Sunday, July 1, 2012

KANK revisited

I just watched this video again (for the zillionth time), and it got me to thinking about the impression Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna made the first time I watched it.

It was the first Indian movie I ever saw. I particularly enjoyed this song, because it was exactly the kind of thing Americans identify as "Bollywood." I knew nothing about the actors at all: no idea I was watching father and son. Clueless about the beautiful woman in pink who was in no other part of the movie. Hadn't the vaguest notion of how well-known or popular any of the actors were...though I remember thinking that "the older guy" was probably very famous. There was just a certain ease and charisma about him that suggested a great deal of experience. I was very taken with Shah Rukh Khan, although I found his movie character shockingly obnoxious. I thought it was kind of cool the way this song mixed some English in with the Hindi. I thought the older woman was splendid, and loved her chemistry with the older guy. I couldn't believe how long the movie was. I'm not sure if I noticed that no one kissed on the lips. Since the movie didn't have American-style credits identifying the characters and the actors who played them, I'm not even sure how I learned Shah Rukh's name, although I believe his was the first actor's name I learned. I thought he was quite cute, and made a point of watching a few of his movies in the month or so after. Then I didn't watch another Indian movie for about two years.

Two years later, I remembered how novel KANK had seemed to me, and I watched it again. I  believe that was October 2011. I don't really remember how I went about researching and finding out who these actors were and what Indian films were all about. (I get so wrapped up in new passions so quickly and deeply that I often can't remember where they began; they fast seem to be things I've always done and known. I can't remember for the life of me how I started making jewelry, for instance.)

What happened the second time I watched the movie was that I was fascinated by Amitabh Bachchan. I had been right the first time I watched the movie: he was the real deal. I expect I learned his name through my film bible, the Internet Movie Database, and I simply began to follow him; I started watching his movies almost exclusively, and branched out from there. It took me about two weeks of tooling around on YouTube before I learned how to pronounce his name; I also had his name written on a piece of paper by my computer to aid my searches, since it took a while for me to get the spelling down.

My second start with Indian movies was the real one. I knew there was a lot in the movies I didn't get, and did exhaustive internet research to learn some of the social context. I started to some some of the major actors I enjoyed: Shah Rukh, of course, Abhishek Bachchan, Kajol, and so on. I started to learn about playback singers and item girls and some of the top producers and composers and directors; I found out that no one ever kisses on the lips. I discovered Amitabh's blog, and started to make some internet friends in India. (Most particularly Shiva, who kindly pointed people to my blog via Twitter, and translated an interesting Twitter conversation for me between Amitabh and Ram Gopal Varma; also Pankaj, who recommended Aamir Khan's films. Another friend dear to my heart is Moses, an Israeli who learned Hindi from watching 3,000 Indian movies, and proclaims daily, "I love Amitabh Bachchan!")

I have one friend of Facebook who always calls me "Aunty," which I hate, but I love him anyway.

And of course I met Rochelle, an Amitabh mega-fan - a Jewish woman one year my senior who lives two neighborhoods away. Never imagined that Indian movies would bring me a new in-person friend who shares a lot of my tastes and background.

Barry noted that I have had far less depressive moods since I began watching Indian films. I am deeply appreciative of being led to so much fascinating study. I probably know about 40 or 50 words in Hindi. I have discovered some amazing Indian musicians, film musicians or non. (And I am including Adnan Sami in that group, although he's not Indian - if I have it right, he is of Pakistani descent, born in Canada, raised in England, and now living and working in Mumbai.) I taught Shiva some Yiddish via email, and recommended American films to Pankaj.

It's been a pretty fruitful nine months.

I've also become active on Twitter during this time; I joined a year or more ago, but never really cared for it. I found the 160-character limit stifling. Now I adore it, way more than Facebook. Neat little jokes and messages and information fly through the ether, and I can reach out to people I would never have encountered before. And of course it's always thrilling to get a reply or retweet from someone I admire from afar. I've had replies from Amitabh himself (only one, but that's plenty), from Raghu Dixit, and often more than once a day from Adnan Sami (brilliant man with a great sense of humor). Some nice replies and retweets from one of my heroes, Dick Zigun, "the unofficial mayor of Coney Island." (I used my blog name as my handle, @northofconey, so I'm followed by a lot of Brooklyn-based people and organizations.) I've said hello to Dick here and there over the years when I've seen him around Coney, but last Friday night, when I introduced myself at the Mermaid Parade volunteers meeting, he knew exactly who I was. I've had some nice replies from the actor John Ortiz and former jockey/actor Gary Stevens. I've also had some Twitter exchanges with a couple of the "Deadliest Catch" captains. In fact, on that week's "After the Catch" (kind of the postgame show for "Deadliest Catch"), they put my live-tweet on the air! (Not having a smartphone or laptop, I had to run to my computer to live-tweet during the commercials, but it was well worth the fuss. It was a pretty major moment, seeing my tweet on TV.)

Whiplash change of topic: it is now apparently considered old-fashioned, when writing, to put two spaces after a period or colon) instead of one. It feels weird. Makes me feel a little old (though not quite like being called "Aunty").

Yes, I had my first volunteer experience at the Mermaid Parade, and sad to say, it didn't go well. I was assigned to sell merchandise, went to the meeting the night before (Rochelle was there, too), signed in on Saturday morning, got my free tee shirt and a bottle of water, and was told to go to 21st Street. Met up there with two of the people who were also supposed to sell merch (we were told there would be three tents with four people each), but there was no one to tell us where to go or what to do. The three of us sat under a tent, where there was a cooler with bottled water and a porta-potty, and waited for an hour and a half. We kept asking staff people what was going on, and some of them radioed in, but we never got any information. A couple of times, one or the other said, "I think you're supposed to go to 22nd Street," or some other location, but no one at those locations knew anything, either. (I very much enjoyed meeting one of my co-merch-volunteers, a woman in her late eighties, who had sold merch in 2011 and had some very interesting stories to tell about her life.) We didn't get the lunch that was supposed to be provided. It was an extremely hot day. After and hour and a half, one of the staff said something about a problem with the merch set-up, and I walked the ten blocks back to the volunteer station. The woman there said that there wasn't going to be merch, apologized and gave me lunch and another bottle of water. (I have to say, they were very on top of having plenty of water.) She said I could carry a banner, but I knew that was beyond my stamina limit at that time. Barry and I found each other, but it was already a half-hour before the start of the parade and impossible to get a decent place to watched. We tried to watch a little, then went home.

I emailed the volunteer coordinators about my experience. The next day, they sent a group email to all of the volunteers, and apologized sincerely for any glitches. A day later, I got a very lovely personal email from one of the coordinators, apologizing again. So I kind of got to be part of the event; tried my best. At least I got the tee shirt. I think I'll give it another shot next year.

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