Wed 30 Nov 2011 - Wed 29 Feb 2012
I initially thought the idea of writing a blog entry about Bollywood was not necessary. Then I met an American woman travelling in Mexico who frowned when I brought it up. "What's Bollywood?" she asked.
How do I explain...
Bollywood is India's movie industry. But it's more than that. Bollywood sets the tone for society in India. Bollywood entertains, educates, distracts, suggests, leads, and follows. Bollywood stars are the key figures in society in India. The really big - top 10 - stars are virtually everywhere. They land ad campaigns and reality shows, star in music videos, dominate conversation topics, weigh in on social issues, and represent the hopes and dreams of everyday Indians. You really can't travel to India without getting to know them personally.
Bollywood churns out many movies every year. The turnover in the theatres is pretty frequent, and the songs that are written for each movie move up the top ten charts. It's strange to see a music video for a song that isn't featured in a recent movie. Songwriters and singers are behind the scenes, as these videos feature clips from the movie and the stars lip-syncing and dancing to the tune.
The key thing I learned about Bollywood is that Indians do not need Hollywood movies. In my North American bubble, I thought Hollywood was the be-all and end-all of movie making. Not so. While the biggest Hollywood movies will play in Indian theatres, they are inevitably second-fiddle to the home-grown flicks. Their posters are dwarfed in comparison to Shah Rukh Khan or Kareena Kapoor's latest.
The three Bollywood movies we watched while in India are Delhi Belly, Ghost, and Jodi Breakers. All pushed the envelope regarding social norms, enacted things the typical Indian wouldn't dare engage in, and gave frequent musical interludes with choreographed dance routines. The audience whooped and laughed and gasped at all the right times. And even though they lacked English subtitles, we understood the love, the hate, the fear and the joy in each scene. English words and phrases peppered the dialogue, so we were certain to follow all the action.
Traditionally, actors in a Bollywood film would express their mutual love through song, and it was well publicized that there was no kissing on screen. But times are changing. Kissing, and occasionally even more, is making its way to the masses, and even though a recent bikini scene in the movie Players made national headlines, India is pushing the envelope when it comes to what it shows on-screen.
Feast your eyes on the Best Of Bollywood!
The Regal Theatre in Mumbai