Saturday, June 9, 2012

NANHE JAISALMER: You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

Nanhe Jaisalmer, Bobby Deol, Bollywood
Spoiler alert. If you want to see Nanhe Jaisalmer and don’t want the surprise ruined at the end, stop reading now. Oh, did you want to avoid knowing that there is a surprise at the end? Stop two sentences ago.

Nanhe (Dwij Yadav) is a too-cute ten-year-old camel-safari operator in Jaisalmer who supposedly speaks four languages (although we never actually hear him speak anything but Hindi and English). Everyone in Jaisalmer loves him. The tourists love him. But he can’t read and write. Fortunately, many older, wiser people in Jaisalmer make him aware of how important literacy is. There are his neighbors and friends, including the actor I think of as that square-jawed, wild-eyed guy from Lagaan. (No disrespect; I love that guy.) There’s Nanhe’s sister, who knows how much illiteracy has cost their family—and who has therefore been diligent in her studies. There’s Madamji, who teaches the night school where little Nanhe is the only non-adult student.

Rajesh Vivek
I heart Rajesh Vivek!
And there’s Bobby Deol, playing “Bobby Deol” during the High Perm era. Bobby once shot a movie in Jaisalmer and met little Nanhe, and the boy has been fan-mailing him ever since, signing a thumbprint on the letters his sister writes. Now Bobby’s coming back to town for a new shoot, and Nanhe expects their shared history to result in a friendship for the ages. And lo, it comes to pass! Bobby appears, and he waits patiently for Nanhe night after night by the picturesque Jaisalmer pool. He sneaks into Nanhe’s room and has heart-to-hearts.

If you were the kind of child who spent dreary middle-school years imagining that your favorite star would love you without question if s/he only knew you, then you may find that the Bobby-Nanhe relationship is exactly like the friendship you once dreamed of. But assuming that you’re no longer in middle school, you have probably recovered from your desire to be a celebrity’s bosom friend. (Anyway, I have.) So I have to say that l was relieved at the end to learn that [SPOILER SPOILER] Bobby has been a figment of little Nanhe’s imagination all along.

Mick as he was
It’s all about literacy, of course, and so there’s a message. Stay in school! Also, if you can imagine it, you can make your dreams come true! At the end, little Nanhe has grown up to be the author everyone was lining up to meet in the bookstore in the opening scene, and he’s such a huge big deal that the actual, non-fictional Bobby Deol, who hasn't aged a day, turns up at his book-signing. Maybe if I keep writing this blog, I’ll be doing some public appearance someday and Mick Jagger (looking like he did when I was in middle school) will swan in, dying to meet me. And everyone from my home town will be super-impressed.

[NOTE: In the U.S. we tend to assume that people of various generations will stick with their own kind except when forcibly thrown together at family or work functions, which is sad, actually. So I’m wondering if I have a built-in cultural bias against child/adult friendships and if the Nanhe/Bobby dost-fest may seem quite charming to those more organically connected to Indian culture—or those with a higher tolerance for child-star-adorable ten-year-olds. In all fairness, as a middle-aged U.S.-born person of lack of color who has been able to read and write since childhood, I am so not the target audience for this movie.]

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