Mukti

Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani

Posted in Bollywood, movies, music, Rights, South Asia by jrahman on March 9, 2020

It was one of the first Bollywood movies to play in a mainstream theatre in our small town, and it seemed that the Desi communities — note the plurals — in its teeming multitudes had showed up, including the bunch I hung out with at the university.  This was over a decade before smart phones and ubiquitous social media.  We had the internet though, and MTV, so some of my friends knew the songs, and someone told me that I might like it, because it’s very political.

I don’t remember why, but I was a bit late and this had already started:

Trying to sit down in the dark, I heard one of the less-Hindi savvy guys ask — Ei ta ki Nazma Salma gaitese (What is this Nazma-Salma they are singing?).  Na bhaiya, Nazma-Salma na, naghma-kalma, you know, he is saying, she is my music and kalima — the girl-next-seat helpfully explained.  As for me, I kept wondering well into the intermission when the hot train dancer would reappear!

Dil Se is on Netflix and happened to be playing during a recent wine-filled late night adda.  I didn’t exactly watch it, hard to do so under the circumstances as you might understand, but it did make me think about how the movie has aged over the years, and yet perhaps is relevant than ever.  It all made me depressed.

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Stranger things

Posted in Bollywood, culture, movies by jrahman on January 22, 2017

If Shakespeare was writing it today, Hamlet might well have said to his friend Horatio that there are stranger things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.  Strangers in strange lands, that is how many of us feel about the world we live in.  Being a quantitative, analytical person using well established frameworks and models to make sense of the world, I can not possibly think of a stranger thing than the reality of President Trump.

No.  That’s not right.

I can think of far stranger things.  Stranger things that are far more uplifting than politics.  What is strange but that which is difficult to explain?  What is then stranger than how people fall in, after failing in and falling out of, love?

Falling in love, that’s dime a dozen, though romantic tragedies are bigger hits than happily-ever-afters.  Falling out of love, that’s rarer, definitely not quite your standard traditional Bollywood fair.  Love outside loveless marriage — that only used to happen in arty stuff starring Shabana Azmi.  Except for that Big B vehicle to extricate himself from a real life triangle, how many mainstream Bollywood pics  about extramarital affair can you think of?

Of course, traditions change.  Bollywood changed forever with Dil Chahta Hai.  And what better way to show that than through how love and marriage are treated in two Karan Johar directed Shah Rukh Khan starrers named after yesteryear hits?

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The love song

Posted in Bollywood, movies, music by jrahman on June 7, 2016

Love stories tend to be boring because they tend to end in rather predictable ways.  And yet, from Radha-Krishna and Laila-Majnu to Romeo-Juliet and, because we aren’t unaffected by Bollywood, Amitabh-Rekha, our imaginations are captured by love stories.

Yes, that last sentence is a derivative of something from Midnight’s Children.  Salman Rushdie, of course, drew inspiration from the famous Bollywood romance for his infamous Satanic Verses filmstar-gone-crazy who was haunted by his jilted lover Rekha Merchant.  Then there is the Shashi Tharoor novel about the rise and fall and apotheosis of the matinee idol Amitabhshok Bachchanjara, with a many pages on his off screen romance.

It’s fitting then that the last movie to star Bollywood’s most famous couple is a tale of socially ostracised love, which also happens to have one of the best love songs to come out of Bombay.  The Bachchan monologue — I often wonder with my solitude what if you were here — tells us that it’s a sad song.  But it’s the multiple possibilities and nuances of the female perspective — rendered sublimely by Lata Mungeshkar — that makes the song what it is.

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