Sunday, March 10, 2013

What I learned from watching Jab Tak Hai Jaan

One of my students lent me the DVD of his favorite movie, an Indian film from 2012 called Jab Tak Hai Jaan (Until I Breathe This Life). I watched it at first because I felt obligated to - I couldn't just return the DVD without having given it a try - and then because I was fascinated by it.

I haven't seen a lot of Indian movies. Bride & Prejudice, maybe, and the Indian-ish Slumdog Millionaire? And, uh, Bend It Like Beckham? Yeah. So I learned a lot from JTHJ and I feel comfortable making sweeping generalizations about India and Indian cinema based on the one film. Ha ha. Wouldn't it be fun to read an outsider's opinion of America after watching one (1) American movie? A Walk to Remember, maybe, or The Notebook?

I mention those two movies because they thrive on romance and sentiment and tragedy and angst and generally seek to manipulate your emotions. But you guys, we Americans have nothing on JTHJ. I was actually brought to tears only once, but it could easily have been half a dozen times over the THREE HOURS (not including intermission) of the movie. The male Emirati student who lent me the DVD confessed to crying a few times. This movie didn't miss a single close-up of teary eyes, or a single swell of the violins during a sad moment, or a single twist that could keep our lovers apart for a little longer.

What else?

-It appears they allow kissing in Indian movies now. A few years ago, I don't think that was the case. Still, "kissing" here means a literal touching of the lips and that's it. The camera practically runs away from the scene after contact is made. Instead, there's a lot of passionate hugging. I said that to Jeremy and he looked at me weird, but what I mean is that they embrace for a long time and we get lots of close-ups of each person's face in the meantime.

-Despite the relative lack of kissing, this movie was undeniably sexy sometimes, but not in the same way an American movie would be sexy. I don't know quite how to explain it. There's one dance scene, for example, that is pretty provocative, but again, not in the same way Hollywood would do it (the dance scene is here; it takes place in London). Somebody watch it and explain better than I can why that scene is sexy, but in a non-American way. The movie is sprinkled with moments like that, where as an American, I expected it to go another way, and then it went somewhere completely different.

-So, music/dance numbers. There were a lot of them in this movie (and thus I assume ALL Indian movies), and they lasted a long time. This is not a bad thing, because they were kind of fun...but I also took bathroom breaks during some of them and they were still going strong when I got back.

-I was amazed by the way the main characters mixed languages. They went in and out of Hindi and English every sentence, or phrase, or even word. And there was a lot of talk about whose English accent was better than someone else's.

-Love love love this song.

-If you watched the video of the song, above, you noticed that there is a love triangle in this movie, and it consists of one man and two women. That is hard to pull off...but this movie succeeds without making the guy look like a jerk. Have any American movies done that lately?

-The two female leads in this movie have fabulous hair.

Anyway. Obviously I have The Blogorrhea about this movie. I look forward to having a long chat about Jab Tak Hai Jaan with my student the next chance I get.


Lark said...

So. I've watched a lot of scenes from Indian movies in the last few years when asked to teach a group a Bollywood dance. I have never watched a full movie (because they are so long!) but I have come close many times. In the meantime I have watched TONS of dance numbers/scenes. And they are all with this guy (Sharukhan khan...sp?). He's quite popular...still. I think he's been Bollywood's leading guy for YEARS.
Anyway, all this stuff you blogged about is everything I have thought of too. The hair! And all the lead women are gorgeous - not just the hair.
And I know what you mean about it being sexy in a different way. After my youtube research on Bollywood dancing combined with my dance degree (I'm so professional...) I came to a conclusion that Bollywood dancing is Classical Indian dancing combined with old school American Hip-Hop. Classical Indian Dancing has so many intricate movements for each body part (about 36 movements just for the eyes, 5 for the chest, 58 different hand gestures, etc.). Combine that with hip hop and it looks suggestive, in a different way. Also, their hip hop is sometimes so dated. Sometimes I didn't know if I should be laughing at some dance scenes but then I realized I should be taking them seriously. There are a few Indian movies out there though that do poke fun at themselves..those are fun to watch.
Anyway, long comment. Thanks for sharing your take on Bollywood. Its nice to hear there is someone else out there watching this stuff and thinking/wondering the same things...

Kathy Haynie said...

I haven't watched any Bollywood movies, but I've read about them and I enjoyed reading your comments/reactions here. After reading Lark's comment above, I had to go watch the dance scene, and although I know very little about dance, I felt the tiniest bit informed with her analysis in mind. I kind of wonder if the male Emirati student enjoys watching films like this just because the women show more skin than is typical in Muslim countries? Or is that just me stereotyping?

Jessie said... if one wanted to watch the entire movie, how would one do that?

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Haven't you seen veer zerat? Sorry about the garbled spelling. It's the only Bollywood I've seen and I really liked it.

Nancy said...

You should read my mom's dissertation... It's all about Bollywood/Hollywood... :D

Crys said...

Love the dancing. Maybe I'll have to check that movie out. I think you think it's sexy because it is SEXY! I think dance, lots of dance, most dance is just infused with sexuality, maybe it's all the hip and chest shaking or the half nakedness...or the literal grinding going on :) The tango, so much of ballroom, contemporary, all those stomach undulations in belly dance, pretty much everything Latin America, the hip shaking, hip hop, regardless of country it speaks to an admiration of the body, to fun, to love, and often to sexuality :) I think it's alive even in our culture you just have to be looking for media that has lots of don't strike me a club scene girl ;-) You can get some healthy doses though in all our teen dance movies. Take the lead, Step Up, Save the Last Dance, Never Back Down...they take that Dirty Dancing thing and they modernize it a bit. And then there is my all time favorite show So You Think You Can Dance. I was going to put some clips here but which ones... There are just so many to love. So I picked two but after like nine seasons I could just sit and watch clips all day.

Hummingbird and Flower - contemporary piece

A nice hip hop Love locked down.

This is my all time favorite sexy song. Thanks Shakira...I mean so good, but so dirty :)

Steven said...

You should watch Veer-Zaara! It's so good. I think it has the same guy from this movie.

Bridget said...

I loved your comment! So interesting. I had no idea the main guy was a big actor in Bollywood. Now that I look it up, I see that people were wanting him and the actress who plays Meera to do a movie together so it was a big deal when Jab Tak Hai Jann came out.

Bridget said...

This white girl says, if my Emirati students want to see movies where women show the MOST skin...they will probably watch American ones. :) Though in the theaters they are edited to some extent (Les Miserables had a scene cut).

Bridget said...

Just checked - Netflix has it on DVD. It was a mega movie in India so your library might even have it. Otherwise, I bet the internet knows how you can watch the whole thing online.

Bridget said...

Yes, BUT. I still sense that the dancing in this movie (and probably others) is geared more toward an Indian sense of sexuality than an American one, and I think they're different. Have you ever seen those Saudi music videos where the women flip their hair around (low-quality amateur example here, but the same dancing is found in real, official music videos. To me, as an American, that dance is oddly silly, but I have to believe that it is attractive or feminine or "sexy" on some level to Saudis.

Myrna said...

I am glad you got introduced to real Bollywood! Shah Rukh Khan is a good leading man, and I too love Veer-Zaara...but I also think everything Amir Khan does is amazing (Rang de Basanti--you will need an entire box of kleenex--and Taare Zameen Par) as is Hrithik Roshan. Dhoom II is a wonderful action/adventure Bollywood flick. Thanks for recommending this one--I haven't seen it, but I will! :o)
And of the OLDER Bollywood films, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is excellent (again, lots of kleenex...) and DDLJ (look it up...I can't spell it) which ran in Mumbai Theatres for THIRTEEN YEARS. A Movie. I kid you not.

LOVE Bollywood!

Liz Johnson said...

Ok, one difference between the dance in that movie and, say, the Shakira video linked above is that the Indian one has no words. So I think that contributes to it being a different kind of sexy - their bodies are doing all the talking, as opposed to Shakira's lyrics about being cheated on and the skeezy voyeur dude trying to get her back (although, I admit, it's also one of my favorites ever). And it seems like the Indian ones are mostly technical dancing, with a swirl of the hips or a sensual movement thrown in every so often, whereas the American ones are mostly sensual/sexy moves with occasional technical steps thrown in. :)

Elena Saleem said...

I am not too fond of Hindi movies to be honest, although I haven't seen this one.
They're all pretty much like musicals (even though it's not the actual actors doing the singing), and the acting tends to be very theatrical. It would work well for a live performance I suppose. Also, Shahruh Khan - Must he be in EVERYTHING? He's almost 50 and yet they always insist on casting him as younger characters. I once watched this movie where he played a high school kid (yes), and then transitioned into adulthood. It was weird.

kaylee said...

I think you would like "Ek Tha Tiger". It's like a combination of James Bond and a romantic comedy with, of course, Bollywood dancing thrown in. It'd be a good one to watch in mixed company--there something for the guys and something for the girls. I think it has the same lead actress as "Jab Tak Hai Jaan".

Ariana said...

Ok, hello blog post from nearly two years ago. I'm a bit late to this party.... Last night my 5 year old decided to take a nap from 3pm until nearly 7:30pm (oh trust me, I tried to wake up sooner, but he's like a tiny grumpy teenager. It's best to just let him sleep until he is ready to get up and it's his idea). I knew this nap would mean we'd be up until midnight or later with a very energized kid. So about 10pm I was digging through netflix trying to find something to keep myself awake, and I stumbled into the movie "Daawat e Ishq." Hoping the foreign language would bore him and make him want to give up and go to bed, we watched it. I WAS TOTALLY SUCKED IN. haha! The story line is pretty crazy but the movie itself was endearing, funny, and interesting to me from a cultural perspective. We watched the whole thing! I couldn't believe how many English words were sprinkled into nearly every phrase. I looked it up online, and it turns out it was a total flop in India. That by itself is culturally interesting. I thought it was a wonderful romantic comedy. :) And there was a lot of Indian food in it, which was fun. And facebook. It was funny to see facebook in their culture. Anyways. You might like it.

Second point -- I don't think I watched the music video for Jab Tak Hai Jaan when you posted this. I just watched it, and it's a song I stumbled into maybe 8 or 9 months ago on youtube, but sung by Shweta Subram. I LOVED it the second I heard it. What a beautiful melody!


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