Friday, September 22, 2006

Lage Raho Munna Bhai!

When was the last time you watched a movie that had an intermission (chai and samosas available for snacking in the lobby)? How about one during which, without warning and having no apparent connection to plausibility, all actors on screen broke into song and dance?

If the answer is "never" or "not recently," you haven't been spending enough time in places like the NAZ8 Cinema.

Sajid and I often rent Bollywood movies at home, and many times they are so ludicrous we end up turning them off or falling asleep. Sometimes a really good one comes along, and during crucial moments I make myself imagine that everybody in real life sings and dances spontaneously, in public, in a highly choreographed manner, thereby allowing my mind to temporarily suspend disbelief. I'm okay with musicals as a genre, but when every drama, comedy, or action movie doubles as musical, it strikes me as a little strange. Anyway, during the better movies, I get over that.

Last night was the first time we went to see a Bollywood movie in the theater. What got us there was this movie
which is the second in a series ("Lage Raho Munna Bhai" means, roughly, "Carry On, Childlike Gangsta Bro"), the first of which I haven't seen but have heard many good things about. If the title and movie poster make it seem like a super-cheese, antic-filled goofball comedy, the marketing firm responsible for it has done its job well. However, to my surprise, this movie had a lot more to it.

The whole premise of the plot is that the guy in the red blazer decides to learn about Mahatma Gandhi in order to impress the girl, whose grandfather (and hence, her, as the dutiful granddaughter) holds Gandhi in high esteem and hosts a sort of club that honors the late leader. Red blazer (whose name is "Munna Bhai") is a con artist and thug of sorts, and lies his way close to the girl. Man, if I had a nickel for everytime that old pretent-you-know-about-Gandhi-to-get-the-girl plotline was used...

What happens is that, in studying to learn more about Gandhi (referred to affectionately as "Bapu," meaning Granddad, by his admirers), Munna Bhai begins to hallucinate conversations with Bapu and starts living his life in accordance with Gandhian values and practices. I know, I know, it still sounds ultra cheesy. And yes, it was. But it was funny, and at times very moving. I, no sucker for romantic comedies, believe me, believe me (!) and usually critical of movies to the point of cruelty, found myself crying a few times as I watched how the introduction of Bapu's ideals changed the lives of the characters. Ultimately, the movie had a strong effect on me. It was so fun and positive and sweet that I left the theater happier than I've ever left a movie since I don't know when.

And the thing is, Gandhi's preachings of peace, goodwill, patience, honesty, humility, empathy...they are all timeless and relevant. I left the theater re-thinking the post I wrote yesterday about my neighbors. I wondered what a peace-loving, patient, honest, humble, empathetic person would do in a similar situation. Oh my, do I feel a "What would Gandhi do?" bumper sticker coming on? No. But I can't say I didn't ask myself the question.

I think I've been short on kindness lately. I think I've let my cynical, critical, yucky poopoo side out to play way too much, even if only in my thoughts, and it leaves me feeling, well, yucky poopoo. I needed last night's kick in the ass, and I'm grateful.

I'm keeping this picture on my desktop for inspiration.

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