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.

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.

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.

Mehbooba (2008) 2 brothers, 1 woman, a chandelier, and lots of balloons, slaps, and Johnnie Walker

Mehbooba was released in 2008, but director Afzal Khan began filming in 1999.  There are a lot of reasons why the filming took so long to finally be released which you can read about HERE.

mehboobaThe film stars Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan and Manisha Koirala in the lead roles. Set on a huge canvas and shot across three continents, America, Europe and Asia, with four different countries as the story’s backdrop, with New York, Budapest, Austria, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Mumbai as the key locations, the film boasts of lavish settings and locales, expensive sets. (source) Also check out the film’s official website for more on the story.

Come with me for a quick review of what I enjoyed from the film.  Fancy NRI New York City based businessman Sharvan Dhariwal (Sanjay Dutt) meets Varsha (Manisha Koirala) and they enjoy a balloon filled party.  mehbooba.balloons

The film has some huge dance numbers, like Kuch Kar Lo with playback singer Sonu Nigam

Varsha finds Mr. Shravan Dhariwal much too arrogant for her traditional Indian ways and he takes things too far at a fancy balloon filled New Year’s party.

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Varsha warns him, and then winds up for a  tight slap to the face.

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Look at the aftermath of the slap: one sad bollywood balloon,  Sanjay, I mean Mr. Shravan Dhariwal, left alone with his feelings of regret, a cigarette, and a half empty bottle of Johnny Walker, black label, since he is a business tycoon afterall. Even business tycoons have it bad sometimes.  I almost feel sorry for him, dekh:

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Don’t feel too sorry for him because he’s got an evil plan brewing.   While sitting there he decides he will win over this Varsha woman in order to take his revenge.  He now has a vendetta!  He begins to formulate his nefarious plan the next day on his yacht, complete with the requisite blond gori extra (to represent low moral values, hai na?),  a bottle of Johnny Walker, and a phone that reveals that even thought the film was released in 2008, this scene must have been shot in 1999. ( Addition to this post:  It should be noted that  along with the Johnny Walker,  Samir the oenophile was able to identify Champagne, wine, orange juice, Perrier and  Heineken in front of the gori.  Perhaps this is used to emphasis the evil decadence of America and what it can do to an innocent NRI tycoon-industrialist-hotelier-investor.)

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Evidently Mr. Shravan Dhariwal ki plan works because he gets Varsha Merha all dancey, wiggley, and happy here in the Tu Meri Mehbooba number with playback singer Udit Narayan:

Spoiler alert: Varsha Mehra does what is normally done after making the 7  nuptial rounds, if you know what I mean. Mr. Shravan Dhariwal tricked her into a night of love all because of that slap he suffered from Varsha at the party, and then on top of all that HE goes on to slap HER!  As we say here in the USA, payback is a mother%$#@&*!

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Well you can’t just slap Sanjay Mr. Shravan Dhariwal at a lavish, balloon filled party in front of hundreds of his peers without some payback! In case those stills weren’t enough, take a look at what happens!

She was tricked by that player, but I say to Varsha, don’t hate the playa, hate the game.mehbooba.played

Like lots of girls do, Varsha heads over to Budapest with her broken dil.  She’s de-flowered afterall, so devalued in her own mind, but she meets a nice fellow, Karan (Ajay Devgan) who understands and loves her tarnished image.mehbooba.tarnish

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Karan wants to take Varsha home to India to introduce her to his family so they can get married.  Karan arrives to India before her and his brother also returns to India from New York and is delighted to see him. Karan spends a lot of time with Shravan. They party with dancing girls and drink Johnny Walker.

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And they spend more time drinking Johnny Walker.

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mehbooba.tub.2They even hang out in the hot tub together which some might find a bit homoerotic, but they’re brothers, you know how brothers take hot bubble baths together, right?  They take baths together and caress each others faces, right?

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Despite all these good times, Karan notices that Shravan is very melancholy and spends lots of time playing the piano and drinking Johnny Walker.

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Varsha arrives and she soon finds Karan’s rich, bahut rich, but little does she know he’s got a brother who is that same man who she had the intimate encounter with in New York. In fact, she never even catches a glimpse of him until her marriage to Karan is already taking place.mehbooba.crazycrazycrazy

Karan does eventually figure it all out and goes pagal and swings from a chandelier, did you know about THAT chandelier Shweta?

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mehbooba.manishaHow does Mehbooba end? Does Varsha marry Karan? Or does she marry his brother, Mr. Shravan Dhariwal?  You know I can’t even remember since it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, so even if I wanted to tell you I couldn’t.  I do recall that they didn’t even ask Varsha what she wanted and I’m not sure that she should choose either if they didn’t even check with her.   As usual, please let me know what you thought of this film, I’d love to hear from you.

Sonu Nigaam rocked Minneapolis tonight!

sonu-nigam-concert25Well I’m up way to late for a school night and it’s all Sonu Nigam‘s fault!  Sonu Nigam’s concert in Minneapolis this evening was very enjoyable and I am still so thrilled from the show  that I can’t sleep and want to hear him sing some more.  I played the part of the gori extra in the audience.  Kya showman!  What a heavenly voice!  He put on an excellent show and was very jokey jokey.  Sorry I don’t have a set list from the show, but here are a couple of the numbers he did:

Mere Haath Main from Fanaa:

And a little something from Om Shanti Om, “Main Agar Kahoon”

He teased the crowd with Jodhaa Akbar’s “In Lamho Ke Daaman Mein,” but only did a few bars from the song.  I wanted to hear it all, so here it is:

After seeing Sonu bhai’s performance, this clip doesn’t seem quite that crazy:

I mean it is crazy, but I can sort of excuse her, after all, I’m crazy enough to be up late writing this post aren’t I?

The gori extras of “Kismat Konnection”

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Sometimes there are those movies where you just have to look for the enjoyment, since it might not really happen to be there. Kismat Konnection (2008) was one of those movies where I just had to give up at the start and make my own fun.  Even super Shahid supporter, Ajnabi at Paisa Vasool–Or Not, was able to determine that Kismat Konnection perhaps wasn’t the greatest time pass as evidenced in her entertaining review of the film.

Before this unremarkable easy listening tune started in the movie, I had spied this very suspicious group in the background, and my Bollywood intuition told me that they were more than your typical gori extras.

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ddljI thought Why are they standing in a group like that ? Why the mandolins? Well yes, I know Bollywood films have mandolins, but still, I wondered, why?  So check out this tune from the film, Is This Love (Kahin Na Laage) with playback singers Shreya Ghosal and Mohit Chauhan, picturized on Shahid Kapoor and Vidya Balan. Pay attention to the gori extras please.  And darn it if this song didn’t stick in my head, despite me trying to shut it out!

Playing a bit bigger role than is typical, this group of long blond haired, mandolin playing, acid washed shorts wearing gori extras (and one supposed to be Jamaican guy) really stole the show for me.

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It’s the kind of extra work that I’d be proud to do!  Wouldn’t you?  Who are these gorii?

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So the joy of Bollywood, as you already know since you’re here, is that even a weak movie has a few strengths, and sometimes I really have to reach for them, as is this case, where I found the subtitles unintentionally homoerotic:

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I made some more fun for myself when I noticed that Boman Irani’s character in Kismat Konnection looked like a Hasidic Jew, minus the ear locks, so I just added some here to complete the picture.

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kismiatKonnection.functionI also enjoyed the use of the word function in the film.  To many this may not seem so great, but I love it.  I noticed on my trip to India the liberal use of the term function for many different events.  Here in the US, we’d more likely just say what the actual event is, e.g. a party, a wedding, a concert, a lecture, etc., but it seems in India they just keep it simple and say function. I do like it though, and have been working steadily to use it as often as I can now.  It’s really a lot more mysterious to go to a function and just let people wonder what that function is.  There really are so many functions that we all have to attend each day.  In fact I have to wrap up this post since I’m going to a function. (function = I’m going to put a movie in the DVD player and watch it.)