Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Behold Bollywood

While I was away on one of the stranger trips of my life, the cinetrix asked about Bollywood films.

I do not consider myself knowledgeable in this realm, but I feel passionately about the little bits of knowledge that I do have.

I love the music from these flicks--the delightful combination of dancing (you can see it just in listening), eastern instrumentation, western synthesizers, linguistic blending, and absolutely amazing voices.

And the movies themselves? Oh, the same but MORE.

Lagaan is probably the film that has had the widest distribution in the United States. It, like many such epic films, is 224 minutes long. You do not have to do the math for yourself: that is 3 hours and 44 minutes. And the story centers around a cricket match between oppressed Indian subjects and their British colonial oppressors. Yes, cricket, the rules of which I truly do not understand. But I was captivated for every minute.

My favorite feature of this genre is that there is always an opportunity for a full cast musical number, usually with amazing costume changes and beautiful dancing. In Lagaan there were recreations of scenes from the life of Krishna, complete with dancing milkmaidens. And the music is fabulous.

This summer I made a friend who was as wild for this music as I am. We were at a summer camp for adults (in Rome!), and I will never forget this man doing the complete steps for one of Bhuvan's musical numbers--he had even tied a bandana around his head--in the hallway of our little dormitory.

Sometime I could show you some of the steps, which I learned, despite my friend's sincere belief that I was hopeless.

You should also see Hum Aapke Hain Koun. It's a real genre bender: it starts out as a simple story about families and love and weddings and happiness and then about 2/3 of the way through it takes an amazing melodramatic turn, and the shot angles, lighting, and EVERYTHING shifts. You have to see it to believe it.

But the musical numbers in this movie are legion. Weddings. Ceremonies preceding weddings. Naming ceremonies. An entire scene devoted to singing the praises of a beautiful woman--and not one in her teens or twenties, but in her fifties.

It made me feel that all parties should involve parts where people sing about each other's glorious aspects.

I am building my collection of the music too slowly. After much internet searching, I found a used copy of the Lagaan soundtrack, which is no longer available new. I can also recommend The Rough Guide to Bollywood, which traces quite a vast historical span of movie music, and gives you a sense of flavors.

I am also getting to know The Rough Guide to Bollywood Legends: Asha Bhosle. She is hypnotizing. When I bought this record, the PP said, "Ah, I hear she has the highest voice in India." He might be right.

So cinetrix, anytime you want to have a film festival, I'm game to see more.

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