Monday, February 2, 2009

Hooray for Bollywood

I wrote this awhile ago waiting for an opportune time between posts to publish it, but given the recent success of Slumdog Millionaire (which I saw a few weekends ago) and the attention it's brought to the world's largest democracy as well as to its vibrant film industry, I thought now was a good a time as any to post this....

Though I haven't delved deeply into the genre, I know there are many cinefiles who are connoisseurs of Bollywood films—Hindi musicals from India. They are usually quite big spectacles featuring catchy Hindi pop songs, over-the-top and elaborate dance numbers, and quite beautiful actors and actresses. Because of their energy and exuberance, as well as their reputation of being wonderful examples of pure, innocent escapism, they've been often compared to classic Hollywood musicals, reminiscent of Busby Berkeley musicals.

While I was aware of them, what seriously piqued my interest in the genre was a number from the 1966 Bollywood movie Gumnaam that was featured in the 2001 film Ghost World, an adaptation of cartoonist Dan Clowes' respected graphic novel of the same name. The DVD release featured the number in its entirety, which I have linked to below. It's a great time capsule for the worldwide go-go '60s phenomenon.

The second clip is from a film called Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham that came to my attention during, of all places, a comedy bit on the Colbert Report television show, where they featured a brief excerpt from the number linked below. The brief bit they showed wowed me, but understandably I didn't catch the title. A few weeks later, however, out of sheer dumb luck, I stumbled across the DVD of the film n my local public library!!

After watching all the numbers several times (and playing them for my family), I did try to follow the story—but I must admit it was a bit inpenetrable and didn't hold my interest much. But the musical numbers are worth the price of admission on their own.

In recent years, due to the growing respect and attention that Bollywood stars and their films have received internationally (partly the result of the growing influence of expatriate Indian populations in the U.S. and Britain, and other places around the world), some of these stars have been performing in concerts in Southern California.

Note: For a better quality clip of the video below, or if it's no longer available, go here. Some of the better quality clips of this number have been taken down or are not allowed to be embedded.

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