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Brett Foster

My Favorite Bollywood Film

It includes a suicide, but is handled funnily.
It's very earthy, sort of c'est la vie.
There's also robotics, ladders,
dorm-room pranks, and labor—
I mean a young woman who goes into labor—
a dramatic birth scene, and scootering.
Everything matters, and nothing.
It's about karma. The whole thing.
Some characters go crazy and are crazily
singing: prandial tomfoolery, and also cranial.
Themes keep expanding like manifest destinies,
like the odes of Hölderlin, or amended tax codes.
A thermos haunts the film, unopened in multiple scenes.
Soon a monsoon comes, can first be seen
blurring the coast. Its coming, I realize now,
must have been timed with most sensitive care
as some scary, humongous symbol
of the woman's water breaking.
What I haven't given yet is a good impression
of the sheer willynillyness of its offered world,
full of color if not comfort. All of those gods
with their many arms coming out of the woodwork.
It's a lot like the Greeks, methinks, this Indian
sensationalism: divinities capricious but fertile.
When the plot finally gets way out of hand,
with all the guests dusting the buffet for prints,
the director invokes a cinematic mercy rule
(called the "slaughter rule" in Little League baseball),
or it could be so called, if what we meant
were rules maintained by an air-tight, steel-trap
system determined by the strictest, most relentless logic.

—Brett Foster is the author of The Garbage Eater (Northwestern Univ. Press).

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