I started watching movies from India to get ready for my October trip, and while I can't understand a word of Hindi (OK, I understand 3 or 4 now), with legible English subtitles I can get by well enough to enjoy, or understand enough to experience a portion of what Indians get. I'm continuing to watch DVDs through Netflix, or Instant Watch, that were in my queue, or that my friends have suggested/insisted I watch. The SCNotties awards have given me yet another list of films I never heard of before.
The most recent one I finished is "Dil Chahta Hai" (from the song of the same title I figured out I should pronounce "Hai" as "Hey" not "Hah" or "Hi" as I probably have done). My friends wanted a review, or my comments about the movie, so here goes.
It seems to be a almost mandatory requirement of Bollywood movies to have musical numbers, and while I can and have fast forward through many of them, I listen and watch enough to get the general idea. The primary influence seems to be music videos as originally popularized by MTV years ago, by the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and their pop descendents like Brittany Spears, Spice Girls, etc. Dil Chahta Hai had its share, but they were not too much over the top, and I could tolerate them well enough. I'd be interested to know how faithfully the lyrics are translated in the subtitles.
The script was above the stock Peyton Place-like soap operas I have seen in other romantic comedy/dramas from India, with the characters having good depth, and the performances deeper than shallow. One well-written and acted scene was the "art critic" analysis of one of the main character's painting, where she pointed out the symbolism he displayed indicating he had secrets others would not be shown. She took a risk sharing this with him, per the plot, and he reacted as if someone had opened a door on him.
I thought the character Pooja was quite the catch, and while you could likely predict who she would end up with, the twists and turns were not too cliched. The scenes in Sydney took me back to a visit there earlier this year, and included a real opera (though I only saw the outside of the Opera House). The flashbacks during the "close your eyes" sequence were technically excellent, and the hesitation in the resolution was not quite what I expected (though for a 3 hour movie, the finale can't happen until the last reel). I could swear I heard a didgeridoo playing during some of the Australian scenes. I checked out the back story of Troilus and Cressida (the opera within the movie) and it's not just a somewhat obscure yet insightful and intelligent Shakespeare plays, it's a fairly modern production. Funny that Wikipedia doesn't reference the movie.
The last comment I have is on the younger man/older woman romance, if one could call it that. I'm not completely aware of the traditions in India about divorced or widowed women, but it seems there is more of a stigma than we know "in the West." In the movie, that status difference was a bigger deal than the age, with both the male's friends and his relatives being appalled by his desires, not to mention the woman herself. I was left puzzled by the resolution of this in the plot, with their final scene together being interwoven throughout the movie, and a subsequent scene just before the credits apparently bowing to convention (and perhaps the censors).
I sent the DVD back to Netflix, and the US Postal Service replaced it in my mailbox with the 3 Idiots. How they stuffed all 3 in that small receptacle I have no idea.