Monday, August 13, 2007

Bollywood's Back, But Don't Ask Why It Left

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2007 at 6:06 AM

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On the glass counter near the entrance of the Bollywood Indian Bistro (20100 East Jackson, Independence) are a dish of hard candies and a box with cream-colored paper fliers announcing that the month of August is the “Grand Opening” of the restaurant. The restaurant actually opened well over a year ago and for all I know, the fliers are leftovers from last summer. Or are they new? The restaurant has recently re-opened after a three-month hiatus where the doors were locked and the lights were off.

No one working at the restaurant wanted to talk about the three-month period where the restaurant was closed. The manager of the place – which is still owned by chef Daljit Singh – got a funny look on his face when I asked. “There was a problem,” he said.

“A problem with the building?” I asked.

“No,” he whispered. “A problem with the partners.”

I decided not to ask any more questions. Besides, I was hungry and eager to get to the well-laden lunch buffet at the back of the turquoise-painted dining room, which still boasts the accessories I loved when I first saw this place last year (“Access Bollywood,” April 20, 2006). That includes the disco ball, the dance floor and the wide-screen TV playing snippets of Bollywood musicals. Big, colorful musicals – which are rarely made in our Hollywood anymore – are still the staple of India’s thriving movie industry; 23 million Indians go to a movie every day. When Singh opened the Bollywood Indian Bistro in an Independence shopping center, he served up both Northern Indian cuisine and short musical interludes from movie musicals dating back to the 1960s. I think the ones from the 1980s are particularly interesting: the lip-synching singers take their fashion cues from Michael Jackson and Madonna.

The clips being screened on the broiling afternoon that I loaded up my plate with freshly-baked naan, chicken tikka, curry goat, onion chutney and fried samosas were of more recent vintage. The performers are breathtakingly beautiful; gorgeously coifed and costumed, lithe and lean, with dazzling smiles and flashing eyes. They’re so attractive, in fact, that they make the prettiest American soap opera actors look like the mutants in The Hills Have Eyes.

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Our waitress didn’t know why Bollywood Bistro had been temporarily closed for a quarter of a year: “I was in India when they called to tell me it was closed,” she shrugged, filling my water glass.

Suddenly, on the TV screen, a movie scene clearly inspired by the musical Grease started playing, with two twentysomething Indian matinee idols singing and dancing their hearts out on the set of a surprisingly American Midwestern-looking high school, while a veritable army of chorus girls, all dressed as cheerleaders and waving red pom poms, kicked up their heels in the background.

I folded a piece of warm, puffy naan around a spoonful of green mint chutney and thought to myself that having the Bollywood Indian Bistro back, after its unexpected vacation, was my kind of homecoming game. -- Charles Ferruzza

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