Random Movie: Shaadi Se Pehle

Friday, April 10th, ©2009 Marcus Brooks

I’ve noticed the Netflix “instant” list always includes a number of foreign, independent, or just plain offbeat shows—stuff Americans might not even find at the art cinema. One item that caught my eye recently was a 2006 Bollywood flick named Shaadi Se Pehle.

Judging from reviews I found here and here, native Hindi viewers might see Shaade Se Pehle (meaning “before the marriage”) as a rather unremarkable musical comedy that starts with an interesting premise but doesn’t really follow through.

So what do I, a jaded viewer of slick, high budget Hollywood productions, think of Shaade Se Pehle?

I loved it!

Because the film is so entirely foreign to me, I totally missed those aspects of Shaade Se Pehle that reviewers found tired or unoriginal. For me, it was a little like being a kid again, seeing movies for the first time. Remember what that was like? For a short time, kids can enjoy just about everything they see, because it’s all brand new. For that brief time, there’s no such thing as cliche or stereotype. Ennui has to be learned.

I still have no idea what native Indians might see in the movie. Not only is the spoken language strange to me, so also is the cinematic language. The photography is mostly high-key, with brilliant, saturated colors. The music is rhythmic, much like European dance music, but with strange almost strident overtones. What I could catch of the writing seemed almost self-consciously poetic. Was the acting broad, or expressive? To what extent are these ho-hum features in the Bollywood cinematic language? Darned if I know, but I liked it!

It could be, as I expand my knowledge of foreign cinema, that I will come to view Shaade Se Pehle as simple lightweight fluff. I might feel a bit embarrassed that I enjoyed it; just as I feel that way about some Hollywood movies I enjoyed as a kid. But even if that happens, I won’t regret the enjoyment. I’ll just stop talking about it!

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