San Franciscan Neda Hillyer made the news on April 2 when her traditional Indian wedding procession, live elephant and all, strode through the streets of downtown San Diego. For those of us that can’t afford to parade through metropolitan areas on giant mammals, Bollywood movies can provide a satisfying substitute. Bollywood, India’s film industry based in Bombay, is said to produce over 700 films a year in the nation’s 16 different official languages. Most Bollywood movies are “Lord of the Rings” length musicals with melodramatic, lip-synching protagonists that sometimes eap about and burst into dance.
Here I have compiled a list of my top ten “Bollywood for beginners” with the help of Professor Taymiya Zaman and politics/international studies student Billas Bharucha. Note that these are all contemporary Bollywood films and that there is a whole genre of classic Bollywood to check out as well. Also, it is to be dually noted that Professor Zaman is not to be held responsible for her recommendations, as she chose them only for their music (which she sings along to by heart). The songs from Bollywood movies are in fact, some of the most popular and widely listened to music in India and Pakistan. Without further ado:
1. “Devdas” – This is a classical romance/tragedy/drama, featuring more opulent Indian wedding attire than you can shake a stick at. Its protagonists are Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai (quite possibly the most beautiful woman in the world).
2. “Paheli”- Another romance starring Shahrukh Khan, this time with a studly moustache that makes Daniel Day Lewis’s facial hair look like prepubescent peach fuzz. While there are many popular and successful Bollywood actors Shahrukh Khan is the biggest, with all the star power of an Indian Bradgelina wrapped up in one man. He hosts the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and has done a string of endorsement deals for watches, cell phones, soap, pens, printer cartridges, Pepsi, hair tonic and just about anything else you can think of. Combine the Khan-factor with the film’s camel race and it’s clear “Paheli” is Bollywood gold.
3. “Om Shanti Om”- A Bollywood movie that pokes fun at Bollywood itself, especially with its satiric “item number.” An “item number” is an upbeat, often provocative song and dance sequence that has no relevance to the plot what so ever. While Shahrukh is dancing in all his glistening man-flesh glory (along with his posse of supermodel back up dancers in costumes ranging from fire fighter lingerie to afros and animal print uni-tards), listen for the song’s mention of “San Francisco” to rhyme with disco.
4. “Kal Ho Na Ho”- Has a Bollywood version of the song “Pretty Woman.”
5. “Lagaan”- All about cricket, colonialism, integrity and sticking it to the man Bollywood style.
6. “Tashan”- An action movie with enough fight scenes and explosions to satisfy even the most testosterone-centric.
7. “3 Idiots” – USF student Billas Bharucha said that she has a new favorite Bollywood movie every few months and that her favorite film of the moment is “3 Idiots.” “It was funny, entertaining and had a good theme that resonated with me captured in one song. Live in the moment and enjoy everything and to be not worried about distant things,” said Bharucha.
8. “Veer-Zaara” – This is the most romantic movie I have ever seen. You’ll notice that like almost all Bollywood movies, the lovers never kiss. They cling to each other, scantly clad and panting, but their lips never consummate the titillation. Yes, I am totally aware that Shahrukh Khan has a tendency to act with his eyebrows. He’s still romantic.
9. “Jodhaa Akbar”- An epic film about the Mughal emperor “Akbar the Great,” played by Hrithik Roshan. According to Professor Zaman, Roshan rocks a swanky hairstyle in this film. And I quote: “It’s hot.”
10. And last but not least “Kaante,” the Bollywood interpretation of Reservoir Dogs.