Last night, we watched our first Bollywood movie. It was so fun!
The story is that of Romeo and Juliet, but with a nice ending. In London, Simran falls in love with Raj, but she is promised to another man in Punjab. Raj goes to India to marry Simran, but only if he can win her father’s approval. At the end, boy gets girl.
It’s kitsch, it’s melodramatic, it’s silly, it’s romantic.
It’s a feel-good movie.
It’s long. It’s 186 minutes long. That’s 3 hours long.
It’s subtitled (for us who don’t understand Hindi). I thought I had picked up the word for “yes” in Hindi, but a quick translation check showed that I was wrong.
There is a young girl dancing in a snowy Swiss village, wearing a sari, surrounded by cows with bells.
There is a constant breeze in Simran’s long beautiful hair.
There’s Ennio Morricone’s music from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” playing out of nowhere.
There are magnificent clothes, including gold embroidered wedding saris. And sunglasses. How many times can Raj put on or take off his sunglasses?
There is gorgeous scenery. I thought the land in Punjab would look like the mountains of Afghanistan, but it looks like the Midwest: lush and green, with pastures full of blooming yellow flowers so tall you can lay down with your sweetie and hide from the rest of the world.
There is an irate father who displays the same twitchy face for several scenes; you think he’s going to “get stuck like that”.
There’s dancing that reminds me of “West Side Story”. My favorite dance scene is before the wedding, with men on one side of the roof or terrace, and women on the other.
There’s a fight scene that was choreographed by Ninjas, I swear! That was hilarious!
I understand why young Indian girls would love this movie. You can relate to the characters (though I am a few years older!). Raj is a bad boy with a big heart; Simran is an obedient girl with a strong personality. It’s the equivalent of my generation’s “Grease”, with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (“You’re the one that I want, Hoo Hoo Hoo, Honey”). We wanted to be Sandy, and we wanted Danny to love us. Tu te souviens, Sylvie?
There is also a strong moral message about respecting your father, that seems in line with Indian customs. Raj doesn’t want to elope, he wants to follow tradition and be given the bride. Simran doesn’t want to dishonor her family by following her heart, even if it means spending her life with a man she doesn’t love. I guess the message is that love conquers all.
How did I manage to go all these years without watching a Bollywood movie? I don’t know. I can’t remember ever seeing one playing in a theater, neither in the States nor in France. However, I saw “Salaam Bombay” and “The City of Joy” in the theater. Maybe because fun, love and green pastures don’t fit into the Westerner’s notion of India, a country that should be portrayed as dusty red dirt roads and brothels.
A bit of trivia: the movie came out in 1995 and is the longest running movie in India, for over 900 weeks (as per Wikipedia, so it’s true).