Why if it doesn't feel like 90's Bollywood, I don't want it
I grew up on Hindi films (what is, unfortunately, more commonly known as *sigh*, Bollywood, so for the majority of this article I will refer to it as this). Apart from a few random (and I mean random) American movies here and there (Coming to America, Beetle Juice, Batman - you know, the kind of things that a nine year old really should be watching), everything else I saw and heard was brown. For a kid, seeing such colour and expressions, hearing such songs and dishooms-dishooms - it was all such a dizzying and wonderful experience. There was so much to take in - so much to emulate! So many groovy dance moves to reproduce in the secret of one’s bedroom… And the thing I liked most to ape? Pretending I was falling in love with my handsome brown prince - and that he was falling in love with me - over the most romantic songs. Picture this - and if you don’t feel moved by it then you’re clearly dead inside:
I turn around.
My imaginary brown guy turns around.
Our eyes (well, his imaginary ones) meet.
I get all coy (that tells him I like him).
He smiles (that tells me he likes me).
Bam! Love has happened - right there and then. Instant. Before Lata Mangeshkar has even had a chance to belt out her first ‘aah’.
And I know at that exact filmi moment our lives are about to change forever and I am to become the next fake Mrs Raj Malhotra.
And yes, we are in Switzerland, with me just wearing a chiffon sari – all clichés firmly in check.
20 years on and I’m old. But have I grown out of Bollywood? Hell no. Do others find that worrying? I think so. Especially my dates.
With a string of failed and depressing first dates behind me, I’m actually feeling more cynical than dreamlike these days (for those of you who are interested, no, I didn’t last my one year date amnesty, and yes, I will be asking Santa for more willpower this Christmas). It feels like the little girl who dreamt of falling for her prince on a click of a tape recorder’s ‘ON’ button has long since died. But you know me now dear reader, (well, you don’t, but I like to think you do) I can be a paradox of sorts. One minute, I'm this cynical hag of a woman, wanting to wipe out all men off the face of this planet for being the honking, stinking animals that they are. And then the next, perhaps triggered by the witnessing of two pigeons ‘pecking’ each other out, it’s all simply enough to get me wondering when, how and where I’ll bump into my own ‘flying-rat’ - the one I’m meant to be with – my soul mate. What he’ll look like (Adonis, of course), what he does for a living (professional samosa-maker, d'uh) and whether or not he will accept my love for Hindi films (oh yes, he bloody well will). And ironically, none of these imaginary methods of bumping into him involve me or him swiping right for each other. Weird that.
Sadly, a lot of the guys I’ve met so far have had varying (read: negative) reactions to my obsession for brown people's melodramatic portrayals of love. And it’s usually the brown guys who seem to have the biggest problem. The white, black, blue and pink ones don’t mind (or perhaps don’t really know what the hell I’m saying when I sing, mujhse shaadi karoge? to them). The brown guys, perhaps having had some exposure to the singing and pretend kissing, give off this air of superiority - as if Bollywood is that thing that’s currently stuck on the bottom of their shoe. And then, the worst thing happens, dear reader. They try to turn me against it all. They deem me delusional for liking something which isn’t real – ‘that shizzle ain’t real life, babe’ they say. ‘Thanks for stating the obvious, babe’, I say.
I mean, come on?! Of course I know it’s not real. As much as I know Bridget Jones isn’t real, Mr Darcy isn’t real and the man on the moon story isn’t real. But every artist must take some inspiration from the surroundings around them, right? Austen can’t have just dreamt up this mysterious, tall, dark and handsome creature, who’s so unbelievably proud, yet beautifully chivalrous, overnight – it must have come from somewhere and then built up over time. Adele bases her heart-wrenching songs on her own life experiences, not some parallel universe where men are poobags (men would be poobags in any universe in my humble opinion). Not you though, Darcy ;)
So I believe that Hindi filmmakers - those ones that used to make the great love stories back in the hey-days - took inspiration from what they believed was romance and love – what love, indeed, meant for them. You can’t just pluck a leaf-giving, violin-in-hand, Raj, out of thin air – he needed to have come from somewhere, maybe somewhere deep within Aditya Chopra. Yes, I’ll admit that Bollywood, like Indian cuisine, is very good at adding a bit of garam masala to it all, but the essence - the rawness of that pure love, the romance - is still there and very real – underneath all of the thumkas and matkas. Not that I’ve ever been in love. But I’d like to think that when (or if) I do, thunder will strike at a very poignant moment and a multitude of pretty dancing girls and boys will suddenly surround me, throwing fragrant flower petals at me, ushering me towards my Adonis-resembling samosa-maker. Ah, love.
You know what I think. Personally, I think they’re scared - these brown guys I’ve talked to. The fear of not being able to match up to the levels of a Raj, Rahul or Prem has got to them. I’m not asking for a leaf, fellas. Not on the first date, anyway. And yes, maybe I am a little bit delusional. But I’d rather die having tried in earnest to find my Raj, than live having not tried at all. After all, if it isn’t 90’s Bollywood then what is the point, dear reader?
By Rema Chandran - A marketer, with a love for cricket, romance, bad-ass Bollywood, samosa chaat and men in capes.
Follow me on Twitter