Have you ever seen a Bollywood musical? I have viewed a few over the years. Though I tried mightily, I could not really get into them. There are songs, there are dances, there are wet sari scenes. Sadly, though, I have never managed to feel the POW! that hundreds of millions of Bollywood fans around the globe regularly experience. Until last night.
Last night I saw Mamma Mia, the ABBA movie musical. Mamma Mia is basically a Bollywood musical, only with themes, actors and cultural mores that are highly accessible to Americans. I offer my own experience.
Here's the plot, such as it is. A beautiful American girl (and I mean girl - she doesn't look more than 15 years old) who happens to be living in a run-down yet rustic B&B on a Greek island is getting married to an equivalently young British guy. Both of them are dewy with youth. The girl - her name escapes me - has secretly invited three men from her mom's past, each of whom may be her biological father. Hilarity ensues.
That's about it, plot- and character-wise.
Yet there is so much more! Here's a partial list of what America's first great Bollywood musical offers:
-- All the big ABBA songs, most of which you can sing along with. (And as one sings along, one inevitably thinks, "wow, those ABBA songs were really deep. They are totally about all my own iss-shoes!)"
--Fun line dances for people of all ages!
--Hot young bodies being all exuberant and happy.
--Cute romances between middle-aged people in age-appropriate couplings.
--A wacky old woman in a head scarf who plays the tuba.
--Meryl Streep, who wears overalls, sings and indulges in much physical comedy. (Now she's falling through the roof! Now she's getting drunk! Now she's on a yacht in a dream-ballet number with 40-foot chiffon sleeves trailing behind her in the wind!)
--Mr. Darcy is in it.
--James Bond circa early 1990s is in it.
--A Swedish guy (presumably a famous Swedish actor) is in it, and you see tattoos on his butt.
--There are lots of beautiful shots of the aquamarine Mediterranean, along with charming depictions of humble Greek people going about their humble yet picturesque daily routines.
--Christine Baranski gets all crazy with a young guy with a gigantic Afro.
--It's pro-gay in a fun, charming way.
--And the list goes on!!!
Mamma Mia won't cause you to change your life or career, but luckily there are miraculous self-help books available elsewhere for that purpose (hint, hint).
Mamma Mia isn't Six Characters in Search of an Author. What it is, is a big, delightful, perfectly harmonized, life-loving TREAT! It's a big chocolate cake for the soul, with no remorse afterwards. Feel free to quote me on this.
I predict MASSIVE overseas sales and acclaim. I already have visions of people in Manila, Beirut and Tel Aviv digging it together.
The Mamma Mia movie made me happy and glad to be alive. And if that's not the essence of Bollywood, I don't know what is.