Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Lucky 7 - Picks for Newbies

I got an email from a very cool girl yesterday asking for Bollywood recommendations. I'd like to pretend that I'm some sort of expert but quite honestly, I cast my net wide and normally gather the opinions of much better informed persons than myself when deciding what to watch.

Thus, at this point in the game, I feel fairly confident in making some "newbie"
recommendations since I know that all my choices will be fully supported by the readers of this blog. [Ha! Has anyone who reads this site ever been hesitant to correct me?]

That being the case, here's my recommendations to a girl who's seen only Bride and Predjudice so far. (Did I mention I don't get that movie?) Fresh off the email circuit:

My Lucky 7.
Bollywood Guide for the Western Eye

My next suggestion would be to jump on over to Monsoon Wedding. It's a nice transitional film with plenty of Hinglish but will warm you up to reading subtitles. It's not proper Bollywood in that it doesn't have any big dance numbers but it has cultural elements that will become all too familiar after a few films.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham is typical Bollywood fare in both its strengths and weaknesses. The music and costumes are fabulous. It has a strong cast but at times the story slows down unnecessarily and other moments are rife with silliness that probably weren't supposed to be silly. Nonetheless, it's one of the highest grossing Hindi films ever.

Since it was one of the first Hindi films I watched, Dil Se will always be close to my heart. ;) Mani Ratnam is an amazing director. I'm still searching for one of his films I won't like. It's not typical Bollywood industry fare but it is uniquely Indian. It combines star-crossed lovers, political intrigue and a great soundtrack. What's not to like?

A lot of people really like Lagaan. I don't much care for Aamir Khan so for me, it was a long three hours. It's a story that takes place during the British Raj so from a socio-historical perspective, it's an informative film. Also, if you don't know anything about cricket, you most assuredly will after watching.

Devdas did very well at the Cannes film festival when it premiered. I found the music a bit more challenging than most of the other films. The feel of the music, like much of the film, is the slightest bit dark but it's beautifully offset by the most fabulously ornate costuming and production design you've ever seen.

Another beautiful film with a fairy-tale like feel is Paheli. It's only about two hours long (made with Western audiences in mind). It's an unusual film by any standard and visually stunning. One of my favorites.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and recommend Munnabhai M.M.B.S. as the last of the "Lucky 7." The film is very silly--it is a comedy--but it left me feeling warm and fuzzy at the end, no small feat, so it makes the cut.

Also, if you haven't seen Bend It Like Beckham, you totally should. I don't know any girls who've seen it and didn't like it! It's not Bollywood but it is Indian.
I chose the films I did because it seemed like a nice sampler of styles and subject matter: modernism vs. tradition; love vs. arranged marriage; family ties; the effects of political unrest; colonial oppression; love across boundaries of class, race and/or societal commitment; frustration with bureaucratic ineptitude and of course, gangsters.

Okay folks, weigh in.
Boys in particular, I'd like to hear what you have to add!


Rupa said...

1947 Earth -- it's pretty heavy but it's a great movie that tells an important story

Bunty aur Babli -- cute and fun!! Plus Abhishek is tres hott.

Daddy's Girl said...

Great recommendations! I like how you covered a range of subjects.
Hmmm.. I don't like 'Bend it like Beckham' AT ALL - but every other girl I know likes it, so I guess I'm just odd.
I personally would recommend 'Main Hoon Na', although I guess a lot of the humour might fly over the head of someone who's new to Bollywood.
And I would DEFINITELY recommend DDLJ and KKHH...
And an old Amitabh Bachchan film... maybe 'Muqaddar ka Sikandar' or 'Sholay'...
And 'Mother India' or 'Astitva' or 'Main Tulsi Aangan Ki' for girl power.. see, now you've got me going...

Indian Parrot said...

Ok I dont really like Monsoon wedding or Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Ghum. But I guess all this would be a good start for a person who hasn't seen much.

naina said...

ditto Kuch Kuch Hota Hai for me. another add -- Dil Chahta Hai.

Susania said...

I'd say, in order:
Monsoon Wedding
Bunty Aur Babli
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (instead of Devdas; I know you haven't seen it yet!)
Munnabhai MBBS
Dil Chahta Hai

Dil Se, Devdas and Lagaan are just so HEAVY... great after the first half-dozen lighter films, but not early on in the process!

Anonymous said...

Great recommendations t-hype!!! A hollywood movie is being made based on "Munnabhai MBBS". I think it was named "Gangsta-MD" or something similar.

"Lage Raho Munnabhai" is another exellent movie though it may not appeal much to non-indians. BIG B himself nominated it yesterday as his choice for the MOVIE OF THE YEAR award for 2006.

Beth said...

I'm with Susania, minus K3G, which I hate, and which I think is better understood when you know a bit more about who those stars are (although from a story type angle, I can see why one would include it).

Anyway, you should post your list over here too!

t-HYPE said...

I agree anon that Lago Rahe Munnabhai is brilliant. The film has universal appeal but I think the depth of the subject matter is mostly lost on us non-Indians.

Besides the fact that I watched LRM with one the distraction of my most ridiculously talkative and attention deficient friends, I continually had the feeling that I was missing the magnitude of the tension between Gandhigiri and modern Indian culture.

I was however pleased to find that the writers of the film are at least as miffed as I am by people who perpetually change the spelling of things because of "bad omens." That, I completely understand.

Alan said...

Good list. I would also consider Kal Ho Naa Ho and Hum Tum.

nic said...

Hey T-hype,
My comment is pretty long for a comment but I hope it will give you some Indian perspective on what makes LRM special.

Apart from the fact that it was quite entertaining, LRM was a hit throughout India, even in the south and even in small towns. This is a very rare event in itself since most new movies nowadays are designed for the city and overseas audiences. When I went to see the movie in mumbai(bombay) I could see people from all age groups in the audience. Even handicapped people and very old people had made an effort to come to the theater to watch the movie which is rare.

Now in India, movies are more than just entertainment. People take movies seriously, very seriously. They look up to movies as ideals to emulate. So you have some people jumping off huge heights after watching Krissh, people questioning their marriage after watching KANK, teens driving rashly after watching Dhoom and women copying the latest bollywood costume designs.Thats also why you have so many happy joint families, elaborate weddings and romance in Indian movies because thats what most Indians aspire for.

When Gandhi died, Einstein had correctly predicted "future generations would refuse to believe that a man like Gandhi ever existed" and that has indeed become the case with many Indians, specially teenagers.
Most Indians read about gandhi in history textbooks in school and acknowledge that he was an extraordinary human.
But they also find Gandhi's ideals impossibly utopian. They don't think its possible to emulate his principles in practical life.

Also some Indians feel, perhaps only subconsciously, that we have not been able to carry forward Gandhi's legacy.
The goverment in its public service broadcasts tells people "Lets try and find the Gandhi in ourselves" but the common man doesn't know how to go about doing it. He wants practical ways to resolve his life issues.

What school history lessons could not do, this movie was able to do by presenting Gandhi in a lighter vein, showing how you can change people without resorting to force & violence. It showed that gandhigiri works.

The impact of the movie was that people asked themselves how they could apply gandhi's ideals in their lives. Some people solved disputes amicably, even court cases were settled after using some of the methods in the movie. It worked for some, didn't work for others but the bottomline is people were willing to give peaceful conflict resolution a chance. Also this movie caused an entire generation in India to rediscover Gandhi and that is no easy task. Teenagers actually became interested in knowing more about the mahatma. Bookstores opened new sections on Gandhi due to increasing sales. People wanted to explore Gandhi's life and his ideology. Outside the theater I could see people selling Gandhi's autobiography and many people actually buying it. Now thats much more than what you can expect from a movie. The effect may be temporary but it was a very positive one.

The only reason this movie was not India's official entry for the Oscars is that the jury felt that non-indians may not be able to fully appreciate this film's contextual importance and its impact.

t-HYPE said...

Thanks nic. That was very helpful. I love educational moments!

Don't be a stranger to the site. You come back now, ya hear?

Alan said...

Nic - Interesting insights. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I've seen every movie on the list! This makes me happy, because I've only been watching Bollywood films for about a year now. To make matters worse, I live in Colorado Springs, where Bollywood films are hard to come by.
If I could add any movies to the list, they would be 'Kal Ho Naa Ho', 'Veer Zara', and 'Salaam Namaste'. I suggest these movies because they show Preity Zinta at the top of her game (I have to give a shout-out to Rani Mukerji and Shahrukh Khan as well), the awesome chemistry between Preity and Saif Ali Khan, and some tear-jerking moments.
Oh, and when I say tear-jerking, I mean 'Kal Ho Naa Ho' made me cry even harder than I did the first time I saw 'The Color Purple'. Take my word for it, that was some pretty intense crying.
Oh, I know this is a ridiculously long comment, but I wanted to say thank you. I'm the only African-American, Bollywood fan I know and it's a lonely road. I kid, but thanks for your blog. It's really cool.

Anonymous said...

rang de basanti

Shreya said...

Good list! I personally do nott like Bend it Like Beckham at all. As a bollywoood junkie, I thought I'd contribute with some of my favourite movies:
I personally love Aamir Khan, Dil Chahta hai, 3 Idiots, and Rang De Basanti are very, VERY good movies (Taare Zameen Par too!)
Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, it's a love story, and a travel movie (kinda). The music is nice and cinematography is pleasing. It's not a classic, but it's great for a light watch!
Kal Ho Na Ho is definitely one of my favourite SRK films, including Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Main Hoon Na, and Om Shanti Om.
Speaking of your bollywood boyfriend, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Jodhha Akbar are really good
Oh and, if anybody is interested in the very rare combination of comedy and horror, Bhool Bhulaiya is really good