Monday, August 12, 2013

"If you are not happy with him, if you don't love him, then run away with me" or "How Bollywood become a permanent and important fixture in my life"

Hi, I'm Bad Wolf and Miranda asked me to explain "what gateway drug led me to Bollywood" in response to her post about what opened the doors to Bollywood in her life. FYI, I'm a bit different from Miranda, so please don't expect me to be organized, concise, or even very coherent in my ramblings. I will try to tone down my nuttiness so some of this actually makes sense, but no guarantees!

Okay, so how did I get obsessed with Bollywood? Well, when I first heard about Bollywood films I was nearly convinced that it wasn't for me. Why? Now that's a tough question to answer. Here, this might help explain it:
Doctor Who

That's basically my brain in a nutshell. And so's this:

And this:


For those of you who don't know these images come from the British science fiction TV show Doctor Who and it is, in many respects, the opposite of Bollywood. So the question is: how did I get from this:

Doctor Who

To this:
Veer-Zaara
And this:

Koyla

Even though Dilwale Dilhania Le Jayenge was my first Bollywood movie and I absolutely adored it, the real credit for my obsession goes to Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. After finishing DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge), I knew I wanted more of this strange new world, but I was afraid that this love, though amazing, would burn out quickly because I knew that DDLJ would not be enough to sustain me on its own. Then I saw Jodi (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) and suddenly my whole world was different.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi


For my whole life there were so many kinds of stories I wished to hear but thought I never would due to my culture considering such things to be sappy, cheesy and illogical. But when I saw this movie I realized that everything I had dreamed of my whole life was real and at my fingertips.

And the more Bollywood movies I saw and the more I re-watched Jodi, the more I began to understand that all the things I love most about Doctor Who, and indeed in all my favorite films and TV shows, could often be found in abundance in ordinary, every day Hindi cinema.

But even before Jodi came certain other movies that cracked open the door and allowed Jodi to go straight to my heart.

Willy Wonka And the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka, one of my first and most loved movies. This is like my ultimate sick movie, along with Lord of the Rings (any of them) and the Truman Show. Yeah, that last one is a bit weird.
Life of Pi

Life of Pi, a film I saw only a few months before I began watching Bollywood movies. It definitely had a hand in preparing me.

Chuck
No, not that kind of flashing.

When I realized that these two films and one TV show played a part in getting me hooked on Bollywood I started to wonder why. Life of Pi is pretty obvious, but the other two had me confused as to how they connected to both Doctor Who and Bollywood. Luckily, as I was talking to Miranda about it, I had an apostrophe (I mean an epiphany) and I suddenly knew exactly the key that not only acted as a bridge between these films/TV show, but also connected every single movie, book, TV show and tale I loved together. Yeah, it was a big deal at the time. Still is.

The one constant throughout every story that even remotely matters to me is they remind me of fairy tales. Now, I like a lot of movies, books, and TV shows, so it'd be easy to think that I have a pretty broad and loose definition of what a fairy tale is like, and perhaps to a certain degree that's true. Something that's very important to understand about me is that I follow my instincts, my gut. I lot of the time I'll do something or like something based solely on a feeling: however, so far, those feelings had never been wrong. Lately it's become clear to me that I always have good reasons for enjoying the things I enjoy, though perhaps not always a logical reason. Regardless, my gut feeling always alerts me to the presence of some buried emotion or memory or idea, which then inspires me to love a story. So even if I don't always know why I like something, I almost always trust that there's a good reason for it.

But in this case, I think I have an idea of why these three movies and one TV show, despite their differences, all remind me of fairy tales. Life of Pi is very Wizard of Oz in that it makes you question whether or not any of it actually happened, or if it's just a more fantastical version of the real events to mask their horribleness. Either way, Life of Pi feels like it could be a fairy tale and has become so to me.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is such a classic and has so many elements of a fairy tale (other-worldly people, either some form of technology or magic that defies the laws of physics, and the oh-so popular test to determine if someone is worthy) that it has basically become one.

And Chuck, well, is Chuck. A TV show about an ordinary guy who accidentally becomes a secret agent when a supercomputer gets downloaded into his brain and when he accesses the information it's called flashing. Again, that might seem more science fiction than a fairy tale, but fairy tales often have ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Chuck is very much a normal guy, and a rather emotional one at that (which I like, personally), who ends up saving the day, not because he's strong or even that good of a secret agent, but through his own ingenuity and strength of character. I doubt many people would understand the comparison to a fairy tale, but trust me, somehow, in my crazy brain, it makes sense.

And Doctor Who, my old friend, my seductive lover (yes, I'm sorry for subjecting you to that), my constant that puts Penny from Lost to shame, is a wondrous tale to rival all fairy tales. Ultimately, to me, fairy tales are primarily stories filled with hope, fantastical impossibilities that butterfly (yes, that's now a verb) my stomach, impact my heart greatly, and they usually end with a hero saving the day and destroying the monster. And without fail every single Doctor who episode is like that, right down to its core.

And now, after a very long-winded explanation of how I got to Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, I'm going to tell you how it flung open the door to my heart and allowed all kind of crazy Bollywood in.

A whole new world.

Truman Show

Sorry if you're bored right now, but unfortunately it's in my nature to ramble on incessantly because I feel like I'm lying if I don't explain every crazy-town-banana-pants facet of, well, me. Because things in my brain are oddly connected and strangely important. It's best not to ask.

The short answer of why Jodi is so incredibly valuable to me and why I feel like I'm melting every time I see even a single shot, is that it helps bridge the gap between reality and all the things I wish were reality. The way I see it, stories should not be better than reality, and yet they so often are. And it's not just about the lack of dragons or aliens in this world that bothers me (I can't really blame anyone for that), it's how no one, at least no one in my life, comes out and says what they're feeling. Except in Bollywood.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi





It's how, whenever someone tries to do anything truly worthwhile or important in life, there are always people on both sides, friends and enemies, that try to stop them or talk them out of it. In a fairy tale or in Bollywood if a person decides to go on a quest to kill the evil dragon or to win his wife's love by pretending to be someone else, people don't try to stop them. They pat them on the back, offer some assistance and wish them luck.


Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi


After I finished showing a friend of mine Jodi, he said that he had a difficult time enjoying it because no one is that loving and unselfish and good in real life. While I don't necessarily agree with him, the very fact that my friend, a very optimistic and loving person by nature, felt that way caused me to take a good, long look at life, attempting to filter away some of my more romantic notions.

But, what I really love about Jodi, is that a seemingly normal man, who is really, truly exceptional, takes an ordinary, terrible circumstance and, instead of giving up and just making do with it, he chooses to devote every ounce of his energy towards fixing it and filling Taani's life with joy. And though he wishes desperately for her love, the only thing that truly matters to him is her happiness and well-being. I mean, he chooses to change every aspect of himself and hide who he really is just to make her smile! I guess, in a walnut-shell, what I love about the story is that someone so obviously amazing would be willing to destroy himself for someone who hardly looked at him, but he loved just the same.

The story starts out with him being simply Surinder Sahni, but then, to make her happy, he changes himself into Raj Kapoor. What's not sweet about that?

Yes, I know I'm being a cheesy, sappy romantic, but...dang it! I just don't give a crap. Only a fool wouldn't embrace that which makes him/her happy, and romantic sappiness with a heaping helping of emotion dumped on top is what makes me happy.

Actually, what I just said really applies to Jodi. He loved her so much that giving up everything for her made him happy, or, at the very least, was better than the alternative. In fact, that tends to be a theme in all my favorite Bollywood movies.

Mohabattein








And:

Mohbattein


And then:

Veer-Zaara







And don't forget:
DDLJ


You might have realized that those movies are all Shahrukh Khan films, but....deal with it.

In the end, I could go on for-dang-ever about Jodi and the world it opened up to me, but instead I'll just say one more thing.....and then add some more pictures. 


I love Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and always will because, at the end of the day (and at the end of a long post where I announce the reason, which is different each time, I care so much about Jodi like fifty times over), a story about someone loving with all his heart and soul will always and forever mean more to me than a cool action movie or a clever mind-twister. And if you still don't understand why I love it, then maybe this will help.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi







And if you're still confused, then take a look at what Raj (secretly Surinder) says when Taani declares that she's unhappy living with Surinder.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi



And if you don't realize, to him, asking Taani to leave his old self, his true self, is one of his worst nightmares.

So yes, I love this movie so much that I am now and always will be on a search for other films, Bollywood or otherwise, that are even remotely like this. I mean, this movie is awesome, exhibit A:

Rab Ne bana Di Jodi

Okay, I admit I went a bit crazy with the number of pictures in this post. Thanks for reading and, seriously, keep reading Miranda's posts. She's the most intelligent person I know....aside from the Doctor, but he's fictional. Or maybe that's just what they want you to think.... 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Bad Wolf. What amazes me about you is your ability to just Love What You Love, regardless of whether or not that Love is popular or logical or sane. There's a purity in your enjoyment of a film or a television show that is unmatched in anyone I know--because you approach each thing you see with wonder and with the desire to be wowed.

    One reason I wanted your take on the gateway drug thing is that I don't ever want to lose that wonder of my first experiences with Bollywood. I'd like to still be watching ten years down the road and be able to sit down and watch some of my first faves (like Fanaa or Satyam Shivam Sundaram)and still get chills when I hear certain notes or see certain sequences.

    Criticism and critique and comparing and contrasting (and even alliteration, itself) are all well and good. But films are meant to be enjoyed above all else. I'm sure I can count on you, Bad Wolf, to let me know when I am forgetting to love as well as to think. :) Thank you for bringing your signature raw authenticity to this discussion. May we hear a lot more from you.

    ReplyDelete