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.

Aaina (1977)

I had originally tried to order Aaina (1977) from Netflix, but got the 1993 version of Aaina instead, which I reviewed HERE.  I eventually did get the 1977 version of Aaina that stars Mumtaz and Rajesh Khanna.  I would not be tricked by Bollywood’s duplicate titles and miss out on my original plan to see the 1977 version!

Shalini (Mumtaz)  is a poor yet happy brahmin girl who spends her time laughing and smiling, despite her  family’s poverty.  Ashok (Rajesh Khanna) and Shalini like each other but are from different castes.  They tease each other and have a lot of fun, but ultimately they come to understand that society’s norms will keep them apart.

When Ashok notes that Shalini’s only sari is worn to the point of having holes, he buys her a new one.  Shalini’s mother (Nirupa Roy) lets her daughter know that she can not accept this sort of gift from a man because it would be shameful for the entire family.  I love how this lesson of  family honor is filmed with the characters on either side of the worn sari:

Things continue to worsen for the family when the dad’s evil sister, Janki (Lalita Pawar) comes with her daughter to live with the already financially stressed family.   Janki doesn’t do a thing to help out, in fact she just spends time going to frivolous Bollywood  movies and gossiping.  When Janki finds one of her starving nephews begging for food she fails to understand that her taking money to go to the movies has caused the problem since that money would otherwise go for food for the children. Then Shalini finds her mother one night mixing poison in with the food so the she can poison the family out of their misery.

The next obstacle is that one of Shalini’s brothers wants to go to medical school, so in an attempt to get a recommendation to insure his entry to the program, Shalini travels to the big city. She stays with some friends of the family in the a home with a large central split staircase, so often seen in Bollywood films, hai na?

Shalini’s connection to try and get the recommendation for her brother’s entry to medical school is a fraud, and the situation ends with her being raped, as represented by a mirror aaina being broken.  She then hears of another person who can help her get the medical school recommendation, who invites her home to meet his wife.

But the wife is not there, only her picture is on the wall, and this powerful man has the same nefarious interests in Shalini as the man who first violated her.

So this is how Shalini, a young Brahmin girl, eventually turns to prostitution to support her family. One night she’s enjoying the company of a client, and he discovers that she’s Brahmin like him.  Note the symbolism of the mirror aaina on the wall saying hey, why don’t you look at yourself first yaar, before you point any fingers.

Shalini points out the ridiculousness of his hypocrisy and returns his tight slap to her face with one to his face.  Ironically, later in the movie when Shalini returns home to pay for and attend both her sister and brother’s weddings, who turns out to be the groom for her sister?  Not to spoil things, but it’s this creep here!

I learned from Suhan, a commenter on my 1992 Aaina post, that Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007) pulled from the 1977 Aaina.

This one comes out smelling of mothballs, like a wedding dress stored for decades in an attic trunk. Not surprising, since the plot is vintage 1977 from Aaina, and the 1995 Marathi film Doghi. (Hindustan Times).

If you’ve seen LCMD, perhaps like me you remember once Rani Mukerji became a high class call girl, she lived in a super deluxe apartment in Mumbai.  This was the only shot of that apartment I could find, but you get a general idea of its sleek, modern look.

Like Rani Mukerji’s character in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag,  Shalini also gets a fantastic place to live thanks to her profession.  I’m not saying it’s a good trade off, but it sure is a cool place.  One of my favorite parts of the film was when Shalini got a visitor, she would push a buzzer on the table and a curtain would automatically pull open, revealing the client behind the door. Check it out:

Sometimes it was a shock just who would stop by, like in this case, her friend Ashok from back home who told everyone he died in the war.  After knowing he could never be with Shalini, Ashok faked his own death, but eventually years later fate brought him right to her door!

Is that double lucky kismat at work or what?  Not only does he get a prostitute, but she’s also the woman he loves!   What are the odds of THAT happening!?  Alas, Shalini is shocked and ashamed.  Don’t you love that torpedo/bullet bra she must be wearing under her shirt?

Despite her circumstances, Ashok understands and more importantly accepts her as she is, and wonders what could have been between the two of them and life hadn’t taken them on different paths.

Shalini returns home to give her family money and pay for her siblings weddings. A cute part of the movie was the film within the film where the village  watched stars Dharmendra and Neetu Singh film a song sequence to Jaane Kya Ho Jaye with playback singers Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar.  This is scene cuts back and forth being picturized on filmi film stars and the “real” young couple in the film, Shalini’s sister and that scoundrel she’s engaged to, Shalini’s former client:

Shalini sacrifices herself to fund her family and is disgusted to return home only to  find her mother pregnant again!  There are already about 8 kids in the family. Of course her mother has no idea just what Shalini has done to earn money.

Seems word has gotten out around town about Shalini’s new job and her little sister points out how her music teacher (paid for by Shalini) was staring at her. Shalini flirts with idea of suicide to answer the question of her eternal suffering, but when she’s about to jump, she hears the sounds of her siblings calling to her.

So how do you think it all ends? If you’d like to know more, please go to see the plot summary by rAjOo.

I’d love to hear your impressions of Aaina too.

The Outer World of Shahrukh Khan (2005)

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As promised in my post on The Inner World of Shahrukh Khan, I will now cover part 2 of Nasreen Munni Kabir’s documentary set: The Outer World of Shahrukh Khan (2005).  Kabir’s experience working with Kahn is nicely reviewed in  the article Shah Rukh bahut sharif aadmi hai by Aseem Chhabra.nasreen

Towards the middle of “The Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan — the second of the two reflective and moving documentaries directed by British Indian filmmaker and writer, Nasreen Munni Kabir — the Bollywood star states: ‘There are three people in me: A person, an actor and a star. I try to keep as much in touch with reality as I can. Try to remember what the star did, what the actor did and what I did. Most people I know become so schizophrenic, they forget.’ Kabir’s two films, The Inner World of Shah Rukh Khan (produced for Britain’s Channel 4) and The Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan (produced for Khan’s Red Chillies International), do exactly that — show how Khan lives in three worlds at all times, trying to keep a balance, his sanity and also staying rooted to reality. (source)

inneroutersrkout The Outer World shows SRK on the road with the Temptations Tour in 2004. Khan is filmed smoking cigarettes as much or even more than in his Inner World disc. Khan is shown both on stage and more interestingly behind the stage with his Bollywood buddies, Saif Ali Khan, Arjun Rampal, Rani Mukergee, Preity Zinta, and Priyanka Choprainneroutersrkoutarjunsaif inneroutersrkoutbackstagearjunpriety inneroutersrkoutbackstagerani2 Khan is so incredibally hardworking, that he seems nearly manic.  He’s shown as so dedicated, enthusiastic and putting so much effort into the tour that I wish I could have seen it!  Also, I’ve found many videos of Khan’s Tour Diary, which makes me want to get a hold of that to watch. In my other post on the Inner World, blogger Bollywood Deewana commented that SRK seemed like a diva in some of the footage.  At first I didn’t understand where this was shown in Kabir’s video’s, but when I found footage of  The Temptation Tour Diary, I was able to see SRK having a bit of a fit HERE.

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Aamir Khan shows up back stage, rocking his Mangal Pandey (2005) look hard. Too bad I couldn’t get a clearer shot of the Khans on the big screen together,  (see that theBolloywoodFan?) well not in a movie, a documentary, but still:

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In the clips I saw of the tour within the documentary, the number that I’d want to see most is the one with Rani and Preity doing some classical dancing.  They both look fantastic.  Here’s a video of that portion of the tour HERE.

One of the more touching scenes is SRK doing one of the many back stage meet and greets with a young girl with what looks like cerebral palsey.  I  seeing how comfortable and caring he was with the child, since often times people act so awkward when dealing with people who have physical and mental disabilities.

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And of course there are lots of smoking scenes. Lots!

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Super star!

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Bollywood Insider: Catching up for 2009!

Here’s a better late than never update on Bollywood Insider, with my favorite correspondant of Bollywood chugli and news, Suzi Mann.  Many of the links I’ve added here before from ITN/Bollywood Insider  through youtube eventually disappear.  Hopefully these newer links from AOL,  Bebo,  Joost, and MySpace will last. 
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Enjoy the updates yaar:
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Amitabh Bachchan was in my dream & I serenaded him with KANK!

In this magic season of Christmas I was visited by Amitabh Bachchan  in a dream. Maybe it’s because I’d recently seen him in Desh Premee (1982), where he looked like Jesus and it’s Jesus’ season. Maybe it’s that buzz around the Bollywood Blogosphere about a possible North American Bollywood Bloggers trying to get together sometime in the future. But do I really need an excuse from my  delicate reality to justify this dream?  NAHIN!

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amitabhbachchan31THE dream: I was in some hotel room in an American city, on a floor with a view of a downtown evening skyline. The hotel room and Amitabh were like these pictured; current, hip, and urban. In the room were bollywood bloggers extraordinaire, theBollywoodFan, Memsaab, and blog poster, Jen. We were sitting around talking film, philosophy, and current affairs with Amit-jiWe weren’t star struck, just talkin’ with our filmy friend, chicago-skyline-viewwho was warm and chatty.  Then Mr. Bachchan had to leave and as he exited, I thought it was finally safe to act silly, so I started singing Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, the title track from the film I was trying to be funny, since it translates to  Never Say Good Bye.  I  didn’t think Amitabh could hear, but he peeped his head back in and then left, listening to me sing:

 

Tumko bhi, hai khabar, Mujhko bhi hai pataa
you and I know
Ho raha, hai juda, donon ka, raasta
that our paths are separating
Door jaake bhi mujhse, tum meri yaadon mein rehna
you’ll live in my memories even after you’re gone
Kabhi Alvida na Kehna
never say goodbye
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna


So enjoy today’s video, KANK,  inspired from the movies into my dreamworld and back to reality. The music is by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy & the playback singers are Sonu Nigam & Alka Yagnik. It’s picturized on some people yet to appear to me in a dream:  Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta & Abhishek Bachchan.

LYRICS with English translation

If you’d like a MORE dramatic intro. to the movie, and understand I’m saying MORE dramatic even in Bollywood terms, try this link, but I’m warning you, be careful!

I suppose this means I have to take a good look at my life and make sure it’s properly balanced with adequate doses of reality and not too much film. Have you had a dream where you were hanging out with one of your Bollywood favorites?  Do tell dosto.

Bollywood meets NASCAR? Ta Ra Rum Pum (2007)

Ta Ra Rum Pum (2007) starring Saif Ali Khan -n- Rani Mukerjee (or Mukerji if you feel like spelling it that way) is sort of NASCAR meets Bollywood. In my commitment to watch all Hindi movies available through my local library system, I forced myself to watch TRRP. I also forced myself to write about it in order to a.) warn you and b.) remove the yolk of this movie from my mind. So let’s begin! Chalo dosto! I’m not sure if you’ve figured this out yet, but in case you haven’t, I’ll let you in on a little secret: some, okay, most every Bollywood films have two mismatched people who are thrown together. TRRP is one such tale. It’s the story of a guy and a gal from two different worlds: one is poor, one is rich; one is very honest and plans everything, the other likes to bend the truth and is more fancy free; and one is a classically trained pianist, the other a race car driver. So different, yet love binds these two together. That’s Bollywood!

I don’t like my Bollywood set in the USA. I prefer India, and will accept New Zealand, Thailand, parts of Greece, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius, but I really don’t like the USA for a setting since I’m already here. Strike one! I’m not into auto racing. Strike 2! But what saves this movie from a strike out for me was the rather sick twists TRRP took, even more sick when you consider it’s mostly aimed at a kids’ audience. More on that later! Rani (Radhika Shekar Roy Banerjee Singh a.k.a. Shona), against her rich business tycoon father’s wishes marries Saif (Rajveer Singha.k.a RV ), a successful race car drive, who becomes increasingly successful in the first years of their marriage. They havea little girl and a little boy and they live in a fancy Frank Llyod Wright-esque home. Happy? Yes! But for how long? Not too long! Tragedy strikes and their happy family is challenged with super hard times after Saif/RV gets in a crash during a race.

Bummer! He’s not only suffers physically, but mentally too. How can he be a man if he can’t support his family? What is his worth? Saif tries to make his race car driver comeback but just keeps losing! The former star loses 10 races in a row. During these tough economic times it was fun to see commentary on frivolous spending, and the danger of spending beyond one’s means. Dad loses his job, the family goes into debt.

Before:                                                     After:

As a result they must leave their fancy Manhattan haveli and move to “cabbie row” which apparently was dangerous, since immediately upon arrival the kids witness a knife wielding robber barreling down the street. The parents have decided not to tell the kids that they’re now suddenly poor, but instead that they’re on a reality show called “Don’t Worry Be Happy” and that there are hidden cameras around. The parents lie to the kids and say if the fake show’s hidden cameras” see that they are seen frowning and not smiling they will lose the challenge, lose the lucrative prize and fame. How do they explain their new dangerous neighborhood with the robber and the knife, well it’s a toy knife and all part of the reality TV show. SMILE! No matter what, struggle, after struggle, you must smile.

At this point this make believe is sort of cute and acceptable since it’s done to protect the kids. Then they discover the apartment has no pani, I mean water, and the parents again cheer the kids up and have them swim in a fountain to bathe. Is this just a subtitling quirk, or do Indians really say “swimming costumes” instead of swimsuit?

For no reason there’s a scene with RV doing push ups. Why? Maybe to show that even in their new meager surroundings he’s still going to work out, despite not havig a treadmill and other fancy workout equipment.

In one of the film’s first sick twists, Saif/RV decides to give away the cherished family pet by setting it free in a park. This is supposed to save some money.

Saif/RV has to become a cabbie to earn money, despite being freakishly opposed to that idea. I thought he liked to drive cars, but maybe he just likes to drive them really, really fast. The kids figure out that they really are poor so they secretly skip lunch to save money to put toward their “school fees,” so I’m lead to believe it must be a private school or that these NRIs didn’t understand about free public schools available in the U.S. of A.. So the kids are quietly starving. Saif/RV lies to fellow cabbies that his daughter is sick to get money for a “hospital” bill. The cabbies are generous and give him a couple thousand dollars. RV’s a LIAR! His beti is not sick! But instant karma gets him within hours when the same kind cabbies see him out with his “sick” daughter:

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The wife figures out his lies and then goes and breaks the truth to the kids, waking them up urgently from their sound and peaceful sleep. I love how sick this is, especially since it was a movie for kids. They want to protect the kids’ innocence, yet Rani/Shona was so stressed, disappointed, hungry, and exhausted from her new found poverty that she had a mini breakdown and forgot about the “Don’t Worry Be Happy” game and had to tell the kids the truth. I always thought concert pianists were a little more stable than this until now. As they say in Bollywood, she has tension. Here’s some poor parenting, not that she’s sharing the truth, but that she’s hysterical, and exaggerating, and does it by waking them in the middle of the night!

She tells the girl her dad is a liar and will do whatever he can for money, and then tops of her announcement with some more kid friendly news:

“OK sweetie, now go back to sleep.” :) And then there’s the second shot of instant karma: When Rani/Shona wakes up Champ in the middle of the night to tell him how bad his dad is, the boy is found with blood leaking from his mouth.

That’s usually not a good sign. Why was he spitting up this blood? Poor kid was starving, so he had to scavenge for food in the garbage, and he ate glass at lunch, either out of starvation or from a stupid mistake. Remind your children NOT to eat glass! So he has to have a $65,000 operation and Saif/RV must get the paisa, I mean money, somehow to save his lad (spoiler alert: a professional car race). I couldn’t stop smiling during this part. Am I sick or is Bollywood sick to have a family movie showing kids tumble from their high life to one where they are starving and eating glass? Boy I wish I had my own kids to show this movie, so I could sweetly threaten them, “Well, you may not like dinner tonight kids, but at least you don’t have to eat glass like that poor little Indian boy had to in TRRP. Now finish your dinner!” NOW Finally, this cute and macabre film (yes I’m using those words together) seems to achieve something that I didn’t think Bollywood could do: appeal to the NASCAR demographic. Bollywood just doesn’t quit!

I did really like the title track by playback singer Shreya Ghosal , music by Vishal-Shekhar, and maybe you will too:

Extra Credit!

I love learning new tidbits and this was a new one for me from TRRP: If you’re lying your tongue is black, if you’re telling the truth it’s pink. The little boy in the film, Champ, was know to fib, much like his dad, so he’s asked to stick out his tongue so his honesty can be checked. Apparently this is something children are told in India. I like it! Have you ever heard of this?

Bommarillu (2006) & Genelia D’Souza. Sometimes I sneak over to Tollywood.

I know this is a Bollywood blog, but sometimes I have to talk about Tollywood.

I saw my second Telugu film the other day: Bommarillu (2006).  The first Telugu film I saw was Varsham (2004), which I enjoyed just as much.  I was excited to see Genelia D’Souza in a movie, since her much anticipated Bollywood film Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na is set to debut this weekend. If you’re curious as I am about JTYJN, Nawab theBollywoodFan has translated the songs from the movie (music by A. R. Rahman!) and given a lot of great preview information at his site.  He’s also had some brushes with the film’s director, Abbas Tyrewala, that you can read about here.

D’Souza is adorable ADORABLE as Hasini in Bommarillu.

She’s like the daughter of Kajol and Rani if that were possible, with a dash of Tanuja, and twist of Gidgit; meaning if she were any cuter she’d explode.  The movie reminded me of DDLJ, KKHH, and Cinderella.  Its appeal is vast, but in particular, I think all 8-12 year old girls out there would adore this movie.  Second to D’Souza, my other favorite part in the film was the domineering father, marvelously played by the brutally handsome Prakash Raj.  I was delighted to find that when this move is remade in Hindi, one of my favorite hot villains, Nana Patekar, will play the father.

My favorite number from the film is Laloo Darvaja, with music by Murali, Naveen, Priya Prakash; lyricist: Kulasekhar.
Here’s another song from the film, Bommani Geesthe, with music by Jeans Srinivas, and Gopika Poornima, lyricist; BhaskaraBhatla.  Reminds me a bit of DDLJ :
Would you like to know more about Bommarillu?  Then head over to theBollywoodFan, Apni East India CompanySai and Shujath Talk Cinema, and Baba Aur Bollywood for some excellent insight. If you consider yourself to be intuitive, this screen capture from the film could be interpreted as a spoiler: