Lalita Bakshi: You know what? I suggest you find yourself a simple, traditional girl to teach you to dance like the natives.
Bride and Prejudice, 2004
In case you (like me) don't follow American pop culture, then you (like me) probably missed out on the television show Smash, which (according to wikipedia) is a musical about the production of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe.
This is the Smash take on the Bollywood song picturization style. If I understand correctly, is part of a dream sequence initiated at (where else) an Indian restaurant.
At first glance, the theme of the song seems to be the wedding dance from Bride and Prejudice crossed with imagery from A Thousand and One Nights.
[One of the characters rubbing a magic lamp... you know, like in BOLLYWOOD.]
At second glance, that appears to be exactly what they've done here and I'm not even sure how much more I even need to say about this except that "A Thousand and One Nights" reveals the creator's massive ignorance of what a Bollywood picturization actually is.
Bollywood song picturizations are not just weddings and boys teasing girls. They range from Veena Malik doing sexy ethnic camp in a light bulb bra to Hrithik Roshan in the backseat of a car, just barely lipsyncing. They can be fantasy, reality, or something in between. They can be fast, slow, romantic, friendly, angry, familial, nostalgic, inspirational, sexy, cute, ugly, boring, tired, and/or non-existent.
A quick youtube search can reveal all that and more.
Using the Bride and Prejudice wedding song as a template is lazy but at least Gurrinder Chadha was drawing on real Bollywood songs. The wedding dance where boys tease girls and girls tease boys under a giant chandelier while relatives look down from around tbe massive staircase exist in spades in the 1990s movies that she was drawing her inspiration from.
Which brings me to the real disturbing part of this song.
[What Smash thinks Bollywood musclemen look like.]
[What an actual Bollywood muscleman looks like - note the modern setting and complete absence of lamps, fans, genies, or Arabian nights.]
Really, the most ignorant part of this whole song is the conflation of BOLLYWOOD with campy Orientalist imagery ripped directly from Disney's Aladdin. The choreography mixes the Bride and Prejudice wedding dance with belly-dancing - an Arabic, not Indian dance style, the costuming on the women seems more appropriate for a production of Kismet than the sets of any recent Bollywood film I've seen (and where are their dupattas?!), and the only time I've seen lamps used in a Bollywood song* was in Devdas - and no genie popped out.
Most Americans don't know what Bollywood is but that is no excuse for this crap. So, here
is my advice to the Smash songsters if they want to do another Bollywood song:
1. Ditch the Arabic imagery. It makes you look ignorant.
2. Don't try for camp imagery because if you don't know what it is you're mocking, you just look ignorant.
3. Pick a specific genre of Bollywood song and work with it. There are a lot to chose from and it can be overwhelming, so try to stick with something identifiable. Do you want to do Hero introduction songs or running the Swiss Alps songs or wet sari songs or wedding songs or club songs or (my personal favorite) item songs? Pick ONE style.
If you can't do these things, don't try to do Bollywood.
* Not counting the Bollywood version of Aladin, obviously.