Friday, June 30, 2006


Apparently Roger Ebert got as big a kick out of Subhash Gai's 1999 hit, Taal, as I did, although he didn't have the benefit of subtitles. He likens Bollywood musicals to those of Doris Day... although I have to say, I've never seen a Doris Day musical.

Of course, I didn't have the benefit of Ebert's review when I walked into Reel Video. I chose it by the DVD cover. There's dancers on the cover. That's a good sign. A.R. Rahman's name is on the cover, that's a good sign (he's the gold standard for Bollywood songs). On the back, Alga Yagnik's name. She's the lead female vocalist. This could be a good sign, except I always get her mixed up with Asha Bhosle. Also, I look for cases from Eros International, which sticks to blockbusters and crowd pleasers. I don't want to accidentally bring home an art film.

For pure spectacle, I'm sorry to say, that Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Mohabbatein spoiled me. They're much more clip-worthy, and their internal milieus are more consistent.

The story in Taal is great musical love story fun: City boy (son of a multinational's CEO) meets peasant girl who teaches yoga. Girl follows boy to Mumbai, family quarrel separates them. She gets discovered as pop star by Mumbai's hottest DJ/orchestra conductor/producer/rapper and wins MTV International star of the year award.

But the effort to distinguish the two worlds of the country and the city are pretty jarring: the countryside scenes are nice, filmed on location, but apparently all the pop stars in Mumbai in 1999 were dressing like it's 1982, in spandex and leg warmers. If you don't want to sit through a three hour long subtitled musical, YouTube gives you the highlights. Here's "Taal se Taal," with Aishwarya Rai dancing to the country version and Anil Kapoor rapping the
Western remix.

Only clip that wouldn't invoke total guffaws from an audience unfamiliar with the genre might be the song "Ishq Bina," essentially the love theme from Taal. It's the requisite pre-wedding party song (I swear, there's a wedding party in all of these movies) and again, YouTube's got the clip, sans subtitles, of course.

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