Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, “I am falling to the floor crying,” but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.
– Richard Siken
I was only six when I watched my first Bollywood movie.
Named Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Things Just Happen), the story was dramatic, romantic, wild, and very 90’s. Tears welled in my eyes when the protagonist’s happy story couldn’t be found. I cheered for love, and danced to the music. I fell in love with romance, and in doing so, I watched Bollywood movies again, again, and again.
You have to be a sort of poet to love Bollywood movies, my mom often tells me. She’s very much right. They are fairytales, told over in a repeated fashion, to the point where it’s very easy to get fed up of their narrative structure and storyline. Girl falls in love with boy, boy falls in love with girl. Complications occur, and tragedy is imminent. But at the end of the day, the girl and the boy get together and celebrate happily. It would happen again, and again. I can’t tell you how many times I would hear the same kind of tale. But time passed. I slowly grew up to realize that in the end that most people watched the movies for the songs and dance rather than the plot. After all, why would I care about an overdramatized story that doesn’t seriously reflect upon real life’s themes?
Bollywood movies were fairytales that existed separately. They were not real. The truth fell squarely into my lap in 2009 when I watched Three Idiots and realized that time moved on without me, choosing new actors and unfamiliar faces. The story I had fallen in love with – love – was the same, at that time, I had come to realize that my life wasn’t a Bollywood movie, and could never be one. I didn’t touch Bollywood movies again, and even to this day, I have not seen a new movie nor have I heard many songs from one.
KimiUso is something of a wild, melancholic dream for me. In the first episode, we’re introduced to the main protagonist, Kousei Arima, a boy who has shut off music from his life nearly permanently, save for some day-to-day tune playing on the piano. Traumatized by the loss of his mother and her strict teachings in a desire to create a prodigy, Arima is unable to hear the melody of his own music. As a result, he narrates desperately as a poet, lost in the mundanity of life, in the hopes that he might be able to find something sparkle. Everything from the way he thinks, the way he acts and responds, to the way he looks at the world, is dramatic and visceral.
Enter the spark that Arima needs for his story to come to life – a girl named Kaori Miyazono, who is the embodiment of everything Arima wished he could be. Free, dazzling, and inspirational, Kaori sparkles on the stage and to Arima, brining color into the world for him. His meetings with her are almost entirely out of a poetic fairytale, opened by a curtain of cherry blossoms. His illusions of grandeur are bookmarked by small comic “wake up” moments and the consistent reprimanding by his friends, who tell him that he is too dramatic, too somber, and too naive. These moments move us, the audience, but the discussions Arima has with his friends also make us realize that Arima breathes his life like a fairytale, and needs to understand he is not bound by the events of the past. But just like a melody, every time Arima is drawn in by Kaori’s presence, he descends back into a flurry of pink and magical romance. Maybe it’s a little unrealistic after all. But can we blame him?
KimiUso plays out like a Bollywood movie, thought out by the youthful boy, dreaming that his life would be one. It is very similar to how me and may others may have seen our lives as something more than what it really was, drawn in by those moments where we feel alive and overwhelmed by the ephemerality of our own existence. We are all sometimes caught up by how drab our lives are, and in a desperate attempt to become something more, we translate what we see before us into something more magical. We manipulate memories, exaggerating the good and the bad. It’s a part of being young and wanting to live for something more. Over time, we realize that life isn’t necessary as spectacular as we would want it to be, but what KimiUso – and Bollywood movies to me – celebrate is the secret poet in all of us, a side that isn’t necessarily bad. Roleplaying as something a little more grandiose, getting caught up in the whirls of emotion….would life be as interesting as it is without it? Poetry itself may not be ‘real’, but it draws upon very real and strong emotions. KimiUso does the same.
Maybe I will go back to Bollywood movies one day, spotting the romance stories I fell so deeply in love with. It’s a fantasy I’ll watch again and again, giving room to a new kind of poetry in my heart. Something like a fairytale.
I’ve been rereading your story. I think it’s about me in a way that might not be flattering, but that’s okay. We dream and dream of being seen as we really are and then finally someone looks at us and sees us truly and we fail to measure up. Anyway: story received, story included. You looked at me long enough to see something mysterious under all the gruff and bluster. Thanks. Sometimes you get so close to someone you end up on the other side of them.
– Richard Siken, The Long and Short of it.