Bollywood churns out about 800 ‘masala movies’ a year. That’s about 2.5 films a day.
A Bollywood film is like fried rice. The prototype is the same – rice cooked and spiced in a certain way. The unique flavours come from the additional ingredients – veggies, eggs, meat or seafood.
In university, I spent several late nights with my non-Indian friends decoding Bollywood for them. Most of their questions revolved around the song-and-dance ‘numbers’.
99% of Bollywood films have them – a guy and a girl, running around (together or solo), often with ‘moral support’ (a melange of dancers in the background) to cheer them on as they are making out. A Bollywood film without three or four song-and-dance routines is considered a freak show.
I wish I had this ready reckoner with me when my non-Indian friends were parading their appalling ignorance about one of the world’s great cinematic institutions. Well, better late than never.
This is the basic formula.
Each era came with its unique flavours.
The ’50s. Men wore a tub of vaseline in the hair. The women flitted around in sarees saying “Don’t be angry with meeeeeee, oh male of the speeecieees.”
The ’60s – A lot of running through valleys and meadows with beehive hairdos and clothes bursting at the seams. Plus stilettos. And small ‘arses’.
Asha Parekh and Nanda stood, hands folded in prayer before a statue, saying, “Bhagwan, mein tumhare paas choti si arse lekar aayi hoon.” (Translation: “Lord, I come to you with a small arse.”)
For a long time, I didn’t know that in Hindi “arse” means “request”. I simply thought it referred to a part of the anatomy. Well, I’m no Hindi expert. It’s not even my third language.
The ’70s. The era of bell bottoms and guitars. Scary times.
The ’80s. The earrings get bigger. The problem of clothes bursting at the seams is solved by simply doing away with them. And everything went “Ding Dong Ding”.
The ’90s – The era of beating around the bush is over. The lyrics get straight to the point: “What’s behind your blouse?” Ethnic Indian clothes are back. The big earrings get transferred to the nose.
The 21st century. The guys start going topless, sleeveless or buttonless to struff their stuff. Biceps are in. So are amazing revelations like “My father’s daughter calls me ‘brother’!!!
However, like a good bowl of fried rice, despite tweaking with the ingredients, the essence of the dish never changes.
ANNOYING QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK
What happens before the song?
Boy meets girl. He’s rich, she’s poor. He wants to marry her but his parents won’t let him. His perpetually-coughing mom threates to kill herself if he marries that slut.
What are they saying during the song?
He: “I love you. Hope you love me, ‘cos I want to marry you.”
She: “And what’s in it for me?”
He: “You get to press my feet, cook me dinner and have my bahhhhbieees.”
She: “Is your dad rich?”
Why do they have to run around trees to have this conversation? Is this satire? Or are they dead serious.
They are dead serious. They run around ‘cos they need exercise. Often, in villages, there are no gyms. And in cities, getting to the gym involves a long commute. In the ’80s, the effects of global warming were becoming evident. As there were fewer trees to run around, the action moved from land to sea. Now, even the seas are polluted. They’ve start dancing on top of running trains.
Why do they keep changing outfits every few minutes? And why do they need other folks dancing in the background?
We Indians are clothes horses with huge stunning wardrobes. Stop being so damn jealous.
We like to make out with an audience. Dances and drumbeats get us in the ‘mood’. We’re not prudes like you folks.
What happens after the song?
There are many songs – anything from four to a dozen. After all (or most) of them, they get married. She changes to a saree and grows her hair. They have some babies, he hands them over to this mommy to raise. To shut his wife up, he dips into daddy’s bank account to buy her a mansion and a fleet of cars. And they all live happily ever after.
Why do they need three hours to tell this story?
Are you kidding me? I wish a Bollywood movie was six hours. You commute for a hour in the heat to get to the damn theatre. Then you buy a ticket in the black market. You settle down with popcorn and get a bit sleepy. John Abraham starts dancing and singing in the rain with some woman. You catch a glimpse of his 8-pack. You doze off in the air-conditioned ambience. You wake up to the loud drumbeats when they start singing again.
By then the plot gets all convoluted. When the heroine starts dressing in a saree and pressing her mother-in-law’s feet, you know the movie’s about to end. Damn ….!!! I’d sit there for three more hours if he stays with his shirt off and gets rid of that stupid woman who’s always in the frame.
Are there other films in India besides these?
Yeah, there are films in Indian regional languages. Bollywood copies from them – lyrics, scripts, tunes, the kitchen sink, everything. So there’s no need to watch the regional language films. It’s a brilliant concept – like an RSS aggregator.
You get everything at one place, and you don’t even need to understand Hindi to know what’s going on. Only the faces change. The story more or less remains the same.
Which is your favourite Bollywood number?
Who is she and why the heck is she screaming ‘My Boob’?
That’s Sushmita Sen. ‘Mehboob’ means lover, I think. The rest sounds like:
“Don’t show me attitude, dude. I’ll keep a boy toy on the side, but forget about getting hitched.”
Umm… okay. And what’s the connection with Pineapple Fried Rice?
So here’s our Indo-Chinese fusion dish. It’s like Bollywood – crazy, but never boring.
PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE
Quick, fast, easy. A great way to use up odds and ends from the fridge. We had asparagus, carrots and peas.
Fresh, frozen or canned in juice – all types of pineapple work well in this dish.
We usually add scrambled eggs to fried rice. When we made this, we didn’t have any.
Any hot sauce like Sriracha or Tabasco will work for this recipe. We like Frank’s Red Hot sauce.
1.5 cups brown (or white) basmati rice.
Soak for 1 hour, add 2.5 cups of water and pressure cook for 1 whistle. Or cook on the stovetop until the grains are cooked, but separate and firm.
Cool and refrigerate, preferably overnight.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsps dark sesame oil
until smoking hot in a wok
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1/2 cup chopped spring onions (the white part)
Lower heat to medium and stir for a couple of minutes.
2 cups chopped pineapple (if using canned, use 1/4 cup of the juice as well)
Cook until the pineapple begins to caramelise.
the cold cooked rice
1.5 cups chopped asparagus
1/2 cup carrots diced small
2-3 tablespoons tamari (or low-sodium soy sauce)
chilli sauce (like Sriracha or Tabasco) to taste
Toss and cook until the rice is heated through well and the asparagus has softened just a bit.
Check seasonings and add salt and pepper if you need to.
1 cup frozen peas
in the microwave for a couple of minutes and add in the end.
Garnish with 1/2 cup spring onion greens and serve immediately.
Hope you like it, dear Meeta.