Thursday, January 7, 2010

Delhi-6 - A Vicarious Adventure In Culture Shock!

If you've followed my recommendations, in the recommended sequence, you've now seen Mother India, HAHK, HSSK, and Parineeta, in that order. Maybe you've also seen one or more of the major crossover films, like Lagaan, Slumdog Millionaire, etc.'s

Now that you've gotten your feet wet, lets wade out a few wavelets and enjoy a special treat!

Delhi-6 s a terrific movie for Bollywood newcomers, especially western ones. Actually, it's a terrific movie for anybody, because it's - well, a really good movie.

But western-hailing Bollyn00bz will get a particular kick out of it, because it's about a guy born and brought up in the US, who goes to India for the first time, and a whole lot of stuff, including hilarity, ensues.

When Roshan accompanies his ailing and elderly grandmother back to her native Delhi, his Indian ethnicity provides absolutely zero cushion for the tsunami of culture shock. If anything, it makes it worse, because it seems that people expect him to know and understand things that he just plain doesn't!

What makes his experience any different from that of the average Anglo-Merican tourist is that instead of staying in a hotel that caters to western visitors, and going places and seeing things that are found in guidebooks and itineraries prepared by travel agents, Roshan goes directly from the airport to his grandmother's - and his - ancestral home.

Instead of tour guides and hospitality industry staff specially trained to communicate and interact with monolingual US English speakers who are barely aware that India is in Asia, who desire and expect everything to be just like it is in the US, but with different scenery, the people around Roshan are just regular people who live in Delhi - his grandmother's neighbors, relatives he's never met before, people who knew his father.

His Hindi is sketchy, and his familiarity with everyday cultural realities is even sketchier.

In short, despite his ethnic Indian-ness, Roshan makes a most creditable, accessible, and universally identifiable-with "Mikey Sue" for anybody of any gender from anywhere.

Another thing that makes Delhi-6 an excellent choice for your 5th step up the ladder of Bollywood Awareness is that it was made in 2009.

The most recent of your previously-assigned movies, Parineeta, was made in 2005, and let's face it - if you're a younger hiker starting out on the Bollywood trail, 2005 was a long time ago!

In addition, you'll notice that the shape, the ambience, of Delhi-6 as a movie is more familiar, in very noticeable and perceptible but undefinable ways.

While the Bollymovies you've seen, especially HAHK and HSSH, are ubabashed musicals that may have felt almost operatic at times, Delhi-6 will feel more like what you may think of as a "regular" movie.

There is of course some song and dance - few South Asian movies have none at all - but their role is more condiment than main dish.

And, like most South Asian movies, it is longer than the average Hollywood product - about 2 hours & 20 minutes - but well short of epic length.

So Delhi-6 is your number 5, and by now you know the drill:

Turn off the phone, arrange those pillows, pile up the snackage, get on that plane with Rohan, and off you go to India!

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