Well, I think it’s time to enjoy some foreign films again even if the English BBC adaptations of detective novels are pretty good. This time perhaps I might give you some insight into the tragicomedy romantic epics of Bollywood. One thing: I hate the song and dance numbers and fast forward the sequence in mute but apparently within the cinematic theatres of India, people get up and dance and sing along with the flick. Now I know, I will never go to watch a Hindi film in India.
Kuch Kuch Kota Hai
The first film I saw in Hindi, which gave me an introduction to the foreign world of Bollywood, was called Kuch Kuch Kota Hai. Roughly translated, it means Something Happens and conveys nothing about it.
The story begins on the 8th birthday of Anjali, the daughter of a widower called Rahul (Sharukh Khan). Her mother Tina (Rani Mukherjee) has left her eight letters with the dying wish that she read a letter each birthday. The eighth letter Anjali receives on her 8th birthday is the last and the most important. It contains a very special request that she reunites her father with an important friend (Kajol) who meant a lot to him. Tina had been responsible for the breakdown of that friendship and wants to mend bridges even after death. This drives the crux of the story but the question is will the gap of 8 years be too late to reunite Anjali’s father with his long lost and much loved friend?
Trust me, you’ll be varying between laughter and tears with this one. But it’s a lovely film with a sweet film. If you enjoyed P.S. I Love You or Dear Frankie, this is your kind of movie with an Indian flavor.
The next Hindi film, which made an impact on me, that I saw was Veer-Zaara.
It is a love story about a star-crossed romance akin to Romeo and Juliet but minus the suicide. Set against the backdrop of a conflict between India and Pakistan, with main actor Veer being an Indian Air Force Squadron Leader and lead actress Zaara being a Pakistani girl from a well-known political family, odds are stacked against their being together. Veer meets Zaara when she makes a pilgrimage to the Ganges to fulfill the last request of her grandmother. When she is leaving, her bus meets with an accident and Veer rescues her and offers her a place to stay and has her meet the people of his village. After she leaves, Veer realizes he is in love and goes after her but his offer of marriage is dissuaded by Zaara’s mother, Mariyam. It would be political suicide for their family if their Pakistani daughter married an Indian. Besides Zaara has to keep her political alliances intact by marrying Rezaa since he will help aid the career of Zaara’s father even if she herself has realised that Veer is whom she loves.
This love held by Zaara makes Rezaa have feelings of dishonor and shame so he has Veer imprisoned on the charges that he is an Indian spy. After he is taken to cell 786, he does not speak for 22 years. A new female lawyer, Saamiya Siddiqui, enters the scene to bring prisoner 786 to justice but he imposes some difficult conditions on her because he refuses to speak ill or testify against Zaara’s family. In addition, her ex-boss who had never lost a case took on the defense. To set Veer free, she travels back to Veer’s village where she finds an unlikely witness.
This is a beautiful film that will haunt you with all the injustice dealt with by Veer and creates questions about how much power higher authorities have. This is a film about racial politics getting in the way of love and succeeding up to a point. If you liked films like The Joy Luck Club and West Side Story, this one’s another you want to watch.
Another film in a similar vein is Mohabbatein in which a strict school principal of a boarding school tries to forbid students from expressing their love because of a tragic personal incident.
Sam at IMDB has written an excellent review of the film so I’ll display his/her work below in a condensed form.
The setting of Mohabbatein is the Gurukul School, an elite school housed in a cold, uninviting, castle-like edifice. Narayan Shankar (Amitabh Bachchan) is the stern, disciplinarian and somewhat tyrannical headmaster of Gurukul who rules the school with an iron fist.
The story begins on a dark and quiet night at the local train stations where three young men, prospective students at the school, meet on the platform and set out on a journey that brings them closer together than they ever could have imagined. Vicky (Uday Chopra) is an athletic, energetic playboy type, seemingly unshaken by the harsh reality of the school. Sameer (Jugal Hansraj) is the timid and shy one with boyish charm and innocent looks. And Karan (Jimmy Shergill) completes the trio as the more mature, intense member of the pack.
The three lads are struck by cupid’s arrow when they meet the three heroines; Vicky loses his heart to a rich and spoiled girl named Ishika (Shamita Shetty) while Sameer is reunited with his childhood buddy, the bubbly Sanjana (Kim Sharma) and Karan falls hard for the bashful widow, Kiran (Preeti Jhangiani).
A glimmer of hope comes their way when a maverick music teacher, Raj Aryan (Shah Rukh Khan) sweeps into the picture and helps nurture their young love.
To read the full review, click here.