When I started this blog, one of my first readers was Missy Pugh, a movie buff and screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles, who was not very acquainted with Bollywood films. So when she told me that my blog had inspired her to not just watch some of our masala films but had also turned her into a Salman Khan fan, I was intrigued. I don’t know of many Westerners who enjoy “the Bollywood brand” of entertainment and I was eager to know her perspective. Missy agreed to write a review of Salman Khan movies for my blog. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did… So, over to Missy Pugh…
My first experience of Bollywood was in 2001 when I saw the American film Ghost World. In the beginning credits, Enid dances along to Jaan Pehechaan Ho from the 1965 Bollywood film Gumnaam. I fell in love with the song and immediately rushed out and bought the Ghost World soundtrack. For the longest time that song and Chori, Chori, Hum Gori Se (which was used in the 2002 film The Guru) were my only tastes of Bollywood. I longed to see a Bollywood film, but didn’t know where to start (Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t count and while I applaud Disney for introducing kids to Bollywood with Cheetah Girls 3: One World – these movies are influenced by it, but not the real thing). Then two years ago Adite had written in her blog about Dabangg. I had been keeping a list of movies she recommended, but this one stood out to me. So I ordered a copy off of Amazon and settled in to watch a film that soon would become one of my favorite movies of all time.
After the first scene, I thought maybe I should’ve rented it. It’s just a quiet introduction about two half-brothers, but nothing exciting yet. Then the film catapulted into the present, hit the ground running and I was soon in for the ride of my life! The first fight scene is not only entertaining and impressive, but also comical. I instantly fell in love with Salman Khan and his comedic timing as he dances along to a cell phone ringtone that goes off in the middle of the fight. This joke will once again show up later in the film and also its sequel – and each time I laughed just as hard as the first time. Dabangg ended up being everything Adite said it would be – just like old masala movies: “a bit of comedy, loads of drama, action set-pieces and heart-thumping music accompanied with energetic, pelvic-paralyzing choreography.” One feature I love on these DVDs is the way you can play just the songs – I think I watched those musical numbers at least ten times, my favorite is the Udd Udd Dabangg number — the dancing is so much fun!
Now that I was hooked on Bollywood (and Salman Khan), I needed more. The following year I received Bodyguard and Ready for my birthday. My mother was confused to see them on my Amazon wishlist, but since the accompanying note read “MUST HAVE NOW”, she broke down and got them for me. Bodyguard is easily a close second for favorite Salman Khan movie. Once again it has all the elements I enjoy – romance, comedy, action and suspense. This time around, Salman has an innocence and gentleness to him which is a complete 180 from his character in Dabangg. A couple of songs in this film feel like someone changed the channel and you are now watching a music video. And the introduction of Divya feels like something you would see in a shampoo commercial. But while these are elements you wouldn’t see in an American film, I find myself smiling because it is so whimsical. I’m sure some American viewers may laugh at these films and call them “cheesy,” but I find them so delightful because they simply want to entertain the audience.
Ready is a film I will need to see many times before I can truly enjoy it due to its rapid fire dialogue. There were quite a few times I had to rewind a scene because I didn’t catch everything that was being said. This film was zany, playful, and sometimes juvenile (the one time my sister walked into the room while I was watching, ended up being a scene of little boys urinating off a balcony and onto the enemies below – I got the response of “What are you watching?!” before she left the room). But Ready probably contains my favorite “Salman Khan ripping off his shirt” scene. Every film has some creative way of his shirt ripping away during a fight and this film has the funniest approach of doing that (I recommend watching Dabangg and Bodyguard before Ready to really appreciate this gag).
While I waited for the release of Dabangg 2, I started looking up theaters for Ek Tha Tiger. Living in Los Angeles, I was sure there had to be quite a few theaters to show Bollywood films, but I was sorely disappointed. There were only about 3 theaters and two of them were in downtown LA where traffic is awful. So I headed north for 20 miles and happily plunked down my $10 to finally see a Bollywood movie on the big screen. I wasn’t disappointed! Not only did I see previews of other Indian films that interested me (Barfi! looks adorable), but Ek Tha Tiger delivered the twists and turns. While somewhat predictable, it was still entertaining and had me on the edge of my seat. Surprisingly, Entertainment Weekly had it listed in the top 20 films at the American box office that week. If you looked at the average per theater screen, it would’ve been #1. Maybe America should think about expanding Bollywood films to more of its theaters?
Over Christmas break, I had come to terms with not seeing Dabangg 2 in theaters. I was going to be home in Virginia and I knew that our small little town would not have it. So imagine my surprise to find it opening there! A six screen movie theater that used to show popular American movies had now become an art house showing foreign and independent films. I surprised my best friend – who had recently become obsessed with Bollywood too – and took him to a Sunday afternoon showing. While the first film has a more solid story, Dabangg 2 still was a blast.
Salman Khan is a mash-up of some of my favorite American actors. He’s good-looking like George Clooney, funny as Ryan Reynolds, and has the action moves of Jason Statham. I like his films because you can see that he enjoys his job and he’s having fun with the characters he plays. I still have Salaam-e-Ishq and Wanted to watch and I’ll always be first in line for every Salman Khan movie, but I hope to one day expand my Bollywood library (I have already padded my music library with almost 50 songs!). As someone whose DVD collection is diverse – action, comedy, drama, romance, suspense – Bollywood movies like the ones I have reviewed are suited for my tastes. There are many times I can’t decide on what type of a movie I feel like watching, so a Salman Khan movie can satisfy all the genres.