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.

1 comment:

amityb said...

Well done, Miss Danielle. Well done indeed. I agree that you cannot fuck with Kapoor. That man seemed to me a visionary, singing with heated passion that no number of bone-chilling cold mountain streams could cool down. And when he tripped the light spastastic throughout his native soil, his hand gestures implied a propensity to skip rocks into the great unknown.

But he had me at "Neither Sindhi..."

The second video reminded me of that song "Pass the Dutchie" in its morbid militaristic realism.