by Zenisha Gonsalves
When we had lived in the same room long enough that we could tell when the other was going to be cranky, but not long enough that we knew any significantly strange things about each other, my Mauritian roommate, Bhinusha, discovered that I didn’t know who Kishore Kumar was. When I looked up from my laptop, and asked her, “Who is this Kishori Kumar?” she blurted out in her then very French accent, “Kishori? You mean Kishore? You’re joking, right? What! This is not possible! Do you know who Amitabh Bachchan is? Tell me you know who Amitabh Bachchan is!”
Gleefully, I soon learned that she didn’t know who Elvis Presley was, and ran to tell the girls in hostel (who now called me Kishori) this divine bit of news. A few were shocked, others nodded, some asked me whether I had had lunch, and Bhinu was never called Elvis, much to my disappointment. Later, when I made her listen to I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You, she said, “Oh, I think I’ve heard this!”
Over the course of two years, Bhinu also learned that I hadn’t watched Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Hum Saath Saath Hain, and every other Bollywood movie that someone who was born in the early 90s should have seen. Each time she asked me whether I had watched one of these films, my response inevitably became, “Is that the one where Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol watch a movie in the rain, on a big screen in a park?” (Don’t ask me which movie I got this image from – I’m beginning to think that I must have watched The Wedding Planner as a child, and replaced Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey with Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan, in my mind).
Bhinu suggested that we watch DDLJ together, so we put her laptop between our beds and peered at Shah Rukh Khan trying to race an airplane, from under our blankets. We watched the movie off of a VCD – one of her many Bollywood movies that she keeps in a bag above her bookshelf; and when I took out a notebook and pen, Bhinu looked at me suspiciously, as if to say, “You will not write bad things about this movie.” But outside, the rain was falling on roads that already felt more familiar.
There are so many things to love about Simran Singh. I love that she only wails louder when Raj tries to comfort her by saying, “Main hoon, na?” and when they miss the train, she runs away from him with a speed and strength that people in movies rarely run with. But there are other reasons to suspect that she is a superhero is disguise – only Simran Singh can go from falling into a train, to reading, in 1.2 seconds. She is such a wonderfully angry character. After Raj unsuccessfully hits on her and her friend (using the same corny line about how he plays the piano), she makes it her mission to embarrass him in front of everyone at the party, insisting that he play at the piano on stage. When it turns out that hecan play the piano, she is impressed only for a split second, before she is disappointed in her failure to humiliate him.
I haven’t seen many movies or TV shows in which a pair of sisters have made me wish that I had one, but Simran and Rajeshwari did. We are introduced to Rajeshwari one morning as she is philosophising about the world at breakfast, while her mother packs her multi-coloured schoolbag for her. As the movie progresses, she keeps Simran’s secret, puts her sister’s belittling-hunter-fiancé in his place – “My name is Rajeshwari Singh. Miss Rajeshwari Singh” – and is generally assertive with the world. She also tells Simran just what she thinks about hunter-Kuljeet, and that she should marry Raj instead.
Sometime during the movie, Bhinu, who has been texting for a large part of it, is summoned by a friend who wants to borrow her bucket. The girl who wants the bucket has to pretend to an aunt who has dropped into hostel for a surprise visit, that an empty room on the third floor is her room. Her actual room is now locked and hidden amongst other doors of other rooms, and when she opens it after her aunt has left, she will be hit by the smell of stale smoke.
Bhinu makes it back in time to pause the movie at the first “Bade bade deshon mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hein”, all the while seriously instructing me to, “Listen to this line very carefully – it became very famous.” As the film runs its course, I laugh, and frown, and laugh some more, and Bhinu smiles and texts and gets up and stretches. I watch in horror as Simran and Raj get drunk and decide to go for a swim, running around the pool’s edge like every lifeguard’s worst nightmare. I almost fall off the bed laughing when Raj lets Simran think that they have done the unthinkable, the next morning. I even embrace every song and dance in a field as if I were Amrish Puri coming home after twenty years.
Zenisha Gonsalves is a student at St. Joseph’s College of Arts & Sciences, Bangalore. This piece was first published at The Open Dosa.
Image credit: Bollyword