I found Om Shanti Om immensely entertaining. The movie was needlessly long and wallowed in precisely the sort of mushy, sentimental stuff it was trying to parody, but despite all its obvious drawbacks, it was a joy to watch – the songs and the comedy bits were wonderful.
There’s one particular scene I’ll remember and cherish for long. I’ve watched it a couple of times since, but the effect when I saw it on the big screen here in Rochester last November (yes, even this small, unheard-of Minnesota town screens Bollywood films) remains unsurpassed.
chota-mota artiste Om believes, true filmi style, that they are made for each other. His mother – the quintessential, melodramatic, weepy Bollywood mom – gives him a sacred red thread with a metal band, blessed by the Sai Baba at Shirdi. Om wears this on his wrist, and, as he discovers later, these blessings do indeed help twine him with Shantipriya.
Now to the actual scene. It's the premiere of Dreamy Girl, Shantipriya’s latest film. Crowds throng at the theater where a red carpet will be rolled for the entire cast. Om is in the crowd, straining to get a glimpse of the arriving stars. He’s wearing a tacky red and black checked suit, while the others in the crowd sport more identifiable 70s style clothing: colorful bell-bottomed pants and shirt collars as large as whale fins.
Then it happens. A large limousine stops in front of the theater, and Shantipriya steps out in a pink dress. She is strikingly beautiful. Her hair is done the way Asha Parekh used to have hers done – neatly bunched around the head, adorned with sparkling jewels. Also at this point, the camera shifts to slow motion, and the melodious Aankhon me teri begins. Om is astounded by Shantipriya’s beauty, and, like dozens of others in the crowd, tentatively raises his hand to wave at her. Shantipriya waves to the crowd, acknowledging their cheers, a radiant, disarming smile on her face.
As she passes Om, the red thread (or the metal band: doesn’t really matter) on Om’s wrist somehow gets entangled in Shantipriya’s pink pallu. He is propelled forward, his hand outstretched as it trails the pallu. A few steps later, Shantipriya, oblivious up to then, feels a tug, and looks back. Her expression is one of bewilderment, before she realizes what has happened. She then smiles a knowing, killer smile, disentangles the pallu from the thread. As the security guards drag Om away, his face is one of contentment – so happy is he at having met her in this fortuitous fashion that he closes his eyes in bliss and has one hand over his heart.
What’s so special about this? What makes it wonderful? Two things: First the song, Aankhon me teri, couldn’t have been more appropriate: it matches superbly with how the scene unfolds in slow motion, and Deepika Padukone’s beauty and expressions accentuate the effect (she is impressive in the movie, especially the first half).
The second reason pertains to why Bollywood movies are a treat to watch: we indulge in a suspension of disbelief, and can completely immerse ourselves in the sentiments and the romance. As I sat in the movie hall watching the scene, I felt this strongly. I could feel too a twitter of yearning in my own heart, and I realized that the cynicism and weariness that one gathers from life could not overwhelm that thrilling, romantic moment in the movie. And I thought: aren’t feelings like this the essence of entertainment?
Other related posts: some extracts of a long Bollywood-like story I wrote a few years ago; and a post on Nigerian cinema, probably the most vibrant movie industry in the world after Bollywood and Hollywood, and which, not unsurprisingly, is called Nollywood.