Donnerstag, Februar 08, 2007

Salaam-E-Ishq, or: Declaration of love

Since a few years, I am a fan of Hindi films, so-called “Bollywood” movies. I’ve lost count of how many I have seen till date, maybe 350.

Some are funny, some are sugary, some are thrilling, others longish and slightly boring; but some are just perfect. Some are a mixture of all this, but for me they certainly are one thing: Good fun, and often the kind of fairytale that appeals to the hopeful little girl I once was, and soothes my old, much-too-cynical heart.

And one in particular let me fall in love with Indian films all over again. It’s called Salaam-E-Ishq, ‘A Tribute to Love’, and it came out two weeks ago. Luckily it was shown in a cinema near me (which is rare) and I went and watched it. Twice.

It’s 220 minutes long, it’s a convoluted tale of several stories – all about different shades of love – and many critics hated it. Yet I loved it. For me it was the perfect ‘masala’, a well-balanced blend of romantic, funny, tragic and heroic with a pinch of the erotic, pathetic and sweetly innocent thrown in as well. And a great entertainer.

One of the stories I liked best was that of Raju taxiwallah and his dream girl. It is a fairytale par excellence, the story of a bachelor taxi driver in Delhi, who keeps waiting year after year for his Western dream girl to appear and fall in love with him. But just when Raju thinks he has found the woman of his dreams, he finds out she only came to India in search of her boyfriend, and he drove her to the wrong place because they can’t understand each others language.

But he never gives up, and even decides to help her in searching for her lost love. Many adventures follow –heartbreakingly funny, sad and sweet – before she even takes notice of Raju as a person and accepts him as a friend.

Nikhil Advani (the director), and his cast, the Indian actor Govinda (whom I so far only knew as a comedian I didn't even like much) and the South African actress Shannon Esra, have created a truly beautiful fairytale here. One that surely appeals to millions of people - not only to all lonesome taxi drivers, tourist guides and waiters in India who might still wait for their dream-girl to appear, but also to all lonesome women in search of love. This is exactly the kind of man every woman dreams about: Charming, funny, attractive and strong. Above all he stays unfailingly patient, respectful and responsible towards his loved one, even if she acts rather foolish in her desperation. Language or status are utterly insignificant here, this selfless and faithful Raju has all the characteristics of a true hero.

The story makes me want to catch the next flight to Delhi and take a tasseled taxi to Agra. But my old, much-too-cynical heart tells me there is no Raju for me; neither there, nor anywhere else. So I remain at home in my cold little European town, waiting for the next movie to let me dream of true love again.