Part 1: Julie’s Introduction to Bollywood, or Surviving the Blockbuster, K3G

[Jenny K’s Note:  The first several parts of the diablog, are in fact, a recap of the cinema adventures I put Julie through over the past four months. About mid-July, I thought, “Some of these posts are really helpful as a sort of primer for anyone wanting to know what to watch next and where to find it.” It also was a good emerging forum for critiquing them, because as new as Julie is to it, she has a real, informed opinion on them, and isn’t afraid to voice them when she doesn’t agree. I, usually, stick to my guns, and will defend my melodramas to the last sniffle. So, I’m hoping you’ll get different points of view in many cases. Do feel free to jump in and voice your opinions in the comments as often as you like. Friendly disagreement is appreciated here. Unfriendly ones will be sent back to the sender for “re-editing,” if you know what I mean.]

Julie M’s Note:  Being completely inexperienced in the ways of Bollywood I picked my first video up at my local library, which surprisingly has a pretty decent collection. If you live in a large metro area with any kind of Indian population, check the holdings of your system because it’s a free way to start the addiction. Why this particular movie? I first became interested in Bollywood through the music. I adored A.R. Rahman’s work on Slumdog Millionaire and found some music videos randomly on YouTube. When I discovered Jenny’s addiction I first asked her to recommend some great numbers, and she responded with LOTS and LOTS of links. As it happened, the ones I liked best were from Dil Se so I requested it from the library. Unbeknownst to me, Jenny had meanwhile sent me a gift of three videos: Dil Se, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and a compilation DVD starring Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) in remixes and original numbers from his movies. So we were thinking along the same lines.

Julie M:  Hey–just wanted you to know that I watched Dil Se tonight. Pretty weird…not “Bollywood” as I would have expected it, and B [Julie’s husband and occasional viewing companion, at home] thought it was too long. Kind of started out “typical” but got way serious and then the ending! OK…so what’s next, o Bollywood guide?

Jenny K: Oh dear…if he thought Dil Se was too long…don’t let him watch Kabhi Khushie Kabhie Gham…it’s well over three hours. Some people, not used to the length, watch it to the intermission and do the next half on another day 🙂 After you get used to it, it’s hard to go back to the ninety minute format here in the US. I like spending more time with the characters getting to know them.

You did get the other two DVDs didn’t you? I haven’t actually seen the video compilation one, but it looked decent and it was actually in stock…I will say that the last quarter of the list seemed to be videos that SRK wasn’t even in, so I was confused about why they put them in the set. [Note: This is a common problem on compilations, whether DVD or Audio. The CDs, especially are shorter than an average US album, and so there is often filler at the end of the songs from the movie. If you’re lucky, it’s songs from other movies that the star has been in, but that’s not a given.]

Hope you liked Dil Se…It’s one of my favorites, weird or not. It isn’t typical, and didn’t do very well at home in India because the ending wasn’t happy, but for me, if his obsession had ended happily with her dumping her cause and marrying him, having a family and 3.5 kids…well, it just wouldn’t have been the right ending. K3G is much more the typical musical melodrama. The video you liked (I think) with Shah Rukh soaking wet in the shadow of the pyramids is from that one.

Julie M: Did like Dil Se. And you’re right–[Spoilers: highlight to view] it couldn’t have ended with him getting her. But I kind of was hoping he would end up with Preeti after Meghna had completed her mission, and gotten some kind of happiness out of life anyway.  [end of spoilers]

I did not get the other 2 DVDs. ??? forgot what they were…but I just requested K3G from my library. Our system has a lot of Bollywood DVDs–huge Indian community here. Is Om Shanti Om any good? Is that one considered “Bollywood 300-level” because it makes fun of Bollywood? and should I wait until I complete the 101 course before I attempt it??

Jenny K: Okay, K3G,  from what B said when I spoke with him today, I’m not sure that he’ll like it…it’s very melodramatic. I like the ups and downs, it’s like the old pot-boilers of the 50’s. My mom was a Shah Rukh fan and she liked his storyline, but didn’t like the younger son storyline…I make exceptions because Hrithik who plays the younger son, grown up, is so handsome and SUCH a good dancer that I can put up with the AWFUL clothes they often put him in. And it’s even longer than Dil Se… so you might want to make it a two-nighter, breaking it at the intermission.

Pretty funny that you picked the same film that I sent you! No wonder that we were both confused…As to Om Shanti Om…it could stand alone, but I might watch a few more before you tackle it, because the inside jokes will make more sense. Also, it’s almost too melodramatic, in my opinion.

For others that you should see first, Omkara (for B) is an adaptation of Othello set in the millieu of the gangs of the Indian countryside…great music. Also, Taal with Aishwarya Rai (“The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”, TMBWITW for short) is a tad clichéd, plot-wise, about a country girl who falls in love with a rich city boy, and how she loses him and gets him back, but if you haven’t seen too many, you won’t mind the clichés much. I drove all the way to Urbana to see it at Ebertfest one year…gorgeous music, people, scenery. Dil Chahta Hai is a three-guy buddy picture dealing with their growing up and romantic travails…set in Bombay, Goa and Sydney, Australia. Lagaan is another picture that I liked set in the upper western countryside in the late 1800’s about farmers that form a cricket team to beat out the local British soldier’s team to save the village from paying exorbitant taxes. It was up for a best foreign film Oscar back in 2001 or 2002, not sure which. Didn’t win, but it was how I was introduced to Indian film. Kal Ho Naa Ho is another wonderful weepie with Shah Rukh, that has some great visuals and lovely numbers. One I’ve introduced lots of friends to Bollywood with.

There are more, but that will do for a start. I will warn you that most libraries have Asoka in their Shah Rukh collections and I’d wait to see it unless you’re up for a laugh. He looks great in it with the hair extensions and the bare chest and all, but it’s sort of Conan the Barbarian, the Musical, masquerading as early Indian History. Goofy fun and all, but pretty hard to swallow, until you’re ready for it, in my opinion.

[after the long weekend]

Jenny K:  So how did you survive Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham? I’m betting B couldn’t handle it…it’s more of a girl’s guilty pleasure thing, I’ve found. If you didn’t like it, it’s okay to tell me. Some people find it too melodramatic, and Dil Se is more memorable as a full film, but K3G has lots of fun moments, I find, and lots of fun actors that you’ll be seeing a lot of if you keep going in this. Almost everyone in it is a film star in his/her own right, it was a sort of Superstar Glut for Indian film. I’ll be interested in your opinion. How you react will tell me what I recommend next…if you haven’t overdosed on all of it 🙂

Julie M:  Liked it with the following comments:  It’s pretty melodramatic. WAY too much drama in some moments, but it was an interesting insight into Indian culture and mindset particularly among the obscenely wealthy. (I found that on my DVD player I could speed up 2X, still see the subtitles and get the facial expressions, and zoom through the particularly sappy scenes) Some really cool songs. B liked the big dance numbers from an aesthetic perspective but blanked out on the storyline. Hrithik Roshan is too beautiful to be believed and a way better dancer than SRK. Amitabh Bhachan plays the stern dad very well but he’s a terrible dancer. The Anjali character was adorable. I hated the Pooja character–way too shallow–and she never really redeemed herself enough to have the Rohan character believably fall in love with her. And SRK seems to get wet in pretty much all of his films, right? (He showed way too much sappy face in this film–not a good look for him, he seems to do better as the rakish adventurer)

So here is the deal. Recommend me films that are not this melodramatic and don’t have so much of “the formula.” I like great costuming and scenery and great dance music. And the unusual–surprise me!

Jenny K:  I see you got all the good bits and didn’t fall for the drivel. An astute viewer. Still and all, every BollyViewer has to have seen this one. I stand by most of the ones that I recommended before (which have disappeared from my message list, for some unfathomable reason, so I can’t review them) but perhaps you should save Taal for some day when you are home with a cold and can handle another dose of the melodramatic….no, it’s not quite as melodramatic as K3G, but it’s really beautiful, and the music is so amazing that you should see it sometime. Kal Ho Naa Ho, I loved, especially the first time I saw it, but the end is way too weepy, I’m guessing. It’s set in NYC and stars SRK with Preeti from Dil Se again.

Best bets on my original list for you are:
–In a period historical mood: Lagaan
–In a modern romantic dramedy mood: Dil Chahta Hai
–In a crime thriller/tragedy mood: Omkara
–In an oddball political statement movie hiding in what starts like an Indian Shirley Temple movie mood (lots of little kids singing…doesn’t go on like that, trust me): Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek) by Mani Ratnam, the director of Dil Se…
–In a mindless gazing at Hrithik Roshan dancing mood: I’d try Dhoom 2, he looks absolutely gorgeous, and dances like a dream, and actually develops screen chemistry with Aishwariya Rai (in my opinion, a first for both of these dancing stars).   But I qualify it, as not a traditional film, but pretty modern; it’s a “young people’s caper flick” lots of skin, quite a bit of slapstick sidekick stuff, and some of the silliest, tongue in cheek crime capers you’ll ever see. Especially the one on the train…I still can’t understand how/why they could use it with a straight face.

Best of luck, intrepid viewer 🙂 I’m proud of you and B, both for making it through K3G!

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