Pardes: America is very bad for the Indian soul!

This is my contribution to Roti Kapada aur Rum’s  international call to all Indian film bloggers to submit something for Shameful Classics celebration in July, 2011.  After I saw Pardes (1997) last year I was very enthused about it, yet nearly every NRI I spoke to, emailed, or tweeted about it said how much they disliked the film.  I adored  Pardesmaybe because as a gori I’m free of the cultural shame some NRIs have over Bollywood films, so when Shameful Classics month came up, I figured it’s time to do a post on this insane film, after all I loved the film so much I practically screen capped it all!  In fact, if you scroll quickly over this post it will look like a flip book of the movie, THAT’S how many screen caps there are.  So I suppose at minimum I should be ashamed of adding to internet pollution. One of best parts of doing this blog is being able to rave about a movie that most of you saw years back that I’m just discovering now.  As I said, I LOVED this movie, but then again I tend to love all Subash Ghai films for their kitsch value and dramatic plot twists. Glancing over Ghai’s filmography, I’ve seen and enjoyed all of these, Vishwanath (1978);  Karz (1980);  Krodhi (1981);  Meri Jung (1985);  Ram Lakhan (1989);  Khalnayak (1993);  Trimurti (1995) (producer);  Taal (1999);  Aitraaz (2004) (producer);  Kisna: The Warrior Poet (2005);  Iqbal (2005) (producer);  Black & White (2008); and with time I’ve even remembered Yuvvraaj (2008) as resonating as a fun film, especially when Katrina’s character says something like , “You’re 100% complete anti-family hai!” to Salman’s character.  Remember that?! I LOVED that!  So is it possible that Ghai’s my favorite Bollywood director?  Should I be ashamed? Let’s continue on with Pardes!

Pardes, meaning “foreign land”, is a story that revolves around Ganga (Mahima Chaudhary). She is an Indian girl living in a rural village, brought up by her conservative family. Kishorilal (Amrish Puri) is a wealthy and successful businessman who lives in Los Angeles, America but is still deeply attached to his motherland India and adores the values and culture of India. On a visit to India, he meets his old friend Suraj Dev (Alok Nath) and stays at his house. During his stay he gets to know Suraj Dev’s family and becomes very attached to Ganga, Dev’s eldest daughter, who is the epitome of Indian culture. He hopes to find an Indian girl for his westernized, American son, Rajiv (Apoorva Agnihotri) and feels that Ganga is just right. He offers a marriage proposal between Ganga and Rajiv; Dev’s family accepts. Kishorilal knows he will have a tough time trying to convince Rajiv, who has never even visited India. But Kishorilal has a plan. He sends his foster son, Arjun (Shahrukh Khan) (‘Little Master’), to play cupid and convince Rajiv to visit India and meet and approve of Ganga. Arjun arrives at Dev’s house and makes changes and arrangements to make the place suitable for Rajiv. Rajiv joins him in a few days and initially does not like the idea. Arjun spends many days trying to get Ganga and Rajiv to like each other and, in the process, becomes a close friend of Ganga. Eventually Rajiv and Ganga agree to the wedding….(source)

Pardes (1997) is one of those America is bad for the India soul films, but unlike the more recently released MNIK, Pardes simple “America’s evil culture is bad, and India and its people are good,” theme didn’t bother me at all.  Perhaps this is because America was played a lot of the time by Canada, (Vancouver) in Pardes, and the places where innocent beautiful bride Ganga ( Mahima Chaudhry) does show up in the USA are really not so chaste, such as Las Vegas, aka sin city.

 

So let’s begin the tale of Pardes in India, where everything is good, see:

Those are the words of Amrish Puri’s character, Kishorilal, the typical NRI rich industrialist living in Ameerika who travels back to Hindustan to keep in touch with his roots and meet with childhood friends, like Alok Nath’s Suraj Dev.  After some typically spectacular Indian hospitality, Kishorilal thinks, “I Love My India” and figures why not marry his fancy American-raised son to a pure woman of India, Suraj’s beti, Ganga!.  Wouldn’t you do the same given the opportunity?

He  returns to India to pitch this idea to his fancy son, Ragiv (Apurva Agnihoti), who is of course amoral having been raised in the USA. But how to soften this blow to Ragiv?  How can a lad raised in the pure and constant luxury of America understand and accept India, a developing country?

How to solve this dilemma?  Well as it turns out, Kishorlal has a quasi son, a pure hearted orphan named Arjun, played by  Shahrukh Khan

who’s grown to be both an accomplished auto mechanic, who runs a fancy garage, where he dances with his boyz in their off time

 and also manages to be an Asian Music Chart topper!

 

See how humble Arjun is when being interviewed on a big radio show, even though he’s a chart topper? He’s from India, he’s a good man.

So Arjun escorts Rajiv over to India as his cultural attaché, which comes in handy when some village guy thinks he’s got a claim on bride-to-be Ganga and they decide to play a game of kabaddi to settle the score.

 

NRI Rajiv, is like Kabaddi? So this is where Arjun’s cultural attaché-ness comes in handy, he not only shows him how a mean game of kabaddi is played,

but he shows how to play kabaddi to win the girl!

I think I forgot the part where Ganga sees Arjun when he first arrives in India and thinks he’s cute before she ever sees Rajiv, so there’s that.  Just keep that in the back of your mind for now for dramatic foreshadowing purposes only…  Back to America, and Ganga is a bit shy upon arrival to this foreign land, for it’s so different from her beautiful India, but she’s not too shy to perform      I Love My India in front of the masses at a function. Kishorilal begins to plan for the wedding and it’s clear that he’s been contaminated by his time in America, revealing his superficial materialism, which does not exist in India, right?Ganga is comforted by orphan to foster savior son, Arjun, who is there in Canada America to soften the blow of culture shock. Rajiv is always busy with work and then while looking around the home, abandoned Ganga sees trashy gori and kali girl photos plastered on the walls, as well as dirty magazines and is rightfully concerned.   What does it all mean? Rajiv’s evil cousin helps to explain the morally bankrupt ways of America to innocent Ganga.

Rajiv, Arjun, and Ganga go out to a party on a fancy yacht in the port of Los Angeles Vancouver one afternoon and there’s a scuffle, and while Rajiv is focusing on his own richi-rich status…he doesn’t even notice when some guys leer and grope on Ganga, but watchful Arjun does, and defends her honor.One night the same three all go to a disco, something new to Ganga. She’s shocked to see Rajiv is smoking, but Arjun to the rescue, explains away any concerns about this to Ganga:

No worries, right?  It’s only a bit of smoking, right?  They go one to play some game at the disco called Prince & Princess Made in Heaven Contest which in all my time spent in American discos, I’ve never seen.Their compatibility is revealed in this game and they win!  See how happy they are together?

See the cute statue they win in the leucite box? Alas, their happiness is fleeting because in the background Rajiv is getting drunk.

But remember, Ganga is engaged to Ragiv, not Arjun, the man who’s maintained his pure Indian soul despite his long-term exposure to American culture.  Rajiv having spent all his life in the USA is not so fortunate to have learned good Indian morals, and he gets drunk and Arjun helps remove him from a brawl.

So these warning signs are adding up: the smoking, the drinking, the bar fight, the fight on the yacht, the dirty magazines, and an ex-girlfriend with a gori name. Rajiv even abruptly tells Ganga one evening he’s going out with his girlfriend, which is sort of a red flag, hai na?  Ganga is feeling reluctant about her upcoming marriage to Rajiv and seeks comfort in her friendship with Arjun.  On Arjun’s birthday she brings him a cake and some balloons and hangs out with him at the garage with the boys while Rajiv is probably out somewhere with this Kelly.Ganga even brings their “Match Made in Heaven” statue to the party and Arjun’s wise friend is bit suspicious, remember, Ganga is Rajiv’s match, not Arjun’s match.

It’s Arjun’s wise friend (Pavan Malhotra), peering around some Bollywood balloons, who sees the love he has in his eyes for Ganga. Can you see it too?

Rajiv becomes a bit jealous of the friendship between Arjun and Ganga, tells his dad Kishorilal, who in an effort to keep Arjun away from Ganga,  transfers him to another office very far from where they live now, which I tought was Vancouver posing as Los Angeles, but maybe it was really being Vancouver all along since he was sending Arjun away to Los Angeles, confusing.

In the meantime, Rajiv takes Ganga on a little trip to Las Vegas, corruption capital of America! There were plenty of gori extras,

and for the first time in a Hindi film I saw kali extras too:

Up in the hotel, Rajiv wants to share a penthouse room with his Indian fiance, and “take things to the next level.” Ganga is pure, Ganga is not having that!

What’s so spectacular about this near rape hotel scene is that Rajiv insults Ganga, but it’s not until he makes disparaging remarks against India that she snaps!  After the insults to India, the fight is on and she beats him up. I believe he does get one tight slap to the face in, but once Ganga is fired up, her rage for defending her mother India is unstoppable!  She escapes after knocking him out, and as luck would have it, some of Arjun’s home boys catch wind of Ganga’s location at a truck stop near Las Vegas. Please note the brick phone, I didn’t take this screen cap for nothing!

Kishorilal and Rajiv put the rush on the wedding plans and  plan to catch up with Ganga, who has now returned to her mother India with the help of Arjun, who rescued her from her peril in Las Vegas.  Obviously Kishorilal goes nuts and demands to know how she disappeared from the Vegas hotel, and Rajiv, doesn’t say, “well, I tried to rape her and she knocked me out,” but instead lies:

 

If you’ve read this blog before, you may know that I have a small hobby with spotting Johnnie Walker bottles in Indian films, and this shot is the limit!  Look at the slutty poster on the wall and FIVE bottles of Johnnie Walker, black label,  (not to mention the implied bottles that lurk between him and that poster) to match Rajiv’s black American heart!

Now safely back in India, Ganga’s reputation is ruined, because the NRI Americans have said she ran off with Arjun because they were in love, neglecting to tell the truth about Rajiv’s immoral and criminal behavior.  To be fair, Kishorilal has been lied to by his son Rajiv, so how is he to know that his orphan to foster son is really an innocent savior as pure as the Ganga, and Ganga herself? I love my India! Ganga’s mother is mortified at the disgrace that’s happened since her daughter returned unmarried, which really messes up the family izzat. Ganga’s dad, Suraj Dev believes the stories from America that Ganga has run off with Arjun.

Poor Ganga wants to protect her father from the truth about what happened in the US, considering that Kishorilal is his BFF and in leaving out a few key details (attempted rape) she and Arjun become the focus of Suraj Dev’s rage, for after all, a returned bride-to-be is a dirty thing in India.Wow Dad, so harsh! But you know who WON’T let his chaste Ganga be defiled with cruel lies or be hit by her own father!? Arjun! And here things get HOT! SRK goes full-blown crazy, cutting himself with a gigantic saber by pulling it by the blade from Suraj Dev’s furious hands!

I love it when SRK does crazy, it’s one of his strengths as an actor, that over the top  deliscious D R A M A, and Pardes delivers with his self mutilating with a large sword, to clearly make his point to Ganga’s dad. No one will hit or talk trash about Ganga!To escape further harm to Ganga’s already mistakenly tarnished reputation, Arjun runs off to what is supposed to be the bus station, but what is Fatehpur Sikri.  Remember, he was originally an orphan, so he believes that a return to orphanhood is perhaps his fate.  I loved how these scenes shot in historic Fatehpur Sikri were made to look like a bustling bus stand where SRK keeps toting around his backpack in various attempts to storm off in dignity. I had the good fortune to travel to Fatepur Sikri near Agra, India almost 2 years ago, and it looked more like THIS.  I’ve added a few of my own travel photos of this historic site here so you can see I was right near where Arjun was! Dekh! My Fatehpur Sikri:

Arjun’s Fatehpur Sikri:

Arjun’s Fatehpur Sikri may have some sufi action:

 But MY Fatehpur Sikri in the same location has some kingfisher action:

While Arjun runs off, Ganga has been locked away in the house, only to be released by her grandmother who urges her to go after Arjun!

Ganga catches up with Arjun before he gets on the bus at Fatehpur Sikri, but to preserve what he thinks is family honor, he feigns disinterest.  Ganga declares her love for Arjun, he holds back.

Grandma catches up to the scene and encourages Ganga and disburses wisdom.

That’s right girl!

Arjun and Ganga seem to work things out,

 

but guess who has arrived on the scene? Rajiv and some of his goonda friends wielding field hockey sticks, and Kishorilal!

Sorry Ganga, they have returned for you.  Let’s take a break for another view of My  Fatehpur Sikri, right about where all the action is taking place in Pardes:

And Action!

Rajiv finally gets his comeuppance!

Then Ganga finally reveals the wounds she suffered at Rajiv’s hands to Kishorilal and her own family.  Reputation cleared, izaat intact, for Ganga, for her family, for all of India!At last the wise orphan addresses his foster father and tell him what America has done to Kishorilal’s soul:What Kishorilal forgot in America is what he learned in his Bharat MataDoes Arjun get the girl? Is Kishorlal about to slap him or give him a pat of approval? If you don’t know see the film to find out.

It’s unfortunate that Kishorilal and Rajiv weren’t able to read and follow this sign that I found posted in the local mandir, The Hindu Temple of Minnesota. This would have helped them avoid all of the problems they had in America all together,

but then it’s a good thing they didn’t, so great film like Pardes could be made! Please share your thoughts of the film with me.

Vikram-ji! Many happy returns of the day!

It’s Vikram’s birthday today, and Bollystalgia! put out a call for us to celebrate worldwide by posting about Chiyaan.When India is sweltering in heat and Chiyaan is working away at various locations across the globe or in some film studio in Chennai, many a cold climate dwelling filmi fan got through the brutal winter by imagining that south Indian heroes like Vikram did our chores; from the strenuous to the more simple things, like changing our clocks for daylight savings time.  Liz from My Year of Prakash Raj organized those images at Ayoo! South Indian Heroes Do Your Chores.  Vikram did many chores as evidenced by Liz’s site, one of which was wishing me happy birthday (and doing my snow shoveling), so it’s the least I could do to reciprocate, and wish him many happy returns of the day.
 
I first fell for Vikram when Apunbindaas, the Hmong Chick who loves Indian cinema, was kind enough to send me  Anniyan (2005)  all the way to Minnesota from Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Anniyan is the story of “Rules” Ramanujam Iyengar alias “Ambi” (Chiyaan Vikram), a lawyer who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder. Ambi is an innocent and honest lawyer. If he comes across anyone not obeying the law, he files cases against them but all his efforts go in vain. (source)

Doesn’t reading Multiple Personality Disorder let you know already that this movie is a winner? 

It’s one of those multiple personalities that makes the film.  Once I saw Vikram’s Remo character (the crazy side of the multiple personality) that was it, I was in filmi love like never before!  Enjoy Vikram in his crazy Remo character here in the tune, Kadhal Yanai  with Nandhini (Sadha) playing the love interest and Yana Gupta as gori extra, (playback singers Nakul, Nelwyn & G. V. Prakash Kumar) and be sure to watch it all the way through so you can see Remo’s  love detector.

 Yes!

Arul (2004) also captured my attention when his passionate character went bilkul ballistic when he heard anyone engage in swearing or poor language, which he refered to as dirty talks.

Really makes you think doesn’t it?  Arul makes you want to be a better person, hai na? I liked Arul (2004) so much that I’ll write that up soon, but in the meantime head to Filmi Girl’s entertaining review of the movie HERE.

I also loved seeing Vikram in Mani Ratnam‘s Raavanan (2010) as a marvelous villain (misunderstood and surely with a heart of gold), but have yet to see him playing the good guy in Raavan, the Hindi version of the same film.  I saw  Raavanan on the big screen last year without subtitles, and now am fortunate to now be able to see it again in Minneapolis next week,  but this time WITH subtitles in English since it’s part of the 2011 Minneapolis-St.Paul International Film Festival.

Vikram speaks here about the process of filming Raavan (2010, Hindi)  and Ravaanan (2010, Tamil)  concurrently, playing separate roles, in different languages:

For more honors to Vikram on his birthday, head over to FilmiGirl in the USA, and click across the globe to New Zealand and read what Ness over at Shahrukh is Love  has to say about Bheemaa (2008).  Now head back to Bollystalgia, representing Boston, MA and Detroit, MI and every place in between to see her Happy Birthday Rampwalk Remo  post.  Huppy Burday to Chiyaan!  Now is simply the intermission until I see another Vikram film!   Until then, I feel like I’m behind bars!

What Vikram movies have you seen?  Tell me your favorites and your recommendations.  Check out Chiyaan Vikram’s website HERE.

That Girl in Yellow Boots (2010) and how I met Anurag Kashyap in Minneapolis!

Back on November 3, 2010, I had the pleasure of watching Anurag Kashyap’s new film written with, and starring Kalki Koechlin at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Asian Film Festival.

That Girl in Yellow Boots is an upcoming Indian Thriller film by critically acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap. Starring Kalki Koechlin and Naseeruddin Shah, the film will premiere at the Venice Film Festival. It will also be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Ruth (Kalki Koechlin) comes to Mumbai to find her long-lost father, but when she takes a job as a massage therapist to make ends meet she becomes involved in the seedier side of the city. Although the money is welcome, and she does enjoy the adventure that comes with her new job, she soon faces an important moral decision. (source)

That Girl in Yellow Boots was the opening film in the festival, and as an added bonus, the director attended the film and answered questions before and after the screening. I had no idea this festival was going on and thanks to a tweet from Nicki, the Hmong Chick Who Loves Indian Cinema, I was able to learn about the event just 2  hours before it happened!  I’ve seen Kashyap’s  Black Friday (2004) and Dev. D (2009) and was already a big fan of his work, so I was delighted for the opportunity to see his new film. What was even more exciting was that Kashyap appeared at the event!

That Girl in Yellow Boots also was shown in September of 2010 as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, which you can read about here in a review by Marissa Bronfman

Look how fancy THAT event was! And get a load of Kalki’s gorgeous saree.   Kashyap’s outfits at the different events indicates The Minneapolis/St. Paul Film festival was quite a bit less formal that the Toronto festival.

Q & A before and after screening of That Girl in Yellow Boots

During the pre and post question and answer sessions, Kashyap graciously answered questions about his new film as well as previous works.  He spoke about the censor board in India and the difficulties to passing films through that process.  He also spoke about some missing (lost or destroyed, I can’t recall) footage from Black Friday (2004), and how it was merely pieced together with much of  its full/original content gone.  Having enjoyed Black Friday very much, I can’t imagine how more footage would have improved on an already great film.  A lot of the comments were basically, “Your films are so dark” and at one point Kashyap responded in good humor, something like, “With 800  happy films made in India in a year, it’s OK if 200 can not be happy.”  I bet there’s some recording of these before and after film comments by Kashyap and if I come across it, I’ll link it in.  I can only rely on my memory of the event, and I was so thrilled to be there that a lot of what I heard  has receded in to a vague happy memory.  I should have jotted down some notes or written this down right after it happened, but alas I did not.   There is a very nice interview with Kashyap done by MTN, and while the interviewer does not seem to understand quite how big of a deal Kashyap is, and doesn’t ever manage to say his name correctly, she makes up for this with her earnest curiosity, so I forgive her. :)  If you watch the interview, which I recommended, note how polite Kashyap is with his interviewer too, meeting her at her level of understanding and moving her along quickly to learn a lot in a short time.

The full interview with Kashyap on MTN can be found HERE.  There’s also  a very nice review of the film, by local writer, Will Wright, HERE.

Upon completing the question and answer session after the film, several audience members stopped Shree Kashyap for photos, autographs, and conversation while he was exiting the theater.  I caught him and said something like, “Do you want to know my FAVORITE scene from  Dev. D ?” I didn’t give him a chance to say no, and told him it was the scene when Mahi Gill’s Paro is dancing, knowing the Dev (Abhay Deol)  is finally on his way back home to the Punjab from London, but not back yet, and suddenly she glances up and sees him photographing her.

And then she meets him privately in the house, and he puts his arm up against the wall, to make sure she stays:

The scene described can be found here starting at 2:20:

That is one of my favorite movie sequences EVER for it completely captures the passionate anticipation the characters have for each other.  Though I told Kashyap how  much I loved that scene,  I’m not sure if he heard what I exactly said, since I said it so quickly and he was trying to attend to his other fans, but I loved having the opportunity to tell him that in person.

The After Party

If that wasn’t good enough, here’s the even better part: I actually got to sit and chat with Mr. Kashyap after the film! There was a gathering after the film viewing at a nearby bar,  Honey.  Now I know Honey sponsored the event, and they serve Asian fusion food, and this was an Asian film festival, BUT just across the street, within a stone’s throw of the Ganga Mississippi River,  is Nye’s Polonaise Room, voted best bar in America, which would have been my choice.

Nye’s has a lot more filmi charm and the character that a director of Kashyap’s reputation deserves, but I digress. Along with some of the audience, I made my way over to Honey and watched Anurag Kashyap speak with viewers.  I had a wonderful time talking about films with some NRIs and after about an hour we worked up our courage to approach that table where the director was sitting and eventually we sat down and talked to him.  As time passed I was able to sit right next to him and tell him another favorite scene I had from Dev. D. It’s the one where Kalki Koechlin’s character is asked to decide on a name to use in the brothel by Chunni (Dibyendu Bhattacharya)

and while watching Madhuri Dixit’s Chandramuki in Devdas (2002) on TV, she replies:

I also love the steaming momos sequence in Dev. D. but forgot to tell him that.

I asked Kashyap if he liked how Emosanal Attaychar was worked into  the background soundtrack of Peepli Live (2010). He asked what I thought of the new film. I told him it was fabulous.  Though the subject was dark, the humor and suspense worked in throughout relieved the intensity at just the right times.  I especially loved the scene where the goonda breaks into Ruth’s home and stubbornly struggles to work the various remote controls for her entertainment system.  I overheard one of the Tamilian NRI‘s at the table talk to Kashyap about Rajinikanth.  These Madrasis can’t help but talk about their superstar, I understand.  While Kashyap did not mention that he’d be working with Rajinikanth, he did say he was working on a film with Prithviraj and Rani Mukeji, if I heard correctly.  I’m not sure if he meant on the same film, if he was currently working on this project, or if they were separate projects not yet started.  My internet research does confirm the Prithviraj project.   Another thing discussed were the film’s yellow boots. Kashyap said in the store it was a choice between yellow or red Doc  Martens, and the yellow boots won.  I told him I thought the work boots were to represent that Ruth was there in Mumbai to do the heavy labor of finding out the mystery of her past;  she was there to take care of some dirty business, thus the work boots.  He said, no, but that this is the beauty of film, one can think what they’d like, make a variety of their own interpretations regardless of the director’s intentions.  I also told him that his films are in our Minneapolis library system, and he seemed to like that.  I did exercise great restraint by NOT saying some of these things I was thinking:  “Where’s Kalki?  I wanted to see Kalki too! How much does Nasruddin Shah charge  to be in a film? What about Abhay Deol?! He’s SO cute, what’s he like?!” I did though try to touch Mr. Kashyap’s feet for fun, something I like to do to Indians because I love when they say, “no, no, no,”   just like in the movies and it’s how I indulge my fantasies of being a gori extra in film.

He did the usual, when I tried to touch his feet and Anuragji said, “No, you must not do this.”  Kashyap left the table to go out to smoke and left his iPad, and I thought if I were the stealing type, a goonda, a dacoit, that would be a great iPad to steal, maybe get a few movie ideas out of it to sell.  While I did not steal his iPad, I confess, I stole on sip of whiskey from his unattended glass, only just a small part of the peg.  I felt fancy and daring doing this, and I’m almost positive that it was Johnnie Walker, and I would presume it was black label, hai na?  Wouldn’t you have done the same given the opportunity?

I was delighted to have the opportunity to see Kashyap’s new film and get a chance to share a few  moments chatting with him.  Read more about The Girl in Yellow Boots HERE, and in Katherine Matthew’s insightful Bollyspice review HERE, and be sure to see it when it’s released next year.

Searching for Bollywood in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco

I’m back! I took a trip in earlier in the month to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco.  While I was there, I kept my eyes peeled for any signs of the Indian film industry.  So allow me to provide you with data from my trip.  In Spain, I looked around for  crews filming  Zoya Akhtar‘s Zindagi Milegi Na Dubara, but no luck seeing its stars stars Hrithik Roshan, Katrina Kaif, Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin or Farhan Akhtar, but maybe they saw me.  I was in the Andulician zone where they were said to be filming, but no luck!  The closest I got to Bollywood in Spain was a fabulous commercial I saw in Madrid starring Arjun Rampal being inexplicably jilted by Nicole Kidman. You will also notice little Rubina Ali from Slumdog Millionaire in the commercial. Take a look:

Well I do have to admit that those Schweppes’ citrus drinks are delicious, so maybe I understand a little. For a better look at the commercial, click HERE.

Next off to Portugal, where on this street in Lisbon:

I met Tibetans in a shop selling a great selection of Bollywood films.  I asked the shopkeeper who he liked most, but there were too many to mention, but he did say he found Saif Ali Khan arrogant.

Look closely at the solid collection, I  was impressed to see Dance Dance (1987), look behind the screen in the second photo here:

No this is a stretch, but I’ll include it anyway, also in Lisbon I found this colorful restaurant in Bairro Alto district.

What caught my eye was the couple dancing with the sticks, which reminded me of Dandiya Raas, hai na? See them dancing with the sticks, just below the guitar?

As you can see I had to ammend my search for Bollywood, to a search for Indian-ish stuff.  Moving on to southern Portugal, I reached the city of Olhão in the Algarve.  There was another shop selling Bollywood DVDs and Indian clothing,  and my lodging was across from this restaurant, which I was told to avoid, by several different reliable sources.

One of my sources saw the restaurant’s  drunk and stumbling cook, and she said “If he can barely stand and speak, how could he cook!?”  So no Sindu pizza (see menu board in photo) for me!

But the Algarve wasn’t that disappointing as far as Bollywood goes, since I saw this dashing lifeguard on the beach of  Culatra Island, and if my life were a Bollywood movie, one day he’ll realize my feelings for him and he’ll find me!  I’m playing hard to get for the time being, since I only snapped his photo(s) from afar, much like a stalker, and never spoke to him.  He doesn’t even know I’m alive, but one day, we will be together!  Just like in the movies!

Maybe you’d like a closer look at him, and I’m sorry that other guy was in the way! He really ruined everything, because it looks like the lifeguard was trying to look for me, but this guy in the blue wouldn’t stop talking! Idjit!

Next I was off to Morocco.  I was excited to read some of the following in Lonely Planet’s Morocco book

Bollywood in the Sahara ‘Namaste, mohabbat!’ (Greetings, my love!) If you’re South Asian, you may be met with a warbling chorus of Hindi hellos even in remote Moroccan oases.  If this strikes you as a scene straight from a movie, you’re exactly right: for 50 years, Morocco has been completely besotted with Bollywood.  When Morocco gained its independence in the 1950s, the anti-colonial themes and social realism of Indian cinema struck a deep chord.  Morocco’s small but influential resident Indian community began distributing Indian films that soon earned a loyal local following.  Top Moroccan acting talents were recruited to dub and subtitle Indian movies into Darija and French, and generations of  ‘Bollyphiles’ learned to sing along with the movie themes in Hindi.  Not surprisingly Bollywood stars were among the first honourees at the Marrakesh Film Festival, and at open-air screenings in the Djemaa el-Fna, there’s no mistaking the Indian-import crown favorites.  In 2005, more than a third of the movies shown on  Morocco’s 105 screens were Bollywood films, and 264 Hindi  films were screened in Morocco in the first six months of 2006. Among the biggest Moroccan marque draws are Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai, and Shah Rukh Khan – a 2008 Casablanca screening of Chalte Chalte (2003) starring Shah Rukh Khan with an in-person appearance by co-star Rani Murkherjee drew 50,000 devoted fans.  After half a century of ardent admiration, Bollywood is finally returning the love: in 2008, two Bollywood productions filmed scenes in Morocco.  While you’re visiting, maybe you can be an extra in the mountain-top dance sequence… (pg. 61, Feb. 2009 edition source )

No such luck for me, I didn’t get any extra work, I saw no films screened in the Djemaa el-Fna, instead it looked like this during my visit:

And from the other direction it looked like this, the Koutoubia Mosque is in the background, and that crescent moon was out, since the place is Muslim and it was Ramadan.

I can imagine what an excellent venue the Djemaa el-Fna would make for an open air screening of a Bollywood film, can’t you?  In Fes, Morocco, I saw some halwa,  and what looks like  a gori extra in the medina, as as pointed out by BollywoodFanGirl (ChristyRae on twitter).

I also saw another gori extra in a shop in Fez. What’s her story?  She’s a mess!

While in Chefchaouen, Morocco, I did see this colorful Indian gear, but that’s as close to Bollywood as I got:

On my last evening in Madrid, I was flipping through television stations in my hotel room and saw this handsome guy on  Intereconomia who I thought resembled Rahul Khanna.  Take a look…

Now look at the real Rahul Khanna:

See the resemblence?

In the duty free shop of terminal 1 in Madrid’s  Barajas Airport, I found Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, shhhh, don’t tell anyone.

I’m so lucky to be able to travel, yet I’m always very happy to get home and relax to travel the world through films.

Blogging Drought, Expectations of Tradition, and a Fond Farewell to Briyanshu

How do I explain my blogging drought?

Well on a recent trip to the local mandir,  The Hindu Temple of Minnesota,

I was faced with a sign that my non-Hindu reality-American side could scarcely live up to, let alone my fantasy Hindu traditional side could aspire to. Check these rules out that are posted within the Mandir and ask yourself which do you follow:

So I’ve been quite busy focusing on living up to expectations  as described in detail above, integrating my gori human shell with my inner Hindu atma. I was so confused because I already was following most of them, such as high educational pursuit, but then realized that it may not actually count because I’m not a doctor, or an engineer, and then I felt bad, but then I was pragmatic and realized hey I can still rely on myself with the education I have, yet then I suddenly felt violent, lacking all self-restraint, which I was able to temper just in time (due to my sense of time) and respect my own individual rights, and finally I felt a sense of duty and loyalty to the blog, and came back here again. I think I’m all set, so now I can blog again! Let me gather inspiration and strength first.


Nicki, aka Apunbindaas, the Hmong Chick who loves Indian Cinema, made a pilgrimage on Minnesota for a shaadi, but was kind enough to allow new blogger, Tollywood is my Bollywood,  and Kamala Chan of Daydreaming Lotus,  and me to show her around our fair city.  It’s always fun to meet fellow cyber friends in the flesh, and despite her attire, (see photo below) the monks did allow Nicki into the mandir, for her spirit is pure. I altered their images slightly to preserve anonymity, but pictured below are Jjake, Sita-ji, Apunbindaas, and Kamala Chan in the Hindu Mandir of MN.

Here’s another one of Nicki and I ouside the Mandir. 

Apundindaas posted more about the trip on her blog post Minneapolis Desi Style . Earlier in the year some Hindi movie enthusiasts traveled from The Dakotas to Minneapolis in order to see My Name Is Khan on the big screen, and also make a temple visit. Pictured below are Octoberzine, her escort, her compatriot, CL, and me, Sita-ji.

On that visit we also spied the Retaining Hindu/American Values declaration sign, and yet another sign on the door to the bathroom which captivated Octoberzine.

Please enjoy some more photos I took at The Hindu Temple of Minnesota, and if you ever visit the Twin Cities, look me up and I’ll take you on a field trip to the mandir.

Artists working behind the scenes at the mandir:

Nandi, waiting outside the mandir for  Lord Shiva:

Finally, I think another reason for my blogging drought is taking time to  mourn the loss of Briyanshu’s (A white, American gay guy looking at Indian men) blog, which he announced in a post last month HERE.

When I fall in movie-love with an actor, I could count on Briyanshu to have posted plenty of photos of the actor to satisfy my curiosity, and now what to do!?  I enjoy Briyanshu’s witty comments even more than his insanely delightful and meticulous screen capping of the actors, or in some cases, cricket players.  Briyanshu is a true connoisseur of lovely images. Thank goodness for his digital reference library of lustful imagery. Long may that live!  I offer a puja to the memory of Briyanshu’s blog…maybe I need another trip to the mandir, or maybe I’ll just search the word mandir, or temple, or pooja at Briyanshu’s blog to see what I find… or what about cricket?  Now I need a cool drink.

Lagaan: Elizabeth, More Than Just A Gori Extra

Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), She’s more than just a gori extra.

With the encouragement of theBollywoodFan, I decided to contribute to his Lagaan Week to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the release of the epic film.  In order to develop something that would resemble a worthwhile blog post, I knew I had to re-watch Lagaan, since it had been a couple of years since I’d last seen it.  It was my third time seeing Lagaan, and I enjoyed it even more than I did the first 2 viewings, which I believe speaks to the quality of the film.  In case you don’t already know, Lagaan is about Indian villagers challenged by some British imperialists to a game of cricket, and if the villagers win they would not have to pay the Brits the unfair land taxes, known as Lagaan.   Captain Andrew Russell (Paul Blackthorne) is a one-dimensional scoundrel, and this cruel man offers a wager he believe the Indians will never win.  His naive, yet kind-hearted sister, Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley),  arrives to India and begins to take in the scenes with a curious and open mind.  I love seeing  white people pop up in Indian films, since I can pretend they are me!  I can also think  hey, I can one day break into the Indian Film Industry, see, there’s a white person too! So with this delusional thinking, naturally I was fascinated to see Elizabeth.

Despite not knowing Hindi, she quickly sizes things up and all too soon she witnesses her brother’s  maniacal ways.

I do enjoy seeing the word “Whitey” it the subtitles, so I show it to you a lot in this post, here’s a start:

Lagaan (2001) is the movie that taught me about cricket, a little game I’d previously called gilli danda back in my village in India.

Wait, sorry, no village, no India, I keep loosing track that I’m from America and am not Indian, please pardon me.  When I was in contact with theBollywoodFan about Lagaan week, I said I’d like to take the angle of writing about Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), the gori extra since I’m always making note of my white sisters surfacing in Bollywood films;  theBollywoodFan, wise beyond his years, calmly replied, “She’s more than a gori extra,” and I realized he was right!  She is more than your typical gori extra, she not only plays a bigger role, but she also serves to bridge the cultural gap between the different groups, and helps us think, Hey, wait just one minute, not all these Britishers are so bad after all.  When the villagers are watching the game of cricket, Bhuvan ends up catching a ball out in the field which leads to a confrontation with some of the British players, that ultimately develops into the bet being made over the cricket game and the land tax.

Elizabeth realized this bet is unfair since the villagers are sure to lose a game they don’t know when pitted against people who have a full understanding and longtime experience with the game, not to mention endless leisure hours to play since the Indians are toiling away to make them rich.  She sets out to try to right her brother’s wrong by helping the villagers understand the finer points of the game.

So the teaching and leaning begins…

Recruitment: Initially Elizabeth teaches a small group the game, but there’s still the obstacle of establishing a full team who will be up for the extreme challenge.  Finally a diverse group of people are gathered from the village and surrounding areas since they have a common interest in eliminating the unfair tax by their common enemy, the British.

I learned all I need to know about cricket here:

Jealousy: Gauri (Gracy Singh) is a young village woman who has her eye on Bhuvan so it follows that she starts to get concerned about all the time he spends with the white memsahib.

Cultural exchange: Elizabeth helps to teach some of the finer points of cricket to the villagers, and in turn Bhuvan teaches her something about the Hindu legend of Radha & Krishna.


Elizabeth is enamoured by the festival and is even further taken in by Dandiya Raas number  Kaise Na Jale with music by A.R.  Rahman, playback singers Asha Bhonsle,  Udit Narayan, Vaishali.

Confession: As it turns out, Gauri wasn’t far off on her women’s intuition because Elizabeth, who has managed to learn Hindi in a few days, confesses her pyaar love for Bhuvan.  Luckily she’s able to save face since the part where she really lays it on the line is in English, so Bhuvan doesn’t understand, yet I think he may suspect it.

Fantasy: The tune O Rey Chori,  (playback singers Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Vasundhara Das) includes Elizabeth’s fantasy of what it would be like if Bhuvan was in her British world, or if she was in his Hindustani duniya.


Elizabeth is caught: A double crossing villager with an ulterior motive  informs Captain Russell that his sister is helping the villagers to learn cricket.  With shame, I admit I did find Captain Russell quite handsome, despite his evil deeds. Do you?

If I can answer for Elizabeth here, I’d tell her brother that it would be the delicious food and the Indian Film Industry that would allow her to turn against her brother, but I suspect she may say something about the cool Dandiya Raas dances and doing the right thing in the face of injustice.
The BIG Game: The stakes are high, and Aamir Khan’s Bhuvan conveys this beautifully here.  I believe Khan is very talented and expressing emotion through his eye, and this is a perfect example. Dekh!  I bet you’re even crying looking at the photos.  I am.



Elizabeth watches the game, worried about the outcome, rooting all the while for the villagers.  I suppose in Indian English one would say she was chewing her brains and taking much tension isn’t it?  In case you haven’t seen Lagaan and don’t know the outcome of the game *SPOILER ALTER*

There are winners and losers. Elizabeth sees the joyful embrace between Bhuvan and Gauri at the end of the match, and instantly understands that her fantasy will never be a reality.

Bittersweet ending: She can’t have Bhuvan, but she can play Radha to his Krishna.

Finally, you may be wondering how all those gori cheerleaders made their way to India, and I’m here to tell you that  Bhuvan and Lagaan are the reason.  When Elizabeth returned to England, she started the  first cricket cheerleading squad, and there after tradition has held that all IPL cheerleaders are to be white only.

And speaking of Lagaan and the IPL, Did you see A. R. Rahman perform at the 2010 closing ceremonies?   

After exploring the part of Elizabeth in Laagan, I am tempted to do a series on the pantheon of gori extra patron saints of Bollywood.

My personal favorite is the character Christina ( Barbara Lindley) from  Purab Aur Paschim (1970).

Opps! sorry, she’s been objectified as only a gori cold be, let me get a better picture of her….Ah, here, that’s better!

And then there’s Katherine (Antonia Bernath) in  Kisna: The Warrior Poet (2005)-yeah, I admit I saw it! So WHAT!?!

Sue McKinley (Alice Patten) of Rang De Basanti (2006); and most recently Sarah (Sarah Thompson) of Raagneeti (2010).

And like all good Bollywood films, allow me to leave you with some inspiration, courtesy of Bhuvan…and the moral of the story is:

This post was so long, time to roll the credits…

For more on Third Annual Lagaan Week: Ninth Anniversary Special, click over to theBollywoodFan-ji’s blog.

Fiza (2000)

Fiza (2000) is concisely described at IMDB here: In 1993 Fiza’s brother disappears during the riots in Mumbai. In 1999 Fiza is tired of waiting and goes looking for him. But there’s a little more to it than this, since when he’s gone he becomes a TERRORIST!  And this makes me think, can I write the word terrorist without being put on some kind of a watch list?  I’ll let you know.  I suppose the movie’s poster hints at what happened to the lost brother.

Fiza (Hindi: फ़िज़, Urdu: ﻓﻀﺎ) is a 2000 Indian film written and directed by Khalid Mohammed.  The film stars Karisma Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan and Jaya Bachchan. Although the film failed at the box office, it was well acclaimed by critics. Originally Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan were supposed to have cameo appearances, but their scenes were removed due to considerations about the length of the running time. The film is about Fiza (Karisma Kapoor), whose brother, Amaan (Hrithik Roshan), disappears during the 1993 Mumbai riots. Fiza and her mother Nishatbi (Jaya Bachchan) desperately hold on to the hope that one day he will return. However, six years after his disappearance, Fiza, fed up with living with uncertainty, resolves to go in search of her brother. Driven by her mother Nishatbi’s fervent hope and her own determination, Fiza decides to use whatever means she can—the law, media, even politicians—to find her brother, which brings her into contact with various characters and situations.  When she does find him, to her horror she sees that he has joined a terrorist group!!!!! (source)

One of the first gorgeous songs in the film is Piya Haji Ali by A.R. Rahman (who will be embarking on a world tour this year) which plays as we see the stunning views of  Haji Ali Dargah Mosque in Mumbai. All the music from the film is composed by Anu Malik.

The Filmfare for Best Actress went to Karisma Kapoor, and Best Supporting Actress went to Jaya Bachchan for their performances in Fiza. I always enjoy the intensity Karisma Kapoor brings to her characters, and for my tastes, the more hysterical the better!  Kapoor has plenty of opportunities to be her most animated and outraged best in portraying Fiza.

Fiza is fietsy and surly as it is, but she’s put on edge even more than usual since the ’93 bombings, and the fact that her brother has mysteriously vanished.  Her mother (Jaya) processes her grief over her missing son differently than Fiza and she’s trapped somewhere between denial and faith, but Fiza’s frustrations are manifested in her acting out more than is acceptable for a nice Muslim girl.  Her mom gently warns her about this…

Fiza sometimes goes out to the club and on one occasion she seems to attempt to pick a fight through a dance. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, but I’m sorry to report that I think this was a girl fight over a guy.  I hate to see the ladies stoop so low, but hota hai.

Here she is in the club about to show her dance/fight moves. It’s like she’s a hybrid Capoeira master, Bollywood style. It’s one of those item numbers that makes you think What on earth am I watching and why? In other words the type I love most! Not a lot of people know this, but I choreographed this number:

Fiza has a fiery personality as it is, but too often she is pushed to the limit and her very sharp tongue and tantrums are justified.  There are some scoundrels who follow her making lewd comments and generally sexually harass her;  as they say in India they are eve teasing. Isn’t that a crazy term, twisting the fault back to the woman?

Idiots!  They go to a further level at  taunt her with threats of throwing some acid at her.   Look how casually these n’er do wells toss up the acid bottle here:Well, boys will be boys afterall, (kidding) and nobody messes with the Fiza, and she just snatches the  bottle of acid, taking control of the situation!

If Fiza can speak her mind in the face of extreme harassment, have cool nightclub dance challenges, can’t she go to infiltrate some top-secret terrorist group to try to find her missing brother? YES SHE CAN! So she sheds her salwar kameez and puts on her polar fleece jacket, some acid wash jeans, and her backpack and heads Kashmir or where ever they train terrorists, to handle things! Does she have time to buy a puppet?  NO!

After slipping on her high waisted, acid wash jeans, Fiza happens upon Shusmita Sen grooving out to Mehboob Mere, with playback singers Sunidhi Chauhan and Karsan Sargathia.  I was listening to  Curry Smuggler’s podcast last week, and they made reference to the film, which reminded me that in my ever-growing backlog of movie screen caps, I had several images from Fiza.  This was reminder enough to help get to posting about it. It’s the eclectic mash-up of  Mehboob Mere with Slave 4 U by Britney Spears (which was based on Nasty Girl by Vanity 6 ) that reminded me to do this post.  You can find that HERE: episode 2 track 4.

Fast forward to find that Fiza locates her radicalized brother outside of a gift shop.

Fiza brings her brother back to Mumbai, but he’s different, sort of stressed out and tense since he’s an undercover terrorist! Mom tries to help him out by taking him to a relaxation/friendship group in the park called the Ha Hi Hi club, lead by Johnny Lever. I think a better naam for the club would have been The LOL club.

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the more peculiar screen caps I found from Fiza and I’d love to hear about your impressions and memories of the film.  I will always take a screen cap when I see the word melodious, so I’ll leave you with this one from Fiza: