05/08/2015

YS Obsessions: Maine Manalansan on Bollywood

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I was in second year high school when I watched my first Bollywood film. We had no power in our house because of a storm that had just passed and the only source of entertainment we had was my uncle’s laptop.

We watched Kabhi Khushi Khabie Gham (Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness) or KKKG. It’s a story about long lost siblings, unlikely romances and family drama. It’s like the Tanging Yaman of Bollywood.

KKKG introduced me to many iconic Bollywood actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Jaya Bhaduri. I also met my ultimate Bollywood OTP: Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol.

Shah Rukh Khan (or SRK) had many (more than Derek Ramsey) leading ladies but nothing beats the SRK-Kajol pairing. They’re such a powerhouse onscreen couple that one of their movies, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride), ran for over 1,000 weeks at Maratha Mandir, one of the premiere theaters in Mumbai. If that doesn’t illustrate the #power of this OTP (and India’s love for film), I don’t know what does.

Reading this news got me fascinated by how much Indians take their movies seriously. And needless to say, I went on an upward spiral to Bollywood heaven. I binge-watched all the movies I downloaded within a week.

You know how some movies make you feel heavy on the inside after watching them? I never experienced that with Bollywood films. Even though they’re dealing with sensitive subject matters like racism or religion, they still make sure to put in a little color by way of a song and dance number. It might look like they’re not taking these issues seriously but it’s their way of covering all the angles of human life. People all over the world are discriminated against because of their race, religion or gender but that’s just one side of the story. Their movies show that outside the oppressive environment they live in, there are people who love them so much that they will call the whole community for a dance party on the streets.

Take PK for example. It stars Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma and Sushant Singh Rajput. Different religions were explored through the eyes of an alien who’s finding his way back home. The characters are so diverse and well developed that you can’t help but identify with their experiences. And that’s the beauty of Bollywood. No matter where you are or what language you’re speaking, the story almost always hits close to home.

Watching a subtitled foreign film for three hours straight is not easy. In a world where people are more interested in seven-second videos of dancing animals, Bollywood movies stand out. They do their best to elaborate the values and philosophy they want to impart. They write LSS-inducing original songs that fit the plot perfectly. They design their sets and costumes as seriously as Wes Anderson does in his films. All that hard work to make the people forget real life for a few hours and be transported to a world full of color and music.

If being obsessed with Bollywood means escaping real life and injecting happiness into my life three hours at a time, then I definitely don’t mind going ballistic over it.

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