Main Hoon Na

We watched the DVD of a recent Hindi film, Main Hoon Na. (The English title, which is close enough, is “I’m Here Now.”) The film was advertised as a light-hearted tribute to the great days of the delirious masala film, the kind of film which has everything – brothers separated and reunited, a Mother, romance, action, desh bhakti (patriotism). A kind of Manmohan Desai film without all the rona-dhona (moaning-and-groaning). We found it delightful. It wasn’t done in the smirky way of some of the Bollywood self-parodies – it was played pretty straight, with the most understated acting I’ve ever seen from Shahrukh Khan. The songs were catchy. All was bright. By the time dozens of qawwals popped up to sing about ishq ishq ('love love'), we were completely sold. It was full of allusions to other Hindi (and western) films, but it was so much fun – and it has subtitles – that I think any non-Indian who is curious about Bollywood films would be able to enjoy it.

Speaking of desh bhakti: We used to know an army man. He had fought in several of India’s wars, and had medals for bravery. He and his wife would drop in unexpectedly, often after having a few drinks elsewhere. After all the helloing and such, he would sit down and say to me, in a gruff, military kind of way, “Desh bhakti! Play desh bhakti songs!” And I would dig out a recording of E Mere Pyare Watan (‘O my beloved homeland’), which is 1) a beatiful, haunting song, from Kabuliwala; and 2) the only Hindi song that I can actually sing every word of, from beginning to end.

Sometimes, after the Brigadier had had a few more drinks, he would suddenly stand up, put his glass on his head, and begin a slow, graceful dance. His wife would tell him angrily to sit down and stop making a fool of himself. But that’s another story.

The only Tamil film song that I could sing all the way through (but I've forgotten it now) was Adi Ennadi Rakamma, from an old Shivaji Ganesan movie. I knew you wanted to know this.

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