Those of you who have been following this blog for a while have gotten an insight into my relationship with Indian films. In the past, I’ve talked about my strange yearnings for scenes of films past and I’ve dived into unnecessary philosophy about film experiences more than once, but I’ve never really told you how this all started in the first place, which I’m about to do now.
I should also note that aside from the reminiscing mood that I am in now, I’ve also come to a major realization about why I am so drawn to films, and to Indian films, in particular.
It was my very first semester in college and I was having an especially difficult time adjusting to my new life in a new place. I was homesick and couldn’t fall asleep that night. It was well past 3 a.m. as I recall and out of boredom, I had no choice but to try to watch something in my tiny dorm room television. And of course I couldn’t find anything worthwhile and I had reached the unknown channels beyond 100 when I caught a glimpse of a song and stopped.
It was the funniest thing I had seen in my life. I had never seen dancing and singing like that before. I was very amused and kept laughing and watching. To my surprise, it was not just a song but a film. I found myself so immersed in the story, the characters, the colors and vibrant visuals that I didn’t even realize that I had stayed up until dawn watching it.
That song was Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna and the film was Dilwale Dulhaniye Le Jayenge.
Of course I had seen only half of the film but that was enough for me to completely and irreversibly fall in love with Indian cinema. This was long before my realization that this was the greatest Bollywood love story of all time and that the lead actors were far more famous then I could even fathom. I did feel a natural affinity to Indian culture as I experienced it through this film, but aside from this affinity, I had no clue about anything else. And yet the characters, the scenes and the dialogues touched me so deeply and permanently that it was to be the driving force for my what will clearly be a life-long passion. I was obsessed to watch the entire movie but did not have an opportunity until much later.
Until the moment that I discovered Indian films, I lacked that something in my life that gave me a total sense of belonging, familiarity, stability, hope and assurance. In life, often things don’t go as we like and the idea of not knowing what will happen can be very unsettling and worrisome at times. Establishing a strong faith in divine will is my primary way to overcome this. But after God, in vulnerable moments, I find that I also reach out to films.
Whenever I feel sad or worried, I remember film scenes from what seem to be an infinite mental collection from my favorites and classics (and sometimes a totally random film I saw ages ago). The comfort of going back to something that is so familiar and known to me, and the assurance that all is going to be well at the end of the film gives me liberation from my unwanted feelings. Suddenly, all is well again.
Call it the very extreme ends of escapism if you wish, (and hopefully not the beginnings of a Chandramukhi story) but I feel extremely grateful that I have this in my life. I am extremely grateful that I couldn’t fall asleep that late night in August 2004.
Considering that I grew up watching American and Turkish TV shows and films, why did Bollywood have this effect on me and not the former? Maybe because Bollywood is generally more romanticized, idealistic, positive, fun, colorful, emotional, and usually has happy endings. Because in Bollywood, impossible can be made possible and challenges much easier. Or maybe because I’m a hopeless romantic and extremely cheesy. Either way, if something can have such a positive impact on someone, how can it not be adored and encouraged?
Tell me your love story with Indian films.