Friday, June 30, 2006

eeeeee!

I can't believe how much Bollywood I've already encountered. Aish on a Coke sign at a roadside snack bar. Our tour guide loves SRK and DDLJ. A truck on the highway was emblazoned with photos of various stars, including Salman (who perhaps helps with overtaking?). SRK was on the front page of the Times of India. I saw at least three different movies on tv this morning and recognized a bunch of actors. Musak versions of things I recognize were playing at breakfast in the hotel. Very helpful in feeling right at home, I must say. Maybe that's silly, but it's true! Wonder what my first Akshaye sighting will be?

Also I watched most of Iqbal on the plane and cried and cried and cried, huddled under my airplane blanket, sniffling away and wiping my tears on my sleeve. My emotions have been all over the place lately and I think I must have really needed an outlet with something familiar - after all, I don't really know my fellow travelers quite well enough to have them see me in a floor of tears. Not yet, anyway - I'm sure the opportunity will come around again, and probably sooner than I expect. What a wonderful film. I can't wait to see all of it!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

next post: live from India!

Okay, this is it, off I go. Tomorrow I fly to Chicago for orientation, then Thursday we go to Delhi. Hurrah! But I'm already sad about leaving my friends here (which includes you, even though most of you don't live here) - but already happy about meeting friends there. Please please write, even if I can't write back much, and look for updates on bethgoestoindia dot blogspot dot com.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Naseeruddin Shah and Harrison Ford on the same plane!

Behold! A list of the movies shown on my flight to India! I'll watch any of the Indian ones, but obviously I am most delighted at getting to see Abhishek - and perform my dance routine to "Sabse Bada Rupaiyya" for the whole plane (where am I going to put all those bakckup dancers?) - en route.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bollywood and the Indian unconscious

Everyone go here and listen to Kamla Bhatt's interview with Dr. Salman Akhtar on Bollywood and the Indian unconscious. A psychologist and psychoanalyst, Dr. Akhtar discusses the connection between the very sophisticated and nuanced culture of India with the exaggerated, silly world of Bollywood. He argues that on the surface, the resonance of Bollywood within this culture doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, so he wonders what might be going on underneath, unconsciously, both for individuals and the larger collective society.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Let's just call this post "masala" and be done with it, okay?

Alright. I know my recent posts have been everything but writeups of what I've watched, mostly because I am running around getting ready for my trip and spending my evenings with my friends instead of film stars (Akshaye is pretty sad about this, let me tell you). But I have in fact watched two new movies lately, although with the return to California of my laptop, it's hard to find time to write them up. So while there will be no proper responses as such, let it be added to the record that I watched my first Satyajit Ray film, Shatranj Ke Khilari, which left me with a feeling of "hmmm...I'm not quite sure I totally got that, although it was certainly interesting" (and I really liked the Monty Python-esque animation and was muchly satisfied by narration from the Big B) (and if I had had its imdb entry handy while watching I would have been on the lookout for a young Farida Jalal). Water finally made it to our art theater last week, so I saw that too. My thoughts on Water still haven't worked themselves out but I would like to ask if John Abraham was supposed to be dull and underwhelming or was he just not doing a very good job?

My parents came to visit this weekend and I showed them Bunty aur Babli.* I can't quite tell what they thought of it, except for a clear fondness for the neck-popping Dashrath Singh, but they both said vaguely positive things. Given that they are professional historians, maybe The Rising would have been a better choice, but that would have involved gonig to the video store, which was far too difficult in the heat and humidity that made Saturday so very unpleasant. (Yes, I know India will probably be worse than that a lot of the time. Don't remind me.)

I have been asked by the people running our pre-trip orientation to provide my colleagues with an informal introduction to Bollywood. I've sent around an email asking them what they'd like to know about, but I could use some suggestions from all you Bollywood freaks too. This talk/discussion will be done at lunch and cannot include a/v, so no clips. Just paper. I'm thinking of an illustrated "who's who" of the big stars and maybe a list of typical scenes and elements, using stills whenever possible. Pls advise.

* A certain reader has accused me of being a Bunty aur Babli evangelist. If said reader would just watch it himself, he'd understand. And he had better believe me: he will watch it (imagine my most threatening tone) (yes, ha ha). He'll watch it and he'll like it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Shall we solve this with a dance number?

A bit of a meta- and inside joke- post. Not really even a post. Just a giggle, courtesy of liebling Michael.

Dear SEL: more B&B, less KHNH!

It's a lay-it-on-the-line kind of day here at Beth Loves Bollywood. So, bearing that in mind, as well as the fact that I can't understand any of the non-English, here are my thoughts on the KANK soundtrack. This is my first music review, I think. Thanks to Totally Basmatic for the idea (and maybe somebody else suggested I do it? I can't remember, and I v sorry to whoever that was). Overall I feel enh. Nothing in here grabs me, although I have a feeling that one of them will grow on me (more on that later).

"Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna" - Makes me think of "Kal Ho Naa Ho." I know this is exactly what TB said but she's right. Snooze.

"Mitwa" - Again, enh. I have nothing in particular to say about this. It does a bit remind me of "Jaane Kyon" from Dil Chahta Hai.

"Where's The Party Tonight" - The best thing about this, as TB points out, is that it sounds like it's about nachos. Question: in the setting "Do you feel alright/Wanna naach all night," what should the final punctuation be? Is it a polite inquiry - "Dear, do you feel like naaching all night, or would you rather stay in and rent a movie?" Or is it a declaration of a plan - "Put on your fancy pants, we're going out. No, the silver ones. No no, those are lilac. I don't know, last time I saw them they were on the floor of your closet. Yes, I already fed the dog. Come on." I think it's the latter, given some of the other lyrics. And I like some of the instrumentation during the bridge.

"Tumhi Dekho Na" - Possibly mawkish. Inspires gentle swaying back and forth in my desk chair. Booooring.

"Mitwa Revisited" - Bluffmaster has set the bar really high for remixes, in my book, and this just doesn't cut it. It's fine. I think it might be best listened to while driving on a highway with the windows down - like DCH when they go to Goa.

"Rock 'n' Roll Soniye" - This is a completely silly song and I already like it. The way the singers say the initial letter R pleases me immensely. And I swear at one point it sounds like the chorus is quietly singing "wham bam thank you ma'am," which is funny just because it couldn't possibly be the case (cf the "roofie checking account" Citibank ad on Raaga.com). This will be the one to grow on me and a little part of me hopes it will be blared frequently this summer in India so I can truly appreciate it in context. That said, the way to do 50s or 60s style in current Bollywood is as in "Gori Gori" from Main Hoon Na. I should probably reserve some judgement until I see this in the movie, because maybe the moves are as great as in MHN. Somehow I doubt it, though. This song too has KHNH overtones to me - parts remind me of "Maahi Ve" and the end reminds me of the end of "Pretty Woman" when everyone says "wheeeee!" or "heeeyyyy!" or whatever that is.

"Farewell Trance" - From its opening gentle rains, I'm already asleep. Maybe I'm supposed to be? But then I woke up with the hokey voiceover. "No distance is too great. Your memory lives on." Barf.

Thanks to Bollywood World Music for playing the soundtrack.

And yes, I know SEL did KHNH and DCH. They also did B&B and "Main Aisa Kyon Hoon" from Lakshya which are totally different and much better. And yes, I know I once said I thought the DCH soundtrack was really great but I have changed my mind and downgraded it to "good for its movie, but not something I wish to hear out of context." Except for "Woh Ladki Hai Kahan," which I will heart forever.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I knew there was a reason I own two copies of the Main Hoon Na soundtrack!

Namely, that yesterday while driving around I was really sad that I didn't have MHN in the car. So I went rummaging around the car, looking for a suitable replacement (as if there is such a thing - pish posh), when voila! There it was! You cannot imagine my happiness. Sometimes only "Chale Jaise Hawayein" will do. So from now on, the rule for favorites is, one copy at home (loaded on to both home and work computers), and one copy in the car. (And yes, if I had an ipod, this wouldn't be a problem, but until they make one with AM radio so that I can have my NPR in the mornings, forget it).

Also, my dear laptop had to be sent back to the mothership in Cupertino, California. She should be back today. Logic board problems. Yikes.

Update: my computer is still not fixed. The shop called this morning and said ishe was back from California. So I brought her home at lunch but immediately had the same freaking problem I took her in for a week and a half ago - plus some new ones. Jolly. On the bright side, it all seems to be covered by my 3-year protection plan. And I just want to say for the record that she still is better-behaved than the one and only PC I've ever owned.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Beth lives Bollywood...sorta

[Note: this is a bad post. The subject surely lends itself to better, but I am v distracted by and worried about my trip - now two weeks away - and have stared and stared at this but just can't figure out how to make it better. Sorry, gentle readers.]

So the film shoot with the so-called Bollywood-style dance number was yesterday. There was nothing exceptionally Bollywood about this little scene, although it did feature long-lost lovers, an item-ish fire dancer in very revealing clothes, a guy with a ukele suddenly appearing next ot the couple (anyone with me that this was a vague nod to DDLJ and/or MHN?), and choreo that could roughly be sorted into the "boys vs. girls" category. Very roughly. But we did dance to "One, Two, Three Baby" by Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor, and, based on how many people I heard humming under their breath, said tune got firmly stuck in the head of all 60 or so people present. If pressed, I'd describe the dance moves as closer to hula than filmi, but I'll take what I can get. I've always heard that making movies involves lots of standing around and waiting, and now I believe it. It took two hours to learn our sixteen-count routine, practice it about five times, and shoot at least ten various versions of it. Melina aptly described the whole scene as looking like a bad skirt convention, with oodles of us in those annoyingly ubiquitous prairie skirts (myself included) and many others in what had to have been 1990 homecoming dance calf-length tragedies. But bad clothes really just added to the feel - Karisma would have been right at home.

Update: by popular demand, here is a photo (albeit measly), a nice shot of my university's quad. We danced in front of the domed building at the far end, which is a big lecture hall.

Sadly I don't have a picture of us dancing, because...I was busy dancing. Sorry to disappoint! (Although I have to say, if any of you think I would post a picture of myself dancing, you can think again, because the little dancing fu I have is focused on ballroom rather than anything that could fit the hip-centric thing we did. I have not "the latin motion," as a dance instructor once described the rhumba. But mind you I plan to win my dance-off! What I lack in skill I make up for in feeling.) If I find an action shot online anywhere, I will certainly post it.

Perhaps I can sate you with a description of the dance. It was 16 counts long. The first four counts involved arms at shoulder level and alternating our hands over our eyes, sort of in a windshield wiper effect but towards the center - this made me think of being coy behind a fan or something, although our motivation was never spelled out. So left, right, left with that, then take both hands and fan them outwards away from your body, arms extended, in sort of a "sunrise" kind of way. In the next four beats we did a hip-swaying hula-type thing to the left, then we did that to the right for the next four beats. Our final counts were turning in place towards the left with our arms up over our heads with elbows bent in sort of a vertical hula thing. I'm sure there's a name for this but I'm equally sure I have no idea what it would be called - I've seen it before, and when properly done I suppose it's serpentine and seductive or something. As we did it, not so much. I cannot overemphasize how rag-tag this group was. Then we would freeze in some sort of random pose during the verse until it was time to dance again. This pose bit was tricky, as we were left to our own devices to pick a pose. I madly tried to channel Aish and Urmila, wondering what such goddesses would do in this situation; most people settled on an arms akimbo hands on hips kind of thing, looking pouty or defiant. The best pose was one of the guys opposite me who had his head jutted out and lipsed pursed in an aggressive yet silly way that made it very hard for me not to laugh. The men's part involved bent knees, slapping their legs, and a variation on the sprinkler - a little J Timberlake-y. Then we did our moves again and froze. We also entered and exited the scene by running screaming, waving our arms around. If I understood correctly, we were the backdrop of some suddenly-reuinted lovers, which of course struck me as perfectly appropriate.

Update: here's a picture of the end of the filming.

You can see, from the left, the fire dancer, two of the random little girls (there was a special dance for them, and they ran around with someone who probay was the villain, as he was dressed in red and had a bad fake moustache, very much like Crime Master Gogo) the director-type guy (in white t-shirt), and on the far right, the ukelele player. I promise to try to take photos of me dancing, but that will have to wait until after the big event I have at work tonight.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

my two great pop cultural loves, together at last

From darling Akshay, a Bollywood take on the Beatles, delightfully like the song from the Gumnaam clip in Ghost World (apparently this has been up for months - I'm so out of it).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

George Clooney called. He wants his hair ba...oh never mind

It's an improvement over Shaadi Se Pehle and he looks fantastic.

It's not quite at "damn" level - if you start handing those out willy-nilly they lose their meaning - but it will do nicely for now. Motorcycle jackets don't do anything for me, but I'll take whatever non-insane, non-hungover outfits I can get. Thanks to Baba aur Bollywood for the tip and Now Running for the picture.

And everyone send happy thoughts my way - my dear laptop, Mrs. Peel (after the Avengers - not, as one person suggested, because she is an Apple) is in the shop and needing help. I'm distraught, mournfully watching the scene in Swades of Shahrukh and his Powerbook.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I still like it better than Salman

Look what I bought on the way home today!

Army of Monkeys, recently back from Mumbai, had warned me this was sickly sweet, and I have to agree. As a diet soda drinker, this was a shock to the system. Particularly enjoyable is the stick-on label with nutritional information, telling me that this product does not contain fruit and that it is made in India. Here's to the first of many, whether or not they are endorsed by a muscly star of Mujhse Shaadi Karoge!

Thank you to my friend Kevin, who has reviewed Thums Up for his very cool website Knowledge for Thirst, for alerting me to the availability of Thums Up at one of Chambana's finest international groceries.