Thursday, March 1, 2007

Jolly Good, Bollywood!

Fish and chips have been supplanted by chicken tikka masala as Britain's favorite dish. And now comes the news that the country's South Asian wave has hit the theater and popular culture. The BBC reports Bollywood dancing has really caught on in Yorkshire.

White English youths are crazy about it in this northern county. We're talking about James Herriot territory, here! The land of Siegfried, James and Tristan!

Young Yorshire folk love Bollywood dancing, described as "a fusion of Indian classical dancing with Western dance moves".

"It's exciting, its physically testing, it's graceful and above all it's fun," says one teenager, auditioning to dance in a play called Bollywood Jane.

Alastair Lawson writes, "It seems as if the people of Yorkshire have embraced Bollywood with the same kind of enthusiasm that many cricket fans in India have for the batsman Geoffrey Boycott. The mention of his name in India still prompts the refrain of "eh up Geoffrey".

Relations between the two cultures have not always been cordial. I was reminded of this recently when I watched David Lean's A Passage to India, and re-read E.M. Forster's novel of the same title. Another recent movie night, I discovered Lagaan, a good example of the ambigious relationship between the Indians and their colonizers. Still, the cultural flow of ideas between the two peoples has been rich, with examples ranging from mundane to profound. Did you know it was the British who are responsible for the word curry? Hard to imagine curry coming from anyone but Asians, isn't it?

Indian song and dance seem an excellent addition to Britain's culture.

One of my favorite movies, Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice, successfully translated a beloved English novel into the Bollywood idiom. Director Mira Nair brought some Indian elements into her film of Thackeray's Vanity Fair. That may have betrayed authenticity, but the result was visually very appealing.

Very much my cuppa chai.

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