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March 24, 2006

Access Bollywood

Dil Se DVD
Perhaps the most striking feature of Spike Lee’s INSIDE MAN for me personally came at the opening frames of the Universal logo, when I heard not the traditional circa-1997 fanfare anthem but the opening strains of one of my favorite Bollywood tunes ever, “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” composed by the great A.R. Rahman for Mani Ratnam’s 1998 classic DIL SE… Like the lame Indian film geek that I am, I immediately sprung out of my seat and nudged some of fellow reviewer friends at the screening and explained how incredible this was (and of course received dumbfounded “shut up” looks from most people). Lee even plays more or less the entire track over the whole main title sequence (though the version used sounded like a cross between the slightly abbreviated and punched-up 2002 remix for the Andrew Lloyd Webber-produced Bollywood-themed stage musical BOMBAY DREAMS with the original 1998 film version), and then a faithful new remix version is played over the entire closing crawl; the only major deviation are some additional Terence Blanchard-contributed strings and a couple of surprisingly unobtrusive English rap verses contributed by Panjabi MC.

What will this mean in the ongoing mission to help bring Bollywood to Hollywood? Probably not a whole lot, but it is a step, and I hope if nothing else it draws more attention to the work of Rahman, who has been steadily gaining a western profile via outlets such as BOMBAY DREAMS (currently touring in the U.S.), which incorporates and adapts a number of his more notable Bollywood melodies with new English lyrics (”Chaiyya Chaiyya,” used as a second act curtain-raiser, being the only song with its original Hindi lyrics entirely intact); and the stage musical adaptation of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, which just opened in Toronto. A less likely side effect, though one I’m hoping for, is that people check out the atypically dark and uncompromising DIL SE…, which is a key work from one of the more adventurous filmmakers working in the Indian film industry.

Next time…

…more reviews. As always, check out my home site, Mr. Brown’s Movie Site, for additional reviews.

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