Friday, August 4, 2017

Tribute to Bollywood premieres at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park

Scene from Bollywood Boulevard: A Journey through Hindi Cinema
with Proma Khosla (left), Manav Gulati (center) and Pranav Patel (right)
(photo: Kevin Yatarola)

Bollywood came into my life after an injury left me unable to do much more than prop up my wrenched body in a somewhat less painful way and watch Netflix. I started mainlining as much Shah Rukh Khan as I could find, first intrigued by a news story about the Indian superstar's repeated detentions by immigration authorities at U.S. airports. (“Yes, it always happens. Whenever I start feeling arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America,” he joked.) And I stuck with Bollywood not only for its charming, multi-talented "King Khan" but also out of helpless fascination with a form of entertainment that gave everything you could possibly ask for...and gave some more...and then some.

A storyline long enough--often up to three hours with an announced intermission!--and twisty enough you get lost in it and forget your troubles. Everything from slapstick and farce to tragedy, rollercoaster romance to action/adventure. Insight into social realities of family, friendship, class and religious conflicts, traditional values vs. modern desires, women's empowerment--check out the great Chak De! in which Khan coaches a women's national field-hockey team--and more. And big, fanciful music and dance production numbers to rival Hollywood, Broadway, MTV and YouTube combined. Most if not all of this often in a single film! I learned early to not fight the thing, just kick back and let Bollywood work its magic. I am grateful to Netflix and Bollywood for my healing.

To a lesser degree, I'm grateful to Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors for last night's celebration of Bollywood history, tradition and personalities--Bollywood Boulevard: A Journey Through Hindi Cinema--a world premiere presentation at Damrosch Park Bandshell. It was a lovely night with, thankfully, just a half-hearted sprinkling of New York summer rain. Produced by Heena Patel and Rushi Vakil and choreographed by Rohit Gijare, the 90-minute show briskly surveyed Bollywood music hits, dance styles and iconic performers through several decades of development. It was exuberantly performed, colorful and entertaining-- wonderfully nostalgic too, I'm sure, for audience members of the Indian diaspora.

For non-Indian and relative newbie fans like myself, though, too much breezed by (for example, the names of individual songs and films briefly posted in the upper left corner of the video screen, referring to--I could not tell--either the previous song or the one just starting). The tribute to identified "game-changers" like A. R. Rahman, Bappi Lahiri and the trio of Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy sent me right to Google this morning to find out more about these gentlemen whose images appeared behind the stage as their songs, varying in style, were played and sung. Aside from feeling a bit swept away by all of this stimuli and its pace--not an uncommon thing with Bollywood--I enjoyed the dancers, musicians and vocalists and surrendered to the condition of just not having enough information at hand. I think LCOOD is often like that, and we all have fun with it anyway.

On Tuesday, regrettably, I had missed India’s Identities through Bollywood Cinema: How Bollywood Sees Us, the festival's panel tracing Bollywood's role in "uniting people from different religious, ethnic, linguistic, economic, and class backgrounds," its "multitude of voices." But I will try to make up for it on my own, in coming weeks, with a dedicated new round of Netflix research.


Aliyaa Islam, Aria Dandawate, Avinash Gabbeta, Barkha Patel, Bindi Patel, Geatali Tampy, Heena Patel, Manav Gulati, Minal Mehta, Payal Kadakia, Poonam Desai, Pranav Patel, Proma Khosla, Rhea Ghosh, Rohit Gijare, Rohit Thakre, Sean Kulsum


Achal Murthy (bass), Varun Das (drumkit), Niranjan Nayar (guitar), Rohan Prabhudesai (keyboard), Sanjoy Karmakar (percussion), Harini (Rini) Raghavan (violin)


Harini (Rini) Raghavan, Harshitha Krishnan, Krishna Sridharan, Neel Nadkarni

Bollywood Boulevard: A Journey Through Hindi Cinema has concluded, but you will find a world of interesting, free events at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, now through August 13 (OMG, Bonnie Raitt!!!), by clicking here.

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