Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Five Best Bollywood/Tollywood Musical Numbers

Fifth Anniversary Special

Ah, there is something to be said about being American.  I can come at the Bollywood/Tollywood films from a thoroughly Western worldview, neither dismissive of these productions or so immersed in them.

I confess to not really knowing the major differences between a Tegulu-language film and a Hindi-language film apart from the actual language (which to my Germanic/Romantic trained ears would be indistinguishable). 

I have seen as of today four Indian films: Dookudu, The Business Man, SVCV, and Krrish 3.  Out of those, only the last one is an actual Bollywood film (and even that one is more an action/superhero movie than what I would call a bona-fide Bollywood movie). 

It's clear therefore, that someone of my limited background would not be in a position to say a particular Tolly/Bollywood number would be particularly brilliant.  For this list, therefore, I will mark the ones from the four films above that I genuinely liked.  That's really the only criteria for my selections: the music, the dancing, and how close or far it kept to my idea of a Tolly/Bollywood number.  I counted a total of twenty-three songs to which to choose from.

I'm at pains to say this is no way to mock Indian cinema.  In fact, I've grown rather enamored of it, even if I truly don't understand anything being said.  That is something I should point out: I really have no idea what the lyrics are, so don't expect me to figure them out for you. Just enjoy the melody and the dancing.

With that, let's get the countdown going...


Krrish Krrish (Theme to Krrish 3)

I can't technically count Krrish Krrish a Bollywood number because the song played over the closing credits.  However, I found it wildly infectious and danceable.  It has stuck in my memory, as has Krrish 3 itself (an odd mixture of Spider-Man and X-Men Indian-style). 


Poovai Poovai (Dookudu)

This is what I understand is called an 'item number', a big splashy musical moment that has little to absolutely nothing to do with whatever plot the film has.  Still, even though there is nothing in the song Poovai Poovai that furthers the plot (which it has in common with some songs in American musicals), it is if nothing else, LAVISH.  The crowd seemed to love it too, letting out whistles and whoops during the number.

As a side note, it is fascinating to watch Mahesh Babu perform.  His dancing has a lot of small gestures and moments rather than something explosive like a Fred Astaire.  Looking at Poovai Poovai or other Prince Mahesh numbers, he has a fascination with flipping his collar and doing very small physical movements (like flipping his hands)  His dance steps are well-done, but I would put him as a minimalist.


Raghupati Raghav (Krrish 3) 
With Raghupati Raghav, at least I can say that the song was if not integral to the plot at least made sense within the film.  This big number comes after Krishna, the secret identity of our hero Krrish (you can see where he got the name) has come in to a surprise birthday party.  As a 'gift', he's just been told that he is going to be a father.  That's enough to make ANY man break out into song and dance.
Now, I heard bits of English and even Spanish, which I found amusing.  It's a big joyful number that again has stuck with me, and one of Krrish 3's highlights. 
Nee Dookudu (Dookudu)
You never forget your first time, do you.  Nee Dookudu was the first Tollywood musical number I saw (even if I thought it was a Bollywood movie.  Apologies, but I'm a Westerner who wouldn't know the difference until pointed out to me.  Granted, I thought "Dookudu" was the main character's name throughout the whole film, but in my defense I managed to follow the plot without subtitles or dubbing.
At least, I THINK I managed to follow the plot...
Aamchi Mumbai (The Businessman)
Whilst Dookudu was an action/musical/comedy, The Businessman was as dark a Tollywood film as I've seen, one that got down into the gritty of the criminal underworld.  There was a cynical, hard tone to this film, one that was as far removed from the joy of Dookudu as possible.  It made me respect Superstar Mahesh in terms of his acting: to go from the happy policeman in Dookudu to the hard and dark crime lord in The Businessman.
The Businessman I felt was something of an Indian Objectivist film, where 'rational self-interest' was the main character's motivation for everything he did.   The argument Mahesh Babu's character proposes is that the police NEED the criminals, otherwise they are useless.  Aamchi Mumbai may not jibe with what I took as India's take on Ayn Rand, but to me, it was an angry, defiant song.  I could picture it being the theme to Occupy Mumbai (if there were such a thing). 
God Allah Aur Bhagwan (Krrish 3)
Now THIS to me is a Bollywood number.  Big, lavish, colorful to the Nth Degree, one would think this would be the big closing number.
In truth, God Allah Aur Bhagwan comes in the middle of the film.  To set up the scene, our superhero Krrish has just saved the city (I think it's Mumbai) from being poisoned en masse by spreading his father's antidote through the city thanks to his superspeed (he leaped from roof to roof and released it through the air).  In gratitude, a monument is built in his honor, and a humbled Krishna can only look on while the citizens heap praise on his alter ego.  In a spirit of ecumenicalism, the Christian God, the Muslim Allah and the Hindu deity Bhagwan are all thanked in having sent this special being, Krrish, to bless them all.  The villains, dare I call them 'mutants', are displeased about this turn of events (hence the destruction of the lab while the city celebrates their deliverance).
I want to point out that the man in the driver's cap is the scientist who came up with the cure and the man with the black vest is his son.  In reality, they are both played by the same actor, Hrithik Roshan.  It's a credit to Roshan that he made both believable in the film.   Curiously, Roshan has a similar dancing 'tick' as his counterpart Babu.  While Mahesh loves to flip his collar or some other article of clothing, Roshan has that fist-pumping dance bit which he seems to use a lot.
God Allah Aur Bhagwan is what I think of when I think 'Bollywood'.   


  1. Hey Rick, Love reading your blog and probably one of the few Indians who does (or the only one?).

    Being a Telugu guy and also a follower of Bollywood movies. I find your reviews surprisingly accurate even though you don't follow the language at all.

    Now about this list. You should definitely listen to more Tollywood and Bollywood numbers. I'm not saying that this is a bad list because it isn't. With your limited knowledge of Tolly and Bolly movies your choices are quite good. I also totally agree with your 5 Worst Bollywood/Tollywood Musical Numbers.

    What I mean to say is there are some amazing composers in Telugu and Hindi which you should check out. The composers which you've been exposed to till now are frankly garbage now.

    So here are 2 composers you should check out if you're interested in listening to more.

    1. Sneha Khanwalkar- Bollywood

    2. Devi Sri Prasad- Tollywood

    Would love to read your thoughts on these composers since I find your views very interesting.

    Also just a minor correction. It's "Telugu" not "Tegulu".

    1. First, I suspect you are probably about the only Indian reader I have, and it's good to know for an American I'm not too far off the mark. I'll check those composers out to see how they are.

      Thank you for reading, and for understanding that as an American of Mexican descent, my knowledge of Indian cinema is rather limited (though UTEP has a large Indian student population of which we are all proud of, for UTEP is among the best engineering schools in America). In fact, I think the only reason Mahesh Babu or Hrithik Roshan films play at all here is because of the Indian students.

      Unfortunately, there is only one theater that shows Bolly/Tollywood films, and they appear infrequently and sometimes leave w/in a week. I'm therefore limited in what I can see.

      Finally, as for my misspelling of "Telugu" vs. "Tegulu", I apologize. I have a touch of dyslexia that sometimes causes misspellings. It doesn't affect my day-to-day writing but sometimes my mind fixates on certain words and no matter how often I'm corrected they keep getting misspelled. Unfortunately, Telugu is one of them. I'll work to spell it correctly but can't promise I won't get it wrong in the future.


Views are always welcome, but I would ask that no vulgarity be used. Any posts that contain foul language or are bigoted in any way will not be posted.
Thank you.