I have been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1987.
For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
May 1, 2008 - Bollywood comes to Douglas County Libraries
Chris Virgil was telling me about one of the benefits of working in the part of the library that prepares new materials.
"I see things I didn't even know existed," she said.
"Like what?" I asked.
"Like Bollywood," she said with enthusiasm.
Bollywood, for those of you who haven't heard the term before, refers to a genre of movies made in India (from the name of the capital Mumbai [formerly Bombay] and Hollywood).
Chris told me that they had everything. Drama. Action. Romance. Comedy. Tragedy. Often within a few minutes of each other.
Oh, and music. Such music!
I remembered that my daughter had sent me a link to a Bollywood video clip once. (If you're interested, look for "Chaiyya Chaiyya" on youtube.com.) That particular song was infectious. Even irresistible.
So I was intrigued. I asked Chris where I should start. She recommended "Main hoon na," starring Indian superstar Shahrukh Khan.
It was absolutely entrancing. I've watched three Bollywood movies now, and they never go where I think they're going. For instance,"Main hoon na" begins with what appears to be a tense political/action scenario: an assassination of a general, and the introduction of a sort of supercop.
Next scene: some very hot college girls dancing and singing across campus.
Then there's the fascinatingly feminist story "Paheli," about a woman who is abandoned by her money-obsessed husband the morning after their disappointing wedding night. But it turns out that a ghost has fallen in love with her, and is capable of shaping himself into the husband's likeness.
OK, you think you know how that might play out: the ghost will pretend to be the husband until he's discovered. That's what Hollywood would do. But no. He instead makes an immediate full confession: he's a ghost, but he's really in love with her. Will she accept him? Cue music video and comic father-in-law.
Oh, and the whole thing is narrated by two wooden puppets.
Part of the allure of all this is that there are cultural practices at work that are completely mysterious to me.
There is also a bewildering tension between the frankly physical, even erotic dancing of the Indian women -- and their utter modesty. In these first two movies, in which romance plays a strong part, no one ever even kisses. (And that reminds me that Richard Gere was almost banned from the country when he kissed one of his Indian co-stars in public -- innocuous in Hollywood, but something of a scandal on the sub-continent.)
The third movie was "Rang De Basanti." A blond Englishwomen quits her job because they won't let her make a historical film based on the fight for Indian independence.
So she goes to India and hooks up with a charming but clueless group of young men. Oh, and the blond Englishwoman speaks flawless Hindi (although there's always a smattering of English words and phrases in these movies, which do nonetheless require subtitles to keep up with the action). We follow them around the countryside for awhile, drinking and dancing, see them get drawn into making the film, and the next thing you know, there's an engagement, then there's a political scandal involving high level corruption, and ....
Well, you see what I mean. Half the time I'm watching these movies, I'm in kind of a stunned glee. I never know what's next.
If you haven't seen a Bollywood movie, I recommend it. Search for "bollywood" in our catalog.
Also keep an eye open for our upcoming partnership with the Internet-based castlerockradio.com. Chris and another library convert, Suzanne LaRue, will be talking about Bollywood in more depth.
There's a whole new world out there.