For Those of Us Who Have Never Seen a Bollywood Film, But Are Kind of Curious

Mention Bollywood in conversation and most people have at least a vague idea that it’s Indian cinema with lots of dancing and lots of singing, beyond that probably not much more.

During the summer of 2020 when we all had way too much time on our hands, my wife and I began binge watching Bollywood Films. Our initial foray was an attempt to satisfy a curiosity, what’s it all about? And somewhat quickly Bollywood steamrolled its way into becoming a mainstay of our streaming line up. Why? Hard to put a finger on it exactly. Bollywood films tend to be extravagant spectacles, and yes they have singing and dancing, comedy, romance, over the top action, colorful costumes and beautiful sets. Big stories, big personalities. Bollywood films are escapism at its finest. They are fun and, more often than not, wildly entertaining. Suppose that's reason enough for us to enjoy them.

If you’re curious about Bollywood films but have no idea where to start, the purpose of this book is to provide a quick and dirty roadmap of how we became fans: an introduction that explains what piqued our interest, a bit about the industry, actors and actresses, followed by a list of the movies we’ve watched, roughly in the order we watched them with brief reviews and commentary.

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Excerpt from An Introduction To Bollywood © Copyright 2024 Ken Fields

Introduction

As I started writing this, it’s November 2022 and we’ve all sort of learned to live with Covid, for all intents and purposes life is pretty much back to normal. We’re all back at work to some degree, kids are back in school, restaurants are open, social activities have resumed. On weekday afternoons I’m the parent who goes to pick up our daughter from school. If the weather is reasonably nice, I with my daughter in tow and a handful of the other parents and their kids make their way over to a nearby park, where the children can all play, run around and have some fun. The parents for the most part sort of congregate together, sitting on one of the stone retaining walls or benches, dispersing snacks, water, offering encouragement and or possibly a scolding to their kids. Between parents, conversation is mostly small talk, it’s nice to get out, socialize and see people again, the park is a good place to do it. Inevitably a common thread that can always be counted on to pop up from time to time is, what’s everyone been binge watching once the kids are in bed. All of the James Bond films was a popular one, all the Marvel Universe films and related shows another. We all watched Tiger King. A lot of us were going through John Wick and Jason Bourne. Our house had been through those and the other popular ones. But at some point I responded something to the effect of, “My wife and I have been watching a lot of Bollywood films.” The response was sometimes a blank stare, although far enough more often than not a somewhat puzzled look… Bollywood?

Let’s rewind a bit.

For many years my wife and I lived in Coral Gables, in the sort of triangle between Coconut Grove, South Miami and The University of Miami. Great neighborhood. We loved it. Generally quiet, neighbors were mostly friendly. Easy walking to South Miami restaurants or a quick bike ride to the Grove. A favorite spot of ours was Bombay Darbar. The original had closed, but then reopened on Florida Avenue. We were somewhat regular customers, sitting at the bar, drinking cold Kingfisher and having dinner. Their Goan Shrimp was delicious. The bar scene was usually lively and fun. One thing that stood out as different, rather than the usual sports found on the TVs behind most bars, Bombay Darbar played Bollywood films. Sadly, as of this writing I have yet to figure out which films they were but we loved them, even though the sound was turned down. Visually stunning, fun and ridiculous, there was epic dancing with entire villages turning out into the streets, there were motorcycles, there was a Holi celebration with everyone color bombing each other with Gulal, rain, longing glances. We loved dinner, and were always transfixed by the films.

Our dinners in Coconut Grove were not our first exposure to Bollywood, but given the time that we spent eating, watching and commenting, those evenings can definitely be bookmarked as the moments that piqued our interest. Most evenings that we were there inevitably we would comment to one another that we had to watch whatever film it was, if for no other reason than to figure out what exactly was going on. Truth be told we never bothered to ask what were the titles to the films. Regardless, dinners at Bombay Darbar put Bollywood films on our “radar”.

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