Thursday, December 14, 2017

How I fell in love with Bollywood movies … via a little movie called Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

It’s a question I have to answer on an almost monthly and sometimes weekly basis: How did you fall in love with Bollywood movies?

Since this week is the 16th anniversary of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which was my first Bollywood movie, it seemed time to finally write a blog post about it. The story has a little flair of the dramatic -- as it probably should when it relates to Bollywood and especially a Karan Johar movie -- but at its heart is really quite simple.
In college, I had a roommate who loved all things Asian, and I had the apartment’s only Netflix subscription back when they mostly did DVDs. She guilt tripped me into ordering her favorite Indian movie, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which I kept pushing down my queue because I didn’t want to read subtitles and hell I couldn’t even pronounce the title. But finally the time came to sit down for a three and a half hour (!!!!) marathon.

Spoiler alert: I laughed, I cried, I maybe even fell in love.

Some seven or more years later, I can’t tell you exactly what combo of movie magic, fate and sleepiness combined at about 3 a.m. to make this happen, but it did. The same week, we watched Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which is still one of my favorite movies (problematic thematics and all). And then we stayed up until the wee hours trying to understand the cricket in Lagaan. In the months that ensued, with and without the roommate, I binge watched hard, to the tune of 30 plus Hindi movies in the span of two months (that’s approximately one every other day, a feat when they’re three-plus hours long) and ultimately estimated I saw 120 movies (about one every three days) that first year. I got my sister and our friend Elysa -- at one time my co-bloggers -- hooked, passing on the obsession.

I was probably predisposed to like Bollywood movies, especially cheese-fests like K3G. I love old musicals, the song-and-dance of a classic romance. I’m American, but particularly Southern, a culture that also puts great value on family, patriotism and, well, values. I’m a defender of “mindless” escapist cinema.

But I also definitely fell for Shahrukh Khan. Over the years since I saw K3G, I’ve never been able to put into words exactly why I love him quite so much. SRK has an indefinable charm that would probably defy explanation from people far more eloquent than me.

And also for Kajol. SRK smiles may turn me to mush, but Kajol antics turn me into a giggling heart-eyes emoji. I have gone on record calling her (semi) retirement the worst thing to happen to Bollywood in the last decade and her performance to be the best thing about the dumpster fire that was Dilwale.

And also for Hrithik Roshan. I mean, that face, those abs, those dance moves. Swoon. You, are, you are my soniya.

Not so much for Kareena Kapoor as Poo, the single most annoying character in Bollywood. More or less.

And on rewatching, it’s abundantly apparent that K3G is way over the top. And that I didn’t understand a whole lot of things. I revisited the movie about a year after I first watched it, when I was much better acquainted with Bollywood, and catalogued a whole lot of what I understood so much better more than 100 movies of education later. I'm sure years later another rewatch would show even more.

I am honestly amazed when I watch it again how I was able to fall in love with something so dramatic and so little understood by me.

But that’s exactly how it happened. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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