Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bollywood for the Holidays, Sunday December 28th

Spice up your wintry weekend with some hot Bollywood tunes! Come on down to the Argus Lounge, where I'll be playing vintage Bollywood hits, Tropicalia, Euro Pop and other sizzling selections. Plus karaoke fun at 10PM! Kick back one of Visa's invigorating imbibements and enjoy film excerpts from my favorite Bollywood spectaculars.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Humko Tho Yara

Finally another video. I got kind of disheartened for a while, as it seemed that YouTube was removing all my clips... maybe there's another video site I can use, but hopefully this clip will stay up for now.

Here's a twisted variation on a fairly standard Bollywood trope - the romantic romp through the countryside. This is a staple of Bollywood films - somehow the lovers always find a way to wander out into the picturesque hills and meadows for a syrupy romantic ballad. In this song, "Humko Tho Yara", from the 1977 movie Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, there's a twist - you'll notice the disturbingly large bottle of whisky revealed as Kaajal Kiran runs off after the silly bit of dialog with Rishi Kapoor. I can only guess that the presence of alcohol is the rationalization for the wild picaresque that follows.

First Rishi engages in a bit of passive-aggressive horseplay, using his tie to pretend to strangle himself, and, when that fails to elicit sufficient sympathy, playfully whipping his partner with it. Charming, eh? But Kaajal escapes and is soon causing all kinds of mayhem, from disrupting a bicycle race to disrupting calisthenics exercises - complete with an absurd toreador interlude with sped-up footage of a brahma bull.

This is what happens when you let a sweet-talking rogue get you drunk, kids. If you make it to my Bollywood night next weekend at the Argus Lounge, keep that in mind in your dealings with Visa, the bartender.

Bollywood and Oh So Very Much More, Sunday November 16th

Join me in my never-ending search for the forgotten gems of Bollywood... and more! Come on down to the Argus Lounge, where I'll be playing vintage Bollywood hits and their contemporary "reincarnations", Tropicalia, Italo-disco, German pop and other magical music. Sample one of Visa's tongue-tickling beverages and enjoy the music, and as always, a selection of my favorite Bollywood movie excerpts on the big(-ish) screen for your amusement and edification.

ALSO please note the earlier scheduling (8-10PM) this time around. And karaoke afterward, always fun.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bollywood and BEYOND! Sunday October 26

Join me on a magical journey to Bollywood... and BEYOND! Come on down to the Argus Lounge, where I'll be playing vintage Bollywood hits, Tropicalia, Italo-disco, German pop, Cambodian Surf-Rock and more. Sample one of Visa's stimulating and invigorating beverages and enjoy the music, and as always, a selection of my favorite Bollywood movie excerpts on the big(-ish) screen, this month featuring some crazy '80s disco dancing action.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bollywood and Beyond! Sunday September 14th

Let me take you to Bollywood... and beyond. Come down to the Argus Lounge, where I'll be playing grooving Bollywood hits from the 60s-80s, and mixing it up with Tropicalia, Italo-disco, German pop, Cambodian Surf-Rock and more! Sample one of Visa's handmade sustainable free-range beverages and enjoy the music, and as always, Bollywood movie excerpts on the big(-ish) screen.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bollywood is Back! Sunday August 10th

Bollywood Night is back... with a vengeance. If you haven't made it out before, and even if you have, I expect to see you at the Argus Lounge, where I'll be playing grooving Bollywood hits from the 60s-80s, and mixing it up with Tropicalia, Italo-disco, German pop, Cambodian Surf-Rock and more! Sample one of Visa's fine artisanal beverages and enjoy the music... he is the Best Bartender you know.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Bollywood and Beyond canceled this month

Bad news... Bollywood & Beyond is canceled this month, due to the Mission Creek Music Festival which is taking place at the Argus from the 13th to the 20th. The Bollywood will return in August... stay tuned.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bollywood and Beyond Sunday July 13th

You are cordially invited to my Bollywood and Beyond Bonanza at the Argus Lounge! I'll be playing grooving Bollywood hits from the 60s-80s, and mixing it up with Tropicalia, Italo-disco, German pop, Cambodian Surf-Rock and more! Sample one of Visa's fine hand-made beverages and enjoy the music...

Also, I know I'm falling behind on actual posts... I'll try to rectify that soon. :)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bollywood and Beyond! Sunday June 15th

If you're in SF, come rock it at my Bollywood and Beyond Bonanza at the Argus Lounge! I'll be playing luscious Bollywood hits from the 60s-80s, and mixing it up with Tropicalia, Italo-disco, German pop, Cambodian Surf-Rock and more! Sample one of Visa's analeptic drink concoctions and enjoy the music...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jara mudke mila aankhe

The 1982 hit Disco Dancer is easily one of my favorite Bollywood films. It's in that rare category of movies where nearly every musical number amazes and fascinates me. It follows the rise and trials of a disco singer whose stage name is "Jimmy". In this song, "Jara mudke mila aankhe", Jimmy is just getting his start, but he's already earned an enemy, Rita, who is protesting his performance with a cadre of shoe-throwing girlfriends. Unfazed, Jimmy confronts Rita with his seductive, vaguely threatening dance moves. It turns out the throng is easily swayed by Jimmy's ability to lead them in aerobic Dancercise, and he seals the deal with an impressive bit of dancing lying on his back like David Byrne.

Enjoy the clip, and if you're in the Bay Area, come check out my Bollywood night tomorrow at the Argus Lounge!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bollywood Bonanza returns - Sunday May 18th

If you're in the San Francisco area, come check out my next Bollywood night at the Argus Lounge. I'm mixing it up a bit this time with some Bossa Nova, Italo-disco, Cambodian Surf-pop and more. Come sample one of Visa's amazing and horripilating drink concoctions and enjoy the music...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chura Liya Hai

So I just had my first "Bollywood Night" where I played some Bollywood music and videos at a local bar. The set went pretty well despite my nervousness, and I connected with one true fan of vintage Bollywood movies, so all told I think it was a success. I'll be doing this again in a few weeks - on May 18th, a little later, from 9-11 PM. Hopefully that'll mean a slightly bigger crowd - it was pretty empty today at 7 PM but picked up from 8 to 9.

Anyway, here's one of my favorite songs, Chura Liya Hai, from the 1973 film Yaadon Ki Baaraat. It features the always lovely Zeenat Aman and lots of very unconvincing mock guitar playing. There's one point about four minutes in where I swear it looks like the guy is about to clock her with the guitar.

It's interesting, with Bollywood songs, to enjoy them divorced from their context in the film - I feel that this is perhaps something that is much more pronounced for a Westerner, who may have much easier access to compilations of Bollywood music than to the actual films. I first heard this song on an excellent compilation called Bollywood Funk, and when I listened to it I never imagined anything quite like this video. I think the image in my mind's eye was much racier - a smoky bar, a scantily clad singer - but perhaps that's the suggestive undercurrent that this movie has to tread around.

Incidentally, this song also has the personal distinction of being the only Bollywood song I've ever attempted in Karaoke form. I'm sure my pronunciation was horrible, but as my audience consisted of middle-aged Santa Cruz bowling alley patrons, I think that was far outweighed by the effect of my sheer joy in performing this song, which I confess was considerable. I hope one day to revisit the potential of Bollywood Karaoke... perhaps in the future I'll have the foresight to document it here.

Oh, and here is a translation of the lyrics:
You have already stolen my heart
Do not steal glances
Having changed my life
Do not change a bit, sweetheart
Oh, you took my heart, oh my heart
Oh, taking my heart don't humor me
You have already stolen my heart
Do not steal glances
Having changed my life
Do not change a bit, sweetheart

Becoming spring I will come sometime in your world
May this day not pass in just this wish
You are mine, you are mine
Today go making this promise
You have stolen
You have already stolen my heart
Do not steal glances
Having changed my life
Do not change a bit, sweetheart

Oh, I will decorate your body's branch
I will give my heart's blood to your lovely red lips
I will decorate your body's branch
I will give my heart's blood to your lovely red lips
What faithfulness is, to this world
One day I will show them madly
You have stolen
You have already stolen my heart
Do not steal glances
Having changed my life
Do not change a bit, sweetheart
Oh, you took my heart, oh my heart
Oh, taking my heart don't humor me
You have already stolen my heart
Do not steal glances

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bollywood music this Sunday

A ridiculously persistent cold and other distractions and general malaise have kept me from posting recently... I promise I'll be posting more videos soon. In the meantime, I wanted to post to let anyone in the San Francisco area know about this event I'll be having at the Argus Lounge this Sunday. Should be fun!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Commercial break - Tilda Basmati

I'm taking a break this week. In the meantime here's a funny commercial for Tilda Basmati. Enjoy.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Ganga Meri Ma (guest post)

This week I'd like to introduce my lovely girlfriend Danielle, for a guest post on the patriotic song "Ganga Meri Ma," from the truly odd 1969 film Tumse Achha Kaun Hai.

Thank you Mr. Gilder, and thank you for inviting me to contribute to your web log. This particular number struck me, even on the first listen, as being a strong candidate to replace India's current national anthem, which, after several minutes of grueling Wikipedia research, I discovered was composed to honor George V of England as the "Dispenser of India's destiny." This number is a little more rollicking and a little less colonial-riffic. That said, it's also just plain catchy. Bollywood numbers from the era covered by this particular blog seem so foreign, so kitschy and absurdist, but after a quick listen it seems as if these melodies are only one enterprising producer away from being re-casted as America's next pop phenom, or at least a backing loop to a rhythmic spoken word song about the perils of the streets and the joys of amassing great fortunes.

But unlike Jay-Z, Shammi Kapoor has a spastic sweetness, sort of Joaquin Phoenix meets Jimmy Kimmel, and his gestures are unrivaled. As he dips his head into the glacial waters of the Ganges, I can't help but think to myself, "Damn that water looks cold," but he just shakes it off, like a stone-cold badass. He throws an apple AT HIMSELF and then CATCHES IT, in ANOTHER PART OF THE COUNTRY. At 3:11 into the clip, he answers the eternal question "Which Vastness?" And then there's a stunning cameo of Ghandi-as-Buddha at 3:20. As a procession of floats roll by, representing the various unique cultures and regions of India aka Hindustan, I again am amazed at Mr. Kapoor's ability to maintain his goofy-cool while dancing through a copious fog of diesel fumes.

The accumulated evidence makes the conclusion inevitable: you cannot fuck with this guy. His mother is the Ganges, and his father is the Himalayas. As a Southern California native, all I can really put up against that is that my mother is the Los Angeles River, and my father is Mt. Wilson. For those who do not know, my geological parents are plainly lame in comparison. The final bit, with its neat rows of uniformed schoolchildren forming a living map of India, made me patriotic for a country I have never even visited. I spent even more grueling minutes researching performances of India's present national anthem, and I firmly believe that homemade floats, clapping schoolchildren, and a spastic pudgy man dancing like a lunatic in a field full of purple saffron crocuses is a tad more appealing than shots of a barren landscape, slow-motion pans of armed forces, and helicopters laden with Ghandi-knows-what.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Aap Jaisa Koi

I've been feeling kind of tired this week, and the only cure is lots and lots of star filters. Good thing I've got this disco delight from the 1980 film Qurbani to cheer me up. This song feels like it was just on the cusp of the disco trend that would soon take over Bollywood—it's kind of a softer, gentler disco sound.

Zeenat Aman fronts the band, wearing a dress that's one of those odd combinations of revealing and concealing that you see so often in Bollywood. My God, you can see her SIDES!!! She's supported by a highly enthusiastic Mandingo drummer and a gang of girls in glittery workout leotards. Of course, what really makes this clip is the lighting. Bright, colored, flashing, reflected off disco balls and hanging mesh, but most of all, shot through gorgeous, crazy, rotating star filters.

Intercut a standard portion of male lead reaction shots, one quirky scene with some supporting characters, and a fuzzy heart-shaped matte shot, and you've got yourself a nice feel-good dance number.

Those male leads must have a bit of a hard time doing all these reaction shots. I would assume they're mostly shot separately from the actual dance part, probably with the rest of the crew all staring at them. Here's what I think Feroz Khan is thinking to get himself into the right mood for each shot:
  1. Go, shorty, it's your birthday, we gon' party like it's your birthday!

  2. Man, check out Zeenat's sides! Daaaamn!

  3. I'd tap that.

  4. Time to break out my sexy half-raised eyebrow look.

  5. It's really hard to keep looking sexy with this damn wind machine blowing on my hair.

  6. Oh yeah, the look of slight disbelief. Slays 'em every time.

  7. Hmmmm...

  8. Wait, shit, did I leave the oven on?

  9. Okay man, calm down, you got the scarf of nonchalance, remember? Keep it cool.

  10. Damn I'm slick.

Here are the translated lyrics, culled from a forum site:
If someone like you were to come into my life
Then things would be set, yes things would be set

The springtime for the flower, the garden for the springtime
The heart for the heart, the body for the body
Everyone wants a meeting of body and soul
I wish that your heart would have a desire for mine
Then things would be set

I'm a human, not an angel
I'm afraid that I might wander
This lonely heart cannot pull itself together, without love it will pine
Where is there one like you, this heart would like to have just you..

Then things would be set...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pyar Zindagi Hai

This is one of the first Bollywood songs I ever heard. It's from the 1978 movie Muqaddar Ka Sikander, and I found it on an excellent Bollywood compilation CD called "Bollywood Funk". The funky guitars, synths, gorgeously distorted vocals, and disco beat made it a quick favorite, so later, when I started watching Bollywood films, I decided to track down this movie to see how the song was staged. As funky as the song is, I definitely wasn't prepared for what I saw.

I've included a little bit of the scene preceding the song so that you can see how dramatic the transition is. Right off the bat, there's some amusing dialogue in English: "Hey man, you dig this sort of music? You like it? Then why don't you come and join Lover’s Paradise." Apparently, paradise for lovers involves a ridiculous number of candles (including one gigantic one), lots of glowing hearts, and mirrors in way more places than you'd think would be healthy. All the candles remind me of some kind of Catholic church—in the culturally stereotyped world of Bollywood, this means it's perfect for a den of sin. Just to make the connection a little clearer, we have a lecherous old white guy trying to grab the singer (Rekha), eliciting a truly off-putting rhythmic giggle.

If you're wondering about the constant cuts to Amitabh Bachchan looking somewhere between stoned and worried, basically, the couple that walked into the club ahead of him are his best friend and the woman he loves (sporting some bad-ass Princess Leia curls). It's a good thing the set is covered with mirrors, because it makes a number of the shots of Bachchan very slowly and angrily drinking much more interesting. Well, that and his very provocatively displayed chest hair.

After some explosive lightning intercuts and an odd dance routine involving a lot of bouncing, Bachchan decides it's time to play the "No real person could drink whiskey this quickly" game, feeding the rage until he smashes the bottle against—what else?—a mirror.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Duniya Uski Sunti Hai

Here's a rather bizarre cabaret number from the 1966 movie Dus Lakh. I found out about this movie from a book I'm reading called Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, by Jerry Pinto. It's a pretty good book... it's not really much of a biography, but more of an academic look about the cultural meanings and ideologies reflected in Helen's career and her roles. I mentioned in an earlier post that Helen never really succeeded in getting good leading roles because she was not ethnically Indian — this book provides a very thorough explanation of the traits and positions that Helen's characters were given because of her perceived whiteness. Besides that, it's giving me a great list of — what else — more Bollywood movies to track down and get clips from! Because, you know, the six hours of clips I already have captured and ready to post might not be enough... :)

Helen comes rolling in on a giant globe ("the world" of the song's title) dressed in — for some reason — a flamenco/mariachi outfit, with a bunch of fruit on her head like Carmen Miranda. Then Brahmachari, playing her brother, appears in possibly the silliest hat you've ever seen (if you've never been to Beach Blanket Babylon).

Beach Blanket Babylon plus Al Gore plus Carmen Miranda equals Bollywood... it all makes sense now

Also, this might just be me, but I'm seeing a weird resemblance between Brahmachari and Ron Mael of Sparks:

Helen is in fine form in this number, but Brahmachari nearly upstages her with his antics, such as pulling ridiculously fake strands of his hair out and "twanging" them, a bizarre stripping costume change where he ends up in what look like bright orange pajamas, and then just to max out the absurdity, another silly hat with what looks like a blow-up donkey on it. Then Helen walks him on a leash. All this has barely even a tangential connection to the lyrics or to the plot of the movie, and I suspect that maybe it's just meant to illustrate how unruly and strange Anglo Helen and her family are. Pinto writes in Helen that Christians and Anglo-Indians are often characterized in Bollywood movies as having loose morals and being associated with alcoholism, crime and prurient sexuality.

At least in Dus Lakh, Helen's character, Kitty, doesn't die or meet another sad fate, as she tended to. Pinto writes:
Kitty then becomes a nurse, and thanks Kishore, for she has been saved from a life of degradation. Her adoption of what are presented as Indian values and the consequent willingness to enter a life of service — never mind the Anglo-Indian community's long tradition in education and medicine — saves her from a fate worse than death.

Here are the translated lyrics of the song. The "du du du, ni ni ni, ya ya ya" part spells out "duniya," which means "the world."
Du du du
Ni ni ni
Ya ya ya
The world listens and obeys him who makes it bow to its feet

Take from one and give to the other, that's how all live in this can
When it's someone else's wealth, eat, drink, enjoy as much as you can
When this is how everyone lives, then why don't you too try it?

Learn and understand the walk the world walks, dear
You too change your color, what is it that you fear?
If it's necessary, be nice even to him who makes you sick

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Time for some Bollywood re-interpretation... my friend Calvin made an awesome illustration of the "Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Monica, Oh My Darling!)" song I posted a few weeks ago:

Monica, Oh My Darling on Flickr

And my friend Rob pointed me to a clip of the Simpsons episode that uses the song "Pal Bhar Ke Liye" that I posted last week:

I can feel the meme spreading...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pal Bhar Ke Liye

Hema Malini really needs to get in touch with a contractor who can help her out with her home's ridiculous profusion of windows. Maybe she can start a support group with the current occupants of Philip Johnson's Glass House. By my count, she's pursued by Dev Anand through 15 different windows in this clip from the 1970 movie Johny Mera Naam. (Yes, they spell "Johny" with one N. No, I have no idea why.)

The actual plot of this movie involves some convoluted twists relating to whether Johny (Dev Anand) is a gangster or a police agent, but the focus of this song is squarely on the charm and joy of a good old-fashioned romantic stalking. You don't see this happen quite as much in more contemporary Bollywood films, but apparently, in the '60s and '70s, stalking was the socially acceptable, logical way for your leading man to woo the leading lady. Remember fellas, No means Yes! So, Dev Anand proceeds at a brisk clip of 5 window-privacy-invasions per minute, taking a brief detour through the conveniently placed Wall of Inexplicable Circular Holes. If the setup here isn't creepy enough for you yet, let me just mention the 26 year age difference between the protagonists. And then shudder.

Finally, Hema Malini gives up her stalker abatement program after falling into the bathtub and pounding on the security window as if to say, "Quit it, you idiot, I just fractured my tailbone!" Naturally, Dev Anand ignores her and continues singing. Incensed, she grabs a pole and decides to finally bring some sanity to this whole situation by impaling the guy. But for some reason (his ridiculous schoolboy outfit?), she takes pity on him and decides that heck, maybe she does love him after all. No surprise there - in all the many romantic stalking scenes I've seen in Bollywood movies (there are plenty of great ones that I'll be posting at some point), I can't recall a single one where the heroine's feeling for the hero isn't warmed significantly.

I found a great forum where people are contributing translations of Bollywood lyrics, and oddly enough, this song has only one reference to windows:
Standing at the window...
Accept the saint who is standing at the window
Even if it's false

Somehow, he's able to charm her despite repeating this "Even if it's false" line many times throughout the song, and a generally kind of sad tone:
You are the most beautiful out of all the beauties
My face too is not that bad
Sometime do look at me too
Even if it's false

By the way, if you have an odd feeling that you've heard this song before, it might be because it apparently was used in a Simpsons episode.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Aaja Aaja Main Huin Pyar Tera

Introducing my favorite Bollywood actor - Shammi Kapoor! Also known as "the Indian Elvis Presley," he cultivated a distinctly Westernized, urban, hip persona, in contrast to the romanticized agrarian and traditional values portrayed by most male stars of the time. He was a huge star in the '60s, and with his youthful, hyperactive intensity, he took over the role of the romantic playboy like no other. As the Official Shammi Kapoor Fan Club puts it, "To watch him tease the heroine was much like observing an overgrown pup romping and frolicking in a bed of prized roses." Shammi's songs were often performed by the playback singer Mohammed Rafi, who was a friend of Shammi's and worked to imitate the vocal style of early Western rock singers like Elvis.

This crazy spasmodic dance sequence is from the film Teesri Manzil, from 1966, which actually has quite a few excellent dance numbers. Shammi's manic, broadly expressive moves are on full display in this deranged, twitch-filled choreography. I have to confess that I have actually watched this movie countless times in an attempt to incorporate Shammi's unique and brilliant moves into my own dance repertoire.

You may have noticed from the bit of dialog at the beginning of the clip that this is supposed to take place in a "rock and roll club," and while the band's music certainly has a strong Western pop influence, their outfits are just confusing... the only description that even sort of fits is that they look they're supposed to be Robin Hood's suave cousins.

Anyway, after several minutes of Shammi cavorting around the club, his lady friend, Asha Parekh, decides it's time for a twitchy dance showdown, and man does she have some tricks up her sleeveless top. By the way, don't get any ideas - that top is the product of advanced Bollywood engineering efforts to produce the most formless and unenticing shape possible. But that's okay, because with Asha, it's all about the eyes, and in this case, her seduction strategy seems to be to induce epilepsy in her victims by fluttering her eyelids at theoretically impossible speeds. This capability, along with some of her jerkier dance moves, make me suspect that Asha Parekh is, in fact, a robot. All I can say is, better not cross her, because she's got a serious posse of backup dancers who clearly have the ability to travel into the future to purchase tights from American Apparel.

Somehow, the excitement just keeps on building, and the contagious epileptic fit dance spreads to the rest of the club! In a final flurry of fast cuts, we see a few token white patrons, several dancers who clearly need either immediate medical attention or an exorcism, and most exciting of all, the guitar-cam, which shows us — for no conceivable reason — the view through the sound hole of the guitar! Finally, the fat lady collapses, and it's all over. I absolutely love it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dum Maro Dum

In the '70s, Bollywood films began to develop a stronger political consciousness, and take on more pressing conflicts. Earlier Bollywood films had certainly dealt with some amount of politics, but in general they had a simple message of uniting different ethnic and religious groups under Indian nationalism, as in the song "Ganga Meri Ma" (which I'll be posting later).

This clip, however, from the 1971 movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna, represents a rare note of dissatisfaction and anger. The film opens with a lengthy rant by the central character, Prashant, played by Dev Anand, who also wrote, produced, and directed the movie. He laments the international rise of the Hare Krishna movement, and the Western devotees it has attracted, saying, "These people, whose religion is smack, grass, cocaine, LSD - and whose temple is open physical relationship - these people are leading every moment of their lives only for this moment. They are all lost under the influence of intoxication and enjoyment." As it turns out, Prashant's sister Jasbir has fallen in with a commune of Western hippies, is taking drugs to numb the pain of their parents' divorce, and has blocked out all memories of her childhood. In this clip, Prashant discovers Jasbir (played by Zeenat Aman) with a group of stoned hippies (played by real-life Western hippies found on location in Kathmandu). Prashant is the serious-looking guy with the giant collar that the camera keeps zooming in on.

Philip Lutgendorf's Indian cinema site, a great source of information, claims that in the '70s, "street urchins in Indian towns were apt to greet young Western travelers with a mocking rendition of the film's hit title song," specifically the opening line, "dum maro dum," which means "take another toke." Apparently Dev Anand was not alone in his scorn for the Western seekers who flooded India in the '60s and '70s.

I found a translation of the lyrics on a website with a Photoshop spoof of the Kronos Quartet's recent album with Asha Bhosle:

Take a toke
Let the pain be erased
Say all day and night
Hare Krishna, Hare Ram

What has the world given us?
What have we taken from the world?
Why should we care about everyone else?
What has everyone else done for us?

Whether we live or die
We won't fear anyone
This age will not stop us
We'll do whatever we want

Take a toke
Let the pain be erased
Say all day and night
Hare Krishna, Hare Ram

Lyrics: Piya Tu Ab To Aaja

For any of you who are curious, I found a very bad English translation of the lyrics from last week's post.

Lover, you just come now

He has come, look look he has come!

Lover, you just come now
My spirit flames like a blaze, come and extinguish it
So my body's flame becomes cold, embrace me in that way

For these thirsty thirsty lips of mine
Your lips have made a thousand promises
If one who forgets is to live then how will he live
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes yes

Lover, you just come now
My spirit flames like a blaze, come and extinguish it
So my body's flame becomes cold, embrace me in that way

If your kindness remains on my condition
I even accept that reason, oh dear
For which you touched my footsteps
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes yes

Lover, you just come now
My spirit flames like a blaze, come and extinguish it
So my body's flame becomes cold, embrace me in that way

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Monica, Oh My Darling!)

This is the first post of my blog, so I might as well give a quick run-down of what's going on here. In short: I am somewhat obsessed with Bollywood movies — especially ones of a particular '60s through '80s vintage. If you're looking for gossip on Shah Rukh Khan or Aishwarya Rai, you're probably not going to find it here. But, if you stay tuned for my weekly updates, I think you'll agree that there's something special about these older movies. I'm not entirely sure what it is, and that's part of the reason I started this blog — I want to try to articulate what it is about these gorgeous, kitschy, strange, fantastic movies that I love.

I'm starting out with one of my favorite clips — a song called "Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Monica, Oh My Darling!)" from the 1971 film Caravan. In my collecting of Bollywood films and music, I've followed several actors and actresses that I became fascinated with, and one of them is Helen, the central dancer in this clip. She basically knocks the socks off of any other Bollywood dancer, then or now. Her moves are just genius, and the hyperactive energy that she musters is incredible.

When I first saw this clip, I was confused and stunned — by the hysteric dancing, the odd juxtaposition of English and Hindi lyrics, and the giant set with pink flamingos, a human-sized golden bird cage, and a replica of Big Ben that somehow fits into a tiny nightclub. I think that a common outsider reaction to Bollywood is to prize its bizarre and incomprehensible quality — a celebration of the entertainment value of the "what the hell?" absurdity of it all. But as I watched more movies I found that understanding a little bit more about the culture and the context actually made it even more entertaining and enjoyable. So, a few notes about this clip: Helen was not ethnically Indian, but rather French and Burmese, which may explain why she never had a successful leading role in Bollywood films. However, she was unquestionably the most talented dancer in Bollywood over her 3-decade career, and was in high demand for secondary roles and explosive dance sequences. Helen could be sensual and suggestive without ever crossing over into direct provocation — a skirting of restrictions that seems to have been highly prized in '60s and '70s Bollywood, which took pains to respect social mores — and government censors — with regard to displays of sexuality. Notice, for instance, that around 4 minutes in to this clip, when Helen's outer garments are dramatically removed, it is not actually her bare stomach you see — she's wearing a body sock!

Anyway, enough blabbering from me. Enjoy the clip, and come back next week for the next entry.

Update: I posted a translation of the lyrics.