What Dog Fanciers Can Learn from Bollywood

by Susi on September 3, 2013

in Bollywood, Chaiyya Chaiyya, Dil Se, Dog breed, dog show, group ring, Inside Man, Is That All There Is?, Peggy Lee, sari

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If you’re like me, and I know I am, your personal history includes one or two songs that so grabbed you when you first heard them as a kid that you immediately bought the record or CD and proceeded to play the tune over and over again until everyone in the house was driven certifiably mad.

Most people are teenagers when they hit the “repeat” button to their favorite song and let it play for twelve consecutive days, and I don’t think this is unique to a particular generation. My daughter become smitten with the Ace of Base hit single, “I Saw the Sign,” which I heard ad nauseum and luckily, was a song I liked. It was my son’s taste for rap music that made my ears bleed a few years later.

Evidently, I, myself, was a late bloomer. It wasn’t until I saw the 2006 movie, Inside Man, that I become besotted with “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” a song played during the closing credits but which had nothing to do with the plot of the film. Though less than a minute of the song was played, its haunting melody and indecipherable lyrics (sung in Urdo) hooked me for life.

I had to hear it again.

It was probably a mistake to do a Google search for the song because I found it. If I’d been smitten with the song, itself, I became addicted to the six minute You Tube video in which it was sung.  The video was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and I’m embarrassed now to consider how often I must have watched that video, but it was a lot. There’s no doubt that the music, costumes and choreography filmed on a moving train entranced me, but I knew Indians as a kid growing up (we had several family friends from that country) and I’d never seen Indians in this light before. Who knew they had such moves??

It was my first introduction to Bollywood.

The video, filmed on top of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in southern India, was shot with no camera tricks, no back projection and no post-production special effects. In a BBC international poll among 155 countries looking for the ten most popular songs of all time, “Chaiyya Chaiyya” placed in the top 10 songs. In a sure sign of popularity, it spawned imitation:

I couldn’t get enough of it and had to learn more.

I read that the video was taken from a 1998 Hindi film, Dil Se (translated: From the Heart), which was considered a prime example of Indian New Wave film making.

My heart leapt. There was a movie? As much I liked the video, I figured I would love the movie.

I rented Dil Se from Netflix, popped some popcorn and settled in for a night of music, dancing and a lighthearted plot.

About that plot. Here it is in a nutshell (warning: spoiler alert): “Amar” a radio executive encounters a beautiful woman at a train station who vanishes before he can buy her a cup of tea He can’t get her out of his mind and keeps running into her but she keeps rebuffing him Eventually he tells her he’s in love with her but she tells him she’s married and to apologize for his advances he arranges to meet with her but two guys who show up with her beat him senseless Amar keeps following her and learns she’s really not married and the two end up travelling together with romance in the air But one morning Amar wakes to find the woman gone and somewhere along the way we learn that she’s really part of an extremist terrorist group with a plan to kill the prime minister Meanwhile Amar’s family has arranged a marriage for him and during the wedding plans the woman shows up at Amar’s house asking for a place to stay where Amar overhears her talk about the terrorist plot and pulls at her clothes to see if she’s wearing a bomb but the same two guys who beat Amar up earlier  beat him up again Amar loses the woman finds her again and begs her not to kill herself and as he embraces her and begs her to come away with him the woman realizes that she really does loves Amar and as they hug her bomb explodes and they both blow up. The End.

What?

This was nothing like the video I’d seen on You Tube. Where was the music? Where was the rest of the dancing? Where was the gorgeous woman who danced atop the train because she sure wasn’t the love interest who detonated herself and the man in her arms.  No one said anything about terrorism, and in the end, the main characters blow up?

Are you freaking kidding me?

My bad.

Dil Se was a cinematic journey through the seven shades of love defined in ancient literature: Attraction, infatuation, love, reverence, worship, obsession, and death. Slap me upside the head, I should have known this. Instead, I was caught with my mouth gaping, hand holding popcorn in midair as the movie ended. My husband and I stared at each other dumbly, and strains of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All there Is” wafted through my mind.

Though the movie was a colossal dissapointment to me, I never stopped liking the song and still watch that You Tube video at least once a month. I developed a fondess for Bollywood movies where kissing is rare, the women are gorgeous, and ear tugging, palm pressing, feet touching and pinky finger wagging are cultural gestures lost on non-Indians.

A curious thing has happened over time. For a movie I didn’t like, and for reasons I never understood, I found myself thinking about Dil Se over the years. Recently while at a dog show, I had an epiphany. I realized that for the dog fancier, there just might be some relevant messages for us in this film.

Work with me here.

  • Because I’ve had judges who gushed over my dog in breed judging only to pass him or her over in group, I learned that people aren’t always what they seem. The love interest in this movie sure wasn’t what Amar thought she was, either;
  • A gorgeous exterior doesn’t always mean that it holds true for the inside. In Dil Se terms, this means that the mysterious knockout on a train platform just might be a terrorist who in the end will blow you up.  In dogshow terms, this means that that flashy coat doesn’t equate to there being a sound dog underneath it, and that too-good-to-be-true new dog friend may have ulterior motives;
  • The seven shades of literature that inspired Dil Se aren’t that different from the different states of a dog show newbie’s journey into becoming a seasoned exhibitor: Attraction (finding your breed), infatuation (your first dog of that breed), love (you’ll never own any other breed again), reverence (you discover dog shows and respect its mysterious terms and procedures that you don’t fully understand), worship (you never miss handling class), obsession (you can’t bring yourself to miss a dog show), and death (you’ve gotten so experienced that nothing fazes you anymore);
  • Think twice about co-ownerships. Beware of people who make plans (or arrange a marriage) for you or your dog and leave you being the last to know;
  • At the beginning of the Chaiyya Chaiyya video, the actor, Shahrukh Khan, isn’t all that handsome, but six minutes later, he’s gotten kind of hot. Lesson: When you look at a dog, really look at it, you’ll come to find its good qualities;
  • “Amar’s” judgey parents thought they knew what was best for their son by picking out his bride. Dog show judges are human and don’t always pick the best dog (as fanciers of the breed will be quick to tell you). On the other hand, had “Amar” succumbed to his parent’s choice of a wife, he wouldn’t have exploded. Just saying.
  • A flashy outfit goes a long way to attract attention. Consider wearing something exotic into the show ring:

When Jugal, my parents’ friend, introduced us to his new wife, Dinesh (a marriage arranged by his parents), she was fascinated by our Western clothes, and we with her gorgeous saris, and so we swapped clothes for a day. Wearing my mini skirt, Dinesh experienced fresh air on her legs, and wearing her sari made me realize that seven yards of fabric can hide a multitude of sins. Dammit. I’d been born into the wrong culture.

  • If someone starts tearing at your clothes, make sure it’s because they’re helping you put on an armband and not because they’re looking to see if you’re wearing a bomb (snort, like we’d fall for that old line);
  • There isn’t a problem so great that it can’t be made better by dancing on top of a moving train;
  • Give new friendships you make within the fancy time to develop so they may stand the test of time. Put another way, don’t trust someone you don’t know all that well because they just might blow themselves up and take you with them.

Some lessons go beyond any sport. Here is a translation of Chaiyya Chaiyya’s lyrics:

Those who walk in the shade of love
Must have Paradise under their feet
Keep walking in the shade of love

In the shade of love, keep walking
Paradise under their feet, keep walking
Keep walking in the shade of love

The companion who walks along like fragrance
Who whispers in a melodious tongue(Urdu)
Is my evening, night, my universe
My beloved, my love

(who) conceals herself in the flowers
And is revealed in the fragrance
Made into a charm, I would wear hear
If I ever find her like a miracle

My companion, who is like a priest to me
She is my song, my declaration of faith
My song, my declaration of faith

See?  We can learn something from the unlikeliest places.

 

 

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Marilyn September 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Think this may become a favorite of your works.

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Susi September 4, 2013 at 12:39 am

Gosh, Marilyn, thanks! I figured I needed to lighten the mood from the articles about spying and drones and bears, oh my.

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Jenn September 4, 2013 at 9:52 am

I have always loved this song! I worked for many years with people in this culture and it was a great learning experience.

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Susi September 4, 2013 at 10:18 am

Wow – someone else who knows the song! It’s addicting, Jen, isn’t it?

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Cathy September 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Had to laugh at your second point. While at the show this past weekend I saw a dog of a double-coated breed that had been wet down and put on the grooming table to blow dry (fluff & buff). As I walk by I see several exhibitors peering around their set-up (sheets over crates nicely concealing them) as the one that sticks her head out the furthest puts her hands 8 or 10 inches apart as she turns to them and says “There’s nothing to him!” (this was a pretty good sized dog). anyway, I’m shaking my head and thinking that there are some dogs you should never let your competition see wet. And I could see why they were interested in him since he was in the group that afternoon.

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Susi September 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm

LOL, never let them see you sweat, and never let them see your dog soaking wet.

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Susi May 12, 2014 at 9:20 am

A rather excellent point, Cathy.

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Sarah September 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm

“Wear something exotic” really got my attention and my first thought was my friend’s Zombie T-shirt but as I read further, I reconsidered. I’m off to find a sari – and singing all the way.

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karan verma May 12, 2014 at 3:13 am

i want to put my dog in bollywood films can anybody help me

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Susi May 12, 2014 at 9:19 am

Karen, I’m assuming you live in India (which would be a good start, I would think (A friend of the family who was from India had that same surname, so I’ve made a leap in assuming you may be, as well?) That said, I haven’t seen every Bollywood movie ever made, but I’m not sure I’ve even seen a dog in the few I have seen. Assuming that part isn’t an issue, I would think you’d want to contact a talent agency….

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