Movie Review: From a Bollywood Newbie

It was cold and rainy last night- perfect for an epic based in the sands of Rajasthan and the soil of Delhi.  And it didn't hurt that clips of Jodhaa-Akbar are playing in the Maharaja exhibit at the Asian Art Museum as examples of "maharaja jewelry."  I freely admit I fast-forwarded through all the battle scenes so I could watch what Ash was wearing.  Despite some historical inaccuracies (did Jodhaa actually exist?  Was she actually Akbar's wife?) and a simplistic view of Akbar's tolerance of religion,  it's still sumptuous watching.  It's also the Bollywood film I took my grandparents to see in Dallas, and the first Bollywood film my uncle ever saw.  And after much discussion of Bollywood during my visit to Austin this fall, he's decided to try jumping on the Bollywood bandwagon.

My uncle requested a list of five Bollywood films to watch to "get a feel for the genre."  Manisha and I discussed the list and came up with the following:  3 Idiots, Sholay, Devdas, Umrao Jaan, and Koi Mil Gaya.  He loved 3 Idiots (enough to rent Lagaan for some more Aamir action even while suffering through hours of cricket).

So here's the scoop from my uncle, Jim Sylvester, a Bollywood newbie:
'"Devdas' is the kind of movie that I think of when I project some impression of what a Bollywood film would be – lavish sets, cast of mucho many, incredible costumes, and singing and dancing – lots and lots of singing and dancing, and then some more … singing and dancing.  It’s impossible not to focus on Aishwarya Rai when she’s on the screen.  This is one long movie and I think it stumbles at a few points .. but the big dance number at the end, the one with Rai as the aristocrat and her new friend the courtesan, is worth whatever price it takes to get there."

My uncle found found Sholay weirdly puzzling and wasn't quite sure how to place a "curry western."  "One of the scenes that stood out for me was the dancing of the horse-cart girl towards the end under the threat that if she were to stop dancing, they would shoot her lover.  Making her dance on broken glass might have been a bit much for the drama, but I could tell (without knowing much) that her dancing was brilliant... I also appreciated the action sequence at the beginning where the two bandit-heroes defend the train from the bad guy bandits... While the bad guys were predictably dropping like flies, the drama of that action sequence was exceptional."  My uncle's main complaint with Sholay is that the action scenes were completely unbelievable.  He's still learning that Amitabh is not subject to the same laws of physics as regular mortals.

So far our Bollywood newbie likes Aamir and Ash and finds curry westerns a bit ridiculous.  Stayed tuned for his reaction to courtesans and aliens.  In the meantime I'd like to give him full credit for finding a new Heineken commercial (which is a take-off on "Jaan Pehechaan Ho"):