Motion pictures and reveals, previous and new, have helped us to reside vicariously via them. They’ve allowed us to journey far and huge at a time borders are shut and persons are restricted to properties. In our new column What’s In A Setting, we discover the inseparable affiliation of a narrative with its setting, how the placement enhances the narrative, and the way these cultural home windows to the world have helped broaden our creativeness.
I’ve to admit I did not encounter any traces of wanderlust throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. I do know, it is a cliché to say films have been my ‘home windows to the world’ however when have they not been? Even earlier than the coronavirus chased us away into our properties, films made for the most effective journey brochures. And at occasions, they even outlive my very own reminiscence of that place.
Do we actually consider New York can look extra splendid IRL than it does when Shah Rukh Khan spreads his arms to ask you for an embrace on the Brooklyn Bridge within the Kal Ho Naa Ho title monitor? Our eyes cannot oscillate between the dimensions and the element as swiftly because the digicam does. The tulips in Keukenhof, Netherland can’t compete with the push of varied scents in ‘Dekha Ek Khwab‘ from Yash Chopra’s Silsila. And might we hear the whistle of the wind as distinctly as when Manisha Koirala lets go of her honeyed dupatta atop the Dalhousie hill in 1942: A Love Story?
The sensory expertise stems from not solely the collective expertise of a gifted and diligent crew but in addition the world of inside that films faucet into. The Bollywood dream sequence is termed so not simply because it provides a story breather by transporting many like me to dreamy locales, but in addition as a result of it additionally permits us to peek into ourselves via the world on show.
Once I watch say Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan evoke Mohenjodaro (in Sindh, Pakistan) and Kilimanjaro (volcano in Tanzania) whereas singing in Tamil and dancing to atrocious steps in atrocious costumes in Machu Pichu (Peru, South America) in Enthiran, I am reveling in my very own loopy than that of the movie. Or after I see Aamir Khan roll down the luscious inexperienced Ooty hill in slow-mo in ‘Pehla Nasha‘ from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, it is my puberty hitting me over again.
I’ve come a great distance from being the impressionable moviegoer in my childhood and teenage to turning into the movie critic who decodes the ‘magic’ of cinema for his day by day bread. Impressionable is an understatement as a result of I genuinely wept on the loss of life of Lakshmi Chachi (from Chachi 420) and Raju Chacha like they have been my actual chacha-chachi. I could not wrap my head round the truth that they did not exist (not solely in life, however even within the movies!).
The Bollywood dream sequence helped stretch my creativeness in a method that I believed the entire world was inside me. As pompous or profound because it sounds now, it helped make me extra self-sufficient.
I not wanted mates, summer time trip journeys, and adventures to make life extra thrilling. There was a capturing location for each temper, a music for each event, and a tune for each spare minute. It did not matter whether or not I used to be within the classroom, the college bus or a household gathering. I at all times had firm and a well-recognized journey to sit up for.
Bollywood got here of age within the 2000s and so did I, discovering extra causes to fall in love with the flicks. Right this moment, I could make sense of each body that Bollywood throws at me, however the magic of transporting to a brand new setting (in contemporary garments however the identical temper) has pale. I am unsure whether or not I may be awed once more by one other dream music sequence in a up to date Bollywood movie, additionally as a result of I am uncertain whether or not anybody can pull it off as convincingly anymore. If that is the case, I would somewhat watch Bollywood push the envelope with new types of storytelling, and wallow within the ’90s nostalgia by revisiting these beautiful numbers.
As I attempt to recall and make sense of the primary Bollywood dream sequence I watched, I can not assist however really feel the identical method I did after I first witnessed it. Was it ‘Baazigar O Baazigar,’ the place I felt the identical sinking feeling Kajol in all probability does as she falls in love together with her would-be executioner. Shah Rukh Khan advances in the direction of Kajol, standing on the fringe of the Maldives hill (not probably the most safe feeling if you happen to’ve seen Shilpa Shetty thrown off a skyscraper earlier within the movie), using the white steed, however he’s no prince in shining armour. Dressed like loss of life with a black cape, hat, and masks, he makes certain the act of falling in love doesn’t come with out its share of purple herrings.
The primary Bollywood dream sequence I watched is also ‘Tanha Tanha‘ from Rangeela. Urmila Matondkar working alongside Goa sea waves as untamed as her locks is the stuff of each man’s dream — besides that it wasn’t a dream. Mili, Matondkar’s character, resides her dream of being a Hindi movie heroine, posing because the digicam’s darling in each shot of that music. However ‘Tanha Tanha‘ is in reality her actuality, and much more unique than ‘Rangeela Re,’ her precise dream proven earlier within the movie. The milieu is extra acquainted there — the concrete Mumbai streets (versus the pure topography of Goa), neighbourhood faces (versus none in ‘Tanha Tanha‘), and the Bambaiya lingo in lyrics (not like the extra poetic musings of ‘Tanha Tanha’). The dream will get trumped by actuality, which seems to be much more dreamlike.
By now, I am fairly satisfied that my first Bollywood dream sequence was in reality ‘Arre Re Arre‘ from Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Yash Chopra’s 1997 romance which poses the exact same dilemma that the Bollywood dream sequence leaves us with — Is our creativeness, our unconscious extra actual than the tangible, the aware? Chopra introduces this battle with the imaginary character of Maya, that SRK’s Rahul typically conjures up as ‘the perfect girl.’ When he finds Nisha (Madhuri Dixit), a lady in flesh similar to Maya (Hindi for phantasm), he finds that not possible to fathom. Nisha is in the identical boat, correcting herself that Rahul is actual, and therefore by default, not the person of her desires. Greater than the somewhat pressured love triangle, the first battle right here is wrestling with the sensation of too-good-to-be-true. In contrast to ‘Dolna,’ which is about within the greener pastures of Switzerland, ‘Arre Re Arre‘ is about within the dance studio the place Nisha and Rahul work. However in a number of pockets of the music, each the setting and the music transcend to a pre-historic/otherworldly realm the place there aren’t any again dancers and the photographs are way more intimate. Solely when Nisha comes nearer to Rahul on his request (“aur paas…”) that he realises how actual the second is.
Dil Toh Pagal Hai units the tone for the distant but attainable nature of the Bollywood dream sequence. Like in Karan Johar’s directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai the following 12 months, the dream title sequence begins with SRK, Kajol, and Rani Mukerji wishing for love on a capturing star sighting. However as the following shot suggests, they’re three stars who can solely type a triangle and never function on the identical plain (or star-crossed lovers, pardon the pun). The following dream sequence strikes the motion from a school campus to the plush greens of Scotland, however the ruins within the background make it amply clear that certainly one of them goes to have their coronary heart damaged. Goals and love can coexist and even coincide, till they arrive into battle.
One other SRK sequence echoes the identical thought in Yash Chopra’s Darr (1991). The music ‘Tu Mere Saamne‘ sees SRK canoodling with Juhi Chawla’s Kiran because the Alps adorn the background. Theirs is a love for eternity — however solely within the head of the man, an obsessed stalker. The music, not like the Baazigar title music, doesn’t have any indicators of foreboding right here; SRK’s intention is as pristine because the Switzerland snow. Juhi’s character has no company right here, as she continues to bop, entertain, and get champagne splashed on her, all of the whereas dressed like a divine magnificence, and buzzing, “Toot gayi toot ok principal choor ho gayi, teri zidd se majboor ho gayi.”
Even when wishes coincide, societal variations creep even into the Bollywood dream sequence. Take as an example, ‘Suraj Hua Maddham’ in Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, the granddaddy of all Bollywood dream sequences. In a flash of intertextuality, the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai title tune performs throughout ‘Sooraj Hua Maddham‘ as SRK’s Rahul and Kajol’s Anjali rush to embrace one another. They’re destined to be with one another. There aren’t any ruins within the backdrop right here; solely the Egyptian Pyramids, an historic surprise of the world and architectural marvel. However the scorching desert is a reminder that the environment aren’t conducive to their blooming romance. When Kajol runs out of the dream on the finish and wakes as much as Chandni Chowk in New Delhi, she realises it is nothing greater than an oasis. “Ye khwab hai mushkil, na mil sikenge hum.”
Over time, the Bollywood dream sequence has seen a makeover. There have been those the place the setting stays routine, however the folks and the weather change to turn out to be extra dreamlike (‘Kuch Toh Hua Hai‘ from Kal Ho Naa Ho, ‘Tumhi Dekho Na‘ from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna). And there have been those relegated to the tip credit underneath the pretext of the ‘promotional music’ (‘Swag Se Swagat‘ from Tiger Zinda Hai). The final dream sequence achieved proper, from what I keep in mind, is ‘Matargashti‘ from Tamasha. Set within the adventurous land of Corsica, the place each color is popped up like within the Asterix comedian ebook, the music was used to show the very idea of the Bollywood dream sequence on its head, as revealed later within the movie.
Whereas I admire this antithesis, what I sorely miss is the bittersweet heat that the great ol’ Bollywood dream sequence left behind — of want and forbiddance, of phantasm and deja vu, of waking up from a morning dream — determined but optimistic. One can argue it gave a false sense of hope, however let’s admit it did make life simpler. I will maintain falling in love with the flicks, however the wonderful Bollywood dream sequence shall stay my pehla nasha.
Learn extra from the What’s in a Setting collection here.