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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.
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