22 April 2003 | dmul53
A westerners first glimpse of Bollywood
Mohabattein was the first Hindi movie I ever saw. It was sent to me by a friend who is crazy for Shahrukh Khan.
My first impressions were, `WOW, this Shahrukh guy has a tremendous screen presence (but, yikes, what a profile!)' and `I love the old guy with the black hair and the white beard. He's too cool.' As for the movie itself, I wondered how in god's name anybody could enjoy that horrid cat-in-heat screeching which issued forth whenever that gorgeous young woman (Aishwarya Rai) opened her mouth to sing. And I found the interminable love stories of the three young couples to be boring, boring, boring. I spent all my time waiting for Mr. Aryan and Mr. Shankar to come back onscreen.
As for the story, I was completely out of sympathy for the silly idea that it's more important to spend your college years running around trees and going to dance parties with scantily clad girls than to be studying or going to prayer. As a westerner who has watched my own treasured Catholic traditions thrown overboard one by one for every goofy, modern idea that comes down the pike (clown Masses, anyone?) I was firmly on the side of Mr. Shankar: `I don't like change, Mr. Aryan!'
I've since learned that Amitabh Bachchan is like the Sean Connery of Indian cinema, and that Shahrukh Khan is known better for his manic, over-the-top performances than the quiet, mature act I saw in Mohabattein. (I cringe whenever he is referred to as `The Tom Cruise of India'
Tom Cruise can only wish he had Shahrukh's talent and screen presence. Sharhukh definitely would win that contest by a nose.)
But to be honest, I didn't like this movie much, and after seeing about 50 Hindi films since then, I still don't like it much. It has some great songs that are almost completely destroyed by the ancient, crackling voice of Lata Mangreshkar (sorry if I spelled it wrong), and I still can't sit through the endless love stories of the three young couples. ONE couple would have been plenty to get the point across, and it would have cut the movie by 45 minutes or so, which it badly needs.
As a person who grew up on the MGM musicals of the 40s and 50s, I have eagerly embraced Bollywood (but no kissing). And although I get bored pretty easily with the dancing around trees (it all starts to look the same), I just can't get enough of those Holi celebrations! Bring em on.