Bollywood as every one seems to know is with its predictable plots, overblown sentimentality, and saccharin endings (in which everybody dances to every beat and there is a song for every occasion…err, emotion!! Jokes apart, it has evolved over the years – some with depth, a subtle social message, others that are laughable but enjoyable nonetheless. I enjoy watching movies which are inspired from life. So this weekend, my friends and I were in a mood to just relax at home and watch some movies with popcorn, nachos and coke.
So here are few of my favorite delightful Bollywood films, couple of which are a blend of East and West. The lively and vibrant songs and dances, beautiful and colorful costumes, memorable and endearing characters will only make watching them worth the while. As one of the famous dialogue goes “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost” (The film isn’t over yet, my friend), thus these movies show a different picture of Indian society, but this is not the complete one.
Slumdog Millionaire: Does the name ring a bell? Everyone might not have seen it but surely must have heard about it. Well, it’s the story of the city of Mumbai, with its vast contrasts of utter poverty in an emerging modern world. It is about a fight for survival, but one that has moments of beauty in it as well.
Monsoon Wedding: A joyous Indian treat set around a wedding (as the title shouts). The movie follows a couple of tangents, the complexity of family dynamics: the young, spoiled, possibly gay son; the rich, corrupt family friend; the “duffer” (a young Indian male relative living in Australia–complete with an Australian accent–who comes back to Delhi for the wedding); the adopted niece who suffered child abuse much earlier in her life; the women relatives who, in one great scene, sing together about the trials and tribulations of finding the right man. What will struck you about this movie would be the colors of the film. There are electric colors everywhere: the orange of the marigold flowers, the exotic saris the women wear, the green of the foliage, the beautiful wedding tent. All these colors will assault your eyes in the most pleasurable of ways.
The Namesake: Movie which is based on a novel, is an insightful portrayal of a lifecycle of an immigrant family – including some brilliant scenes and some tender moments of exquisite emotional glory. On top of that a generation gap between parents and kids, Gogol (whose father named after Russian writer Nikolai Gogol) and his sister Sonia struggle to understand their parents’ take on life. A worthwhile film, especially for those interested in life in India or the experience of Indians in America.
English Vinglish: The pressure to speak English has been immense in a country with a colonial past that is India. Speaking it perfectly is necessary for survival. A charming story shot in New York, where the actress embarks on her transformative journey of a beautiful indian woman who is taken for granted by her family, who treat her with derision for her inability to speak English. It’s not a film that sweeps you with the highest of stakes, and yet the scenes that play out are no less devastating. I wonder, if you will cringe in heartbreak like I did at the coffee shop scene with an aggressive counter clerk.
Bride and Prejudice: Bollywood version of Jane Austen’s beloved novel “Pride and Prejudice” with Cultural Clash, Romantic Conundrum, Colorful Musical. The exuberant music and dancing are what stayed with me the most from this movie, and I think that queuing up the opening wedding dance scene or the “No Life Without Wife” number will cheer me up on any grumpy day. And, as the character, Mr. Kohli says, “I’d happily get drunk on it!!!!”
I suspect that many of you have neither the patience nor the inclination to watch them. I ask you to put your prejudice aside and just try watching these movies. Life is not a movie, especially a Bollywood movie…but few of them are inspired by life!!