Bollywood Night

yaadon soundtrack cover

Yaadon Ki Baaraat
Thursday, August 11
Doors at 8pm; movie starts at 8:30pm

It is far too easy to describe a Bollywood film by its stilted acting, its wacko fashions, its baroque plot twists, or its outrageous song and dance numbers. Sure, they pretty much all have all of that (and this film is no exception), but to focus on those things is merely to succumb to a kind of cross-cultural misreading. For the implication is that Bollywood manages to touch us despite those things. But all movies use conventions and clich├ęs to condense a slice of the human experience into a manageably short duration. Life doesn’t have jump cuts nor slow motion explosions nor (iPods notwithstanding) soundtracks, yet we accept all of these devices as part of a “realistic” narrative structure. The story isn’t told despite these conventional shorthands but rather through them. Bollywood is no different. Yet our cultural position in relation to it is different and thus the conventions seem unnatural. This is not to say that Indian films strive for “realism” — that would be ridiculous. But merely to urge that we not confuse the form for the content.

The Bollywood classic Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973) tells the story of three brothers who are separated after witnessing the murder of their parents at the hands of a local villain. They grow up to be a musician, a thief, and an incorrigible ladies’ man. Yet they are driven by a need to reunite and avenge their parents’ death. It is not about bad wigs, thick glasses, acid trip set design, or the amusingly on-the-nose band name Monto and His Avengers (though, again, it has all of those). Those are merely its techniques for getting at the same thing most Bollywood films explore: the struggle to be a moral being in a world of disinterested misfortune.

Sounds heavy, right? Well, it’s heavy stuff. But thankfully we have all those framing devices to entertain us along the way. And entertain they do.

Please note: Given that Bollywood actually feels slightly less urge on the whole to condense (here we have a 2 hour 45 minute duration), we will start the film this week at 8:30pm SHARP. Arrive on time or forever wonder what Aamir Khan looked like as a little boy.