Countless cups of intense caffeine hits and a marathon of Bollywood travel movies later, my benumbed brain was groaning for something stronger than just coffee.
Imtiaz Ali, Karan Johar and all our new league millennial 'get-out-there!' directors have tried to rouse our travel inspiration to a fever pitch where all you want to do is drop everything and go off on a rollicking adventure with your friends in a shiny convertible. For me, all it has succeeded in doing is giving me those horrible shudders that can only subside after a lobotomy.
It's hard to get in a word in edgewise when you're arguing with a Bollywood travel movie die-hard and I know this won't be making me any more popular with the crowd but there are glaring and disturbing particulars which must be talked about—hidden away, as they are, in a flurry of snow-capped mountain zoom-outs and the fuzzy warm feeling of everything being tied up neatly with a bow in the end.
For example, Bollywood has repeatedly hoodwinked people into believing that travel is one of the only ways to find love. In reality, this is a very rare occurrence. When I go travelling, I end up making good friends with excellent drivers who have steered vehicles on sheer cliffs and hotel receptionists who're always willing to give me another warm blanket despite the fact that I have two.
But I can't blame you for being taken in by the tripe that these movies hammer into our brains. The over-the-top drama, hysterics, picture-perfect vistas, sizzling tonsil wrestling and dozens of glossy songs later we sit glassy-eyed after having willingly left our brains outside the door. They'll have you believing anything.
Bollywood travel movies are horrible examples of what you should NOT be doing.
Add some spice to your holiday with a generous dose of sleaze
The problem is that Bollywood hasn't really hit upon the perfect formula for wooing a girl.
From stalking to getting into their personal space with a grin, Bollywood movies have a wealth of knowledge waiting for you to plunder. And a vacation is like a free pass to get the sleaze on.
From SRK brandishing a bra in a girl's face to Bunny in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani stroking a girl's bare legs with leaves, you've got examples that should make your eyebrows shoot up into your hairline.
Your travel package also promises a soulmate
Your heart will be racing and not just because of breathlessness, buddy. You'll find lurve in the form of an obnoxious boy or a skimpily clad lady at high altitude. Here, I'll tick the boxes for you—Bunny falls in love with the class geek in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, class geek falls in love with Bunny for reasons unknown.
Raj and Simran must run in mustard fields to reaffirm their love after a Europe trip in DDLJ. A brooding Aditya is starry-eyed after a journey filled with song n' dance and costume changes by Geet in Jab We Met.
Tara falls in love with Ved after some convulsive dance moves in Corsica in Tamasha. A money-minded Arjun forgets about money after some underwater twirling with a diving instructor in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. The list goes on.
Here I made a fun conversation between Arjun and Laila, their diving instructor when they start living together after the travel thrill has worn off:
Arjun: Why are my expensive ties not arranged in the colour code I specified?
Laila: Revel in the confusion of life.
Arjun: It was your turn to do laundry today. I don't have clean underwear to wear to work.
Laila: Hush. Look at the stars. They look like pretty daisy chains.
Safety be damned in the name of adventure
When you're looking for an adventure where the mind boggles, you must discard safety rules and common sense.
Naina and Bunny in YJHD are just the kind of dumb kids we hear about who got eaten by a bear or got smothered in the snow because they snuck out of camp at midnight to find a mythical mandir. There are parties with cool German people during the trek which involve riotous drinking all night long.
Amrish Puri in DDLJ stops his daughter from leaving on the train with Raj and puts an end to her piteous whining just in time when the train picks up speed. He's got that gleam in his eye as he watches his daughter run headlong after a speeding train with zero assistance from his side.
There's a lot of running-after-trains tropes that Bollywood seems fascinated with.
Mess with the locals
While the Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara gang would scream loudly and run away to give peeing locals a possible stroke; the fun people in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani pounded locals to a pulp, destroyed a cafe and pushed an innocent local off a high ladder to celebratory cheers.
It got worse when Chennai Express presented a rudimentary example of how horrible stereotyping can look like. Atrocious accents, unwashed dark men holding farming tools and running towards the camera, making monkey faces when the local language is being spoken and rounding up the fiasco with what was termed as 'lungi dance'.
Also if you're going to not bother looking at the menu when you're ordering (as Nandini does in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) then don't complain about your exotic local cuisine and take your snotty, uptight self away from here, you little turd.
Dance in skimpy clothing in the mountains
Bollywood is fixated with female protagonists in skimpy clothing at high altitudes. While the mail protagonist is smartly turned out in appropriate clothing like jackets and sweaters amidst mountains, there needs be a Kajol in an orange sari dancing in sub-freezing temperatures.
Naina, a nerdy bespectacled and driven lady who schleps medical books to trips for light reading suddenly whips off her glasses and hoses people wearing tiny white shorts and a shiny salon hairdo in an effort to be one of the cool kids.
And which part of mum's warning of not going off with absolute strangers did they not understand? Geet (JWM) goes off with a catatonic man she just meets in the train while Laila in ZNMD accompanies four strange men for a leg of a trip after a diving session. Simran (DDLJ) whose goal in life seems to be falling in love is also thrown (perhaps unwillingly) together with an obnoxious boy with a rich dad.
Break into a jig wherever and whenever the mood strikes
No matter what the situation may be, you can always count on them to break into a jig suddenly. It doesn't really matter where - in the middle of a deserted valley, a crowded marketplace in Corsica, in the middle of the Tomatina festival, a barn, you name it. There are synchronised moves and strangers who joyfully double up as backup dancers. Yes, Bunny in YJHD goes to a Mumbai brothel to help shoot a documentary and ends up dancing with a hooker there. (No, we can't let that slide because it was Madhuri Dixit.)
What's a budget?
In the real world, any and every travel plan revolves around a budget unless you have a stash of gold bars buried in the backyard. But Bollywood doesn't bother itself with such trivial issues.
They need open-air convertibles for pizzaz - cue sleek convertibles and cute out-of-college kids in them. This is conveniently aided by the fact that they have rich papas who don't mind funding their convertibles, loaf-around-money and expensive hotel stays (looking towards ZMND, DDLJ).
On the other end of the spectrum is Veera in Highway who albeit did a splendid job of keeping your attention, does leave you with thoughts like how did a privileged kid like that be okay with a dirty truck and washing her hair by tube-wells without shampoo?
You'll either leave with a massive personality change or some dilemma will magically disappear
A trip to some open plains or mountains can change your entire mental makeup. While minor personality changes like dressing habits in the women in the movies do occur and we have touched upon that earlier, there are significant personality changes happening so fast, they'll give you whiplash. Surly, money-minded Arjun in ZMND gets over his fixation of counting out the euros each object costs and takes to running happily in front of raging bulls. Kabir (Abhay Deol) takes his albatross off his neck and flings it away secretly happy that he won't be married to an incurable nag.
There are people who have been struck by Stockholm syndrome and fallen in love with grimy truck drivers though nobody would go for a lowly kidnapper/truck driver if he didn't look like the ripped Randeep Hooda.
Psst... A look at some glorious factual errors these movies made
Bollywood's messing with peoples' minds and chief ministers.
An irate Omar Abdullah was left tweeting after he settled down for a watch of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and some scenic Kashmir slopes. Er... but the location in the movie said Manali.
Turns out Manali wasn't pretty enough to live up to Imtiaz Ali standards so he shot scenes in Kashmir's Gulmarg and posed it off as Manali. Omar Abdullah who had welcomed these people in hoping to get some freebie tourism was left clutching his hair when the credits rolled down with his tears and there was not one single mention of Kashmir anywhere. Brutal.
To wrap it short here are instances where they made fools out of us but we were too busy dabbing our eyes to notice. A teary-eyed Nandini (HDDCS) was running down the Szechenyi Chain Bridge above River Danube which is in Budapest, not Italy.
In DDLJ, the final gory fight sequence and running-with-hand-outstretched sequence happens in Apta, a station near Mumbai which is 1700 km away from Punjab's 'sarson ke khet'. Meanwhile Geet (JWM) teleports between sleeper class and second AC.
A banana for a long rant.
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