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:
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.My Lucky 7.
Bollywood Guide for the Western EyeMy 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.
Okay folks, weigh in.
Boys in particular, I'd like to hear what you have to add!