Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1980 Bollywood Film

I do not think I've had such a hearty laugh in a long time, as I had while enjoying "Swayamvar." As many of my detractors have stated, I am still "living in the past," and that is why I am just now catching up to a picture that was filmed over 20 years ago (1980). It is now available on Netflix in instant play.

What a treat this movie was, with all the attributes of Charles Dickens "Prince and the Pauper," and "Our Mutual Friend," along with Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," combined with Elizabeth's Gaskell's happy ending in "North and South."

I liked it so much, that in respect for the people of India, I am going to dress up and watch it on the big screen later on tonight, to get some screen shots for this post. I was particularly taken with the stage-set itself, with its pretty architecture. I found myself looking at it, more than the story, but I enjoyed both, very much!

The story centers around a woman with two daughters and a man with two sons. The woman's husband had passed away, but when he was living, had given a servant he liked, some money to help him find a profession. The servant became quite wealthy and when his sons were grown, he wanted them to meet this woman's two daughters. Since becoming a widow, her brother, full of evil scheming to take over her estate, has influenced her in every decision, so that when the former servant comes for permission to introduce his sons, she turns him down flatly.

The man goes home and sadly tells his sons of his mis-adventure, whereupon they hatch up a scheme to introduce themselves to the two young ladies. One becomes a servant, and the other poses as a wealthy entrepreneur, who gives away money to charities. In this method, the girls become acquainted with the young men.

Here are quotes from two other reviewers at Netflix:

"This is the story of Cinderella with a wonderful Bollywood twist. One of the daughters goes from rags to riches and the other goes from riches to rags to riches again. Even the stepmother reforms! Good fun although in the Watch Now version parts of the transfer are dark, and the songs are not subtitled - I'm not sure about the dvd."

"I really liked this movie. It was so cute. It really teaches you to be good to others no matter what your status is. The story is told really nicely. A good film to kill a Sunday afternoon. :) Enjoy!!"

Though it is captioned in English, the actors in India are so good with expression and body language that one does not even need to know the language to guess what is being said. Yes, I am 20 years behind in reviewing good films, and this was certainly worth the wait. Although there was no immodesty, and not even a hint of anything explicit, this is not for children. It is the kind of film young adults would enjoy, and you can watch it with your mother in law without embarrassment.

I like the fact that the actors in the Bollywood films I have seen so far, do not actually kiss each other as they do in Hollywood, but, using the camera at a certain angle, make it appear as though they really are. I guess I appreciate that a lot, since kissing should be reserved for only the most important people in your life.
Pictures will be posted later.
Those who want to understand more of this country might enjoy reading an online book called "The Portrait of the Complete Woman" by Avinash Chandra.


Jennifer @ Her Southern Charm said...

I once saw a Bollywood movie on a flight back to America from India. It definitely wasn't as good as this one sounded! :)

It makes me really happy to see people in the world who can appreciate other cultures. It's people like you who are the examples of how we need to love our neighbors- especially in times like these.

Lydia said...

Our favorite piece of classical music is called "Song of India" and our family has always loved India. We are perhaps thinking of it more like it was 50 years ago, but that's okay.

Anonymous said...

The word "swayamvar" refers to an old tradition amongst kings and emperors in Indian history. It is a contest where princes from neighbouring kingdoms would be invited to the host king's palace to participate in a series of games involving martial skill, their performances being observed by the king's nubile, unwed daughter. At the end of the contest, the princes would stand in a line, while the princess would garland the prince she wished to marry.

Some of these contests would be quite intricate. The Mahabharata - an Indian epic - speaks of one such swayamvar where a wooden fish with a jewelled eye has been affixed to a rotating disc on the ceiling, such that the fish constantly moves in a circular fashion. On the floor directly below the disc, is placed a trough of oil. The objective is to observe the fish's reflection in the oil and without directly looking at the fish itself, strike it's eye with a bow and arrow. One of the heroes of the epic, Arjun, is the only man who is able to accomplish this, and so wins the hand of Draupadi, the king's daughter.

Anonymous said...

Indian actors of old were often trained for the theatre, which placed a much higher emphasis on gesticulation than dialogue - this is likely why you may find that the sub titles are not necessary.

This practise is almost absent now - my father who can be a little hard of hearing, is unable to follow Hindi movies produced today, but can still understand the older movies broadcast on TV.

Lydia said...

Kapil, There certainly was an interesting twist on the "contest" that you described, in this modern day film. Our family is going to enjoy watching it this evening. While we think of India as being something in the "mysterious East" we notice that the actors in these films produced in India have many of the same gestures as we do. For example,in "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" the parents and their daughter and her husband and the sister of the groom, all played the same familiar game our family played when I was growing up: put out both hands, closed, choose one, and try to get the prize. That film had also other gestures that are universal. It makes us think you are not that different than we are in every day life, even if your history is much
older than ours.

Lydia said...

Watching this movie tickled me even more because I did not know it was a comedy. Not expecting it to be funny, it seemed even more hilarious.

Anonymous said...

OH, Lady Lydia, you aren't twenty years late, you are actually almost thirty years behind! LOL!

I'll have to look into it... for the love of traditional Indian fashion, if nothing else. ha!

Lydia said...

Goldilocks, I think these films were not as available to us 30 years ago. They just arrived on the scene for me, as I only recently joined Netflix.

Anonymous said...

I know; I'm just teasing you a little. ;) Isn't it just hard to believe that 1980 was almost THIRTY years ago???

That means I'm almost thirty!!


Anonymous said...

Dearest Lydia,

Bollywood dwarfs hollywood for number of films produced per year, audience numbers, decency, morality and sheer beauty and the innocent pleasure of it all; their productions are fast becoming popular worldwide for these exact reasons!!



Lydia said...

We had to fast forward the music parts with the singing, because of our time limits. The movie was just too long for us. However it was fun to hear everyone laughing.This is a movie that feminists would NOT like.

SaChay said...

I watched this movie this morning, due to your review. I really liked the movie, it was pretty good and wholesome.

Except, there was a bit of swearing. Towards the end of the movie, when the three women were fighting. They call each other the B word several times.

Just wanted to add, for someone who might not want to hear it, or let their children.

Lydia said...

Thanks Sachay. Yes I did notice the second time I watched this, last night, there was some swearing. I overlooked it the first time because I was so busy looking at the background and watchng the people. SInce it is English caption, it often went by so quickly I didn't see it all.

Lydia said...

When the son who is posing as a servant, gets hired in the woman's house, he completely takes over everyone's lives, calling her "mother" and the rich, spoiled daughter "doll," "doll baby" or "dolly." She says "How many times to do I have to tell you not to call me "doll?" Later, he when family decisions are about to be made about this older daughter, he says "We can't have any rumors spread about our Dolly!" The music is quite dated and melodramatic but it adds to the humor of the story.