Why I Love Bollywood

I’ve spent the last two days sick in bed, and the time that I haven’t been asleep, I’ve been watching Bollywood films.  Bollywood, for those who don’t know, is the huge movie industry based out of Mumbai (Bombay), India.

I first discovered Bollywood, mostly by accident, by surfing around Netflix.  There, I encountered a film entitled Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, from 1995, starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol.  I knew nothing about it, but went ahead and pressed play.  After a brief opening in scene in London, we are dropped into India.  The first thing to hit is the color.  Beautiful fields full of yellow flowers.  Women in colorful salwar kameez, spinning their scarves overhead.  And the music!  It saturates Hindi films, a vital part of each picture.  I was immediately entranced, and happily spent the next three hours immersed in a world very different from my own.

I didn’t know it at the time, but DDLJ (as the title is often shortened to) is one of the most famous and popular movies in the history of Bollywood.  There is a theater in Mumbai where it has been showing since it was released.  According to Wikipedia, in 2013 it had been showing for over 900 weeks.  I would have been hard pressed to find a better introduction to the industry.

Since then, I have returned again and again to Hindi films.  There are, of course, many different types of film.  Some are more action oriented, others more geared towards romance or comedy, but the Indian filmmakers seem much more comfortable throwing together a spicy mixture of all sorts of parts and serving them up in a satisfying jumble.  It is not unusual to have a dramatic action scene followed by a song sequence set in the mountains of Switzerland.  I love the over-the-top nature of many of these films, but have found others which are much quieter, more focused stories.

The only thing I wish is that film could also convey the senses of touch, taste, and smell.  Imagine the taste of curry and chai, gulab jamun and channa masala.  The smell of the incense.  The tropical flora of south India and crisp mountain air of the Himalayas.  What does the monsoon smell like?  How does it feel?

For now, I must content myself with films and with occasional trips to the Indian restaurants in the area, and I intend to do both wholeheartedly.

If you are interested in trying a Bollywood film, here are a few that I have enjoyed:

  • Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (romance)
  • Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (historical, romance, cricket!)
  • Veer-Zaara (romance)
  • Rab Ne Bana De Jodi (romance & comedy)
  • Wanted (action)

Does anyone else have any recommendations?

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