Bollywood Bewaafa! Bollywood, I’ve been unfaithful…


Bollywood Bewaafa!

Bollywood, I’ve been unfaithful. Please allow me to explain. Maybe it’s because it’s spring, and sometimes that’s the season when hearts wander, but I’ve been back to my old self, sampling the world and enjoying it. Yet still I keep getting reminded of you and all the great times we’ve had. I’ve cheated on you with China, (my ex), Egypt, Ethopia, and Kerala. I’ve cheated with films, documentaries, food and even books. Here’s how it happened:

I saw a Chinese movie a few weeks back called Luxury Car (2006). It was bleak, depressing and very good, but it brought me back to Bollywood. How you ask? Well it was directed by Wang Chao, who studied under director Chen Kaige, who made some movies starring the lovely Gong Li. Gong Li was the first actress I saw that moved me to want to see all her films. It was only after running out of movies with Gong Li, did I think maybe I’d like to see another movie with “that guy from Devdas,” who I later found out was Shahrukh Khan.

Then I was listening to NPR and heard a mini documentary on Umm Kulthum. Now hipped to Umm Kulthum, I promptly went to the library to get “Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt.” It’s an excellent documentary on a fascinating life. While watching Umm-ji’s life story, I thought of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.

‘All Arabs agree,’ reads The Rough Guide to World Music. ‘Umm Kulthum is indisputably the Arab world’s greatest singer.’ The name Umm Kulthum may not strike a chord to Western ears, but she was a larger-than-life presence in the Arab world. The Egyptian singer’s career was long, its heyday extending from the 1930s to the 1960s, and her music became a powerful symbol of Arab nationalism. When she died in 1975 at the age of 70, 4 million people poured into the streets of Cairo to mourn her passing. Today, her music is everywhere. Even at truck stops, CD kiosks are brimming with Umm Kulthum’s many recordings. In the 1950s and ’60s, her fame grew, thanks to her legendary live radio broadcasts. On Thursday nights, the streets of Cairo would empty as people gathered around radio sets to hear the great singer. You can still hear a lot of Umm Kulthum on Egyptian radio today. In honor of her famous broadcasts, her music is played at 10 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. (NPR)

Can you watch and hear this and not want more? I couldn’t.

Come, enough, we’ve already missed so much. O love of my soul. What I saw, what I saw before my eyes saw you was a wasted life. How can it be counted? You are my life whose morning began with your light. You are my life.

Is even Umm telling me in this song to get back to Bollywood?

Thanks to armacino89 for the video.

Click here for a subtitled rendition of the same tune, and here for another.

First I cheated with films, documentaries, China, Egpyt. Then I cheated with food, Ethiopian food!

When eating out, instead of dining at one of my favorite Indian restaurants, Best of India, I strayed over to Fasika and dined on Ethiopian food, which I hadn’t had for years. My mind was seduced by the wall mural of Victoria Falls and other images throughout the restaurant of Lalibela, Axum, and Addis Ababa. My interest was peaked, but how could I even think of traveling to Ethiopia before I see my mother India? That food was really great!


I also cheated with books. When I’m not watching movies, I enjoy reading and I’d heard the “The God of Small Things” was an excellent book. It’s set in a village in Kerala, India, so I was slowly getting back to Bollywood, more or less. I know the author, Arundhati Roy, wrote “In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones” which was one of Shahrukh Khan’s first gigs. Bollywood calling me again. Then within the book, Roy makes reference to a tragic love triangle (sound familiar, Bollywood?) in a Malayalam film Chemmeen(1965). It’s not Bollywood, but it’s the Malayalam film industry, so I’m getting closer to coming back Bollywood.

Bollywood was so majestic, waiting gracefully as I looked around enjoying all the world has to offer, all the while being reminded of him. Really, I never left, you were always in my heart, I mean in my dil.


Forgive me Bollywood, for I have sinned!

I confess to almighty God, (Bollywood) and to you, my brothers and sisters,that I have sinned through my own fault,in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

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11 thoughts on “Bollywood Bewaafa! Bollywood, I’ve been unfaithful…

  1. Tsk-tsk, Sitaji! How could you? :P

    Reminds me of a song I mentioned in this post:

    Husn pe ho yaqeen to ishq dagmagaayega,
    Karoon intezaar mera yaar kab aayega.

    Belief in beauty will lead love to waver,
    [I] Am waiting for when my companion will arrive.

    That’s Bollywood calling out to you! :)

  2. It’s been close to 10 years since I read The God of Small Things, but it knocked me out back then. Given my political involvements and inclinations (which I won’t get into here), you’d think that I’d be equally enthusiastic about Arundhati Roy’s nonfiction, but I don’t like it quite as much. There’s been talk here and there about a second novel in the works, but I haven’t seen it materialize.

    I’ve been fond of Egyptian music for a long time. Natacha Atlas sent me exploring in that direction way-back (though she isn’t strictly Egyptian music, but she draws on it and is now popular there). But I guess I don’t know that much about it, because I’m not familiar with Umm Kulthum. I like the clip, though.

    There are a couple of Ethiopian places here in New York City that I’ve enjoyed over the years. I can remember one person with whom I went to an Ethiopian restaurant on the Upper West Side at least a few times, because she loved it. She was from Pakistan, and she was quite a cook herself, with her delicious Indian meals. :)

  3. Don’t count on finding Victoria Falls in Ethiopia :-)

    Enjoy your vacation, I enjoy mine when they happen (not often enough, actually)! Come back soon to us though!

  4. I love this post, Sita-ji!

    Ok so I just watched your clip of Umm Kulthum…and you’re right! I do want more! Thank you for posting this…you always have such awesome things on your blog!

    Anyways, I’m half Pakistani, and love Desi music and culture to pieces. However, like you, I enjoy dabbling in music from other countries, because it’s so…well, interesting and unique, both from American culture and Desi culture. Then I come back to a good old Bollywood movie, and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like returning home from a lovely vacation.

  5. theBollywoodFan,
    Thanks for the lovely words, how apropos! I have answered the call. :)

    Richard,
    Yes Roy’s sure a prolific human rights/political non-fiction writer, but I don’t read too much of that genre. Give me fiction, historical fiction, memoirs and travel tales instead. There are also a lot of her speeches on YouTube, but of course when looking; I had even MORE signs of Bollywood calling to me, and in the form of Shahrukh Khan. Check THIS out:

    And the music at the Ethiopian restaurant was excellent and I feel better now knowing that even your Pakistani good cooking friend indulges in the food too. :) Thanks!

    Sukriya memsaab!
    They tricked my with that mural! That Ethiopian restaurant putting up that picture that’s really from Zimbabwe! Liars! It’s bait and switch! It’s really only been a vacation from Bollywood because I have put my netflix on hold, been to lazy to order movies via the web or go into a store and buy them. I will return!

    Brahmanandam,
    Thanks for your forgiveness. I feel that it’s your obligation to forgive as you aided and abetted some of the incidents mentioned. It’s like you provided me a cover. “Hey Bollywood, I have to work a little late tonight, then I have to go and help Brahmanandam with a knitting project.” At the time I thought Bollywood believed me, but I think he knew. And to the Ethiopian restaurant I said, “Well Indian food is good, but it doesn’t agree with me. In fact my Indian food doesn’t understand me like you do.” And in my imaginary conversations with Roy, I say “I like Indian cinema, art house stuff, but deplore the Bollywood drivel, so misogynistic.” But inside I know that in movies like “Beta” where Madhuri is nearly raped in a big barrel at a country festival, it serves to move the plot along to ultimately show her as a strong woman, who can take on struggles from all angles, physical, social, mental, spiritual. How could such a Bollywood movie then be truly misogynistic? Or when Hema’s character is slapped around in “Seeta aur Geeta” she also is victorious in the end, NEVER to be slapped again! I know that if you wait theses movies out, in the end, love prevails. But like Roy, I really didn’t like “Bandit Queen.” :)

    Nida,
    Thanks for your sweet words. I’m glad you liked Umm Kulthum. I copied the lyrics fro the NPR version of the tune she’s singing and they are: “Come, enough, we’ve already missed so much.O love of my soul. What I saw, What I saw before my eyes saw you was a wasted life. How can it be counted? What I saw before my eyes saw you was a wasted life. How can it be counted? You are my life whose morning began with your light. You are my life.” (I added them to the post now) I bet you can get the documentary at the library. Her early years reminded me of Umrao Jaan (minus the prostitution aspect, of course) and you’ll see if you watch it. I like that description of putting in a Bollywood movie making you feel, “fuzzy inside, like returning home from a lovely vacation.” Ditto! :D

  6. Sita-ji, thanks for forwarding that clip. I thought it was a bit strange for them to mix that scene from Swades with The God of Small Things, because this character Mohan seems to have such unqualified praise for America in comparison to India – especially America’s social system – and I don’t think that would ever be the intention of Arundhati Roy…

    You probably remember that I put a Roy YouTube clip in my post “Fascination with Kerala”:

    http://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2008/01/19/fascination-with-kerala/

    I’m not going to get into too much political detail here :) , but you can see that Roy does not exactly speak glowingly of America and its ways.

    And I think that the town that Swades takes place in is far from Kerala. (I haven’t seen it, but I looked it up a little, and this town, Charanpur, is all the way up near Bangladesh…which kind of makes sense, considering all the Punjabi music in this clip :) . ) So, there probably are some pretty big differences there too…

    As I mentioned in that old post from January, Kerala has interested me from a long while back (even before I fell in love with Padmini and the Travancore Sisters and Shobana), at least in part because it’s shown some very egalitarian qualities, with remarkable features for a state that’s so relatively poor in GNP terms. For instance, it’s got very low infant mortality and the highest life expectancy in India, and is known to be fully literate. It’s also famous for having some unusual workers’ coops, praised by democratic lefties in some circles I used to frequent.

    It’s true that Roy doesn’t exactly make the place seem so great, and she does point out some terrible features of its caste system and history.

    But she generally spares no one in her criticisms of injustice and inhumanity – that’s why we love her. :) Though I’d still say her fiction is better than her nonfiction…

    P.S. Apologies if I seem to have gone off a bit on a tangent here…

  7. Richard, I thought you already knew tangents are quite welcome here! The more the better :)

    I agree, that clip was a very odd thing, and talk about a tangent! But I thought it was a clear sign for me to return to Bollywood. ;)

    I’ve been interested in the literacy rates in South India too, and sometimes wonder if that statistic can be altered. I wonder about statistics on communist regimes in that way. Ever since learning about Mao’s Great Leap Forward fake farming statistics, about how hugely impossible crops were yielded (lies) and then their huge famine. I figure the literacy rates can be faked, though infant mortality may be a bit more difficult to fake. I do believe that there is a high literacy rate in Kerala, but wonder if it’s as high as represented.

    Roy’s novel covers so much and like you say, no one is sparred, which is a fair way to depict the sad story. It’s also a beautiful story even though it’s so tragic.

    On another tangent, I’ve been looking at some pictures of Kerala and thought you’d enjoy them.

    Here’s the main link:

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/

    Here are some of my favorites:

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo837838.htm

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo838209.htm

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo841779.htm

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo843896.htm

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo848567.htm

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo850127.htm

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo849871.htm

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo853090.htm

    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/South/Kerala/photo855366.htm

  8. Sita-ji, thanks for posting the links to all those nice pictures! Yes, I have to go there sometime.

    I suppose literacy rates can be fudged or faked. Although I don’t know if Mao or communist regimes in general would be a fair comparison… One thing that intrigued a lot of people (me included) about Kerala as a “development model” is that however socialist or communist it became, this was very different from the situation in standard Marxist-Leninist states because it always remained so democratic. (And I always thought communism/socialism could not develop in any real sense without a high amount of real democracy – once that gets compromised, a lot of things go wrong. But don’t let me get too much into that!)

    I’ve plucked this book off my shelf (which I’ve had since about 2000 or 2001) called “Kerala – The Development Experience”… It’s edited by Govindan Parayil, and it’s got essays by people I’d read before, like Richard W. Franke and Barbara Chasin. (Back in ’97, I read some interesting stuff that they wrote about the beedi-rolling coops – I linked to some of that in my blog post…) Anyway, this book goes further into some of those points about Kerala’s participatory democracy, etc.

    I guess any government can manipulate figures… For instance, the U.S. government has all kinds of strange ways of hiding the real level of unemployment (which I’m kind of experiencing first-hand now). But as you said, it’s still likely that those literacy rates are high, whether or not they’ve been inflated a little, and that’s not the only impressive “social indicator”…

  9. Ethiopian food is so good- and ur description of it is pretty tantalizing as well. I havent had any in years, so Imma thinking I need to head out to one soon :)
    Arumdhati acted in “Annie..” as well, but I really like her in “Massey Saab”- an offbeat bolly movie- see that if u get a chance.

  10. Richard,
    Thanks for mentioning “Kerala – The Development Experience,” it sounds interesting. Glad you liked the pictures. I want to get there some day too, maybe picking up some shifts in one of those beedi-rolling coops to cover the travel costs. :) Also, good point about maniputaing figures, it’s done often.

    Shewta,
    I can’t stop thinking about that food it’s so good. :)
    I’ll have to check out “Massey Saab.”

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