Sunday, July 30, 2006

I just know that when I get home, everyone will jokingly ask if I met any movie stars...

...and then I can, with great delight, reply "Why yes, indeed I did!" Yesterday afternoon at the Oberoi Grand Hotel in Kolkata, I met a movie star.

Let me just say two things before I tell the story. 1) With the possible exception of my FPMBF, I don't have any desire to actually interact with any Bollywood stars (or any kind of celebrity, for that matter). What on earth would I say to them? 2) Other than former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, I have never had to answer that question, becuase I've never had any conversations with anyone who counts as a celebrity. Until yesterday.

We're sitting in the Oberoi lobby, waiting to go to the train station for our overnight trip to Varanasi, when Rajan comes up to me and says "See that woman over there? She's ______. She's been in several fimls. And that man with her is ______, a director." I'm not putting in ______ to be secretive; I didn't recognize either name, so they went in one ear and out the other. I handed Rajan a pen and told him to write down the names for me so I could look them up later. I thought nothing further of it and continued to flip through Filmfare. Actor and director eventually got up and come over near where I was sitting to talk with a man dressed in denim and mirrored sunglasses with shaggy hair, who looked like he was either very cool or trying to look very cool. They chatted, then they left the building. A few minutes later, my friend Michael (no, not liebling Michael of Bollyblog fame - the one on this trip) said to me that one of the Fulbright staff traveling with us said that there was a famous actor just leaving the building. I immediately sat bolt upright and say "Where? Who?" Said staff person came over to me and said, "Yes, he's very famous, he was in Munnabhai MBBS, I forget his name, he is often playing the side character." I haven't seen Munnabhai and quickly wondered if it might be Sanjay Dutt, but the whole "side character" description didn't fit. I asked a few more questions and my companion says "Oh, it's Arshad Warsi!"

Freeze frame: given the disclaimers above, what should I do? I mean, honestly, what would I actually say to Arshad Warsi? But I figure when in India, do the Indians, as they say, so I got out of my chair and walked quickly towards the door with the hope of just seeing Mr. Warsi. The Fulbright guy came with me and before I really knew what was going on, he's opened the door to the hotel and we're standing right next to that whole actor party and the Fulbright guy has gone up to Mr. Warsi and made some sort of introduction, something along the lines of "She is from America and is a fan." Awk-ward. Mr. Warsi is smoking, but I didn't really take full account of that and stuck out my right hand, not really knowing what else to do. He switches his cigarette from right to left and shook my hand and very politely said hello. I then said "I really enjoy your movies" - which strictly speaking is true, as the two of his I've seen, Salaam Namaste and Hulchul, are both very enjoyable.

Unfortunately the rest of the conversation is no longer clear in my memory, as it was such a strange experience as it was happening that I hardly knew what I was saying. He said something like, "Oh, you don't know anything about me" to which I repiled, "I do! I watch Hindi movies all the time"! I really wonder if he thought I was a random American so obsessed with celebrity-spotting that I would say something like that to someone I didn't recognize. Anyway, he either decided to take pity on me or he was convinced by my argument, and he proceeded to talk about how he's going to go to the Toronto Film Festival this fall. As many of you know, I lived in Toronto for two years, so I said to him what I would say to any brand-new acquaintance who said they were going to Toronto: "Oh, it's a wonderful city. I used to live there and absolutely loved it." Yes. That's what I said to a Bollywood star. This general line of chit-chat continued for a bit, and then he (again very politely) held out his right hand and said, "Well, I have to go. It was nice to meet you" and shook my hand and turned to get into a car with his group. I hope I said something like "No no, the pleasure is all mine" or something, but I'm sure I said something stupider. Who knows. Well, maybe one of the uber-nice doormen of the Oberoi knows, but I'm never going to investigate because I really don't want to know how precisely stupid I sounded.

Aside to Arshad Warsi: thank you for talking to a crazy American Bollywood fan. You were extremely polite and interesting, and I will remember that little moment fondly for a long, long time. Sincere apologies for interrupting your afternoon - when I got up from that chair, I never meant to invade your day, but in retrospect I have to admit it was a total kick. I promise to rent Munnabhai and any of your other films I can find the moment I get home.

Aside to all other readers: I have to admit, the Bollywood-related highlight of my trip is still dancing to "Boro Boro" with Debbie and Rajan. No frills needed for me, thanks - just an honest, loving enjoyment of filmi.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

filmi bits and bobs

Finally did some serious movie shopping today, accompanied by Rajan, who maybe just went with me to make sure I could cross the street safely, I'm not sure. There is a very crowded, very crammed movie and music store just down from the hotel. Once again, I was the only woman in the place - where are all the women in Kolkata, I wonder? Anyway. Their selection of DVDs was okay, although not great - much better was the range of VCDs but I've heard mixed reports on how those tend to work on US players so I have only bought a few. So today I got things I know will work, namely remix CDs, for as great as the remix section, I've heard my favorites...well, let's just say "quite a few times by this point," and it's time to branch out. And I did find two DVDs that were necessary: Muqaddar Ka Sikanddar, of which I saw a bit on tv the other day and had identified for me by Obi Wan, and a collection called Everybody on the Dance Floor, which clearly has to be genius based on its name alone.

The thing is, despite the great prices on movies here, I still have to carry them home, and when it comes to DVDs that I can in fact get at home, even if at a higher prices, or books that I cannot, even I choose books.

I know, I know. I can still be in the official Bollywood fan club, though, right?

My hotel is also just a block or so - separated by a death-defying street-crossing, of course - from a big theater. But there's no time to go, and I'm thinking Omkara without subtitles would be a disaster.

Today we drove all over Kolkata and into Barrackore (that's spelled wrong, I'm sure) and I took a zillion photos of movie ads and movie stars in ads. No matter how hard I try, something keeps popping into the frame of my attempt to capture Sunny Deol advertising underwear, but have faith, I will triumph. I saw some great hand-done posters for the standard fare - Krrish, Phir Hera Pheri - and some more unusual-looking things called Playboy and Night Sin. Trivandrum too had a few posters for things that looked eyebrow-raising, most of them featuring non-Indian women. Hmmm....

Aside to Michael: has my postcard come yet?

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Drat. I had this long post written about going to see Krrish then some weird stuff happened on this computer. I am at shall we describe it...jerryrigged? "cyber cafe" (no cafe by the way) which Debbie and I reached via a ladder. Like a bunk bed. Oooh it's like camp! Anyway this keyboard is weird and lots of the keys don't work including the commma. Anyhoo.

11 people in my group came with me to see Krrish. It was great fun. I can't say I thought it was a really great movie or anything but we all enjoyed ourselves (except one who left at intermission) and Hrihik was very popular among my female colleagues. We all followed the plot decently enough perhaps helped by my en route narration of the basics of Koi Mil Gaya. Which by the way sounds a lot stupider when you try to explain it to people who don't watch Bollywood. "There's this guy and he's a space not an astronomer...and he has this machine...then he dies...but his" You can imagine I'm sure. I thought Hrithik did a great job at playing...what was that? four different characters really? He did very well and as Filmiholic says you could look into those eyes forever.

T-Hype when I get to Bangalore your item is at the top of my shopping list!

In case you are not reading the other blog it's immportant to know here that I am now in Mumbai. I can hardly believe it. Last night I went to the Gateway of India with a very suitable boy and sat and looked at the sea enjoying the cool breeze and the amazing reality of finally being in person with someone I felt I've known for so long. And then it started to rain. It was perfect. I mean can you think of a more filmy introduction to Mumbai than that? Being unaware of social norms in India as I am I thought maybe having only spent ten minutes in real life with someone even if they are very filmy might be a bit too early to demand a dance in the rain - although I'm kicking myself for it now. So that will wait until my subsequent trip to the Gateway (which is tomomrrow morning). Shame there are no suitable boys in my group. I know what you're thinking and no Rajan is not suitable although I might be able to get him to dance there. Yes actually I bet I can! Ha.

Anyway. I love it here and I can't wait to come back. Soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

pack your bags

Rajan and I have just dreamt up the best idea, and now that we have it figured out, I can't believe it took us this long to do so. We are going to have a Bollywood-themed tour of India. Lots of time in Mumbai, of course, with visits to Filmi City and various sites, but then some travel to various locations of famous scenes from film history. He said he'd need 15 people - who's coming? I'm completely serious. We could do this. He has so much of movie knowledge and is fluent in Hindi and is in the travel industry, and I! Yeah, that's what we'll call it. Anyway, how cool is that? We're talking about 2008, so there's time to get your passports in order. Seriously, how fantastic!

Tonight I see Krrish with 11 other people from my group. I'm going to have to devote some brain power this afternoon to how to summarize the relevant bits of KMG for them. On the other hand, maybe that would just confuse them.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I'm not really sure teaching someone the electric slide is a fair exchange for bhangra lessons....

I wish I could have written about this right away, so I could have captured every nuance, but there just wasn't time. So, go over to Beth Goes to India and read about my first filmi dancing experience! It was incredibly fun. Read about Rajan (aforementioned tour guide who took us to Fanaa) (aka "the legend," thanks to a cheeky t-shirt he wears on which there is an arrow pointing up that says "the man" and an arrow pointing down that says "the legend"), who indulges me in conversations about movies and seems to get a big kick out of an audience (albeit an audience of only one or two) who appreciates his mad dancing skillz. He is also up for an outing to Krrish, for which there is a growing groundswell of support, now that everyone has seen the hoardings.

In other news: one of my colleagues has fallen for SRK, and I have a growing collection of pictures of movie stars in ads on billboards and signs. Isn't India great?

And yes, Rajan enjoyed learning the electric slide. I'm waiting for him to figure out how to Bolly it up a bit, once we get to Mumbai, where he has promised to take us dancing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

filmi first: Fanaa

This is going to be a completely inelegant post, not at all worth its subject matter, but I couldn't sleep last night, so please forgive me. Last night I went to a theater in Delhi and saw Fanaa. I wish I had liked the movie more, but I am very happy to say that the experience of watching it was fantastic. The very best part was seeing Aamir and Kajol dance around the sites of Delhi, some of which we had just seen two days prior, including a tree at Qtub Minar, helpfully pointed out by one of the cool ladies who works for Fulbright India, who is also a movie junkie. She told me "They did a song at that tree! Get a picture!" Clearly she understands me.

Update to post (July 4, 2007 - the anniversary of my first movie in India): here's the tree.
(Okay, back to the rest of the post as originally written.)

We have a very funny tour guide on our trip - really he is more of a shepherd, making sure we get from place to place and answering our stupefying range of idiotic questions - who loves Bollywood too (his favorite is DDLJ, seen 26 times in the theater, I think he said). He organized the movie outing after hearing the groundswell of support; I'm not sure if he really wanted to or not, but either way it was incredibly gracious, and it was fun to sit next to someone who caught all the dialogue, and I enjoyed exchanging knowing glances with him when certain things were done or said. Anyway, of course it is extra fun to see Fanaa with a tour guide. I think I'm going to knit him a tiny scarf when I get home. I sure hope he isn't a terrorist.