Hooray for Bollywood
I have recently discovered all the joys Bollywood films have to bring. For instance, it’s not a real musical number unless there are at least two costume changes. Okay, that’s not really a very significant thing, but it sure makes for a great spectacle. Let me back up a little.
A (Very) Brief History of Bollywood
Believe it or not, Hollywood isn’t really as big everywhere else as it is here. Indian cinema is actually the largest film industry in the world – in terms of production, that is. Cinema was first introduced in India in 1896, with the first feature film produced in 1913. When the advent of sound hit the film industry, India was one of the first to take full advantage of this new technology, using musical spectacle to dominate the industry come the 1930s… in India.
Even though these spectacular films are made in what is now known as Mumbai, the name Bollywood stuck (for anyone out there who didn’t know about Bombay, shame on you), continuing the song and dance throughout the ages. Somehow, in some magical way, Indian cinema stood clear from Hollywood influence, adapting their own genres and styles. Basically, all you need to know about modern Bollywood is that there are three basic genres: socials (contemporary romances), mythologicals (stories of history and legend), and adventure (cheesy action flicks); furthermore, Indian censorship is so heavy, that song and dance numbers are often used for characters to express their feelings, being that kissing and other cheeky things are not allowed. Oh, and Bollywood stars are gods.
You think American celebriculture is weird? In India, Bollywood stars are essentially royalty – these guys are everywhere, endorsing all sorts of things. Additionally, Bollywood has become so engrained into Indian culture that songs from the films have become standards; it’s no secret that the actors lip-sync, but the playback singers are just as famous as the actors. Just try to get this out of your head –
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (Aditya Chopra, 2008)
This brings me to my film highlight, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. This little gem can be found on Netflix for all your eyeball pleasures. Though RNBDJ isn’t really a groundbreaking Bollywood feature, this was the one that really opened the door for me personally.
The plot is as convoluted as humanly possible: shy Surinder (Suri) is visiting his old professor when he is met by the professor’s alluring engaged daughter, Taani. During Suri’s visit, Taani receives word that her fiancé and his wedding party are instantly killed in a car wreck – her father gets a heart attack at the news. On his deathbed, fearing the idea of Taani being alone, he makes Suri and Taani marry, to which both oblige out of respect. Crazy, right? It gets kookier.
Suri finds that he is smitten by Taani’s beauty and rambunctiousness, whereas Taani is too traumatized to believe she could ever love again. While spending time with Taani, he notices her love of romance and dance, eventually permitting her to join a dance group, which she is more than delighted to be a part of. Curious and interested in spending more time with her, Suri adopts an alter ego called Raj Kapoor, a stylish, fast-talking ladies’ man – who she totally doesn’t recognize as Suri. Forced into dance-partner-hood, Suri leads a double-life. Will Taani ever find out the truth about Raj? Will Suri ever confess his love? Can you believe this movie’s nearly three hours long?
As I mention above, I’d probably hate this movie so much if it was presented as an American romance, but Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi just charmed my pants off. As crazy as this sounds, this a romance with some heart for a change – and it’s incredibly fun to watch. The performances themselves deserve your full attention – Shah Rukh Khan’s almost seems to channel Peter Sellers as he switches between these personalities.
The other key source of enjoyment for this film is its incredibly meta nature: we’re watching a Bollywood romance that pulls every Bollywood romance cliche while making fun of itself – there are even great references to older adventure films. Also, this happens –
Every Bollywood dance scene ever.
So if you’re in the mood for some colorful noise, or just a feel good movie, give Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi a try. I really don’t think you’ll regret it. Expand your mind a little – it can be fun.