In the meantime, I've been indulging my broken soul with Bollywood. I was out of wine when I watched Aap Ki Khatir (2006) on Hulu, so I was a little less snarky than usual. Also, my brother-in-law was visiting and I didn't want to scare him.
Thanks to the internet, lots of great Bollywood films are making it across the pond and into American culture. This was not a great film but it was free on Hulu, so let that be your measure. Aap Ki Khatir begins with Anu, a lovely NRI (non-resident Indian) who has been living in India, returning to London for her step-sister's wedding. Anu left London after a bad break-up with Danny, with whom she is still in love. Step-sister, Shirani, is marrying Danny's best friend, Kunal (who looks like a hedgehog, just fyi). Anu is determined to make Danny regret their break-up and hires a co-worker to accompany her to London and the wedding, pretending to be her new boyfriend. Enter love-interest, Aman.
As you might well imagine, hi-jinks. Aman seems only interested in the money, which, at first, suits Anu just fine - let's keep this strictly professional. But, as they spend time together and Aman comes more and more to Anu's emotional rescue, this pecuniary penchant of his begins to bother her. While she struggles with her feelings for Aman, she is still desperately trying to make Danny jealous and it seems to be working. Danny tries often to get Anu alone so they can talk. Will our heroine get her man?
No. Or, well, yes, but not that one. Aman learns that Danny and Shirani had a relationship after Anu left London. Shirani says it's over, she's with Kunal now, but Danny wants another shot. He feels the need to confess to Anu about his relationship with her step-sister. SPOILER: Everyone finds out. Anu and Kunal are pissed. Anu is more upset that Aman knew and kept it from her. To be fair, he only knew like half an hour before she found out.
I think my favorite parts of this movie were those moments when Anu found herself in stoic, emotional distress. She always looked to Aman, her sad, soulful eyes brimming with drama and emotion. Aman would catch her gaze and whisper, "Anu?". Also, it's the middle of freaking winter at this wedding. The men are wearing full coats, hats, gloves. And the women? Sleeveless saris. Indian women do not feel cold. Nary a goosebump.
Okay, so if you decide to check out Aap Ki Khatir or any other Bollywood film, there are some ground rules you need to know. Bollywood loves...:
Hilarious looking white men...
Especially if the movie takes place in England and some Anglo-Saxon friends are expected, you'll always find one white guy who is just so out of place and awkward. Aap Ki Khatir's ridiculous white-guy appears at about 1:29:05. He's dancing in the background. Dancing is a loose term.
Dance offs in a strobe-lighty club...
The characters will always find a reason to go to a club. If you didn't know, most Bollywood movies are musical - they have singing and dance sequences. Clubs seem to be an attempt to make a dance sequence fit in more naturally. In stories of the ilk of Aap Ki Khatir (there are lots), where the heroine is trying to win back a former crush with her destined love interest along for the ride, this club scene is where the machismo comes out in a dance off. Generally, this is where the destined love interest, who up until this time has been little more than a cheeky and charming nuisance to our heroine, gets to flaunt his stuff. It is in the flashing blue and while lights of a dance club that he really starts to get her attention. Surrounded by slinky-clad back-up dancers, in a very well tailored suit, singing a shmexy song about the irresistibly of love, the new guy becomes a contender, putting former crush to dance-step shame. Sometimes fedoras are involved.
I have yet to come across a Bollywood film without a date montage. Heroine and destined love interest, in the midst of whatever drama surrounds them, escape to see the sights and delight in life together. If this film is taking place in a famous locale (London, New Delhi, other famous tourist attractions of India or America) they will take in some of the more famous architecture. A visit to nature is always involved, regardless of whether or not that nature is native to the region. This montage of excursions and outings allows for a couple of pretty costume changes and is always set to a romantic song. There is some debate as to whether or not these montages are meant to have happened in actuality. Some argue that they are a montage of dates taken by the lead characters. Others argue that they are representative of the changing emotions of the characters and are more of an interpretive dream sequence. I tend to fall between these two and it really depends on the movie as to which side of the fence I come down on.
Sexy, sexy, dancing...
You will never see a full on make-out kiss in a Bollywood film. Maybe a brief peck or a suggested kiss, hidden behind a fan. Even following a marriage ceremony, kissing is rarely, if ever, shown. India has strict censorship ratings and many films want to maintain a conservative rating. Oddly enough, this does not stop the dancing from getting super steamy. Hindi dancing and belly dancing involves a lot of hip motion, that's pretty sexy, but the dance scenes are where the characters' passions get played out and the writhing bodies and kissing necks and ear lobes are definitely swoon worthy. On top of this, though saris do not usually show legs, exposed stomachs are very prevalent. You may also notice that many of the leading and secondary Indian actresses remain on a less steamy level than say the sexy, sexy back-up dancers. Indian actresses want to maintain their conservative fan base and, often, the back-up dancers are non-Indian for this reason.
Okay, now that you are prepared, get out there and enjoy some Bollywood. You can find a lot available on Hulu or Netflix. Some of my personal favorites:
Bride and Prejudice
I Hate Luv Storys
I Hate Luv Storys
Mistress of Spices (haha, this one is freaking hilarious)
What's Your Rashee?
If you have some favorite Bollywood movies, share them in the comments! I'm always in the mood for a new Bollywood!