Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam - You WILL Want All The Clothes

You have probably begun to notice that a principal element of most Bollywood movies is the Eye Candy factor.

As humans, we are naturally drawn to beauty - in art, in nature, everywhere, and all those millennia of practice are evident in every South Asian art form, from the most ancient to the newest.

In fact, the newest, it can be argued, are basically vessels to contain those ancient forms.

That's how it is possible for you, sitting somewhere in Peoria, to experience, within the course of one day, everything from Bengali architecture to Rajasthan embroidery and back again, with a side trip down the lane of Tamil floral arrangements, whether you choose to travel by movie, website photo gallery, or satellite TV.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam may not be a masterpiece of cinema, but it is unquestionably packs more concentrated Apparel, Accessory and Interior Decor Envy per frame than many of the classics the serious film critics will insist you should see - and which you should, and when you are ready, you will do so without being told to by me.

In the meantime, however, I will tell you to revel, no - wallow - in the sheer visual delight that is HDDCS.

The story is a relatively simple one, and if you've been engaging in any independent study at all, you'll also recognize the plot as a Bollywood favorite: Boy meets Girl, they fall in love, Girl's family insists she marry somebody else (who has also conveniently fallen in love with her at first sight).

Intermission. (Bathroom. Replenish snacks. Re-arrange pillowage).

Which Boy will Girl choose? Will she stick by tradition, and go for the dude Daddy said, or will she Make a Statement and follow her heart like an Independent Woman of Modern Today?

That's HDDCS in a nutshell.

The twist is, Boy, in this case is a half-Italian, half-Indian guy (played by Salman Khan, widely considered to be an Official Cute Boy) who has come to Rajasthan to study with Girl's father, who is a famous guru of singing. Girl is played by Aishwarya Rai, who you may recall, won the Miss World pageant back in 1994, and has since then become a Bollywood superstar, and is still frequently referred to as The Most Beautiful Woman In The World.

It is not necessary for you to agree with popular opinion about the hotness or lack of it of the stars in order to enjoy the clothes and jewelry in which she (and all the rest of the cast) are drenched by the HDDCS costume designer.

I mention it only to emphasize that knocking you senseless with unrelenting beauty was the clear intent of the movie - we can assume that the director believes he is a Cute Boy, and she is The Most Beautiful Woman In The World, but as you will see, it really doesn't matter. You could put these clothes on Danny DeVito, or hang them out on a piece of string hung between two trees, and lay the jewelry out on the bare sand of the desert without losing a scrap of beauty, or making you want them all any less.

Advanced Placement Note: More sophisticated BollyViewers, which means pretty much everybody in South Asia, are not going to have such a simplistic and dismissive view of the plot, since unlike you, they've seen 79 gazillion variations and interpretations of that theme since their first conscious memory.

I am not going to get into discussion of didactic or message or debates about "regressiveness," because Bollywood for Dummies is all about the Unabashedly Superficial Enjoyment View, but it is also about proceeding at your own pace, so if your own pace has you googling around, you will find some very lively and thought-provoking discussions about HDDCS, even by people who decry it for being a Piece o' Fluff as vigorously as I appreciate it as a Treasure Trove of Visual Delights Piece o' Fluff.

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