Apologies in advance for the rambling nature of this entry. Also, sorry to everyone who couldn't care less about Bollywood. Fanaa
restarted my Bolly obsession but it will go back to more manageable levels soon enough.
First off, everyone who doesn't have ginger001
friended, I really recommend going to her lj and checking out her recent Bollywood posts. She's embarked on an Aamir marathon of sorts (and so have I, sort of :)) and her posts are absolutely great. Go read them.
I was thinking this morning that my approach to Bollywood could probably summed up "I came for Aamir and stayed for SRK." Rangeela
was my first Bollywood movie (if you don't count some really dumb one I saw in the 1980s). They were showing it on TCM during a Bollywood movie festival and I decided to watch it on a whim. I remember thinking "this is dreadfully silly, but it's kinda fun, and Munna is so adorable. I wish the girl wouldn't keep unknowingly walk all over him with hobnailed boots." And I wanted to watch more. (Because Rangeela was my gateway drug, I have a super special place for it and always get surprised when people bash it. I can see it's flawed (too many songs close together in the second half, Jackie Shroff in a speedo, bad fashions) so I don't get defensive, but all its flaws don't really matter to me. Aamir getting his heart stomped on is so adorable, I can forgive this movie a multitude of sins). As luck would have it, the next Bollywood movie I saw (during the same fest) was Dil Chahta Hai
, and after watching it, I knew I had, had, had to see more Bollywood, because I fell in love with Akash's story (I started out wanting to smack Aamir and ended up swooning when he proposes to Preity during her engagement party.)
And then I saw Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
and from the moment Shahrukh Khan held Kajol in that yellow mustard field, I was Bollywood's bitch. And I had to get my hands on all SRK movies I could find. Forget sympathy, I was in empathy territory. Since then, I must confess I got to own almost every movie SRK has ever made (even I draw the line at Yeh Lamhe Judaai Ke
. Heck, even SRK disowned that one). Of course, this is dreadfully simplistic. I certainly like many other actors (Saif Ali Khan is an uber favorite, for one), but if I watch too much Bollywood without watching something with SRK, I always feel (and give in to) the urge to watch something with SRK. He is the only actor, in any kind of media that evokes that reaction, actually. And this brings me to Swades
. As always, I wanted to watch something with SRK, because I always need a fix. So I chose to rewatch bits of Swades
, a movie I haven't seen for a while.
Actually, this is a rare Bollywood movie I'd recommend to anyone, even those who have no interest in Bollywood. It's a story about an American brough-up engineer, Mohan (played by SRK) who goes back to India to find and bring back his nanny, and discovers for himself both the beauty and the appaling poverty and prejudice of the place. It's a brilliant, heartbreaking, understated movie, and I think is the best performance SRK ever gave. I rewatched the scene with Mohan buying water from the child at a train station and it really never fails to break my heart. And here is where Ashutosh Gowariker's direction is so brilliant. Someone like Karan Johar (and I enjoy KJ's movies) would have done close-ups on SRK's eyes, and he would have really been crying, and then close-ups of the little kid, and emphasized his pathos. But not Gowariker. We don't linger on SRK's face: it's a quick take, and you can see the devastation he is experiencing, seeing so much poverty and misery first-hand and you see his eyes shine a bit too suspiciously bright as he sees the child count his meager earnings, but the camera doesn't linger, it moves on, confident in its audience and in making a point without hitting you over the head. The camera moves on from that to the child counting his money (no long close-ups of him either), to the most memorable image of the whole scene: a long shot of the train pulling away and one slight figure left behind on the platform, barely visible. And it breaks my heart. The focus is on the child primarily, on his effect on Mohan secondarily, and both are subsumed in the narrative drive and the point of the movie, not as a means for wringing all emotional baggage one can from the scene. It feels real. The movie itself reminds me of Rang De Basanti
a bit, because it also grapples with the problem of the imperfect country and what one can do about it, how to get involved. But the focus is different. Unlike the characters in RDB, Mohan is a complete adult, different drive, somewhat more practical issues and approach in place (he is an engineer) and an outsider's perspective. Basically, go watch it.
And because no Bollywood post is complete without pictures, here is a bit of a picspam of a very young Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla.( Aamir and Juhi )