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.

“AIDS Sutra:Untold Stories from India” with a touch of Bollywood

http://sajablogs.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451dd1469e20105361b738b970b-800wiFor time-pass I watch a lot of movies and I also read books.  I suppose it’s normal to find stories about films in books about India, since the film industry infiltrates the culture. Even in this anthology on the serious subject of AIDS,  I was able to find a bit of very uplifting Bollywood material.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is pleased to announce the publication of AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India, a landmark collection of essays that presents a complex and gripping picture of the disease. Sixteen of India’s most well-known literary writers go on the road to tell the story of people affected by the epidemic and the stigma that surrounds them. “This book reveals the human side of the disease,” write Bill and Melinda Gates in their introduction to this groundbreaking anthology. (source)

Bhoot Ki Kahaanian by Jaspreet Singh references Taare Zameen Par (2007).

Taare_Zameen_Par

 AIDSsutra.TZP.1

AIDSsutra.TZP

aamir-khan-with-children-in-taare-zameen-par

Umrao_Jaan_movie_poster

 

Return to Sonagachi by Sunil Gangopadhyay presented a delightful dilemma: where on earth do we hide the whisky?  I bet it was Johnnie Walker.  Read on to see how the dilemma reminded me a bit of Umrao Jaan (1981) and (2006):

 

 

 

 

AIDSsutra.Sonagacchi.p158

Now here’s the Umrao Jaan-ish part:

AIDSsutra.Sonagacchi.p160

(p.158)  

See!  A poetry writing prostitute with a heart of gold, just like Umrao Jaan.

still4

Love in the Time of Positives by Nalini Jones baghban00 describes how Baghban (2003), and in particular the part played by  Salman Khan, ended up saving someone’s life.

On the day he planned to die, he decided to spend his last afternoon at the movies. Basavaraj described the film he saw at great length-a family drama starring Amitabh Bachchan called Baghban. It is the story of loving parents who give everything they have to their son and look froward to a happy old age.  But their children have grown selfish, caught up in their own concerns, and the parents are left destitute until an unlikely saviour, a street boy the couple had adopted and educated, comes to their rescue.  Sitting alone in the theater, Basavaraj began to worry about this own parents. He realised he was their only son, their best hope for ‘a good old age’. He wanted to be like the adopted boy in the film, the only one who doesn’t forget what he owes his family.  Basavaraj went home, threw out the pills, pored away the alcohol, and cast himself as the unlikely saviour- the son who is secretly HIV positive. (source p.320)

baghban

 

So if you’ve seen Baghban, I suppose the credit would go to Salman Khan  for saving the life of Basavaraj! Who would have thought!?  I wonder if Salman-ji knows about this.

 

The Daughters of Yellamma by William Dalrymple includes an Amitabh Bachchan siting!  In some parts of India young girls are “married” or dedicated to the temple goddess as prostitutes.  Dalrymple interviews one of the women and she recalls the time she lived in Bombay:

I ate fabulous biryani at the Sagar Hotel and once when I was in the streets I saw Amitabh Bachchan pass by in his car. (p. 226)

06

As much as I enjoyed to Sunil Gangopadhyay’s piece, I enjoyed The Last of the Ustaads by Aman Sethi which both mentions and pays a great tribute to Gadar, Ek Prem Katha (2001).  Maybe I loved Sethi’s piece so much because Gadar is one of my favorite movies.

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Questioning the plight of truck drivers in India and their higher tendency to have HIV than the general population, Sethi interviews a truck driver:

Is it just ‘modern life’? When finding answers to sudhcomplex questions in a country infested with faux holy men, one must turn to the sole oracle of truth—Bollywood super hit film Gadar: Ek Prem Katha(Gadar: A Love Story), Tara Singh the truck driver, played by trucker demigod Sunny Deol, is asked a poignant question by Partition refugee Sakina, played by Amisha Patel.  ‘Tara Singhji,’ she asks as sh expertly ties hi turban, ‘why don’t you get married?’ Tho this, Tara Singh shakes his turbaned head, and gives her an answer that made practically every truck driver in India nod his head approvingly and say ‘Wah!’ ‘Madamji,’ says Tara Singh, ‘I live in Khana Buddur; today my truck is parked here, but tomorrow I might  be in Delhi. After that why would anyone want to marry a truck driver?’ Thought the movie is set in 1947, Tara Singh’s question touches upon an issue that is relevant even today.  Truck drivers aren’t particularly discriminated against when it comes to marriage partners; but some of the younger drivers I spoke with said that finding partners was becoming harder and harder.  I watched Gadar on the recommendation of Sanjay and some of his friends Played out against the backdrop of the Partition riots in 1947 in the border states of India and Pakistan, Gadar tells the tale of how a heroic Jat-Sikh truck driver rescues a wealthy Muslim girl from a rampaging mob; wins her trust, marries her, rescues her once more–this time from her rampaging father–and finally settles down, in a happy ending. While several films have had their heroes careen up and down highways in trucks, the heroes. are rarely truck drivers;l the truck just happens to be the closest vehicle at had to make good their escape, rescue their lovers, or run over their enemies.  Gadar is perhaps the only mainstream hit in which the protagonist is a truck driver who proves to be a good husband, father, patriot, and all round nice guy.  Unfortunately, Gadar  too starts with Tara Singh accepting that fate has dealt him a poor hand by making him a truck driver.  He obligingly sings and dances and plays the part of the happy truck driver, but he understands the distance between him and the object of his desire.  As he says, ‘Even if I wanted to, I can’t touch the moon, can I?’ The rest of the plot is a story of redemption–of proving that truck drivers are honourable, powerful , and patriotic.  Why does truck driving lack izzat?  Why are truck drivers victims of negative stereotypes?  Is it class? Is it their association with a high-risk behavior group? Does, in fact, being categorised as  a high-risk group stigmatise them even further? From Gadar to their portrayal in the Indian press, truckers are regarded as rough and ready and reckless, dirty and dissolute.  Prone to drink, driving accidents–and now disease. (p. 306-7)

For more about the book,  read a review  from The Telegraph, Calcutta India, and another from The Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. Listen to the NPR Podcast on the book: ‘AIDS Sutra’ Challenges Widespread Denial In India’

Also, if you want to get filmy with it, here’s something else.

The AIDS Jaago (AIDS Awake) project is four short dramatic films which aim to dismantle myths and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. These films were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and made by acclaimed Indian filmmakers Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding; The Namesake), Vishal Bhardwaj, Santosh Sivan and Farhan Akhtar. Designed to use the immense power of moviemaking to wake people up about AIDS, the project was the brainchild of Mira Nair and was produced by her company Mirabai Films. (source)

Watch for Free on Jaman HERE

other Bollywood Movies on HIV