I have recently become a fan of Bollywood. I hadn’t really sought these movies out before. But now I’ve become a convert.
Sure, these movies tend to be 3 hours longs and it is not possible to have one without breaking out into a dance/musical number, even in the most serious of historical dramas. But there’s a certain joy and innocence about them that harkens back to the old days of Hollywood film-making. I’ve actually learned to look forward to the dance and musical numbers, which are always boldly colorful and fun.
India actually produces more films than any other country in the world, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.
My latest Netflix rental was Jodhaa Akbar. This is a historical epic on the scale of Red Cliff, but at about 1/9th of the budget. Red Cliff was reportedly produced at 80 million, while Jodhaa Akbar was a paltry 8.9 million.
The film is based on true events and centers around the romance between the Muslim Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, played by dreamy Hrithik Roshan, and the Hindu Rajput Princess Jodhabai played by the beautiful Aishwarya Rai (Bride & Prejudice) who is forced to marry him for political reasons.
Here’s a clip from one of the musical numbers that is reminiscent of Ziegfield and Cecil B Demil. It was directed and produced by Ashutosh Gowariker
Another favorite clip is this beautiful song composed by A. R. Rahman.
(BTW, I’ve always loved whirling dervishes.)
One of my favorite Bollywood stars and certainly one of India’s biggest, is actor Aamir Khan. In this clip from 3 Idiots, we can see homages to the old American musicals of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and there’s even a little Titanic shot thrown in.
3 Idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani is a slightly odd mixture of comedy and whimsy along with serious overtones addressing India’s high student suicide rate. But somehow it works.
I love the bright bold colors of Bollywood, the details, the whimsical nature and the pure entertainment factor. It makes me wonder if American movie makers have come to taking themselves way too seriously. I would love to see more of the Baz Luhrmans and Tim Burtons in Western cinema. In the mean time, I will keep renting Bollywood musicals.