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Confessions of a Bollywood cinephile

October 01, 2011

During my internship at Dawn.com, my editor asked me to write an article on the Indian film industry. It was the perfect topic for me to write on. Sometimes I think to myself that my brain is an ongoing chemical imbalance of Indian films. I think of cheesy Bollywood dialogues as retorts and come backs. I single handedly beat people at Antakshari. I relate to situations with certain blockbuster films. (Wondering how filmy my life is?) Moreover, in my freshman year at college, I penned down an entire research paper on Bollywood.

I kept thinking to myself, how hard can this article be? I mean, I literally eat, pray, love (pun intended) Indian cinema. But as I tried to narrow down the article to a particular theme, I gave up. My mind would jump from Kishore to Rafi, Raj Kapoor to Guru Dutt, Nargis to Madhubala and Amitabh Bachan to Shahrukh Khan. It would, in essence, leap across generations of actors, composers, singers, cinematographers, directors, script writers, lyricists, well you get the picture. I was baffled and confused, with no pertinent filmy issue at hand.

Now as I write and listen to a playlist of Indian songs, I realise that my love for Indian cinema is too vast to be condensed into a post. The love affair goes back to the wee years of my childhood; when my family and I made trips to Hyderabad in local buses. The driver would put on Sri Devi songs; loud ones where one imagines her dancing at the edge of the mountain, all sari clad, proclaiming her love for Rishi Kapoor. My childhood was defined by Anil Kapoor’s 'Mr. India'. The defeat of Mogambo brought more joy to me than the end of Voldemort. Knowing that I loved Mr. India, my parents made me watch 'Brahmachari'. A film essentially for kids, but is best known for the Shammi Kapoor-Mumtaz song ‘Aaj Kal Teray Meray Pyar Kay Charchay’.

The evergreen romance that is so deeply embedded in Indian cinema made its appearance for me not when I saw Shahrukh romancing with Kajol under a gazebo (that takes the cake too) but when I watched Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420. The moment defined itself when Raj Kapoor and Nargis crooned to ‘Pyaar Hua Iqrar Hua hai’. They strolled down the streets of a very Russian set on a rainy night huddled together under an umbrella, lip syncing to this beautiful melody.

Kapoor laid the foundations of Indian cinema and his family continues to entertain millions. His brothers Shammi and Shashi Kapoor are equally talented if not more. The former being the face of Indian romances and the latter being the quintessential chocolate hero. His son Rishi Kapoor is unforgettable in films like 'Bobby' and 'Om Shanti Om'. His grand children Karishma, Kareena and Ranbir are the faces of present day Bollywood. The Kapoors are not just a glamorous dynasty in Bollywood. They have laid the foundations of what is today mainstream Indian cinema.

My ode to Indian cinema will be incomplete if I do not mention an actress who in my opinion is indubitably the face of Bollywood. Madhuri Dixit is not just a director’s dream or an artist’s muse. Her beauty touches the hearts of millions around the globe. Her smile lights up the screen, her dance sets the floor on fire. She does everything with the utmost poise and elegance. Her ethereal sensibilities evoke the beauty of Waheeda Rehman and Madhubala. Her acting skills stand parallel to the likes of Shabana Azmi and Rekha. But it is in her dance, that Madhuri manifests herself as the Godess of Bollywood. The nimbleness of her gymnastic steps in ‘Dil toh Pagal Hai’ and the grace, with which she embodies kathak or classical dance in numerous songs, showcases the broad spectrum of talent that she possesses.

As of now, I’m on the 13th song in the playlist. This short piece in my opinion does no justice to what Indian cinema really is. It just takes chunks of what creates a miniscule fraction of what Bollywood means to an enthusiast like me. If this article ran on a vintage film reel, it would last for a nano second. There is much more to this vast cinematic experience.

In conclusion, I would only say that call Indian cinema a side effect of globalisation or the incidence of the South Asian Diaspora, but this medium (films, music, art, culture) breaks man made boundaries. It transcends space, time, religion and ethnicity.

We, as a nation, can relate to what the film industry has to offer on this side of the fence as much (if not more) as those on the other side.

Zehra Hussain is a student at LUMS and a former intern at Dawn.com

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.