I am a Bollywood child. I took a long time to be initiated to the world of Hollywood. And even longer to World movies, which by the way I still don’t think I am into, because somehow, it is tough for me to watch a movie where the lip sync is off, and I have to solely depend on subtitles. ‘Amelie’ was an exception but there is not much being said in the movie anyway, so I managed.
But Bollywood, I swear by. I was introduced to Bollywood movies at a very early age, and my mother’s favourite memory is of me accompanying extended family to watch Dimple Kapadia starrer ‘Saagar’, where while the whole cinema hall went into a silent stupor as the beautiful actress bathed in the sea, and then stepped out marginally clothed, I broke the magic of the moment by squealing “Yeh Aunty yahaan kyun naha rahi hai, inke ghar me bathroom nahi hai kya”? Google says I was 3 months short of turning three then, so yes, like I said, very early.
The love continued to grow, and my personal first memory of watching a movie in the cinema hall is ‘Mr. India’. The parody song which I went to learn in sequence and by heart then, remains etched in my memory till today. “Arun Bhaiyya” was a hero in my head, and “Mogambo” scared me shitless. The very cool aspect of going invisible and bonking horrible bald villains on their heads with Hanumanji’s statue, priceless. And of course, those many tears I shed when little Tina gets killed because of that bomb in the teddy bear, right there in my head. Then there was ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. While my sister insisted on watching the “Prem-Suman” movie every time the TV was switched on, I was now capable of admiring the squeaky voiced Bhagyashree’s , gauzy, frilly ‘frock’ from “Mere rang me”. That, and a lesson on how pigeons have a photographic memory, and they will hurt you back if you hurt them ever.
Post this, we moved cities, and my dad declared that we would no longer be visiting cinema halls, because they were not safe enough. So the only way we could watch new movies now was to rent a VCP, and two video cassettes for the day, and mostly, the print would be awful. But that didn’t deter us, and we would religiously watch whatever we had brought, scrunch our eyes to make out the outlines, try hard to listen to the dialogues, and eventually like the movie by default.That’s how I watched ‘Deewana’, feeling all smug that my namesake was perhaps the prettiest actress ever , ‘Bol Radha Bol’, where I couldn’t have enough of “Tu tu tara” and Juhi’s atrocious green and pink gaon-waali clothes, ‘Aankhen’ (oh-so-funny, look there is a monkey!), and ‘Hum hain Rahi Pyar ke’ (Wow! A south Indian character for the heroine, and she speaks good hindi, AND, wait for it, she is fair (Gasp!) Wait till my classmates watch this!) out of the top of my mind.
This went on for 3 years, and when ‘Jurassic Park’ released (Hindi me), my dad conceded to take us to a movie hall again. References to the “Badi Chipkali” apart, this was an awesome experience after a long time. And marked the beginning of a new era, where on random Sunday mornings, we would pester Dad for a movie, and then rush to “Mottai Uncle’s” place to pick up the day’s copy of ‘Dainik Jagaran’ for the movie listings.Then, we would all pile onto the scooter (later a shared ‘tempo’) and go to catch the pick of the day. This was invariably my choice, since the little sister pretty much accepted what I said. So there was a long barrage of Akshay Kumar movies, as now I had realized that you could actually fancy actors, and didn’t always have to root for how pretty the actresses were. And fancy Akki, I did. So a few good movies, and some really rotten movies later (I picked ‘Jai Kishan’ over ’1942 A love story’, beat that), I got over the “I will only watch Akshay Kumar movies” phase and accepted that there could be other movies out there.
Then came DDLJ. This was a turning point which created an even bigger space in my heart for Bollywood. DDLJ was the complete package. Hello, there was SWITZERLAND! Zurich! So exotic. So romantic. So Sigh. So real right, I mean obviously one had to fall in love with the guy who was a super flirt, and annoyed the hell out of the girl in general, but like changed for her! Right? Right. And wow, pretty clothes, and Eu-rail It also helped that I was in n a co-ed school which was highly into crushes, and Archie’s cards with hearts on them, and “I really like you and want to make friendship with you” stuff at the time. So, all that, combined with the “Come, fall in love” declaration, well, added up to quite a lot of filmy daydreams, where you were Simran (obviously!), and there was a Raj waiting for you. Only the ones who eventually did approach you were super short, or bad at studies (yes, that was a criterion), and hence rejected.
Anyway, starting then, Bollywood was all about the larger than life glamour for me. Locales, flimsy chiffon sarees in the snow, huge havelis, large groups of backup dancers with synchronized steps and clothes.The movies also impacted our lives. Like one of friends grew her hair after maintaining a stylish boy cut all her life, because of the universal fact that guys choose girly girls over tomboys (credit: Kuch Kuch Hota hai). I, thankfully restricted myself to wondering if my current crush at school would see my 5 years later (I didn’t want to wait for too long also) and sing “Dekho yeh pagli, bilkul na badli”. Or if any of those boys around who were awesome at annoying me, actually had the ‘Raj’ potential, because you know, there is a thin line between love-hate and all that. Heh..
And so it has stayed. My obsession with typical Bollywood movies. This is not to say that Bollywood does not give us realistic movies, it does, and more so these days. I watch these ‘intelligent’ movies as well, and enjoy them too. But with time, I have come to realize that I actually love Bollywood movies much more for the niche genre that they have built for themselves. The whole drama, the exaggerated emotions, impromptu song and dance, the elaborate sets, the “British museum turned into a college”, and the shiny costumes. Because when I start watching such a movie, I know beforehand that I am about to enter a world where 17 year olds wear designer brands, and their biggest worry is that their boyfriend of four years is not taking them seriously enough, because when I was 17, I had board exams. Or a world where an Armani suit donning, extremely good looking billionaire, falls in love with this hitch pitched Mithai shop owner girl, because he sees her dancing on the road when India wins a cricket match.
In short, the impracticality of it all. The unrealism. The whole “this is too exaggerated to be true” aspect. Pretty, but silly. Fun, but duh. Awesome, but ‘Seriously?!”While some might think that this is what makes Bollywood’s commercial offerings extremely dumb and inane, I think this is exactly what makes it hardcore, unadulterated entertainment.
Because if it is reality you’re looking for, you always have life to get back to at the end of the 3 hours.