Monday, February 27, 2006

your everyday trip to the grocery store

This weekend, still mid-cold, I finally braved the Indian grocery store to rent movies. I wonder if they'd let me alphabetize the titles in exchange for half-price rentals? Anyway, what their shelves lack in organization they more than make up for in numbers. All sorts of things, and not Hindi-centric like my video store. But no Bobby. I grabbed a few things I thought I could recall the video store doesn't have, and the nice man working at the cash register suggested a few others. I politely refused Dhoom. When he asked me what kinds I liked and I said "comedies and romances," he handed me Bunty aur Babli. I laughed and said, "Oh, I already own that one" and he smiled. It's always a pleasant surprise to be sufficiently amusing to strangers.

My fistful of treasures does not lend itself to a group review, and unfortunately I'm running on fumes and can't get each its full response. So here's what I watched, in order, with a few thoughts.

Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa
  • I was in a Shahrukh mood last week and was happy to see this on the shelf. I've encountered several writers who list it among their favorites. But the early 90s and I are still not the best of friends, and this didn't particularly hold my interest.
  • The Don song was really, really choice and put my powers of disbelief to their biggest test yet. Well worth the effort.
  • This movie takes the award for "Bollywood line I would most like a fella to say about me to express his earnest and undying love while referencing a statistical oddity in my romantic past:" "How shall I convince her not even a thousand Chrises together can give her the love that I can?" The only thing that would have made that more funny for me would be if Akshaye had said it.
  • I also like the line "When you are sad, I am double sad."

  • I reckon there have never been more heinous children in all of Bollywood. What horrible, horrible people. I finally made peace with this movie when it became clear that those distractingly awful people were necessary to make the story's point, but it was an uneasy truce and I never want to see this again.
  • Sad, defeated Amitabh was unsettling to see. I've seen him sad, and I've seen him defeated, but not both combined. But then he bounced back, restoring my faith.

Mujhse Shaadi Karoge
  • The only thing I need to share about this is that it inspired a connection in my mind between Salman and David Hasselhoff. Think about it. Both are muscley, shiny, and often seen on the beach with no shirt on.
  • Oh yes, and a choice quote from one of the sports announcers at the end: "Love is a condition of the mind when the mind is out of condition."

Friday, February 24, 2006

because guests are as gods

Hey, everyone - hi. This is Beth. I am absolutely fascinated with the question of who is reading this, and my curiosity is further piqued by the growth of the happy little dots on my ClustrMap. Either there is some creative ISPing going on here, or I see people visiting from India, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Europe, South America, Canada, and the US. (Special shout-out to Canada! I'm an honourary Canadian! I love you guys!) Anyway, hello to you all! I don't like how most guestbook thingies on websites seem to work, so instead I invite everyone who stops by to leave a little comment on this post (this will also be linked from the nav bar) and say hi and share why you like or are interested in Bollywood - and what brought you here. Thanks! And don't forget to have a snack before you go - they're on the table over there. Punch, too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Avoid, yaar! a book review of Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh

(Vielen dank [es ist fur dich, Michael!] to Tamara for giving me this book for Christmas. I have been lured by its title many, many times and had been wanting to read it for ages. Little did either of us know....)

This is a bad book. It's packaged as - and I daresay written for the market of - "chick lit," and it does the term absolute disservice (even when one recalls how insultingly awful most chick lit is). This may be the worst of this genre I've read, and that's saying a lot.

The author really seems to love Bollywood, and believe me, I can understand having a hard time containing one's love of Bollywood to oneself. But that doesn't make up for not having an interesting story to tell - the plot device of an American actress in her first Bollywood movie could have been funny, but we have to care about her and what she discovers. I felt like this was simply an excuse to try to get the uninitiated to watch Bollywood. A very fine mission, I am the first to agree. But not like this. It showed all of the bad stereotypes and none of the good, all of the ridiculous with none of the seductive joy that holds those bits together. This was littered with little preachy-teachy bits that didn't fit in and just clunked along. Sentences like "I hear Bollywood fans number almost a billion" and "the [Gateway of India] had been open to visitors since 1924" have nothing to do with the story and nothing to do with the breezy, surface tone that the rest of the book uses.

So I can see how the author meant well. A fish-out-of-water/insider look at Bollywood is a great idea, and I'd read other stabs at it. I also have to say that the plot of the movie the protagonist stars in is delightfully bad and almost conceivable, and if anyone wants to know what it is, get a copy from your local library and I'll tell you the page numbers to read. Otherwise, I am sad to say, in the time it takes you to wade through this, you could just go watch KKHH and your favorite bits of KNPH. Might as well be true to your love, hai na?

whatever: Kyon Ki

This is another movie for which I should follow Thumper's advice, but I just used that method a few posts back, so here's what I'll say instead. I turned it off before it was over. I didn't even FF to the end. I just quit. Someone let me know if I'm missing something.

Aside to costume designer: is Salman really wearing a shirt that says "out-law trucker" while he threatens to immolate himself for Maya's love? He is, isn't he?

Dil Chahta Hai + Swades + Footloose + gun ≥ Rang De Basanti

As you may have heard, I recently got to see Rang De Basanti in the theater, thanks to an occasional film series hosted at our art theater (and organized by an unidentified group to whom, in my infinite gratitude, I will gladly turn over my share of the Mehta group of companies). And as with my other experiences watching Bollywood in the theater, the audience was half the fun. It's such a treat to be part of the group experience when so often I just watch on my own - it's so fun to share! It's also a foolproof way to know with certainty that the subtitles really aren't conveying all the fine nuances - for example, when Sue rips into her boss at the film company in Hindi, the laughter in the theater was far beyond what was merited by what appeared on the screen.

I also have to say right here that at one point the friend I saw this with leaned over to me and whispered "That man is beautiful" and I nodded in silent agreement, our eyes wide at Kunal Kapoor (if you don't know who he is, go look - it's for your own good). This is a testament to the seductive powers of Bollywood - I have a lifelong fear of men with beards, but somehow, in this world, they're growing on me. (Not my original joke, by the way. But a good one.)

On to the actual movie. Probably more than most others I've seen, I really am not the target audience for this movie, and I think that matters here much more than most others, so please read with that in mind. While the message of taking responsibility for your country can be applied universally - which made me weep, by the way, as there's a lot to be upset about in the US these days - my impression is that it came out of specific experiences and situations in India - and maybe it was aimed at specific groups of people within India, too. But the way the story unfolded just didn't quite work for me, mainly because I hold killing people to be wrong. Just wrong. And I think the boys' big, bold, stupid actions overwhelmed the more important message, voiced by one of the interviewees on tv at the end, that corruption and flawed leadership are the fault of the constituency, that a society gets the leaders it deserves.

On the other hand, I was really touched by the present and historical stories of the Hindu-Muslim relationship - theirs was the struggle and bond that affected me most, maybe because I see that sort of antagonism as some of the most ultimately destructive there can be (certainly in the US), and I know I am at my ugliest when I get dismissive of others because of what I see as religion-based exclusion, limitation, and oppression. Anyway. I felt for Laxman when he saw the truth about his party leader and I rejoiced when he reached out to his true peers.

As usual, I have a host of smaller comments, but they just don't seem relevant to say here. This movie was trying to be something important, and I don't want to mire it down with my snarking about lack of big dance scenes. As Obi Wan said, I laughed, I cried, I boogied in my seat. But it did less for me than either Dil Chahta Hai or Swades, which between them very effectively and meaningfully cover similar points of valuing your friends and committing to and contributing to the place you call home.

Aside to Aamir: I read somewhere that you had concerns about playing a college student. You were right about that. In terms of your talents, you were perfectly cast, just didn't quite work, did it?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

radio free Beth Loves Bollywood

If you haven't had enough of me singing, you can now hear me talking. Today I was interviewed by Kamla Bhatt on Talk News India and you can listen to the podcast. Many, many thanks to Kamla for including me in her really interesting websites and for all the fun conversations that went into setting this up.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

What a difference a year makes: happy Bollyversary to me!

If you're reading this, I probably don't need to explain to you how Bollywood can change your life - and not only the selfhelpish ways, either, although there are a few of those. But I'm going to list some anyway - these sorts of occasions being time for reflection and all.

I won't lie to you: Bollywood takes resources. I stay up far past my
bedtime at least once a week, often more, engaged in filmi
fun. I have spent at least $100 buying DVDs (which is just a
drop in the bucket of potential purchases, to be sure), easily $50 on
renting (love the deal of 100 movies for $100 at my store), another
$40 on a ticket to a live stage show coming up in April,
and at least $100 in books (those pretty pictures will run you).
I am out of space on my DVD shelf. I feel like an empty nester
when I have lent out too many of my movies, and I worry
about how to ask borrowers to please give them back before
I lose my mind, lost in a panic of really needing to see KKHH
and not being able to. My list of books to read has grown
to an unmanageable size, not only because I have added
several books on Bollywood and India to the list but also
because my evenigns and weekends have a new activity assigned
to them. My knitting is mostly balled up in my basket and a
sewing project has been derailed, because I can't be crafty
while watching subtitles (previous to BW I listened to a lot more
tv than I actually watched). I've bruised myself after bumping into
furniture while dancing in my living room.

But on the up side...where to start? Apart from the truly great fun
of the movies themselves while watching - which for me includes
cackling out lout, yelling at the screen, rewinding and
halting to confirm delightful subtitling or heinous clothing - I
really have become a better person for watching. I know this
is a weird claim to make, but I'm pretty sure it's true. I have gotten
so much more in touch with the part of myself that longs to be
wholehearted. I am more convinced than ever that it really is good
for you to fling here and there. And there's the whole intellectual side, trying to learn how to engage with different cultural traditions and conventions of telling stories.

And of course there's the people! I know I said this at Thanksgiving, but it's more and more fun every day.

It's interesting. It's funny. It's lovingly romantic. It's affectionate. It's colorful. It's rich. It's superwow.

Friday, February 17, 2006

truckin' to destiny: Aasha

I knew nothing about Aasha and got it becuase I let my impatient companion at the video store choose something for me at random off the shelf. I liked the first song. There were some delightfully oversized sunglasses. It was overly emotional and not very interesting.

But does anyone know who Jeetendra's little friend is?

If you don't happen to know this fine piece of Bollywood trivia, take a close look at the little guy's hand in the bottom photo....

smashing debut

Okay. The people have spoken. And hopefully not covered their ears. The clip is really short because I couldn't compress it in a way that didn't make me sound like a robot. (It's still about 2 MB, just to warn you - and is aiff-C.)

But you know what? That was really fun. I really needed to do something fun today, something creative, something that amused somebody, somewhere, at least a little. Someday when we have our Bollybloggers meetup, we can all take turns at the mic.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

in a soup! in a soup!

(I know I already said that about SRK, but I'll be keeping him company.) What have I gotten myself into? I have just been practicing my song for the weekend, recording myself on whatever random software came on the computer. It is not pretty. You'll have to trust me that I really am quite a competent singer, but you'll hear no shred of it here, apparently. I have nightmarish visions of being the clip that gets forwarded around offices - "Hey dude, check this out - this chick thinks she can sing! Huh-huh!" What I've learned so far from this is that it is very hard to sing like a pop singer and not sound like a moron. This I think is why pop princesses everywhere are tempted just to belt it, hoping that loud and big make up for talent. They do not.

Anyway, if I can compress the file down to something manageable, what you're going to get is me sitting with my laptop in front of my stereo. It sounds like I'm in the shower, minus the comforting background of water. I probably should do this in the shower - singing in the rain is tres apropos, n'est-ce pas?

Also, like most sane people, I hate hearing my own speaking voice, which is why I will try very hard not to break into giggles or commentary while I do this. So far I have yet to make it through without laughing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

and the winner, pulled randomly out of a pink cowboy hat, is

..."Chale Jaise Hawayein" from Main Hoon Na! Performance this weekend, posted if at all possible.

Thanks to all who weighed in!

For those of you who had hoped for another candidate - if you stick around long enough, I might just randomly break into your preferred song. This is Bollywood, after all.

Big thanks to Obi Wan for the singing idea and Accidental Fame Junkie for the voting idea. You guys are brilliant! I hope I live up to it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Bollyversary update: choose or lose!

People, we have a tie! With about 14 hours left to vote, each song has received the same number of votes. Even for a girl who loves Bollywood, singing, and projects - and Bollywood singing projects! - as much as I do, the idea of learning five songs is kinda overwhelming. It's been suggested that the answer to a tie is a medley, but that involves arranging skills that I have yet to demonstrate.

So tell your friends and make them vote, even if they don't care about Bollywood. For the sake of science, if nothing else.

if you can't say anything nice...: Dil Ka Rishta

"Dayya Dayya Dayya Re" was darn catchy, and it contains the excellent line "With your name on my lips, I spend my days. I spend my nights pining. I remember every moment the naughty things you did." The fortune teller from Lagaan makes an enjoyable, Bollywood-studded cameo. And there are only a few moments of wacky side characters.

That's it.

There isn't much else of note here. It's not the worst movie I've seen, but there isn't anything to like about it particularly, and it isn't so bad that I have to rant and rave, and it isn't even intriguingly or enjoyably bad. There really isn't any point to watch it.

I generally like Aishwarya very much, but Tia didn't give her much to work with. And Arjun...well, he was boring. Paresh Rawal was by far the most enjoyable person in the movie. While I hadn't been led to expect much from this movie, I lost my patience towards the end, when Jai raises his hand to Tia and we never see him lower it, even after she flees the room. No. Not acceptable.

And, of course, the plot. The plot was pretty stupid, if not uniquely so (but think how much better this same idea was handled in Goodbye Lenin!), and I'm going to have to class it with Chori Chori Chupke Chupke under plots driven by bad, bad ideas. Gorilla's Lament pointed out that both have women in cowboy hats in them, and I think GL might really be on to something here. Observations by others on the correlation of these phenomena are very welcome.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


(Is it just me, or is one of the fun things about Bollywood that you can stick "Bolly" on the front of lots of other words?)

Best I can tell, I watched my first Bollywood movie on February 18, 2005. I usually write in my calendar all of the fun things I do, but this one doesn't appear as such. But I remember the people I watched it with, and there's a record of doing something with them, so we'll go with that day. And appropriately enough, my local art theater is showing Rang De Basanti that weekend! (Although I have already have a ticket for the 19th. Previous commitments, etc.) But I will definitely mark the day in a grand fashion, including watching one of my favorites - or, if I can find it at the well-stocked but poorly organized Indian grocery store, Seeta aur Geeta, because surely nothing says "Bollywood rocks" like Hema hitting people with a ping pong paddle. Or so I am told.

Anyway, by popular demand (hee hee: "popular"), I accept Obi Wan's challenge and will learn and sing a Hindi song for the occasion. I don't know if I have the technical capacity to post a sound clip, so you may have to trust me that I will sing it. But how 'bout I let you vote for which song I'll attempt! Post your thoughts in the comments. Publicly. No email requests.

And if I can figure out a way to post my performance, you cannot make fun of my pronunciation. Everything I know about Hindi comes from movies. I have never, to my knowledge, actually in person heard someone speak Hindi. (I'm sure I actually have, as millions of people speak it. But I wasn't aware of it if I did. And I'm trying to cut back on eavesdropping.)

Please select one of the following songs for me to learn and perform for my Bollyversary on February 18.
1. "Kajra Re" from Bunty aur Babli
2. "Chale Jaise Hawayein" from Main Hoon Na
3. "Maahi Ve" from Kal Ho Naa Ho
4. "Woh Ladki Hai Kahan" from Dil Chahta Hai
5. and, becuase I am completely nuts for the "clap clap clap" bit, "Taal se Taal" from Taal

Okay, that's it. And because I am from Illinois, I bid you vote early and vote often. Polls close noon my time on Tuesday, February 14.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

flattery will get you everywhere (or at least posted about)

I couldn't be more pleased to have discovered that Beth Loves Bollywood is included in News I Like's Top Ten Bollywood Sources (even though I don't understand if "out of the mainstream" means that I come from the mainstream or that I'm outside it)! Merci beaucoup, Mackenzie Chan, for I would have liked your list and found you funny unprompted.

these occasions must not go by unmarked

I think my Bollywood one-year anniversary is coming up! I'd have to dig out last year's calendar to be sure, but I think I watched MDK in February 2005. To celebrate, I shall begin a ten-year email correspondence under an assumed identity. Excellent. These sorts of things always turn out well.

Better celebratory ideas are welcome.

because sometimes, it's the time to disco

BBC Asian Network's poll of the top 40 soundtracks of all time is such an interesting read - and listen. My inner librarian loves how there are clips, background info, context, and often interviews for every entry.

The thing about music, of course, is that there's no accounting for whims and tastes, and I haven't yet agreed with myself about the fair way to think of soundtracks. Do they stand independently of the film? Should they? Or the more intertwined, the better? My favorites do both, and music is one of the two major pulls that Bollywood has on me. (The other is wholeheartedness, but that's a topic for another day.) As I write this, I'm trying to figure out how to explain why I like, or would label as good, the ones I do. What I can say confidently is that they're just delightful, whether for fun or big emotion or good driving music or whatever. Let's just say these are the ones that lodge in my head completely independently of watching the movie.

Tied for first are Taal and Main Hoon Na. I saw Taal on the big screen and was alternately riveted and dancing in the aisles (in my head, anyway - I was actually a volunteer at the film festival where it was showing, so there may have been something in the handbook about not dancing in the aisles, what with the line of sight of the patrons and all). Main Hoon Na also finds me dancing around but half doubled-over (would that be singled-over?) with giggles. The music is funny. The movie is funny. The dancing is funny. I can't help it.

Next come Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai (despite the dolphin song - yech). Both just really go with their movies. They do what they're supposed to do - and I thrill. I'm sure my opinion is not at all influenced by memories of Aamir Khan dancing in both. And let us not forget to mention the best picturization ever, "Woh Ladki Hai Kahan," which is so brilliant that there's a nudge-nudge joke about it before it even starts. Not even sweat stains can sink it. It soars on happy flapping wings. (I know, I know, the picturization is a separate entity from the song. Sort of.)

Then Bunty aur Babli. It's pink. It's sparkly. It's a hoot (except when "Chup Chupke is tugging on my heartstrings or "Kajra Re" has turned me into the kind of temptress who sends men flying with a flick of the hip and inspires them to a truly silly dance move that I call "the walrus"). There you go.

After that, it's a big muddle, with particular songs standing out but less impression of the whole. And there are certainly movies I love whose soundtracks I don't (yes, you, Hum Tum), yet because of my love of the movie I feel bad not liking the music. Complex hai.

* In keeping with what I infer to be the rules of the game - the list is all Hindi movies, hai na? - Kandukondain Kandukondain must be omitted, which is a pity, becuase it's way, way up on my list.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bollywood dreams indeed!

I know this is a completely crap picture

but do you see who is going to be in Chicago in April? More importantly, I am going to see who is in Chicago in April! Sushmita, Preity, and Saif! However, last I checked, neither the venue's website nor the promoters' website listed the show. So I'll try to save the full-on rejoicing for when I have a receipt for tickets. But I am so going. And I already have three people to join me! I'm not sure I can describe how much of an idiot I looked in the store where I saw the poster, jumping up and down, squeaking. I had just bought casettes - yeah, that's right, I'm old school - of the B&B and Rising soundtracks, so I'm sure the dudes running the store already thought I was a nut.

Update February 8: I've had an email from one of the concert promoters. Tickets go on sale tomorrow. Mwa ha ha!

Update March 23: this is the official site for the show. I have ticketst in hand and three people to go with. I don't really know what could make this better!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

because shirts with nonsensical words on them can only solve so many of the world's problems: Salaam Namaste

I have been waiting for months to see Salaam Namaste, ever since it played at the local art theater while I was out of town in October. As we all know, sometimes the longer and more excitedly you wait for something, the less chance it has of living up to your hopes, even if you try really hard not to formulate specific expectations, since you are well aware of the aforementioned inverse proportion.

In general, Salaam Namaste was along the lines of what I had thought it would be, with some extra especially appealing bits sprinkled throughout:
  • textual shirts. There are many to talk about here, but there is one in particular I want to ask about. It's after they've met at the beach and Nick is discussing with his friend whether he should call Ambar, and he's wearing a gray tank top and jeans. The tank top is printed with lots of words, and despite various pauses I could only see, clearly, a few of them, but they included I COULD HAVE CMS, TV IS MY LIFE, and THE PANTY. Kya?!?
  • the fabulous city of Melbourne
  • two endearing best friend/sidekick characters (and I'm not talking about Cathy)
  • the phrase "bring it on" - and it was even used in the very best possible way: as random English stuck in a mostly Hindi song (think MHN's "wicked" and "this party's goin' to town")
  • a rendition of "Autumn Leaves"
  • thoroughly integrated graphic design - if I'm not mistaken, the credits, the subtitles, and the radio station's promotional materials were all in the same font
  • a narrating Bachchan
  • in one of the early "we hate each other" scenes, Saif yelling "Hambarrrr! Hambarrrrr!" and rolling his Rs with gusto. I laughed so hard at that.
For reasons I cannot explain, I also really enjoyed the landlord with the insane accent. At first, before they explained that the character was actually Indian, I thought maybe he was Italian. His choice lines are many: "When in Rome, do the Romans" and, inquiring as to bicycle-riding Ambar's destination, "By the way, where's the goings?"

[spoilers ahead]

But there was a major plot point that surprised me. I had no idea that the main relationship fell apart for months, that there was so much of yelling and pulling down of curtains. Somehow this struck me as poignant (relatively, anyway). When Ambar sat on the patio sobbing I felt really, really sad. We all know what it's like to cry like that - not dainty tears, but sobs that make you get as close to the floor as you can because something you were counting on is suddenly out from under you. And although maybe it's just because in the last 24 hours I've been in as many moods, I find myself nodding along when Nick tried to convince Ambar to give the relationship a go even though the odds were bad, saying "Yeah, man" in a Big Lebowski sort of way. In my head, of course.

What I mean to say is that this movie was not nearly as fluffy as I had thought it would be. There was still fluff - the wedding flirting and the late-night ice cream hunt, for example - but it also struck me in ways I was not expecting. Preity did a great job doing what she usually does (or so it seemed to me), and Saif again took something that could have been cardboard and made it dimensional, with humor and edge and care.

Aside to costume person: I know she's Preity and pretty, but did you have to put a word on her butt? Tacky.

Aside to composers: every time I hear the title song it gets lodged in my head for days, and now it's even worse since I know the pounding, repetitive dance that goes with it. How did you do that? The rest of the music was completely forgettable.

Aside to someone who works out details of script: before I smack you with a quote from your own movie - "their logic switch is permanently off" - I will give you a chance to explain how a med student, who is advanced enough to be in a hospital seeing patients, has time to do a regular radio show, how a Hindi-language station is the most popular station in Melbourne, and how these two characters could possibly have afforded that house, let alone the additional furnishings, fancy tv, etc inside it? I know this happens in sets a lot, but there is a lot of talk about lacking money here, so why didn't you make that cohere?

Aside to readers curious if anyone else has made a website that chronicles Saif's silly shirts in this movie: if your mind runs to the investigative and researchy on topics like this, as mine does, do not, do not, do not google "Salaam Namaste" + panty. You'll be sorry.