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.

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.

On behalf of the USA, mujhe maaf kardo Shah Rukh Khan-ji

In case you didn’t already know…

srkdetainedShah Rukh Khan, 43, known here as the King of Bollywood, was on his way to Chicago for a parade later Saturday to mark India’s Independence Day when immigration officials at Newark pulled him aside and interrogated him. The star of scores of top-grossing films was released after Indian consular officials vouched for him. “I was really hassled — perhaps because of my name being Khan,” he said in a text message to reporters in India. “These guys just wouldn’t let me through.” ….(source)

Forgive them SRK, for they know not what they do. Sorry bhaisahib, on behalf of America, mujhe maaf kardo Shah Rukh Khan-ji. I apologize for the USA detaining you at the airport, and sorry for the buzz kill to your Indian Independence Day.

On a related note…

And another…

And this is WHO he was going to see!

Ever wondered about those huge homes in Bollywood movies?

motiba1.jpgI recently read Motiba’s Tattoos, a memoir by Mira Kamdar. Kamdar is an American born Jain woman and her book traces the life of her grandmother. I was reading along, not expecting anything Bollywood, but when describing her time spent in Mumbai as a kid Kamdar served up some spicy Bollywood dish:

The slum was still cloaked in darkness, but on the other side of the street, the mansions of stars were lit up here and there with the garish florescence of hundreds of high-voltage projector lights illuminating the last of the nightlong marathon of shooting. ‘Bollywood’ movie stars are rich people in a poor country. Their real-life homes provide ready-made back-drops for the improbable lives of the wealthy heroes, heroines, and villains they play in their films. We children would often go up to the rooftop terrace of our Jehu apartment building after dark and pick out the homes of the stars where scenes were being filmed. ‘Look! Over there. Tonight they are shooting at Amitabh Bachchan’s house over on Tenth Road. You know who is starring, Hema Malini.’ Star struck teenagers in the neighborhoods waited patiently outside the gates of these villas for hours hoping to capture a glimpse of a favorite actor. When shooting was going on late into the night at Meena Cottage, directly behind our apartment it was hard to sleep. The bright lights and the knowledge that just yards away from where we slumbered, one famous star or another was breathing, walking, sitting, or drinking tea was simply too enervating.(p.150)

silsila

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Now everytime I see Bollywood movies, I’m going to wonder if the homes featured are possibly some star’s actual home. How exciting! Want to learn more about where Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Rekha, Aishwarya Rai, Aamir Khan, and John Abraham live? Click HERE, though it’s a bit dated, it’s still interesting. Remember what you see, because it could show up in a movie. I wonder if SRK’s home, Mannat, pictured here will or has ever been in a film?  For a thrilling and humorous account of seeing Mannat first hand, check out In Praise of All Things Dharmendra related.

In addition to writing about Amitabh, Kamdar also writes about Rekha’s romantic involvement with her cousin on page 165. Wow!  I also like Kamdar’s description of Bombay:

Bombay has been called a whore, a temptress, a slut. The city is a woman, enticing, betraying, extricating great sacrifice, sucking one dry. Indian speakers of Marathi, Gujarati, and Hindi call the city ‘Mumbai’ after a local female deity, Mumbadevi, whose distinguishing characteristic is the lack of a mouth. (p.131.)

Until I read this, I didn’t know anything about the Mumbadevi and that she has no mouth. Of course I this made me think of Hello Kitty, who also has no mouth. I fell in love withbarbielogo.gif as a kid, and sanr_icon_kitty_1.gifas a much older kid, and Bollywood is my adult Barbie-Hello Kitty. Now I feel more justified in this hobby, because the Mumbadevi has no mouth.
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RIP Roscoe. Video of the Day: “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” (1998); “Shauk Hai”(2007)

roscoe.jpgWith a heavy heart I dedicate these videos to Roscoe, a great cat who is now in a better place, if there is a better place than sitting comfortably on a couch watching great movies. I was lucky to have the company of Roscoe while watching many Bollywood movies and will miss him a lot, as will his keeper, mere dost, Tim. Tim provided Roscoe with a lavish lifestyle, usually reserved only for human royality. The videos today are from movies I watched with Roscoe. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai  (1999) starring Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukerji, and Salman Khan. Alka Yagnik singing “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” :

 

LYRICS

And if you want to cry some more, this ought to help. Here’s a lovely song from a sad scene from the movie Guru (2007), which Roscoe also saw. In this scene are Aishwarya Rai , Vidya Balan and Abhishek Bachchan and the song is “Shauk Hai” by plack singer Sowmya Raoh written by A. R. Rahman, so get a tissue before watching.

Thanks to hyderabadiyt for the youtube video. To hear full song click HERE. Lyrics posted by nevil .

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Rest in Peace Roscoe Alevizos.

Video of the Day: “Om Shanti Om” from KARZ, 1980

I’ve never seen Karz (1980), but I have seen the cool video clip here, “Om Shanti Om,” with Rishi Kapoor  (playback singer Kishore Kumar) and remember thinking the first time I saw it, “Hey, those are the WRONG kind of Indians in this video!” I was delighted to see this same tune picturized in the beginning of Om Shanti Om (2007), which I had the pleasure of viewing tonight with some BFC members: Nandini-ji, Vik-ji, Inderjit-ji, aur Lisa-ji. Here are the LYRICS so you can sing along with Rishi/Kishore.  “Hey, tumne kabhi kisi se pyaar kiya? Kabhi kisi ko dil diya? Maine bhi diya! La la la la, la la la la…”
Groove to this friends:

Video by by bearsurfer

 

Om Shanti Om stars:

See it here and now in Minneapolis: http://www.brookdalecinemas.com/

Here was the best part of the movie, the special appearances cast, and all I can keep thinking is, “How could I have missed Sridevi!? Look, Dharmendra!om11.jpg

Here’s a fellow WordPresser review of Om Shanti Om that’s worth a read:

Picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost – a First Day First Show review of Om Shanti Om

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