Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Khichdi (=Jambalaya)

Last night I saw a Hindi movie Dhoom. I had woken up really early in the morning so was not too keen on going for a movie I hadn’t even heard of, but my friends convinced me to go. They just said the magic words, "Abhishek Bacchan" and "not another love story"– and I was sold. I am a huge fan of Abhishek Bacchan, not because of his acting skills, but his looks and demeanor. I saw him a couple of years back when I had gone to see his first movie. He had come to promote his movie I guess. He was a bit tired, I think because he had come directly from the airport or something. But he looked so endearing, and he had such a soft disposition while talking. I even remember what he was wearing – jeans and a brown corduroy jacket.

Besides it was like rooting for the underdog because Hrithik Roshan was becoming so popular and poor Abhishek Bacchan wasn’t faring well at all. The only thing against him (besides his acting skills, but those matter when one has such good looks) is that he’s related to movie person and isn’t self made. Actually if you start searching, those are far and between. Even Aamir Khan, who is another favorite and who actually is a good actor, is related to someone in the industry. The only self-made "star" as a Bollywood movie buff told me is Shah Rukh Khan (who is from my school, btw), but I don’t really like his movies. Watching a movie with SRK as the actor is like going to a chain restaurant. It gives you consistency and guarantees a certain level of quality, but it is extremely predictable and boring.

I was not disappointed after watching Dhoom. Abhishek Bacchan looked great, as usual, and the movie was a good medley of scenes lifted off other movies. The movie reminded me of Fast and Furious, Ocean’s Eleven, and Matrix Reloaded (in particular of Morpheus’ fight sequence on top of the truck) I love all of these movies so I had to like Dhoom except that after 2 hours, I was hoping it would end and not drag on. Isha Deol looked really uncomfortable in her role; she did not come out as the “item” as they were trying to portray. I had liked her in Yuva though. There was a lot of skin showing in the movie, which all of us (both men and women) enjoyed.

Particularly amusing were the subtitles of the movie. I tend to get distracted by subtitles irrespective of my knowledge of the language being spoken. I always have fun reading the subtitles for Hindi songs, but in this movie even the regular dialogues were translated quite badly. I think the guy got over zealous. It had the regular bad interpretation like the translation for “chashma mat utaro” was “don’t peel your glasses off”, and “kya” was “how” (pardon my skills of writing Hindi in English, I suck at it; I can do a better job of writing Hindi in Hindi). But “gajar ka halwa” was converted to carrot soufflé; I spent a long time trying to fathom how halwa can be translated to soufflé, but failed, which inspired the title.

I was wondering that it must be an altogether different experience for people there who didn’t understand Hindi. At work I was asking my Indian American coworker if he was interested in Bollywood movies, but he said that he didn’t understand Hindi. I was going to tell him that all movies have subtitles so it doesn’t matter, but I’m glad I refrained. The subtitles are too bad to be relied on. And I couldn’t counter any of the reasons he gave me of not watching Bollywood movies. I don’t care for any the regular reasons people give for not watching Bollywood movies. They are all valid, but I just love watching them; more so since I moved to the US. I watch almost every Hindi movie; I recently saw Girlfriend, Julie, Rakht, Fida, and Mujhse Shaadi Karogi – all of which were quite bad, amongst which Girlfriend was the worst. Some good movies I have seen are Dev, which reminded me of the book Riots by Shashi Tharoor; Yuva, which made me feel all patriotic; and Lakhshya. I wanted to watch the movie dealing with AIDS, which is supposed to be like Philadelphia (another movie I like), but couldn’t convince any friend to go with me. Actually I’m not sure if I should be using the term “Bollywood” to refer to our mainstream Hindi movies. I was listening to a program on NPR which said that the term “Bollywood” has a negative connotation; or at least it used to.

In fact, I also wonder how people living in Bombay must enjoy these movies more, just because they would recognize the names of the places being mentioned. I remember me and my coworkers/friends(I watched the movie with both) getting really excited when we noticed that Trinity in Matrix Reloaded was riding her bike against traffic on 101, a freeway we commute on everyday.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie-going experience, except that I somehow pulled a muscle while going to the theatre. I took the BART and it was really crowded so I had to stand. While standing I started reading, which in hindsight was not such a good idea because my body ended up in a really awkward position with one hand holding the book and the other trying to prevent me from falling. When I got to the theatre complex I bought 3 books – War and Peace (about time I tackled it), Best American Essays and Writing imaginatively. I have been refraining from working out and pleasure reading because I need to concentrate on work and studies. Consequently, I have stopped going to the gym, bookstores and libraries. I decided to indulge myself yesterday, the book store was right there and I had time to kill. Promise to self - I will save the reading for trains and buses only, ignoring the fact that I can both work and study on the train too.

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