Get your Bollywood entertainment fix every Saturday morning
FROM BOLLYWOOD songs, I've learned the Hindi words for "heart," love" and "beautiful."
Those words, plus a healthy knowledge of film cliches, carried me through the 1998 Indian blockbuster "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai," whose title means "Something Happens" (namely, love). Yes, Hindi for "something" is "kuch kuch," leading me to dub the movie "Something Something Happens."
If I ever write a Bollywood movie, its title will be "Dil Pyaar Kya He?: Ek, Do, Jai Hind!" meaning "Heart Love What Is?: One, Two, Go India!" The tagline will be "Nehi!" or "No!" I guess I'll have to learn more Hindi to actually write the script.
Note that I didn't learn these words by actually watching the Hindi movies themselves. They're as formulaic and insipid as Hollywood drek and twice as long. But I do love the song-and-dance sequences, especially ones that show off multiple cultural influences (mariachi, anyone?). I can watch those all day long.
Bay Area fans of Bollywood and South Asian entertainment in general have the great fortune of being able to choose among three-hour-long Saturday morning broadcast television shows in this genre.
The flashiest of these is "Showbiz India," at 10 a.m. on KTSF Channel 26. Reshma, the host who does not deign to favor us with a last name, uses cliches and gossip to guide the viewer through lushly produced music videos, mostly clipped from Bollywood movies. The aesthetic touch behind the video choices makes for first-rate viewing; we see dazzling costumes, choreography and sets.
"Showbiz India" also features movie reviews, notices of the week's DVD releases and yet more gossip. Evidently every South Asian except me waits with bated breath for news about Shahrukh Khan's next project. (You may remember Khan from every Bollywood movie since 1996.)
I enjoy "Namaste America" more. "Namaste America," at 9 a.m. on KTSF, shows a themed selection of music videos, actual news and political commentary from the Indian subcontinent, and, unfortunately, some gossip. If you're lucky, you'll catch a show hosted by Shawn Makhijani, who provides humorous, insightful commentary and shows interesting covers of old Bollywood hits.
(I can't watch "Namaste America Gold," the Sunday spinoff, because the host talks too much while saying nothing of value.)
The most arresting of the Saturday offerings is "India Waves," at 10 a.m. on KMTP Channel 32. In a way, "India Waves" is trying to do something wholly different from "Namaste America" and "Showbiz India."
Unlike nationally-broadcast "Showbiz India" and "Namaste America," "India Waves" showcases local events in the South Asian community. Oh boy does it ever. About half of the show features the Fremont-based "India Waves Youth Wing" at community fairs, dance contests, talent shows, and festivals.
As prominent a role as the IWYW plays, it is but a Greek chorus to our heroine, Lakshmi Baweja. The introductory theme song to "India Waves" plays over a 50-second montage, featuring Baweja interviewing Bollywood celebrities for the show. A similar montage, displaying pictures of Baweja in different outfits, plays later in each show for no apparent reason. She introduces music videos, trailers, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, concerts and topical teen discussions with the same benevolent and mysterious air. She is Our Lady of the Perpetual Smile.
I love "India Waves" because it is low-budget, it is local and therefore it has wackiness that would not slip through anywhere else. Baweja talks about supporting the war in Iraq or castigates Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan for making a gender-bending joke at an awards show. The music videos sometimes have English subtitles (which are wonderful for philistines like me), and they are eccentric enough to make me want to track down artists, soundtracks and DVDs.
But "India Waves" doesn't help me follow my newfound interests. That is, the show jumps so clumsily from segment to segment that it often cuts off music videos in the middle of a song, and (unlike "Showbiz India" and "Namaste America") never shows or tells me the name of the singer or movie. I don't mind the gaudy commercials for local dentists and restaurants, and I don't mind the trailers that repeat four times in an hour, but I do mind that I can't track down the makers of the cool video I just saw.
That's my only beef with "India Waves." (Don't mean to kill a sacred cow there. I do not actually eat beef.)
"Showbiz India" is pretty, "Namaste America" is substantial and hip, and "India Waves" is local and eclectic. So give one of them a whirl this Saturday morning. You'll pyaar it!
Sumana Harihareswara's column runs in Bay Area Living on Thursdays. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.