22 June 2008

Bollywood for Beginners

It's amazing what comes over you when you become obsessed with Bollywood films. You feel you must keep track of all of the movies you have seen. You say, "I can totally learn Hindi from watching Bollywood movies!" and then go out and get every dictionary and Teach Yourself Hindi book you can get your hands on. You want to share the linguistical wonders of Hindi with as many people as possible (whether they want you to or not), so you start a "Hindi Word of the Day" feature on your Facebook profile. Your mp3 player will only hold so many songs, so you take off all your other music to have enough room for all your Indian film music (well, that and the downloaded podcasts of Learn Hindi from Bollywood Movies). Your friends already think you're crazy. But no! That's not enough! You annoy them even further by trying to get them to join you in the madness! Oddly, some of them actually do.

My friend watched Kal Ho Naa Ho at my recommendation (I accidentally said to her one day, "I think you might like this movie," before I could stop myself), and since she liked it, she wanted to try some more Bollywood movies but didn't know what she should watch next. I mean, where do you start? There are zillions to choose from. I remember feeling the same way, about three or four years ago, when I was trying to figure out which few Bollywood movies to purchase for my library's collection. I wasn't very familiar with any of them, but I ended up picking an actor (Aamir Khan) and an actress (Aishwarya Rai) and going from there. It's always nice to have recommendations though, so here are the suggestions I sent to her by email (I had some input from my friend Anarchivist as well).

Note: there are mild spoilers in some of the movie descriptions so beware.

January 28, 2008


1. To start you off, Anarchivist suggests Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge [The Brave Heart Takes the Bride]. It stars Shah Rukh Khan (whom you saw in Kal Ho Naa Ho) and Kajol. It's an older movie (1995, same year as Pride and Prejudice!) but something of a classic by now. You'll have to suffer through some truly hideous wardrobe choices in the first half, but it gets better in the second half. Actually, the second half is better all around. I've seen the whole thing 2x.

2. If you want to just jump right in with a movie that includes staggering plot twists, then go with Fanaa (2006), starring Kajol and Aamir Khan. (Tabu, from The Namesake, is also in it for just a bit.) It's a comeback film for Kajol, who apparently hadn't done any films recently up to that point. Fanaa was one of the first Bollywood movies I saw at the Art-House Theatre. It starts out as a boy-meets-blind-girl love story, but then...as I said, staggering plot twists. It doesn't stick with just one genre, let's say.

Kajol (Fanaa) (Kajol)

Aamir Khan (Fanaa)

(Aamir Khan)

3. I also saw Omkara at the Art-House Theatre a couple of years ago. It's an adaptation of Othello. It's more of an art film, but it still has some songs. It's very well made. As Anarchivist says, the events that take place, the jealousy and misunderstandings--you can see how these events could really happen to them. It makes more sense than some other Othello adaptations. It also has kind of a Wild West/outlaw feel to it. It stars Ajay Devgan as Omkara/Othello, Kareena Kapoor as Dolly/Desdemona, and Saif Ali Khan as Langda/Iago, all of whom did a really good job. (You saw Saif in Kal Ho Naa Ho.)

Ajay Devgan (Omkara)

(Ajay Devgan)

Ajay Devgan (Omkara)
(Ajay Devgan)

Kareena Kapoor (Omkara)
(Kareena Kapoor)

4. Salaam Namaste is a romantic comedy I really liked, starring Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta (both from Kal Ho Naa Ho). It takes place in Melbourne. It's amazing to watch Saif as Langda in Omkara and then as Nikhil in Salaam Namaste because he hardly seems like the same person (looks and acting). I know you saw him in Kal Ho Naa Ho, but he gets more screen time in Salaam Namaste, so you notice the contrast more here between this role and his performance in Omkara.

Here's Saif as Langda:
Saif Ali Khan (Omkara)

(Saif Ali Khan)

Saif Ali Khan (Omkara) (Saif Ali Khan)

And here he is otherwise:

Saif Ali Khan (Salaam Namaste)

(Saif Ali Khan)

Saif Ali Khan (Salaam Namaste)

(Saif Ali Khan)

You might watch both movies and not even realize it was him in both. After I saw Salaam Namaste, I had to go back and watch his performance in Omkara again because I was so amazed at the difference in his characters.

And for good measure, here's a picture of Preity in the same movie:

Preity Zinta (Salaam Namaste)

(Preity Zinta)

5 & 6. If you want to watch more Shah Rukh Khan, try Chak De India! or Main Hoon Na [I'm Here Now].

Main Hoon Na is about an army guy (Shah Rukh Khan) who has to go undercover at a college to protect a girl going to school there. He is also looking for his brother, whom he has never met, while he is there. In the mean time, he falls for his chemistry teacher, and every time he sees her, his arms rise up from his sides of their own accord, and he can't help himself singing.

Chak De India! is made more like a Hollywood sports movie than a Bollywood movie, but it's about the Indian National Women's Hockey Team and how it is always third-string compared to all boys' sport and all the other girls' sports. Shah Rukh coaches the team.

7. Another movie Anarchivist mentioned is Straight from the Heart starring Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai (Miss World or whatever), and Ajay Devgan. Salman and Aishwarya are okay, but if you liked Ajay Devgan in Omkara (I did), you should watch this one. It's not a great movie, but it has its moments. It's a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy with a twist.

8. Dhoom 2 is an action heist flick starring Aishwarya Rai, Bipasha Basu, Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, and Hrithik Roshan. It is extremely, wildly, incredibly implausible. Ludicrous, really. But fun. Abhishek and Uday are buddy cops, Bipasha is another cop, and Hrithik and Ash are the baddies trying to steal things. I really liked Abhishek in this one. He played the straight man so well. [update: Turns out, I love Abhishek in everything!]

Abhishek Bachchan (Jhoom Barabar Jhoom) (Abhishek Bachchan in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom)

But anyways, back to Dhoom 2. For a good picture of the cast, click here. In the picture, left to right: Uday Chopra, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan, Bipasha Basu.

9. If you want to watch a vintage Bollywood comedy, you can try Chupke Chupke. It stars Dharmendra, along with Amitabh Bachchan (Abhishek's father). I thought it was really funny, although it would have been even funnier if I understood Hindi. [update: I'm working on that]

Dharmendra (Chupke Chupke) (Dharmendra)

Dharmendra (Chupke Chupke) (Dharmendra)

Amitabh Bachchan (Chupke Chupke) (Amitabh Bachchan)

Amitabh Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan)

10. If you are not sick of Bollywood movies in a few months time, you have to put Om Shanti Om in your Netflix queue (have to, have to, have to!). Om Shanti Om is the movie that put me over the edge and made me get Netflix so I could watch more Bollywood. I'm definitely going to buy it when it comes out [update: it came out earlier this year and I did indeed buy it] (I also bought Kal Ho Naa Ho because I couldn't resist that one either). Om Shanti Om is about a bit-part actor (Shah Rukh Khan) in the movie industry in the seventies, who is in love with a superstar. He meets her and begins to romance her, but finds out something shocking. Things happen, they both die. In the second half of the movie, he is reincarnated as the superstar son of a superstar and it is now modern time. He meets a starlet who looks exactly like his lost love (but it's not really her) and begins to remember things from his past life. I LOVED the music. It's incredibly, unbelievably catchy. Trust me.

Tidbits about the stars:

Shah Rukh Khan--India's biggest superstar, although he's been overshadowed by Hrithik Roshan somewhat recently. But not after this, apparently (from Om Shanti Om):

Shah Rukh Khan (Om Shanti Om) (Shah Rukh Khan)

Aamir Khan--considered one of the best actors. Very picky as to roles.

Amitabh Bachchan--a legend.

Abhishek Bachchan--son of Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri (aka Jaya Bachchan--she was Jennifer in Kal Ho Naa Ho)

Preity Zinta--one of my favorite actresses.

Kajol--Fanaa was a comeback for her. Married to Ajay Devgan.

Ajay Devgan-- see http://specials.rediff.com/movies/2008/jan/22slde1.htm This slide show also mentions Irfan (below), among others.

Irfan Khan--played the father in The Namesake and Ajit Khurana in Dhund (Bollywood horror film) . Anarchivist's favorite actor, I think it's safe to say.

Aishwarya Rai--Miss World, married to Abhishek Bachchan, dated Hrithik Roshan [update: I don't even know where I heard this in the first place or if it's actually true. It was news to me when I reread it just now as I was editing this post for publishing.] and Salman Khan, before marrying Abhishek.

Hrithik Roshan--he's better in action films than romance films, I think. He's an incredible dancer and very athletic.

Kareena Kapoor--she comes from a long line of Kapoors in film.

Saif Ali Khan--dating Kareena Kapoor, last I heard.

Rani Mukherjee--starred in Mujhse Dosti Karoge! [Let's Be Friends!] with Kareena Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan. Rani is second[?] cousin to Kajol.

There are more, obviously, but I can't think of any right now.
You had to ask...

[end original email]

One last thing I should add is where to get your Bollywood fix.

Check your local library. They may have more titles than you realize. If they don't carry it, ask and they may be able to purchase it for the collection, or get it for you through interlibrary loan (you don't need to know how it works--just tell the librarian what title you are looking for and they will see what they can do).

Netflix makes it a whole lot easier now to rent movies if you don't have a local rental store with Bollywood titles. They don't carry everything, but they do have a lot.

And if you must own it, Nehaflix is your site--it's both cheap and fast. I ordered three movies and two soundtracks on Tuesday evening and they were in my mailbox on Friday afternoon. Amazing!

01 June 2008

Hindi Word of the Day Archives for May 2008

bas! (enough!)

acchaa, thiik (fine, good, well; acchaa also means okay)

ek, do, teen, char, paanch, chah, saat, aath, nau, das (one, two, three...ten)

bahut (very, many, much)

matlab (meaning); "kya matlab?" ("meaning what?"/ "what do you mean?")

pyaar/prem/ishq/muhabbat (love)

dil (heart)

shaadi (marriage); "hum shaadi n'hi karti!" ("we are NOT getting married!")

sundar (beautiful, handsome, charming)

chandaa, chandra (moon); chaandna (moonlight); chaandni (moonbeam); chaandla (crescent-shaped); chaandi (silver)

khush (happy); khushi (happiness)

khushbo (fragrance, pleasant scent)

yash (glory, honor, fame)

jaaduu (magic)

ankh (eye); ankhen (eyes)

roshnii (light, brightness)

raat (night)

sapnaa (dream)

jaage (wake)

soona (sleep)

dost (friend)

yaar! (dude!)

hameshaa (always)

bilkul (absolutely)

naach (dance)

sab/sabhi (all)

naag (cobra, snake); nageen (female cobra, snake)*

jau! (go!)

bhaloo (bear)*

bagheraa (tiger cub, leopard); bagh (tiger); sher (tiger, lion); khan (lord, prince)*

haara (green)


*Apparently "Mowgli" was made up by Kipling, and I couldn't find "Kaa" in the Hindi dictionary either.




I am not a native Hindi speaker. The words I list are either ones I have picked up by watching Bollywood movies or from perusing my Hindi reference books, including Teach Yourself Beginner's Hindi Script, Teach Yourself Hindi Dictionary, Teach Yourself Hindi Complete Course, Living Language Hindi Complete Course, and best of all, the Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary. Despite all these reference sources, it is still totally possible that I read something wrong or misunderstood it--so keep in mind that this list is made by someone who's only been watching Hindi movies on a regular basis since November 2007 and has no previous experience with the language.