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American Women's Club of Hamburg

What Sticks in the Mind: Bollywood, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

by Shelly S., Ole W. (14) and Adrian S. (14)

More than three weeks had passed since we saw this film; I sat down with the two boys to discuss what we remembered. Normally I have a great memory for details and storylines, but I had to admit that it was difficult to recall details in this film. Is it because the culture is so different or because there was so much going on that we were simply overloaded by images? Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It was a struggle, but also definitely a challenge and an exercise to examine what had stuck in our memory banks. Ten minutes later and still we couldn’t remember anything except the music, an important feature of Bollywood.

I have blurred visions of images dancing to repeated drumming, a high woman’s voice answered by a male’s counterpart voice, more swirling, more singing, beautiful clothes and the feeling of drama and unobtainable love, and finally an overwhelming feeling of love, joy and understanding.

 The boys said:

OW: It reminds me of a graduation ball where the women dress in beautiful ball gowns and the men somehow seem to dress in normal clothes.

AS: I remember the choreography, where large groups all dance together in perfection. I also know that it explains India’s history which included poverty, war, and demonstrations with lots of black-and-white scenes and darkness.

OW: I felt it characterizes the family history, as a sort of saga; there was not much dialogue, but mostly traditional Indian dancing which tells the story.

AS: I agree. The dancing helps the viewers to forget their own poverty and living conditions. India is a culture where men dominate and make decisions about the woman’s future. They are not equal like we are in Germany.

 I understand why someone in India would like this film but that has nothing to do with our lives. We don’t normally watch a three-hour film and we don’t have a caste system, so why is Bollywood growing in popularity in the western world? We all three agreed that the music is lively and fantastic. The actors and actresses are beautiful and we all loved the costumes. The meaning of Bollywood actually isn’t so important to us.

 In the end both boys remembered and liked best the short film, The God, which showed at the beginning. It is amazing how easily a God can be destroyed by a small fly. Bzzzzzzzz! Klunk!


 The God

This year, one of the best films originated in 2003 and lasted less than five minutes. Often, older, or as they say at the Berlinale, “retrospective,” films appear in the Filmfest. For example, this year the Quebec Deluxe section showed eight films, from 1967 to the present.  

 This surprise short, The God, opens with a beautiful statue of the Hindu God Shiva standing on one foot on a pedestal. He comes to life when a fly lands on one of his eight hands. Slowly he begins to swat at the fly, first with a finger, then with a hand, then with all eight arms, which become hopelessly entangled. In the end Shiva falls from the pedestal, and the fly is eaten by another eight-armed creature, which is obviously superior: a spider. By Russian director Konstantin Bronzit, you can see it under www.youtube.com. 

Why didn’t this film about the Hindi God Shiva cause a huge outcry about a religion being insulted or laughed at? Are the Hindus less sensitive about their gods? Shelly Schoeneshoefer says “insults are defined differently depending on the source.” You could also add: depending on the political mood of the time. At any rate, nine years later, The God is still contemporary and was the perfect short to open the Bollywood documentary. (Becky T.)

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