Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Crush Wednesday: Bollywood Men

by Janine Ashbless

There are some things you shouldn’t admit to liking if you want people to take you seriously: Porn – D&D - Musicals – Comics – SF- Bollywood films.


I suffered a lightning conversion to Bollywood while on holiday in India. The tour guide suggested we all go to the cinema. "But it’ll be in Hindi!" we said. "It doesn’t matter," he told us: "enough of the dialogue will be in English. The plots are easy to follow anyway." So we went and saw a romcom whose name escapes me. Then a few days later in Delhi we went and watched Bluffmaster. Abhishek Bachchan! Phwoar!! I haven’t looked back – though I have to admit watching them with the subtitles on really does help.

So if you’ve never tried watching Indian movies, or your memory is of dodgy 70s moustaches and ferocious overacting, let me persuade you to take a look. Now, Bollywood has an enormously fast turnout of films – hundreds and hundreds per year – but stick to big-budget, big-name films which have been well-reviewed and you won’t be disappointed. "Masala" films are entertaining - and sexy!

Indian films, like any art form, have their own structure and rules. Here’s a Gori guide to some of them:

1) The films are very long – normally 3 hours. Much like Shakespeare’s plays, they are intended for a mass audience and will have something to please everyone including the cheap seats. There will be spectacular musical/dance numbers. There will probably be an undignified slapstick scene.

  • 2) The actresses (unless they are playing a mother or a comedy role) are jawdroppingly, astonishingly beautiful. The men on the whole, alas, are not. (But don’t worry! – wait for my gallery of heroes below.)

  • 3) Not matter how light and fluffy the first half of the film is, there is no guarantee that the hero (or heroine, or both) will not be dead by the end of the closing credits. Emotional drama, particularly willing sacrifice, is an important ingredient.

  • 4) The cinematography will be great.

  • 5) Just as American film/TV obsesses about the father-son relationship, Bollywood obsesses about the mother-son relationship. Mothers are always saintly.

6) The singing will be dubbed. Male singers sound normal to Western ears, female ones sound like they are pinching their noses. You just have to get used to it.

7) Not matter how revealing the clothes and steamy the looks or the dancing, no one will kiss. (Except in Dhoom 2, and it got taken to court for obscenity!)

8) Love don’t come free. Romantic love is treated as the most wonderful, overwhelming experience – with the potential to tear lives and families apart. Win or lose, you will suffer for love.

9)If the heroine is wearing a spectacular white dress and receiving a ring that’s not the wedding, it’s the engagement party. Brides wear traditional red clothes for weddings.

10) Yes, you probably have come across this plot elsewhere. Bollywood has a longstanding tradition of sticking 2 fingers up to the concept of intellectual copyright, so you may suffer from odd feelings of deja-vu. Jism (I kid you not!) is a rewrite of Body Heat. Zinda is Oldboy. And so on.

So who are the men worth watching? My personal favourites are…

Shah Rukh Khan. He’s in hundreds of films. An absolute superstar, nicknamed "King Khan". Very likeable screen persona. SRK usually plays a nice-guy hero, dances well and is very good at the teary tragic bits. For Om Shanti Om he buffed up to glorious effect. See him in: Asoka; Dil Se; Devdas; Veer-Zaara.

Amitabh Bachchan. Semi-divine superstar of the previous acting generation: think Sean Connery but much more popular. Dignified charisma personified. Nicknamed the "Big B". See him in – well, just about everything, as the hero’s or heroine's father; Kabhi Kushie Kabhie Gham; Aetbaar.

Abhishek Bachchan. Son of Amitabh above right. Think he looks a bit rough? He’s tall, strongly built and oozes a gruff masculine charisma. Not the best-looking hero, but probably the sexiest. Plays loners, tough guy heroes. See him in Dhoom & Dhoom 2; Bluffmaster.

  1. John Abraham. Male supermodel. Body of a god. What can I say? (Apart from "Gimme now!") Usually plays villains and badboys. See him in Aetbaar (my review here); Dhoom; Jism.

Hrithik Roshan. Muscles and unusual looks (including green eyes and an extra thumb). See him in Dhoom 2 where he plays a master of disguise and stars in the most knicker-wetting basketball scene ever written.

Arjun Rampal. I’ve only seen him in one film – Om Shanti Omwhere he played the villain. And I’d let him tie me down and have his evil way any day! Another supermodel turned actor.

And if you want another set of opinions (and …. ooh ….photos) take a look at the India Times Top 10 Men.

If you’ve never seen a Bollywood film I suggest the following as a good place to start. They’re easy to find on Amazon and they all have at least one yummy hero (and many lovely women).

1) Bluffmaster: modern setting: witty, twisty comic romantic tale about a con-artist. Reminiscent of the TV series "Hustle".

2) Rang De Basanti: one of my favourite films ever. Political drama. Modern setting but with flashbacks to the Raj; about a bunch of layabout students who get involved in making a film with an English girl. Great music. It’s a fabulous movie but the end made me cry. (Frenetic trailer here)

3) Dhoom 2: Crime/chase caper with motorcycles and exploding helicopters and stuff. Two sexy heroes (Abhishek as the cop in pursuit of Hrithik the criminal) for the price of one! Also stars the worst shirts ever worn by man.

4) Veer-Zaara : Romance. SRK is in prison for a crime he did not commit, to safeguard his true love. Brave ‘n’ beautiful female lawyer hears his story and fights to win his freedom. Glorious cinematography.

5) Dil Se: Tragic romance. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl turns out to be suicide-bomber… Scenery so beautiful it will take your breath away. Has a very famous dance sequence set on the top of a moving steam-train.

6) Lagaan: Historic Raj setting. Sports drama about a grudge cricket match between Indian villagers and the local British regiment.

7) Asoka: Ancient historic setting. The (romanticised) tale of the rise of Asoka - first Emperor of India - who subjected the surrounding kingdoms to bloody conquest before renouncing violence, converting to Buddhism, and instituting one of the oldest and most humane systems of law in the ancient world. Swords ‘n’ saris!

But I regret to tell you that although the movie Jism does star John Abraham, it’s not nearly as rude as it sounds!

Janine Ashbless
My website : My updated linktastic Blog which now comes to you in glorious GREEN

P.S. All the films and actors mentioned above have their own individual Wikipedia entries if you want to know more.
Any questions? (I don’t promise I can answer them!) Or am I preaching to the choir?


Megan Kerr said...

You're not preaching to the choir here - I've never seen a Bollywood film. But I think I might have to start with one starring John Abraham... So yummy. Whether looking at God, or mourning a tragedy (real men cry), or chilling at the beach, or just holding a panda. I'll be his panda. I never take my makeup off at night anyway, so it's practically type-casting.

Actor-slash-model. Hmm.
"The best thing about this award is that it says I am the best actor slash model - and not the other way around."

Janine Ashbless said...

OMG, the panda photo...

Dump the panda, John! They're shite at sex! I'll do it!

Portia Da Costa said...

I've never seen a Bollywood film either, but I think I may have to check some out now.

Anonymous said...

I'll put my hand up too and say that I've never seen a Bollywood film - but you might just have convinced me. Those men are just gorgeous and as for the dance on top of the train! And the panda!

Great post!

Madelynne Ellis said...

Clearly you all had better things to do back in the early days of Channel 4. I have seen some Bollywood films, but I couldn't tell you what they were.

I'm a bit scared by this bit though. Janine, you stole my bio, well, with one teeny tiny alteration.

Porn – D&D - Musicals – Comics – SF- Hong Kong films.

Janine Ashbless said...

Thanks Mat!

I love the train dance. I'm still wondering how SRK managed without getting his head smashed against the tunnel wall.

Janine Ashbless said...

Madelynne - I think Asian cinema has more gravitas than Bollywood. So long as you don't say "Kung Fu films," that is!

limecello said...

I haven't seen a Bollywood film, but I'm interested. I love how they're such grandiose productions. The closest thing I've seen is "Bride and Prejudice" - and that's different. I loved it though. I love love love the dance sequences, etc. I've been on a "foreign film" kick, in a way. Curse of the Golden Flower, Love in the Time of Cholera [though that was all English], Lust, Caution... (none of them are very happy...)

Deanna said...

Asoka some time ago and watched it. I was enjoying it until the singing started.

Singing and dancing in a serious historical movie just didn't work for me, I'm afraid. Found the not kissing a bit weird as well. However some of the male actors are good-looking and the women are extraordinarily beautiful.

TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

I love Bollywood. Then again, I also love D&D, science fiction, porn, and most of the whole list of things that get you not taken seriously by the stuffy, so what did you expect?

Hot women. Hot men. Crazy dancing. Tragedy. What's not to love?

Madeline Moore said...

Wow. Looks like Bollywood films have improved in the last few decades.

Long ago my family lived in Thailand for awhile, and that's where my impressions of such films were formed. First, a little putt putt (truck) emblazoned with garish cardboard stars and starlets would putt putt up and down the main street of the small town we lived in, a loudspeaker blaring the good news - this movie is coming to town!

In the beginning, we would dutifully turn out for the event. The movie would be long, colourful, the heroine would get raped and ... I think she and her man usually both died by the end. The singing was horrible.

Behind me, ahead of me, and around me, tubucular Thais would hork phlegm on the floor. Usually, fights broke out among the Indians in the crowd.

It wasn't long before my family took a pass on the whole thing. But after reading this blog, I'm going to have to rethink Indian films, as I am so often challenged to rethink subjects that are written about on the Lust Bites blog.

And I thank you for that, Janine.
And for offering this information in such an ever so attractive and interactive manner!

Unknown said...

I've seen Bride and Prejudice as well and I loved it. Seeing as Hollywood musicals are some of my favorite films ever, I think I should pop over to our local Indian grocery shop were they do not only groceries but take out curry and dvd rental! The perfect store in sunny California :)

OMG-that panda shot-sooo sexy!!

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh, Madeline, I can understand why that put you off! What a great anecdote though!

Basically yes, I believe there has been a big sea-change in the quality and content of what Bollywood has been producing, in the last decade or so.

And Bride and Prejudice - I actually took my mother-in-law to see that (she's a huge Austen fan). It's Bollywood For The Nervous - if you like that sort of thing (and I guess either you do or you don't, it's a very particular style of movie) then it's an easier step to the real thing.

Hot women. Hot men. Crazy dancing. Tragedy. What's not to love?
Oh yeah!!

Janine Ashbless said...

Ooh - dammit - practical point:

If you buy or rent a Bollywood DVD in Britain, check that either it is in PAL format or your DVD-player can cope with NTSC. For some reason even British/Region 2 Indian films are sometimes sold in NTSC format, which means on a normal PAL player they will look black and white.

Samantha said...

Hrithik Roshan. Love him to pieces. Very specific pieces.

This is my favourite wallpaper of him, I wish I could just post it but w/e : Sexy Roshan

I don't really watch a lot of foreign films; the closest I've ever come to a Bollywood film is "Water" (And FYI its Canadian made >_< ).

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite films is a Bollywood movie - "Mujhse Dosti Karoge!" Starring Hrithik Roshan, of course. I'll have to check out "Dhoom 2", I'm intrigued by this obscenity charge. I'm a film major so I'm really interested in ideas of censorship, obscenity, etc. in film! Loved the post, by the way.

Janine Ashbless said...

Ooh - thanks for the tip Kathryn!

This year I'm looking forward to seeing Jodhaa Akbar which is a big historical epic starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai.

Angell said...

I've never seen a Bollywood film either, but one of my BFF's is "brown" (her words, not mine), and is always trying to convince me to sit through one. Trouble is that my alone time is so limited, and hubby won't open his mind to watching them.

But I did work the TIFF here in town, and was five feet from King Kahn himself. VERY SEXY. And yes, the women, so incredibly beautiful - goddesses amongst mortals.

Janine Ashbless said...

You could try your husband on Dhoom 2 Angell, if he's into laddish films (motorbike stunts etc) and beautiful women. Aishwarya Rai is touted as the most beautiful woman in the world.

Anonymous said...

You're most definitely preaching to the choir. I have to admit that by being Indian, I was introduced to this world at a very young age, but as I grew older, the industry got sexier, and goddamn.

You don't need to kiss or have sex to make things sexy, and Bollywood seems to have perfected that. You have a pretty good list of actors and films, and I'd also add Yaadein to your list of movies to see ;)

- Bhavna

Janine Ashbless said...

Thanks for that Bhavna. It's on the list!

Lenses said...

I did watch Jodhaa Akbar and Hrithik Roshan is to die for..he's so god damn handsome and oh..dont miss the gold Aishwarya Rai wears in the movie..