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|June 1, 2001||
It's near the end of the romantic musical, Moulin Rouge.
A vast number of the cast appears on stage in the theatre named after the famed Parisian club.
The show they are putting on is referred to as "spectacular spectacular". It's a tragic story about a courtesan in love with a penniless sitar [seetahaar] player, and the evil Maharaja [maharajya] who wants to wreck the lives of the young lovers.
Suddenly, a group of female dancers in costumes that could have been inspired by Vyjayanthimala Bali's wardrobe in Lekh Tandon's Amrapali (1966) break into a remixed version of the hit Hindi film song, Chamma Chamma [from Rajkumar Santoshi's China Gate]. They are joined by male dancers in equally kitschy outfits from the days of Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana.
China Gate's Chamma Chamma had Urmila Matondkar dancing for several minutes. In Moulin Rouge -- director Baz Luhrmann's homage to the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s and the 1940s [then choreographed by Busby Berkeley], pop icons like Madonna, U2, Police and the Beatles and Hindi films -- Chamma Chamma barely lasts a minute or so.
In fact, the song and Alka Yagnik's voice get lost as the director cuts between the stage dancers and the character played by Scottish actor Ewan McGregor [Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and young Obi-Wan Kanobi of Star Wars] trying to break into the theatre.
Luhrmann's version of Chamma Chamma also features on the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge and runs for one minute and 40 seconds.
In the album, the song, appearing under the odd title of Hindi Sad Diamonds, is actually part of a medley which also contains a softer version of Nicole Kidman's rendition of the Marilyn Monroe classic Diamonds are a girl's best friend.
The soundtrack album gives credit to a couple of desis, including Yagnik -- who is listed as a performer on the Hindi Sad Diamonds song -- and Sameer, the lyricist of Chamma Chamma. Also listed are Tips Music Industries Ltd, the publisher of Chamma Chamma, and Dashmesh International Ltd, which holds the licence to the song.
Two years ago, Jane Campion -- the Australian director of Holy Smoke, also used a Hindi song [Poocho zara poocho] from a Tips Music album [the soundtrack for Raja Hindustani].
Ironically, one of the few reviews of the Moulin Rouge album that mentions Yagnik confuses her for a Middle Eastern singer. Mike Gee, a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald, writes: "Hindi Sad Diamonds is another dance floor spectacular as Nicole Kidman gets all Middle Eastern with Alka Yagnik and flicks those hips, dances that belly in a fierce attack of all those basic instincts."
Sadly for Kidman fans, she does not get very Middle Eastern in the film. Although she dances galore in the film, she certainly performs no belly dance. In fact [and this is not taking away from the ending of the film], Kidman's character is dying in the film -- she is afflicted with consumption.
The soundtrack of Moulin Rouge -- with an assortment of performances by David Bowie, Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Fatboy Slim, Bono, Jose Feliciano, Yagnik and actors Kidman and McGregor -- is number eight on the Billboard top 200 albums in the US. Three weeks ago, it opened at number five.
According to a spokesperson for Interscope Records, in the three weeks since the album appeared on the Billboard chart, it has sold approximately 311,000 copies. It is way ahead of some of the other recently released soundtrack albums, including Pearl Harbor [at 31] and Shrek [at 36].
The Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink version of the song Lady Marmalade [originally sung by Patti LaBelle in 1974 and containing the famous line, Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?], is getting a lot of airtime in the US.
For the last two weeks, the song has held top spot on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, even though the single album has not yet been released.
Moulin Rouge opens in the rest of the US on Friday, June 1. [It premiered two weeks ago in New York and Los Angeles.]
If the success of the album is any indication, Luhrmann's film should do well in the US.
Already, it is a mini hit in its limited release on two screens. In its first ten days of release, Moulin Rouge earned $582,000. Its per screen average for the Memorial Day weekend was a humungous $132,285.
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