Friday, May 5, 2017

How to introduce yourself to Bollywood

I know that my blog doesn't usually cover film in any respect, but Bollywood movies are something that bring me great happiness, and I'd love to spread the joy!  

The genre is large and overwhelming even without being a clueless foreigner, so I wanted to share short reviews of the movies I've watched and give some recommendations for potential entry drugs movies.  Be aware: the plots can sometimes get flimsy, the reactions dramatic, and the dance numbers infectious.  The style, messages, and themes are different from what I'm used to in the USA, but they're also so often beautiful and exciting.  For me, Bollywood is a perfect small escape to a new world full of color and life.  I hope you'll check some of these out, and if you do, let me know what you think!

Ram Leela | 5/5 stars

I first fell in love with this movie from the music.  It would show up on my Bollywood Pandora channel, I would swoon, and favorite song after song from the soundtrack.  When I finally got around to watching it, it was a complete experience!  This movie is saturation with the color, culture, and tradition of India while telling a classic Romeo and Juliet story.  (For a brief but mind blowing introduction to the bold and exciting main male character, check out this entrance dance number.)  It might be a bit long and in depth for a first-timer, but after you've worked yourself up to enjoying Bollywood, definitely make it to watching this one.

Anybody Can Dance | 4/5 stars (A great one to start with)

If you ever watched the Benny Lava dance on YouTube in high school, you'll recognize the film lead, Prabhu Deva.  This movie is a (mostly) lighthearted and fun story following battling choreography troupes and their struggles.  There are killer moves in this movie, but you'll definitely laugh a few times at the corniness.  This is a great Bollywood movie and would be a fun first one to watch.

Jaab We Met | 2/5 stars

I didn't find the story terribly compelling (it's a bit slow), but it's nice and light with some funny bits.  The lead female character is a woman after my own heart, going about life with all the liveliness she can, but she finds herself needing help from a stranger who's usually too busy to bother with other people.

Band Baaja Baraat | 5/5 stars (A great one to start with)

My top favorite, I've watched Band Baaja Baraat three times now, and it's my go-to when introducing new people to Bollywood.  When most people think of what they like about India, they think of Indian weddings, right?  The color, the excitement, just the full celebration.  This movie is about two young wedding planners in India, so you get to step inside many Indian weddings!  The story itself is more logical than most, and I think the movie as a whole is absolutely perfect.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (A Match Made By God) | 3/5 stars

While I probably won't come back to watch this one again, it's a good intro movie, for sure.  An dying business man's partner marries his daughter to fulfill the dying man's last wish, and the new husband does everything he can to win his young wife's heart.  Honestly, it's very sweet.

Ladies vs Ricky Bahl | 4/5 stars

This one's a lot of fun, and if you liked Band Baaja Baraat at all, you'll love seeing Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma playing across each other again.  Women get played, boy gets played, and it's a fun ride in some beautiful settings.

Gulaab gang | 5/5 stars (A great second Bollywood movie)

I loved this movie!  It stands starkly against the love stories I usually watch.  It's bold.  It covers real social issues facing women and poor villages in India.  In fact, it's based on a very real story!  I highly recommend this one, especially if lovey dovey movies aren't your thing.

Khabi Khushi Khabi Gam (Sometimes there's happiness, sometimes there's sorrow) | 4/5 stars

This was my very first Bollywood movie.  My college roommate was a big fan when we were living together, and she had a small "welcome to Bollywood" movie night for some of us.  Part of me thinks this Khabi Khushi Khabi Gam (aka K3G) should be everyone's introduction, just because of how iconic it is and how it has Bollywoods forever top stars (seriously).  The story follows a beloved son who becomes estranged from his family after following his heart.  Classic.  And long.  Very, very long.   I've still watched it twice, though! 

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You won't get this life again) | 4/5 stars

Another far-fetched idea told in a beautiful way, this movie tells the story of three bachelors traveling the world to face their fears together before one guy gets married.  The each have their own love lives and work lives and bring their own laughs, but for the most part, there are good messages and a refreshing mostly male cast.

Shuddh Desi Romance | 2/5 stars

This was one of my least favorites, but part of the reason is that the message and plot were so different from the typical traditional rom coms.  It's a love story that goes a bit off the beaten path, which I'm sure brings a lot more diversity to the genre, but it completely caught me off guard.  I also got really annoyed with the characters in general, even though they had some cute moments, so this one isn't near the top of my list.

Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year | 3/5 stars

I laughed a lot in this one.  It's the story of a poor man doing everything he can to get ahead in business honestly.  He's a good guy, and it's a good movie.  It's also a good starter if you're not so much into romantic comedies and if you're interested in seeing another side of India besdies what you see in wedding shoots.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha | 3/5 stars

I'm pretty sure this would never fly in Western media - the story is about a young couple and their struggle to fall in love after marriage, and their main hurdle is the wife's weight.  Seriously.  The movie takes a long while to get to anything positive, but I really appreciate the female character's resolve.  It showed a lot of female strength, which I admire in any movie, but I probably won't watch it again.

Fashion | 3/5 stars

Definitely the grittiest Bollywood film I've seen, it's also one of the more realistic in the bunch.  I might watch this one again if I were doing something else at the same time, because it can move a bit slow in parts, and it also gets depressing for a while, too.  Caleb hasn't watched many of these movies with me, but this one about feuding models in the world of high fashion was his favorite because it was the most like real life (there also aren't any dance numbers).  It stands apart from the others in my list, that's for sure.

London, Paris, New York | 1/5 stars

I watched this one on an airplane ride, and either I was too tired to appreciate it much, or it's just not that great of a movie. I definitely wouldn't recommend it for a first Bollywood movie. The story happens in London, Paris, and New York, three cities where serendipity repeatedly brings two people together. This movie has no song and dance and is more true to life than typical Indian rom coms, but song and dance are what I appreciate most in Bollywood, and I just didn't like this movie.


I definitely haven't seen tons and tons, and I'd welcome any other recommendations you could add to the list! Most of my selection has come from what's available on Netflix at the time, but I have rented Band Baaja Baraat before from YouTube, and I did some hard digging to find an accurately translated version of Ram Leela available for streaming. YouTube, too, will sometimes have different movies available for streaming, so there's a lot out there!

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