Oscar champion “Slumdog Millionaire” is hardly a Bollywood movie. In fact, it bears none of the telltale Bollywood film characteristics. It’s dark and gritty. There are no love triangles or exaggerated theatrical monologues. The characters do not escape to the majesty of the Swiss Alps for elaborate, innuendo-filled dance numbers. In fact, the film’s sole nod to the Indian film industry remains the dance number in Mumbai’s Victoria Station during the closing credits.
But that sequence has legs! You can see more non-Indians attempt to “Light-bulb” to [url id=”http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2008/12/29/dont-sleep-on-slumdog-millionaire-composer-mia-collaborator-ar-rahman/”]A.R. Rahman’s “Jai Ho”[/url] lately than ever before. Bollywood choreography is appearing everywhere from “Ellen” to E!’s entire Oscar red-carpet cast and crew. It looks like America is ready to start watching some real Indian cinema, and since that’s quite a large category to tackle, here’s a little primer for Bollywood beginners:
Amitabh Bachchan: Yes, this is the actor whose autograph little Jamal pays quite a high (gross) price for in “Slumdog.” If you were able to genetically combine Anthony Hopkins, Marlon Brando and Sean Connery into one being and add a dash of Liberace to the mix, you would get someone who would resemble the now almost 70-year-old Bachchan. He is the end-all, be-all of Indian cinema and has been for over three decades.
Aishwarya Rai: Staring into her eyes is something like gazing into Bambi’s. Julia Roberts deemed her the most beautiful woman in the world, and Time named her among the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2004. (And you can now see her in theaters in “The Pink Panther 2,” sadly.) She married Amitabh Bachchan’s son, actor Abhishek Bachchan, and today they make up the Holy Trinity of Bollywood.
Shahrukh Khan: Many of you may recall a dashing gent onstage with “Slumdog” actress Freida Pinto during the Golden Globes, who said that he might get thrown out if he broke out into dance. That’s Shahrukh Khan. He’s kind of like India’s Tom Cruise, minus the Scientology and Oprah couch outbursts. He’s easily one of the most bankable stars, equally as effective in playing the hero and even deadlier is the maniacal villain. “Baazigar” is an amazing film of his. Check it out.
Deepika Padukone: She’s easily one of the prettiest women on the planet, but to her credit her acting chops have taken her far beyond being just another Indian model-turned-actress. She is today’s It girl.
Bollywood fans are among the more die hard on earth and surely some are not going to feel like this list adequately represents the sentiments of the Global Desi population, but here goes:
“Sholay” (1975): Amitabh Bachchan’s hit movie still remains the “Citizen Kane” of Indian cinema, a must-see for anyone looking to get down with Bollywood. Knowing this film will get you mad props.
“Lagaan” (2001): Aamir Khan’s Oscar-nominated movie is about a colonial Indian village’s fight against the British: a war waged in the only true battlefield — a cricket pitch. Trust me. It’s good.
“Bandit Queen” (1994): Director Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth,” “The Four Feathers”) tells the true story of one of India’s most influential terrorists, who then became a politician. Yes, this really happened.
“Dil Chahta Hai” (2001): A coming of age story of three best buds. It’s kind of like “Stand by Me” meets “Love Actually,” except without any dead bodies or Christmas spirit, if that makes any sense. Still, it made me want to hug all of my friends and take a trip to Goa, which is paradise if you haven’t been.
“Black” (2005): Easily one of the more ambitious Indian movies ever made, “Black” tells the tale of a deaf, mute, blind girl who weathers a dark reality. Rani Mukherjee attempts something apparently never done before by an Indian actress, and Amitabh Bachchan brings his own special, often exaggerated, weight to the project.
So, there you have it. Now, go get your Desi swag on. Jai ho!
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