

I don't think there is an average family here, because the culture is too diverse for that. But Jaya's family isn't atypical, so I know her views are representative of many others. It makes me wonder then, if they don't even watch these so-called kissing movies, why the men here behave the way they do? They aren't exposed to these PDA's nearly as much as we are in the West - so why do they behave, in this particular way at least, worse than many other places in the world?

I don't have an answer for that. Any thoughts?


yes, i have a delivery order

Something really cool we have here in the Capital is that anyone and everyone delivers. Not just the pizza and Chinese food places, but we're talking the butcher, the Momo guy, McDonald's, Subway, and best of all, the grocer! I love that I can call up my little neighborhood market and order milk, eggs, bread, and oil, or something like that, and in 10 minutes it'll be in my kitchen. It's awesome! But, sometimes it doesn't work so easily. The wife of the man who owns the shop is always very frustrating to get on the phone. We can't figure it out - either she hates her job and rebels when we call, or she speaks one of the other national languages that we don't know. Usually after saying "hello?" three or four times (that's the South Asian way of saying, "I don't speak English.") she'll pass us on to her husband or one of the shop boys who understands our accent. But I learned yesterday that sometimes even that doesn't work. I was calling to order 10 eggs, dish soap called Pril, laundry detergent, milk, cheese, and juice. I've done this a thousand times before, and I also do it in their language (which I'm sure is heavily accented, but they can understand). This is how the conversation went:

Lady: Hello?
Me: Yes, hello, I have a delivery order.
Lady: Hello?
Me: Yes, hello, I have a delivery order.
Lady: Hello?
Me: (Pause) Delivery.
Lady: Yes?
Me: 10 eggs...
Lady: And?
Me: Pril.
Lady: What?
Me: Dish soap, Pril.
Lady: What?
Me: P-R-I-L.
Lady: V?
Me: No, P for Punjab.
Lady: C?
Me: P for Punjab.
Lady: D?
Me: No, no. Dish soap. Dish soap.
Lady: (shuffling noise as she hands the phone off)
Man: Hello?
Me: Yes, I have a delivery order.
Man: Yes?
Me: 10 eggs...
Man: And?
Me: Pril dish soap.
Man: What?
Me: Soap.
Man: Laril?
Me: No, not bathing soap. Dish soap.
Man: Bathing soap?
Me: No, not bathing soap. Dish soap.
Man: Ohh, dish soap.
Me: Yes sir.
Man: Dish soap?
Me: Yes, sir.
Man: You want dish soap?
Me: Yes.
Man: What kind?
Me: I don't care.
Man: What kind?
Me: Pril.
Man: Pril?
Me: Yes, sir.
Man: Anything else?
Me: No.

Haha. The milk, cheese, juice, and laundry detergent would have to wait another day.