This is a story of a marathon gone either incredibly right, or incredibly wrong. I had a friend over once. The friend is female, around my age, and Finnish, but for the sake of maximum confusion, I shall call them Steve. Steve's seen quite a lot of Bollywood, all sorts, and even if she doesn't actively look up new films, she definitely likes them. It'd been a while since I'd shown her anything new, so I was eager to make her watch something. We had trouble deciding what to watch when I suddenly got an idea.
"I should show you Khiladi," I said. "It's so 90's and it's got Akshay fighting and all that good stuff."
Steve was game for it.
"We'll stop half-way through, though," I added. "The second half is simply really boring."
We began the movie and Steve was enthralled. The cheese! The action! The brilliance of keyboard-composed sound effects! When we got to the part where the plot takes a twist for the worse, she refused to let me stop the film. "Let's just keep watching." And so I suffered through the mediocre suspense plot of the second half, but at least Steve was happy. "I kind of love this film now," she said.
Then I thought I'd again show a bit of Saawariya, to introduce two of Bollywood's newest faces to Steve, who hadn't really seen the really new batch of films. The film may be pretty, but it's also quite a borefest, which even the Khiladi-loving Steve noticed. We remarked on Ranbir's face and acting, and a bit on Sonam, and then I told her that the Region 2 DVD release has an English audio track for the visually impaired - an English narration track of sorts. For laughs, we began watching it.
And then we kind of never stopped, skipping only a few scenes and then finishing the movie. The narration track was just so amusing, getting some things wrong (like saying Salman's character has his hands up "as if he is praying" when he clearly is praying), getting lyrics wrong, and amusing voice overs for Bollywood actors (like Salman's one made him sound like a really perverted older British man). Quite a joy, that audio track, but also bizarre - especially considering how much the visuals are the sole appeal for this film.
Ishq was a film I actually intended to show Steve, after spamming her with links to the songs on Facebook. This is really the quintessential 90's Bollywood film, after all. Not to say it's the best, or even remotely good. But Ishq is what it is; the most over-the-top, outrageously great bad movie you could think of. A story of evil rich people and prejudice against poor people, a story of absolute crazy love, filled with slapstick and silly fashion and a painfully simplistic Anu Malik soundtrack, Ishq is a kind of questionable masterpiece. And it's amazing that a cast so famous, so well-known and acclaimed in terms of acting could come together in a film this bad, where all of them act bad. (Yes, even Aamir. Yes, even Kajol.)
Needless to say, I loved rewatching it, and Steve enjoyed watching it. Tears and monkeys and setting-oneself-on-fire included.
By this point the fact that we were overlooking some really good movies in my collection for some mediocre and lame ones had become an inside joke. There was no chance of this becoming a classy film marathon, I wasn't going to pop in a classic and hope for a sudden turnaround. So utterly randomly, I mentioned Katrina Kaif and then realized Steve hadn't actually seen a film with her in it. Time for Namastey London!
As far as not-great films go, NL is top class, though. The story of Katrina's bratty Brit with Punjabi roots and Akshay's handsome farm bumpkin is brought down a bit by the film's rampant anti-British sentiments. There is only one mildly likable white character, the rest are awful racists and assholes. However, in the love story department, the movie excels. It's just a really lovely, fun watch, the kind of nice film for a rainy day.
And it will never stop being funny that Katrina's assy British boyfriend character is called "Charlie Brown".
But I think I made a mistake in trying to turn our "Crap To Mediocre To So Bad It's Good" marathon into something quite different by popping in an actual very beloved favourite of mine and many others, Jab We Met. My thinking was again one of introduction - Steve hadn't seen a single Shahid Kapoor film, and surely that should be a sin in these post-Kaminey days! Retrospectively I think I should've gone for 36 Chinatown, another Shahid-Kareena film, much more fitting to our silly marathon in terms of quality.
Why do I say this? Because to Steve, this film was very fitting - she absolutely loathed it. She hated both main characters, she didn't like the storyline, she didn't find anything appealling about it, and for me to tell her the film was actually quite popular further confirmed her dislike of it. I can't really remember why she didn't like it; something about the characters simply didn't click with her.
But the tragedy of how bad JWM had gone down, there was nothing that a little high-spirited rock'n'roll couldn't fix, so I put in Rock On!! (presence of Farhan Akhtar helped cure yours truly of all blues as well). While this may not have become the huge, unbelievable favourite that Khiladi was to Steve, she enjoyed this one a lot more than JWM. I think as long-time rock fans it's nice to see enthusiasm for this genre in its rawest form, a simple celebration of music. You can see rock is still somewhat underground in India, but there is buzz around it, and there's enthusiasm among makers and fans, and that's what matters.
It doesn't hurt that the film's solid in terms of acting, direction and just about everything.
We ended the marathon by reading the karaoke lyrics on the DVD's bonus disc for Sinbad the Sailor.
Rock on, Accidental Marathon. Rock on.