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The average Indian wedding goes on for as long as a geological epoch and are each attended by a quarter of a million people.  So a small exaggeration, but you get the point. Weddings are a quintessential Indian processes to get dispersed families together so that business can be discussed with the people you discuss business with and other weddings are planned with those that plan weddings for those that do not know weddings are being planned for them.

 

Without weddings the Indian culture could not survive. If you do not attend more than 53 weddings a year then you are a complete loser, a misfit, a nobody and you are not contributing to India’s economic and cultural wealth. The whole of the Indian economy is propped up by Indian weddings, I am surprised weddings have not been posted on the stock market. They support a huge catering industry, hoteliers, bands, flower arrangers, suit makers, whisky brewers and on. Weddings are India’s answer to self perpetuating wealth. What use is a small wedding…..? Who does it employ so that they can gain the wealth to have big weddings too…… if I had studied economics I am sure there is a model of capitalistic behavior, where the society’s economics is propped up by over the top and seemingly pointless things.

 

Here is my essential guide to Indian weddings:

Dress code is simply the most flamboyant outfit you can find. If any conservative inkling raises its ugly head in your brain then kill it. If you are thinking, I would not be seen dead in that down the pub, and then you are probably on the right lines. What is better, India is full of tailors. If people are not in the wedding trade, then they are in the tailoring trade. Any cloth you like can be made into any outfit you fancy. What is more you have to ensure that you have a different outfit for the different days that you attend the wedding. Get yourself a big wardrobe.

 

A procession, leads for 1 -2 km and generally consists of a van with a generator in the back, powering a bunch of guys holding chandeliers. A horse with the groom and nearest small boy precariously plonked on, neither horse nor the plonked looking too sure about their situation. And then there is the band or bands that play simultaneously, overlapping to the extent that one could mistake it for contemporary jazz. Take lots of 10 rupee notes with you though, because every few minutes the band stops and expects to be tipped, which involves waving the money in the air and drummers, trumpet players and conductors throw themselves at the money.

 

Don’t loose your shoes. It is customary for children to steal people’s shoes. If you do have yours stolen it will cost you a handsome fee to get them back….about twice the price you paid for them. Possibly find ways to attach mousetraps to them to deter the little oiks.

 

Sari wearing fellas are good luck apparently.  Years ago the king would keep them, because he knew they would not fool around with his missus or missuses. They were hard as nails, and yet more girly than the girliest of girls. In the olden days, having them at a wedding was seen as good luck, these days though they are the Indian mafia. A load will gate crash a wedding and unless they are paid handsomely they will run a mock. These sari wearing fellas, look the same as any regular giza, but with a sari. When one enters a train carriage they get paid handsomely, some say because it is good luck to be blessed by one, I think it is more though that people want to get rid of them before they really embarrass them. Your average one legged, singing, blind beggar will make 10 rupees, but your bloke in a sari will be up to a 100 and away before his competition has reached his darkened chorus.

 

Food. Expect to not be allowed to stop eating at the Indian wedding. If your mouth does not have something in it for more than 20 seconds then you have insulted the whole family, their family’s families, their caste, their village, their respective gods, and will probably result somebody’s death somewhere along the line. A top tip is to keep eating small amounts and keep your mouth moving as if you are eating at all other times.

 

 Drink. Whisky, if you don’t like it then you are shafted. It is what any distinguished Indian man prefers. When you go to the bar, make sure you use your status as the token gora (White person) to gain access to the good stuff hidden under the counter, not the grog laid out for the plebs.

 

Indian weddings are full of ritual. You will not have a clue as to any of it and I would not even attempt trying to figure it out, less you want to construct a 50,000 word thesis on the subject. Nor expect the drunken fights, chicken drumsticks, birdie song or aga doo, or vomiting in the flower arrangements that are synonymous to a good old fashioned British wedding. Shagging the bridesmaid is not really on the cards less you want to leave India with a bride yourself. No, Indian weddings exist at a greater level of decorum; they are a good source of contact. Every man will want to share a whisky with you, and size you up to see if there is any business to be had. The women will pass you sly glances and giggle, probably at the ridiculous outfit that you have chosen, and what is more you will probably be invited to other weddings. If you get it right you will never have to pay for food again in your life and maybe after the 50th wedding you will have some faint idea as to what is going on.

 

Now I just need to find more excuses to wear my over the top suit…… more Indian weddings, parties, down the pub, Tesco shopping trips, lying on the sofa………………..

Full selection of photos at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/colinlaidlaw/sets/72157614244861728/

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I am working on a short film for the Railway Children charity, promoting their educational program. But I am in Bombay, the capital of Bollywood……………. Bollywood – bling, dancing girls, dancing boys, dancing girls and boys, dancing girls and girls, dancing boys and boys, dancing boys pretending to be dancing girls dancing with dancing boys and so on; over acted fights, different outfits per second,  more camp than Christmas.  Bollywood is barking. It is a fabulous extravaganza, filmed in every exotic location possible, the Pyramids, Great Wall of China, Beckton. Constructed around a lame script, they generally contain one of the 10 or so lead actors that seem to exist India. These actors are everywhere, associating and selling their souls to any product that will have ’em. You cannot move more than 20 yards without seeing one of their smug faces brandished from some billboard or poster, or blurting out from a television ad. They act, sing and dance, they are gods. India would crumble to nothingness if they all died – of course it would be a horrific plane crash over the Grand Canyon, caused by a fight over the lead lady…..god imagine the wreckage Prada, Guccci and Armani, more snakeskin than snake in a fiery desert Bollywood ball.

 

With the films dance sequences comes the cursory music that becomes synonymous to the  film. They exist in a symbiotic relationship, film and music, music and film. Every self respecting mobile phone user will have to have it set as their ringtone until the next box office hit comes about. If you do not hear it blaring out of the TV, car radio or filling a shopping Mall at least 50 times a day, then it has failed. If you do not have a catchy tune to your film then you are doomed, reduced to the archives of Bollywood history, never to see the daylight again. Get it right though and everyone gets rich. With over a billion people in India Bollywood is big business.

 

But there is not only Bollywood to fill this market – there is Tollywood, films made in Tamil Nadu, Collywood, Calcutta, Dollywood, films made by Dolly Parton. To have an ‘ollywood is to have your own style within a genre, use your own language and promote the stars you want to promote.

 

Working in the edit suite I have to resist the temptation and urge to use various of these ‘ollywood influences.  Child rights, abuse and trauma doesn’t quite seem to fit the genre, surely I can get a dance sequence in someplace.

 

“Sing is King”

 

Here is a collection of photos from an Indian wedding.

Not over the top at all.

Click on the photo to see the full collection on flickr.

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Here is a collection of photos of  India, taken maily around Rajistan.

Lets face it India is bonkers.

Click on the photo to be taken to the flickr collection.

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Here is a collection of portraits of the street children and Bal Shaka staff in Patna.

Click on the image and it will take you to the collection on flickr.

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