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Pappadam Preach

Indulge in a Bollywood extravaganza courtesy of the "Chalte Chalte with Sathiya" tour


You have a weakness.

Weakness visits many as sweets, tobacco, wine or flesh, earthly passions that become obsession, eclipsing all other aspects of being. Just watch the eyes glaze over and die as the demon takes residence. Free will leaves in its stead a voracious, spectral maw, an insatiable vortex of want. An unattended weakness will devour the most robust of souls, and your Achilles' tendon is Indian cinema. You've got it bad for Bollywood movies and the music contained in them, a weird fever for the stuff. You view Hindi comedy DVDs in marathon sessions lasting seven to eight hours (that's two movies). You even chew paan and spit the staining, crimson betel-nut juice on your carpet at home.

Why wouldn't you have a weakness for Bollywood? Consider the ease with which a few Indian directors manifest the simplest tales onscreen as epics of bizarre loss, confused longing and hilarious redemption, juggling emotional arcs like silks in the breeze (or cinder blocks in glue). What about the stars of Indian film, whose cinnamon complexions, eyes of blazing, bottomless brightness, night-black hair and beguiling facial expressions coax your imagination to drift from its chaste moorings? Shouldn't people spring sporadically into song and dance in real life as they do on the Bollywood screen, even when real life can't get any worse? Additionally, shouldn't those songs be lip-synched to a soundtrack recording of classically trained, million album-selling vocalists?

You'll have some moments of extreme weakness Sunday, May 2, when you witness live Indian film music and razzle-dazzle onstage at Saint Louis University High (4970 Oakland Avenue). At 6:30 p.m., the Jesuit high school's theater comes to life with the voices of demigod-status Bollywood playback singers Sadhana Sargam and Abhijeet Bhattacharya, now in the United States for a string of appearances with the "Chalte Chalte with Sathiya" tour.

"We're going to sing film songs that are big hits in India," explains the honey-voiced Sargam from her home in Mumbai. "The audiences will be enjoying and having a blast over there, I am sure. It's a musical extravaganza with dancers, but I don't dance on the stage while I sing. I only sing the songs. People can enjoy the songs and sing to the tunes they know."

A sing-along in Hindi sounds lovely, especially when it's led by Bhattacharya and Sargam, the vocalists responsible for the hit songs from the films Chalte Chalte and Sathiya, among others too numerous to list.

"I've been singing in films for more than fifteen years," says Sargam. "I don't recall how many films I've sung for. And we sing many songs in one film -- two, three or four, maybe."

Because dancing goes swell with music, the too-temptin' Suman Rangnathan, along with Drashti, Rezwan and Tanushree from the film Sainya Dil Mein Aana Re, will interpret the hits with kicks, twirls, mudras and oh-boy-what-else. Weren't we discussing weakness earlier?

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