And for all its exotic landscapes, historical sites and spiritual endeavors, India is one of the most exciting countries to go to the movies, for Indians are crazy for the medium, thus the commercial success and social influence of Bollywood. Take last night for example, as I sang "Saturday Night at the Movies" to my amused friends, we went to the cinema hall in Shangri-la, the Rama Palace, to see the latest Hindi blockbuster, “Airlift”.
The ending is somewhat jingoist with a lot of national flag waving but you can't blame India for Her strong national sentiment as She's had a long, tough history and is surrounded by enemies determined to see Her fail, and to watch Her win is quite affecting. The crowd scene of the variegated Indian faces as they're being finally rescued, their eyes beaming, couldn't help but bring tears to my own eyes, and the audience I was with gave the loudest cheer of the night at this point.
The first song and dance sequence was a knock-out, Akshay dancing with seven belly-dancers, extremely erotic, funny, foot-tapping, I couldn't help but sway my hips to the rhythm. This Bollywood dancing is what we all hang-out for, the audience went nuts, whistling and catcalling, fuck I loved it,and on the giant 70mm screen, those belly-dancers were in my lap.
At intermission they played, very loud, a song from a movie coming soon, "Sanam Re": what a song, the back-track to my sojourn here, like being in heaven, the voice of an angel with electric-guitar and bongos as support, I was thrown into Nirvana.
|Lansdowne Cinema Hall.|
The movie churned on and on, finally ending with a tedious fight between father and son, then Salmon-face getting pierced by an arrow and dying in his pop's arms, all very Freudian but does Salmon, the writer/producer/hero actually get the symbolic meaning of the shaft sticking him? At one point early on in the film I felt a hand creep thru the seat and grab my left tit and then a voice say, "Uncle, please sit more down in your seat." I looked behind and there was this hick slouched low and he wanted me to also slouch so he could see better. "No!" I spat imperiously. Next I felt two hands pressing down on my shoulders trying to force me down into my seat against which I wriggled and pushed, up and down, up and down like a yo-yo, me finally yelling, "Fuck off!" and he desisted, moving to the next seat where nobody blocked his lazy view.
The next piece of drama was in the same boring movie, an ugly old red-faced British bureacrat came on screen spitting chips, "You horrid Indians! You're dirty, lazy, ugly, stupid creatures with your cows, dogs, pigs, monkeys walking in and out of your huts. You are all disgusting!" The theatre went dead silent. Then fish-faced Salmon Khan got up and heroically spewed a tirade, " You call us Indians dirty, lazy, ugly, stupid with our cows, dogs, pigs, monkeys! Bloody bastards! If we are so bad what the fuck have you British been doing in India for 150 years, cleaning it up?" The hall broke into an uproar, cheers, whistles, stamping of feet, clapping of hands and cat-calls of "Kill all firangis! Bloody bastards! Down with whities!" Now I really cringed in my seat, and slid down out of view, it was all my nightmares come true, I whispered to M. that I dare not go out during interval as the crowd might tear me to pieces, the only foreigner in the place. But when I did sneak out for some popcorn the film-lovers all laughed with me, we all got the joke, it's just movie fantasy.
Whew! A lucky cinematic escape if ever there was one.
(See my earlier Blog, “Of Big Babas and Grand Cinemas” for my full experiences of going to the movies in India in the ‘70s.)