Introducing a new weekly column by Minoo Shah where she will present her unique take on life of the Nouveau Riche Indians. Enjoy
As a teen, I identified with Jaya Bhaduri (now Bachchan). All her movies from Guddi to Shor were juxtaposed in my dreams. Then came Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi and sans the height all I could do was hang their posters in my room and sport their hairstyles – remember the long, straight hair? No straightening irons then so the ‘istree’ did the job. Sunday afternoons with friends taking turns and verandahs shrieking with many a howl when an ear was singed, or a forehead scarred.
Fast forward to age 20, marriage to an NRI and subsequent move to the land of Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood and Terence Hill! Remember this blue-eyed heartthrob form spaghetti westerns? True story, in my first year in the US, I got to meet him at a premiere and shamelessly gushed over him. Somewhere archived are these special snapshots. Moments like that serving a temporary penchant but leaving unresolved that aching need for a ‘mara-mari’ scene where Editorjee and Sound masterjee never quite harmonised the sequence.
Nostalgia forthwith, here I am, in my senior years looking back at the last 40 years. What do I recall? Setting aside two weekends a month to attend a Bollywood show starring actors like Amitabh Bachchan, SRK, Salman Khan, Abhishek Bachchan and Vivek Oberoi or concerts featuring Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsale, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shreya Ghosal and Sonu Nigam. What is this magical pull of Bollywood for NRIs, you ask? Well, it transports us back to a world we left behind.
This obsession with Bollywood amongst NRIs stems from a need to resurrect our youth and relive giggly teenage days. Although, Hollywood has its own charm, somehow, I do not see myself as Charlize Theron and yes, I did have a middle age crush on George Clooney, but again, he was no Amitabh Bachchan. George Clooney and Brad Pitt could momentarily distract us but they did not have the Svengali-like charisma of Ajay Devgan or the deep baritone of Amitabh Bacchhan nor the lazy-eyed romantic come hither look of SRK.
But for nought, life has come to a screeching halt with the advent of this pandemic that has taken away life’s simple pleasures from us retired NRIs living off of Uncle Sam’s monthly moolah (which we rightfully contributed to during our working days). Before this China-propelled infestation took over globally including our hometown of Houston, Texas, we thronged to an AMC (multiplex cinema theatre) on a weekday, armed with chai, pakoras and theplas. For 2.5 hours we became whistling, heckling ‘taporis’. It was a common site to see an Uncle-looking grey-haired male jump to the screen and mimic the moves to Salman Khan’s Dabang or a Sheila Aunty shaking a hip to ….’my name is Sheila… (sic!). Even the punk ushers (of non-Indian origin) sat down and watched the movies with us and comically rose a brow when a Champaben here or a Sukhwinder there yelled across aisles, “pass the chai, year.” The manager too joined at times and I have personally heard him sing in unison to Siddhartha, Varun and Alia’s, ‘Radha teri Chunri…’. Alas, Covid is here to stay for a few more months in Texas (even though Governor Abbott screams that it’s a hoax) with nary a care for a cowboy or a desi. We are resigned with a heavy heart but full of hope that those happy days will return soon and until such time, ‘Bollywood, be aware that we await your return with bated breath while watching re-runs of Mahabharat just like our compatriots back in Mumbai.