Hubby and I got to see our first full-length (3 hours) Bollywood movie recently, thanks to Dr. Brian Cowlishaw, a professor at the local university. It was called Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and starred an actor quite famous in India: Shahrukh Khan. His co-star was the beautiful Anushka Sharma in her first starring role. While plot elements were well known to us from other movies, the overall effect was rather unique and fresh. The acting was much better than expected, the dance numbers and music were full of great rhythms, and the boy-girl conflicts, while a bit cliché, were still entertaining. Khan’s performance was very moving in several scenes and purposefully annoying in other scenes. When his co-star’s character Taani shows annoyance, the audience is in total agreement and understanding with her.
One criticism: making Shahrukh Khan look nerdy never really quite worked, but that also goes for many Hollywood movies: handsome men are cast in roles where they should look unhandsome or at least ordinary and beautiful women are cast in roles where they are meant to look plain (Joan Fontaine, a much acknowledged Hollywood beauty, cast as Jane Eyre, for example).
Bollywood movies are a phenomenon in the film world that are very cultural and very specific to India. The genre began in Bombay, which is now called Mumbai, having thrown off it colonial name, but now the movies are filmed elsewhere, too. In fact, a scene or two in this movie were filmed in the Alps. (The majority was filmed on location in Amritsar, which is the city used in another Bollywood movie Bride and Prejudice, a delightful twist on the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice, and in studios.) Therefore, you get to see a very real view of the city and some of the countryside, not a moviedom version. That in itself is a refreshing treat.
The musical in Hollywood died with such films as Star! and Darling Lili (both Julie Andrews tour-de-forces and ones I personally enjoyed immensely due to her tremendous talent and almost unbelievable vocal range) but lives on in Bollywood!
© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text