What Bollywood Can Teach You About India: Baar Baar Dekho Edition

“Siddarth Malhotra has a love affair with Katrina Kaif. Their ups and downs is basically the entire movie.”- IMDB description of Baar Baar Dekho

“I feel it is important not to get overly obsessed and overly carried away with just the physical aspect. There is more to beauty than just the physical appearance. You are also a complete person, and a woman should have an identity beyond just the way she looks.” -Katrina Kaif

If alien life got it’s hands on most movies, regardless of the country of origin, and then came to  Earth, I think they would be rather disappointed at how the expectations don’t support the reality, attractiveness-wise. Because if you only knew the human race through film you would think we were all really really pretty. It’s a well acknowledged truth that stars have to be attractive, with some exceptions, rarely, frankly, female. I guess when you spend a few hours looking at a giant version of a person, you prefer for that person to be as anatomically symmetrical as possible. If Shakespeare’s tragedies were all about nobles, then our love stories are all about pretty people. If we wanted to watch mediocre looking people fall in love, I guess we would just look at ourselves, right?

I’ve talked more than once on this blog about colonialism. It’s almost like it’s a theme…so when we discuss a recent Bollywood film, Baar Baar Dekho, it would be impossible not to talk about one of its two stars, Katrina Kaif. Who is Katrina Kaif? If you aren’t India, you probably don’t know who the hell she is.

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Not to worry! That is, in fact, why I am here! Ms. Kaif is a half-British half-Kashmiri lady who grew up in England and has taken the Bollywood industry by storm with her leggy beauty, moderately competent dance moves, and total lack of acting talent. She originally spoke very little Hindi, and was dubbed by better hindi speakers in her films, because dubbing is a real thing that still happens in India and everyone is very okay with it despite the fact that it is appalling to those of us raised with Singing In The Rain as our filmmaking template. Seriously, dubbing? Is still a thing? COME. ON. You have two jobs, actors. Moving where they want you to move, and saying what they want you to say. You get great clothing, and people slap the food away from your hands, and lots of people want to have sex with you. HOW IS DUBBING STILL A THING?

Beyond that, there is a surprisingly large group of Indian actresses who are basically British, in nationality and upbringing, which makes them citizens, ps, and somehow that gives them easy entrance into Bollywood. It’s almost like there is still this feeling that the British are better than other people so someone who is half British or raised in England is somehow superior to other people. This is a personal theory. But…also could totally be a thing. How is that ALSO still a thing?

AND HOW IS THIS ACTRESS WHO LITERALLY CANNOT ACT HER WAY OUT OF A GUCCI BAG A THING AS WELL?

Funny you should ask.

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This is how Katrina looks when you, like, don’t get it.

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This is how.

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This is also how.

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It’s like no one has seen a woman in a swimsuit before. Seriously.

This is one of the best paid female stars in Bollywood.

In the US you would totally have had to release a sex tape to become a Katrina-level symbol without, you know, genuine ability. But that’s India for you! So anyway. This is Katrina. Accept it, it’s happening. She’s a whole thing. When aliens come, she might be their queen. Until then? Feel free to feel all the feelings. GOD KNOWS I DO.

TO THE MOVIE! I got a chance to see this one in Singapore, in a theater with subtitles, so I don’t have screenshots, just movie stills. Lame. We shall all have to carry on!

So. Baar Baar Dekho means “Look Look Again”, which…will not end up having much to do with the movie at all. That’s going to be a theme, things not making sense, things happening once and never coming around again. It’s a magical magical world of mystical things. Get excited.

In the first five minutes of this movie, we get all that backstory that we will ostensibly need to understand what this story is about in a dreamy montage under a song. Jai grows up in India, while Diya (whose mixed-culture parents seem strangely unhappy all the time and I thought this was foreshadowing divorce because the Indian dad just couldn’t deal with the British mom until they moved to Delhi and suddenly were all smiles again) meets him at a young age. Lesson one! Intercultural relationships can be saved by a move to Delhi!

They are best friends, sharing candy and what not, and swinging in a field on a wooden swing because that seems like something that could regularly happen in pollution-clogged Delhi. Alright. Jai and Diya move from playing doctor to, uh, playing doctor, that is, having a bunch of sex as teenagers. Jai’s father also dies at some point, and he has a brother who we do not see until much later but don’t worry that will never truly matter. All that matters is these two crazy kids rolling around and loving each other like crazy! Lesson two! Love is the most important thing as long as it’s for a lover and not pesky people like family members etc.

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Sidenote, young Diya has glasses, which look amazing on Katrina, almost like she is a real live person with thoughts and feelings, and young Jai (Siddarth Malhotra, oh we will get to him, don’t worry) doesn’t have glasses, but then later he does and she doesn’t? I guess that’s how couples work? Maybe Mr. India and I will just, like, switch prescriptions soon. Lesson three! A couple can only have one pair of glasses in India. Choose wisely!

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Anyway, these two have literally never spoken to anyone their own age but each other, according to this introduction. It’s like Flowers in the Attic without the incest! Jai is into math, as evidenced by the fact that he writes numbers on windows (where I come from we call this vandalism) and Diya is…well she ends up being an artist but we have no idea how that happened. Just more Katrina magic, I guess!

So as grown ups, Jai, in a sweet vest but no jacket like a douche, is giving a lecture on some math something, and all his female students are trying to screw him with their eyes, like that scene in Indiana Jones except in no way as clever.

Our India Jones here gamely keeps describing math things, and somehow this makes him two and a half hours late to his long-time girlfriend’s first ever art opening AT WHICH SHE IS DECLARED THE NEW FACE OF MODERN INDIAN ART! Damn, artistic success is easy in India! Legit not a single show and already a game changer. Lesson number 4! The Indian art scene is super easy to break into! Lesson number 5! Traffic in Delhi is appalling. I’ve learned that firsthand.

Diya’s work is this weird pseudo-silk screen stuff with like geometric designs and mandalas and photographs of Indian ladies from the past. It’s not great, but I wouldn’t hate it in a waiting room for a doctor’s office, or in a dimly lit hotel bar. She’s no Amrita Sher Gil, that’s for damn sure. BUT! It DOES up our jobs for women counter by one! Yes, there is one job for women representing in this movie! For those playing along at home, we have Doctor, Migrant Worker Turned Sex Slave, Calendar Girl, Actress, Model and NOW Visual Artist! People say she’s a painter but we never see paint (or work or tools of any kind) so let’s just assume she’s a visual artist and leave it there. We will be thinking this through at LEAST as much as the production team for this movie did!

Anyway, Diya is not thrilled about her dumb mathematician boyfriend’s complete inability to tell time but she forgives him because he throws a flower at her or whatever. They sit at a restaurant celebrating her opening that he missed and somehow, despite the fact that they must have entered together, he asks if she ordered him food, like, did she call ahead I guess? And she says yes, all things covered in butter, because he wants to have a heart attack asap. Lesson number 6! Indian mathematicians have no concept of basic nutrition. Because she knows how much butter he likes, he mentions they are like a married couple and that’s her opening! Girlfriend wants him to lock it down. He likes it, put a damn ring on it.

Here is where this movie gets weird. He has known this girl his whole life. Presumably they exchanged v-cards, what with all that rolling around they did in the opening montage/song nonsense. More than that, he has to know her, like, life goals. The movie implies they literally have been besties forever. But suddenly he is like, marriage, you say? Is that an island off the coast of Portugal? We can go there, sure! He asks to think about it, looking like she’s just tried to peg him. Look, it’s totally understandable that in a couple who have been together for a long time and met super young one person would be ready for a commitment that the other would not be. But is it really realistic that they wouldn’t discuss it? Ever? That she at no point would have been like, I would like you and I and a priest to get together for TWELVE HOURS and we circle the fire and walk out hitched! (There will never be a HIndu Vegas equivalent for this reason, I’m telling you.)

Then, he meets her dad. Again, someone he seems to have known since the age of six who he is looking at like “the hell are you stranger danger?”. Lesson number 7! Amnesia is very common in Indian mathematicians. He is like, I got this job offer to teach at Cambridge! Gotta take it!

That is where we are all like, Cambridge? Really? That’s your big one? No, it’s great, but you are a mathematician, dude. Don’t you want MIT? CalTech? Stanford? Zurich? That being said, when you google “best math universities” Cambridge comes up so….that’s clearly what the people making this movie did. Also, I guess, because Jai has fantasies of the days of the Raj. Lesson number 8, you can take the British out of India….

But Diya’s dad is like, eff that noise, son! If Diya wanted to go in England she would totally already BE in England because she has a British passport! (Ummmm, doesn’t he know about her work in the Indian art scene? What is this family?) Jai and Diya’s dad then debate about what Diya wants without talking to her one time and it’s uncomfortable. Her dad is like, her life is in Delhi! Jai is like, my work is in Cambridge! Diya says nothing because she is not there. COME on.

To the wedding! Jai hates it. He’s like, we said it would be intimate! There only seem to be about fifty guests there so who knows what his problem, there were over 300 people at my Indian wedding, or so it seemed, and everyone was like, what a nice intimate affair and I cried on the inside a bunch. Jai is having tantrums all over the place, mostly while people are measuring him (which is also strange because the wedding is the next day so why is a tailor still taking his inseam and why is he trying on hats and stuff? These don’t feel like last-minute decisions. Lesson number 9! For your Indian wedding, have an elaborate suit made same day! Avoids all stress about weight fluctuation! Costs a little more but it’s worth it!

Everyone is like, the hell, Jai, you are marrying the best person! Don’t you see how hot she is? (That second part is the subtext). His friend Raj (Rohan Joshi, a comedian who is in the movie for NO APPARENT REASON) and his wife who is not given a name so I will dub her….Bookcase! (Sayani Gupta, who I personally love, ps, she was in this short film called Leeches which is amazing and she is amazing, watch the trailer here, it’s super excellent) shows up and is like, what’s your deal, dude, you are acting like a non-real movie person! But Raj doesn’t understand! Jai wants to go to CAMBRIDGE and do VEDIC MATHS because apparently that can affect SPACE TRAVEL because this movie does not really know how academia works. Actually that probably could be possible, but this movie really doesn’t know how Cambridge works. Or how being a mathematician works. If he could affect space travel, wouldn’t that offer have been from NASA? Or a school with any kind of space program attached? COME. ON.

Jai also pisses off the pandit (priest conducting the ceremony the following day) by being like, do we have to do seven circles? Can we do three? I’m in a rush. RUDE. I did seven circles, Jai! You think I didn’t have other stuff I could have been doing with my time? You think you’ve the only person who has ever sat through an Indian wedding and thought, is all this necessary? You think Diya couldn’t be using that time to make her terrible Pottery Barn art? For a mathematician ostensibly interested in astrophysics, you sure think the world revolves around your ass.

Lesson number 10 starts now, but doesn’t kick in until later. Do not piss off your pandit. He will mess you up.

Anyway, they have a dance number which shows everyone how hot Diya is, so Jai looks like even more of a dick.

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Her jewelry is actually pretty great in this scene, though, her whole outfit is just on point and I love this style and her printed lengha combo. Don’t judge, this song was dumb, I had to keep myself invested somehow!

Diya then takes Jai to the apartment she has bought for the two of them with help from her father and he has a total meltdown, shouting about how he wants other things in his life rather than marriage and a family and what about his math dreams, Diya? His Cambridge math dreams? This is, yet again, a moment where this makes literally no sense because if they are people who have known each other forever then why doesn’t he just tell her about his interest in working abroad? Why didn’t he tell her when he applied for the damn job? Jobs don’t just COME to you, there isn’t a bat signal out there for academics. You apply to them. I tell Mr. India when I order a new pair of shoes. I sure as hell am not making professional plans without at least dropping him a TEXT. What is this relationship? I guess it’s mostly sex and swinging on that swing they have in the middle of Delhi somewhere.

Lesson number 11! Successful Indian relationships are based on a total lack of conversations about lives, goals, futures or needs.

ANYway. This scene is so painful to watch because these two people are just. So. Bad. At. Acting. You can seriously see Kaif trying to make herself cry over and over again and then the camera just blurs focus kindly, like, it’s okay, baby, it’s okay, we can edit around all this I promise. I liked Malhotra in Kapoor and Sons, but here he has the emotive qualities of dry wood. So they “fight” and “feel” things and declare their relationship over and Diya leaves and Jai gets drunk on like a sip of champagne because he is bad at drinking, just like every other damn thing he’s bad at. Diya, you have no personality but you are hot as hell. You can do better. I promise. Move on.

Diya does not take my advice. Instead, Jai passes out because he’s again, terrible at drinking, and wakes up ten days later on his honeymoon in Thailand. Some guys just can’t handle Delhi, am I right? No, it’s a time travel thing he can’t control. That’s the whole premise of the movie. The audience finds this out slowly over the course of the next hour or so but it’s so mind-numbingly stupid I’m just going to tell you right now. Basically Jai pissed off that priest, (remember lesson number 10?) so the guy, Rajit Kapoor, who is WASTED in this movie, is taking his revenge by pushing Jai through time and forcing him to realize that people are more important than math. Or something. Sort of? Basically, Jai is about to go screw up his whole like by focusing more on work than his marriage, his children, etc. We are going to see this in a series of jumps to the future.It isn’t doing to make any kind of damn sense mostly because yet again THAT’S NOT HOW BEING A PROFESSOR WORKS! If this guy was going to be an investment banker, a surgeon, something that legit takes up all your damn time then SURE, fine, why not? Or if they ever showed him doing actual mathematical research, caring about a theory, working on it, obsessively searching for answers, SURE, I GUESS do. But given that neither of those two things are happening, I call bullshit on this whole situation. Look, anyone can be a self-absorbed asshole of a parent. You don’t need MATH to be that way. You can just…be that way. ARGGGGH.

Ahem. Back to it then, shall we? So honeymoon in Thailand, because Diya and Jai are Indian basic bitches. Lesson number 12, Indians love honeymoons in Thailand. Give Vietnam a try, guys! They dance around and Kaif looks aMAHzing and sings this song that the guy I saw this movie played thirty more times in the next three days after we saw the movie. He is not Mr. India. But I did almost kill him.

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She does the dumbest dance but what does it matter, she looks so insanely good. She wears like five outfits in this song and none of them cover her midriff.

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This swimsuit is so cute. They laugh and sing and dance and whatever, and Diya asks Jai why he loves her and he says “because you’re my wife” and she does not immediately slap him so she’s a better woman than I.

When he next wakes up, it’s two years later and they are in England and she’s about to give birth and furious that he wont wake up and drive her to the hospital. We know it’s England because it’s snowing but when he gets to the hospital it’s a bright sunny summer day. Long drive, I guess. She has the baby and Jai also realizes the pandit is there (that’s real commitment to a relationship, does he does this for all the people he marries to each other? Lesson 13! After an Indian wedding, your pandit is going to be real invested in your life! Get ready!) and tries to work out how math is taking him forward in time but really just uses a white board to write “Ten Days-Two years”. It’s that kind of brilliance that probably made him so attractive to Cambridge.

He keeps going forward into the future. Lesson 14! In the future, we all have to dye part of our hair a weird color. I know, I know, I don’t want to either but what can we do, it’s the rules. He realizes he will eventually get a divorce from Diya, which horrifies him.

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Surprise to no one, future Diya keeps it tight, future Jai moves towards a beard and sweater vest situation.

He tried to figure out how this will happen, but misses the basic facts of being a non-present father to his two children (he gets a second one in there somewhere) and husband and instead assumes he has an affair with his friend Bookcase. Remember her? Love her. In avoiding said affair by…spending a bunch of time with Bookcase (Jai’s logic must be math logic that is too intense and mystical and vedic for the rest of us I guess) Jai misses Diya’s London premiere art show ( I can’t even….). Jai, you aren’t missing much, her work has literally not evolved in any way. Also, sidenote, the gallery owner tells her all the work sold that first night. I guess a lot of overpriced cafes needed wall art. Anyway, Jai thinks he’s fixed it by not having an affair, conveniently forgetting the way he let his wife down, ignored his daughter and missed his son’s soccer game. Sigh.

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Once again, Kaif tries and fails to cry.

Jai wakes up old at his mother’s funeral and although he thought he had fixed his marriage, Diya has in fact left him for that gallery owner who sold all her art. The age make up is excellent and the future looks cool with digital curtains and this very interesting cremation situation. But that hair thing is still there, sigh. Maybe I’ll do like a teal or something. Keep it fun.

Jai then lives the day of Diya’s London gallery opening once again, but this time he realizes he should spend less time avoiding an affair with bookcase by spending all his time with bookcase and more time being a decent human being. It works! He is finally returned to Delhi (ugh, bummer) and wakes up, hungover from that one bottle of champagne, and goes off to find Diya and apologize.

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She takes him back because she knows no other way, and they marry. He thanks that priest who is like, see, I told you, magic is better than math, am I right? Sure. That’s the take home here.

Then, they do a song that was released two months before the film itself and made people feel this movie would be a fun and funny romp, instead of the sweltering logically screwed nonsense that it is.

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sayani-rohan-759Raj and Bookcase! She’s so cute. Love her.

So, 14 lessons means it’s a little light on the learning opportunities, but upside we got a new job out of it for women. How did this do on the Bechtel test? Massive massive fail. Actually, as I think about it, not only does Diya not speak to other WOMEN, Diya barely speaks to ANYONE in this movie other than Jai! Not her parents, not her supposed friends, a line here and there but mostly she only exists in scenes with Jai. OH my god, what if she really DOES only exist in Jai’s mind?!?! Not only would that account for Kaif’s frightening lack of human emotions but it would also make this a MUCH more interesting movie! She’s a ghost-fantasy-sex dream! That’s why she’s so hot! That’s why nothing makes sense! It’s all Jai’s dream! That’s brilliant!

Or not.

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Shhhh. Just look at her perfect stomach and forget the rest. That’s clearly what we are all supposed to be doing here, anyway.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “What Bollywood Can Teach You About India: Baar Baar Dekho Edition

  1. Pingback: What Bollywood Can Teach You About India: Dear Zindagi Edition | Sorry I'm Not Saree

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