The Happy Circumstances of Filmi Addiction
© 2007

    I'm about as American as they come. Born and raised in North Carolina, with both sides of the family on this side of the pond for so many generations nobody remembers otherwise. Rumour has it that one of my ancestors was a U.S President, another a pirate (yes, there's a difference) and who knows what other nuts would fall from the family tree if you shook it hard enough. I had gone 46 years and change and never seen a Hindi film -- or even given them any thought.

So what happy circumstance made me a Bollywood addict?

It started quite innocently, as these things usually do. I was digging through the bargain DVD bin of a local discount store and happened upon Ram Gopal Varma's "Naina". The cover was in English, the story sounded interesting and the price was certainly attractive ($5.50 US) so I added it to my shopping cart STILL not knowing that this was an Indian film and never suspecting the profound effect it would have on my video shopping later.

As you can probably imagine, I was pretty confused once I'd loaded the disc and started watching. I knew none of these actors and ... thank GOD for subtitles! But after the opening scene, I was intrigued. What happened next I can't explain.

The film flashes forward twenty years and before me was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen -- Urmila Matondkar. Mind you, I do not say "the most beautiful woman I have ever seen" lightly. And it didn't escape me that she was a sighted person playing the role of a blind person and doing so with complete believability. I could not tear my eyes away from her, I was riveted.

After the movie was done, I Googled her to find out just who this divine being is. After reading a few interviews and articles, my next stop was to A search on her name turned up several DVD's which went straightaway on my wish list. "Pinjar" seemed like a good choice as a followup, and "Tezheeb" was modestly priced and soon both were on their way to me courtesy of the US Postal Service.

"Pinjar" was everything I'd imagined it would be and even taught me a few things about the partition of India and Pakistan. "Tezheeb" was not quite as good, but by that time it didn't matter. I was hooked.

"Bhoot" and "Satya" followed, quickly chased to my door by "Hindustani", "Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya", "Mast", "Rangeela", "Jungle" and "Judaai". I couldn't get enough. (My copy "Jungle" wasn't subtitled, curse the luck!) was nearly tapped out, so I started looking for other outlets. One of the vendors that sells through Amazon Marketplace also has its own online store, but I hit the motherlode when I discovered the website for Eros Entertainment. Not only did they have a bigger selection, but far better prices!

SO in the space of a mere 4 months, I've gone from barely realizing that India has a film industry to becoming a fledgling Bollywood freak. Or more specifically, to an Urmila freak. No doubt I will branch out in the future, but for the time being there is still enough in Urmilaji's flimography to keep me occupied for some time. How cruel that fate placed us on opposite sides of the world. Who would have thought that one person could move Mumbai ahead of Iceland at the top of my list of places I want to visit before I die?

Then again, who would have thought a creature so beautiful could exist on the mortal plane? I certainly never did.

- James Bengal



This filmi ramble was
written by James Bengal

discovering bollywood - a new series

How did you discover Bollywood? So many fans have a story -- one told, retold, analyzed and polished -- of that lightbulb moment in which they encountered Hindi cinema like a revelation, a window into something they had never imagined film could be. From those who once had no idea that Hindi cinema existed to those who grew up loathing it, Discovering Bollywood tells their tales of that single moment when they suddenly, finally "got it."


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