The other day The Boss and I went to visit our friend who lives in Bandra in West Mumbai. Bandra was first colonized by the Portuguese in the 1500’s and administered by Jesuit Priests and consequently became home to a predominantly Christian population.
In more recent times Bandra has become the preferred residential location for the rich and famous and is to Mumbai what Beverley Hills is to Los Angeles.
Many of Bollywood’s bright lights live here and every time The Boss and I come to eat in one of the many excellent restaurants we always spot a celebrity. Not seen a superstar yet, the equivalent of say, a Tom Cruise or a Julia Roberts, but we have spotted many other actors and actresses each time we have dined.
The Boss is an excellent spotter. She only needs to see someone once in a magazine and will then recognize them anywhere. I am terrible. Most of these people, without makeup and in normal clothes look nothing like their on-screen persona, so consequently I never notice, preferring to tuck into my food and knock back copious quantities of fermented grape juice, and it is only when the Boss brings them to my attention, that I realize that I am eating in the presence of Bollywood Royalty.
The interesting thing is that if any of these film and TV stars are out in public in other parts of the city or India they are mobbed in no time by the public. But in Bandra that is uncool. Bandra residents may glance sideways and will possibly mention it to their companion, but will not make a fuss and they just carry on with whatever they are doing. Even though I am a foreigner here and don’t watch a great deal of Hindi films I still get a thrill at seeing someone famous or even infamous, but Bandra people would never lower themselves to indulge in star struck adoration.
I wonder if it’s the same in Beverly Hills? Can any readers enlighten me?
Mumbai (Bombay) Gateway of India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’m now in Mumbai for a little while. I enjoy coming here. Mumbai is different, it has a buzz, and energy all of it’s own. It reminds me of Hong Kong which also seems to run on some indefinable electricity.
People are here from all over India creating a melting pot of many different cultures. The Hindi is different, mixing Marathi, English and Gujarati words together with Mumbaiker slang. You can speak to everyone in English, they will understand, however you may not understand the reply as it will often come back in their native tongue. I have had long conversations with people in this way, me speaking English and them replying in Hindi. Hand gestures filling the gaps in comprehension.
Food is available from all over the world as well as the famous Mumbai street food. Vada Pao, a spicy potato fritter sandwiched between two slices of Pao, an unsweetened bun, being my favourite. ( see here for a recipe )
I will never forget the first time I came to India. I flew into Mumbai or Bombay as it was then (and still is to many) late at night. I remember stepping out of the plane into the thick humid warm air filled with an amazing array of different smells. People everywhere even late at night.
On the drive from the airport in the dim light I could see numerous mounds on the footpaths and the central road divider. It was only after about 20 mins that I realized these were people sleeping, in front of shops, under flyovers and in the patches of earth that separate the road lanes. People who come in their droves from the interiors of India to seek fame and fortune in this huge city already bursting at it’s seams. Leaving their villages and sometimes their families behind they come in their hundreds of thousands in the search for a better life and maybe catch a glimpse of the god like figure that is their favourite Bollywood star. Some succeed, there are many rags to riches stories, but most don’t, and end up living on footpaths and in the ever expanding slums.
Early the next morning upon leaving the house, I wandered into a living Merchant Ivory film set. Colours and activity everywhere. The whole city seemed to be on the move, women in beautifully coloured saris flitted across the street like multi coloured butterflies. Mustachioed men in suit pants and long shirts, dhotis and kurtas, lungis and vests. Conveyances of all descriptions filling the roads, horns blaring, arms gesticulating out the windows. The footpaths obstructed by street vendors, selling fish, fruits and vegetables in carefully stacked pyramids, or sharpening knives and cleaning ears with sticks.
It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, a massed assault on all my senses, so many things to look at; a multitude of sounds attacking my eardrums, exotic smells filling my lungs with every breath. For someone used to the quiet streets of New Zealand it was overwhelming but at the same time fascinating.
The constant buzz, activity and sensory stimulation has now become an addiction and when I return back to visit New Zealand, before long I get withdrawal symptoms as my senses demand another fix!
I am a big fan of cinema and particularly foreign language movies. With “the Boss” being Indian I have watched more than my fair share of Bollywood movies but have tired of them of late, limiting myself to only watching the more realistic “art house” movies rather than the commercial blockbusters.
However the other day after much encouragement from the Boss, I sat down and watched the movie “English Vinglish”. This is a thoroughly entertaining gem which follows the struggles of a “traditional” Indian mother and her attempts to learn English to avoid ridicule from her family. The movie marks the comeback after 15 years of former Bollywood
English: Sridevi during an audio launch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
superstar Sridevi. She was a delight to watch (hard to believe she is pushing 50!) and I understand now why she has had such a fan following. The line “her eyes are like two drops of coffee in a cloud of milk” was one of my favourites. ( I tried it on the Boss, but was met with instant suspicion!)
The support cast was equally as good.
I have become a fan of the theatre actor Adil Hussain after seeing his performance in “Life
of Pi” and his performance here as a dismissive, condescending husband was also great to watch. Mehdi Nebbou as the French love interest was also very good and being a big fan of French Cinema, I will certainly check out his filmography on IMDB to see what else of his I can watch.
Certainly worth a trip to your local Indian video shop to rent the movie. Just make sure it has English subtitles because although there is a lot of English dialogue you will miss a lot of the subtle nuances of the story if you can’t understand Hindi.
Walking down Sukhumvit Soi 21 in Bangkok tonight and saw a group of Indians standing around a large film camera. A group of garishly made up western girls stood nearby next to a young Indian man in a bright yellow suit and large black framed glasses.
I asked ” are you making a movie?”
“Yes yes” the camera men replied.
Not recognising anyone from my limited knowledge of Bollywood movies, I asked “which language? Tamil?”
“Telegu picture Saar” came the reply.
Spying the plastic bag full of Indian spices in my hand (don’t ask) they asked “Indian?” to which I replied, “No, wife Indian”.
“OK, OK very fine” they replied.
Fascinating world we live in! That a movie aimed at the Telegu speaking population of Andhra Pradesh will fly a whole film unit out to Bangkok to film a song and dance scene on the side of one of the busiest intersections in Bangkok.