Hooray for Bollywood

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Where does wanderlust come from? Why are some of us bitten by the travel bug while others are happier to stay put? I’ve always been more of a wanderer than a homebody, more Toot than Puddle, but I have plenty of friends and family members who prefer to remain local. It takes diff’rent strokes to move the world, as they say.

I’ve been lucky enough to hike through Iceland, ride elephants in Thailand and haggle over rugs in Morocco. I’ve been to Nice and the isles of Greece where I sipped champagne on a yacht. Oh, wait, that last part didn’t happen to me. That was Charlene. Anyway…

I’m thrilled to report that I’m off to Mumbai, India, and I’m even more excited for the reason for the trip: Saturday night I will be attending the very first international version of the People’s Choice Awards.

To quote myself from a recent Variety article:

 “From Bollywood to Indipop, India has a rich and important history in entertainment. We’ve seen a major increase in the role Indian movies, music and culture are playing on a global scale. When you pair this trend with the fact that India is the second-most populous country and the most-populous democracy in the world, you have the perfect scenario for an awards show which gives the people the opportunity to celebrate their favorite stars, musicians, movies and television programs.”

Yeah, what he said.

I look forward to taking in the sights and sounds of Mumbai and learning who the Indian people chose as their favorite actors and musicians, TV shows and movies. And I’m especially looking forward to a big Bollywood production number in the show. Although I never saw Bombay Dreams on Broadway in 2004, I would walk by the theater pretty much every day (my office was in the building directly above it) and groove to the sounds of “Shakalaka Baby” pouring out of the promotional video screens. I’m anticipating a colorful experience.

Although this will be the first time I will have set foot in India, I have gone there many times through the movies. Here are some of my favorites:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Although I love many of the big summer blockbusters that Hollywood starts churning out in May, I also tend to flock to the smaller adult movies (not that kind of adult movie, dirty bird) that find their audiences despite smaller promotional budgets and fewer screens. I was delighted to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on a rainy day in June, charmed by the story of a cadre of Brits relocating to a retirement home in India. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are perfection (as always) Bill Nighy delights (per usual), and Tom Wilkinson gives a heartbreaking performance (natch.) It came out on DVD last month; you owe it to yourself to check it out if you missed it in theaters.

Gandhi

It beat E.T. and Tootsie (two of my faves) for the Best Picture Oscar and Ben Kingsley beat Paul Newman (The Verdict) and Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie) for Best Actor. This was quite upsetting to me in 1983 until I finally got the chance to see Gandhi on the big screen. Geez! It’s over three hours long, it features a cast of thousands, and Sir Kingsley gives the performance of a lifetime. Oh, and that Gandhi guy was pretty cool, what with his nonviolent resistance to British rule, and all. Definitely a must-see.

A Passage to India

I’m a sucka for a David Lean epic, even more so if it’s based on an E.M. Forster novel. Add Peggy Ashcroft (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance) and Judy Davis (who should be in everything), and this one is a no brainer. Both sweeping and intimate, the film held me rapt for its entire 2 hour and 43 minutes running time. And it’s a great example of a well-done literary adaptation (unlike, say, The Bonfire of the Vanities or Demi Moore‘s The Scarlet Letter.)

Slumdog Millionaire

It won Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay, as well as Best Original Song for the infectious “Jai Ho.” It made stars of Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto. And it charmed audiences and critics alike with its tale of a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant who draws from his troubled past to correctly answer question after question. Not always easy to watch because of unflinching scenes of poverty and violence, the film is ultimately a triumphant joy to behold. You probably already saw it. Maybe it’s time to see it again.

So as I pick out my Bollywood chic outfit for the first ever Indian People’s Choice Awards on Saturday night — it’s going to be 93 degrees in Mumbai so I’ll have to prioritize cool over chic — voice your choice in today’s poll and tell us which movie set in India is your favorite?

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Gandhi

A Passage to India

Slumdog Millionaire

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