Aishwarya Rai in Devdas

You may be wondering, dear reader, of the source of my admiration for Aishwarya Rai, formerly Miss World, now Mrs Bachchan.

It is one of those things that is better seen than described. Below the cut is the film clip of the first scene I ever saw of a Bollywood movie.

Now, to put yourself in the state of mind I was in, go watch all the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies ever made, romantic, fair to the eye, graceful, musical, lyrical. Then wait ten years, meanwhile watching the ugliest and loudest MTV style quick-cut videos ever made, preferably starring Madonna flaunting her unimpressive bosom, so that you are convinced that grace and beauty have disappeared from the Earth forever.

Then come across the following by accident.

I thought I was watching the elf-queen dance by candlelight and rain, and I thought I saw dancing as it should be, where the gestures and poses of the dance mean something, as when the hands of the dancer flicker like flame when she sings of flame, and so on.

In this song, the young lover sings of her long-parted beau, and she has lit a candle and vowed that it should not go out so long as she loves him. By magic, the lamp has burned for ten years, the oil never exhausted. When her friends mock and try to blow out the lamp, love keeps it lit, nor will rain extinguish it.

It did not hurt that the pretty young actress has long dark hair like my beautiful wife, and a smile that is much the same.

For those of you who are curious, here are the lyrics:

SILSILA YE CHAAHAT KA

mausam ne lii a.ngaDaa’ii aa’ii aa’iiThe weather stretches its limbs
laharaake barkha phir chaa’ii chaa’ii Rain ripples and spreads
jho.nka hawaa ka aa’ega aur yeh diya bujh jaa’egaA gust of wind will come and this light will be extinguished.
silsilaa yeh chaahat ka na mai.n ne bujhne diyaa…I haven’t let (the lamp of) our love be extinguished.
o piya yeh diyaa na bujhaa hai na bujhegaaO beloved, this lamp hasn’t been put out, nor will it be.
merii chaahat ka diyaaThe lamp of my desire!
mere piyaa ab aa jaa re mere piyaa…My beloved, come to me now, my love…
is diye sa.ng jal rahaa mera rom rom rom aur jiyaaWith this lamp, every inch of my body is burning
ab aa jaa re mere piyaa Come to me now, lover;
o mere piyaa ab aa jaa re mere piyaaO my love, come to me now, beloved!
faasala thaa duurii thiiThere was distance (between us), a remoteness…
faasala thaa duurii thii thaa judaa’ii ka aalam There was distance (between us), a remoteness, a world of separation;
i.ntazaar me.n nazare.n thii.nmy eyes were fixed in wait for you.
aur tum vahaa.n the tum vahaa.n the tum vahaa.n theAnd you were there…
jhilmilaate jagmagaate khushiyo.n me.n jhuumkarshining, sparkling, swaying in happiness,
aur yahaa.n jal rahe the ham…and here I was, burning for you…
phir se baadal garjaa hai The clouds have thundered again;
garaj garajke barsaa haiwith a great rumble the rains have fallen.
ghuumke tuufaan aaya hai A wandering storm has arrived,
par tujhko bujhaa nahii.n paaya haibut it hasn’t managed to quench you,
o piya yeh diyaa chaahe jitna sataa’e tujheO my love, this light [hasn’t been quenched], however much they torment it —
yeh saawan yeh havaa aur ye bijliyaa.n the rain, the wind, the lightning!
mere piya ab aa jaa re mere piyaMy love, come to me now, my love
o mere piya ab aa jaa re mere piyaO my love, come to me now, beloved
dekho yeh paglii diiwaaniiLook at this crazy girl!
duniyaa se hai yeh anjaaniiShe knows nothing of the world.
jho.nka hawaa ka aa’ega A gust of wind will pass through,
aur iska piya sa.ng laa’egaand bring with it her lover.
o piya ab aa jaa re mere piyaMy love, come to me now, my love
silsila yeh chaahat ka na dil se bujhne diyaaWith all my heart, I didn’t let this (lamp of) love be extinguished
o piya yeh diyaaO love, this light
silsila yeh chaahat ka na dil se bujhne diyaaWith all my heart I didn’t let this (lamp of) love be extinguished
o piya yeh diyaaO love, this light
ae piya piya piyaO beloved, beloved, beloved

 

My second glimpse of this mesmerizing beauty was a song from the same film.

The beauty sharing the duet is named Madhuri
Dixit. I have been told that it is a matter of heated debate among audiences in India as to which is the fairest, similar to a debate here between stout partisans of Elizabeth Tailor versus Marylin Monroe.

In this scene, the one woman is a harlot and the other bound by arranged marriage to a wealthy husband of high caste. The two women, of highest and lowest rank in society, discovering themselves to be in love with the same man, who can wed neither of them, at first hate, but then are reconciled out of compassion to each other.

The dance is a traditional celebration where the two are allowed to meet without scandal, and Aishwarya’s character takes the opportunity to tell Madhuri’s character to wed the disputed man — which explains the look of astonishment on her face at that moment. But in the next line Madhuri (truthfully) says the man loves no one other than her.

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