Give… Me… BOLLYWOOD!!!

In 2015 I visited Northern India and over the period of 3 weeks I fell in love with the culture, the people and the landscape. Indian culture is unlike anything I have experienced before, it’s bright and colourful and exciting!

During my time there I made a list of things I wanted to do and see, one of only two things I didn’t get to experience was a Bollywood film in an Indian cinema, something I had been incredibly excited about as in my day-to-day life I love movies and the experience of viewing them in a cinema. Bollywood films to me just seem so much larger than life! They’re dramatically at either end of the spectrum in all genres, so intense and exciting! I also am interested in how they tell stories, the way they film scenes, what style of music is used when and what they place importance on in a story.

Bollywood films have interested me throughout my time during my degree in Communications and Media, and so I decided this project was the one I would dedicate to exploring this interest.

Prior to this project, the closest thing I have come to that resembles a Bollywood film is ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, a British drama released in 2008 based in India with a range of actors from different backgrounds specifically, some being Indian and the older version of the main character being British. After studying ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ in a previous subject I came to understand that the film cannot be labelled as a Bollywood film for a variety of reasons, namely, it isn’t an Indian made film and the plot of the film as well as the way it was filmed don’t align with the characteristics of traditional Bollywood films. The film is clearly seen to have been aimed at a Western audience and it’s for that reason that I really can’t claim to have seen a traditional Bollywood film that stays true to its roots.

The only other film that I can say I’ve watched that’s heavily reflected Indian culture would be the 2016 film ‘Lion’ which follows the story of an Indian boy trying to rediscover his past and find his family after he gets separated from his family as a child and then finds himself living out his young life in Australian after he is adopted. The film, although again not a true Bollywood film for various reasons, engages with Indian culture as much of the film is shot within India and this again sparked my love for the country and the stories it’s people have to tell and share.

All criticism aside, it was ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ that played a role in sparking 12-year-old Caitlin’s interest in not only in Bollywood films but Indian culture so here we are!

My thought process for how to go ahead had me considering what would be most effective for each stage of my autoethnographic process as well as future blogs and tasks that require further research and writing on this topic. So for this blog, I decided to dip my toe into the world of Bollywood via the wonderful world of YouTube!

For this part of my experience with Bollywood, I wanted to roughly pick a series of Bollywood movies that I could later view with either family or friends to gain their perspective and first reactions to. So upon a bit of research, I found a series of films that I can watch not only at home but also in a cinema to not only get the full experience but because this is my task and I want to give it every opportunity to be fantastic (for me and hopefully the reader)! I came to find and select the first 2 movies listed via the “Top 20 Bollywood Hindi Movies of 2016” list from IMDb. Originally I had wanted to watch older Bollywood films but found it difficult to find versions with English subtitles and this I found was something I would really need to get a good understanding of the film.

You could consider watching these trailers as my first actual, wholehearted, real experience with Bollywood… cue the drums!

 

The following two films I found to be showing at cinemas across NSW and this led to me being able to pick and choose.

 

 

“THE DRAMA! THE SUSPENSE! THE EMOTIONS! YESSSSSSS!”

– Me, 2017

What I found interesting post watching these trailers was how they didn’t focus so much on Indian culture like I thought they would, I do believe however this would be due to my lack of experience with Bollywood films so I really didn’t have anything to go off.

In the end, I chose these films because a) I wanted to choose movies that were important and b) I wanted a range of genres to get a good feel for how Bollywood varies over such categories as action and rom-coms. I feel as if the range I have so far will give me a broad understanding and all round more enjoyable experience as 1 movie is just never enough!

One of the first things I noticed was actually how familiar the storylines felt, how the way conversations flowed felt like déjà vu. I don’t know what I was expecting though, Indian people aren’t from mars and I’m sure the producers of their films aren’t either…

All but 1 of these films are based on real stories and experiences of the people of Indian which I am particularly looking forward to viewing. Already from just viewing the trailers, there seem to be both political and social issues discussed at the hearts of some of these films. In particular I’m excited to see “Lipstick Under My Burkha”, particularly the way they seemingly have portrayed comedy amongst the angst of Muslim women within India to be sexual and wear makeup. So far they seem to touch on this subject, that I know really nothing about, in a way that is light hearted and I wonder whether this is a Bollywood characteristic, to deal with touchy subjects with comedy, or whether just the way the film has been created.

Overall my first experience with Bollywood style has me more excited than ever! The films look fantastic, touching on both important and light-hearted subjects and I can’t wait to dive further into them as my experience goes on!

8 comments

  1. I’m going through something very similar exploring the Asian film industry! So far I’ve looked at examples of romance as a genre in China and Korea, and it does seem to surprise you how different they are from what you expect. When you hear Bollywood, you expect the lavish sets and costumes, the soap opera drama and exuberant dance numbers. I’m excited to see how you examine what is a Bollywood film, what exactly makes it a Bollywood film? Is it about deconstructing the stereotype that our western society has built up? India has one of the largest film industries in the world, so one should think their variety of films will be extensive. I think I was as surprised as you were to see that India makes action movies as well, I never even thought of an Indian action before, and it surprises me to think that also. Exploring political and social issues are explored in their films, all these other topics and genres I never even considered…I’d really like to learn more about Bollywood and have a better understanding for it, and I would like to hope so do a lot of others. You raised a really good point about Slumdog Millionaire and Lion being very Westernised and barely resembling an Indian film, but I think they are useful stepping stones to audiences unfamiliar with Bollywood. I want to see what else you explore with this topic, will you be attempting to recreate your experiences by going to a cinema?

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    1. I am in a similar boat to yourself, having never experienced an ‘authentic’ Bollywood film or culture, but Indian culture explored through diasporic films like Slumdog Millionaire, Bend It Like Beckham etc. Given that I’m currently exploring Classical Indian Music for my research project, it’s nice to see someone else interested in subcontinental culture and the variety of media it produces. I am genuinely curious as to the themes and devices employed in Bollywood productions that are similar to Hollywood productions, and how clear the influence of Hollywood can be seen. The idea behind Lipstick Under My Burka is fascinating, it is rare to view a film which explores the sexuality of veiled women. However, this could be problematic because Islam is not the dominant religion in India, which leads me to question the possible portrayal of Indian Muslim women, just something to think about and maybe explore further. Given the topic of Islamic sexuality is becoming more newsworthy worldwide there is a high likely hood that the film does justice to said peoples. http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/sexuality/agenda/article/2017/08/03/halal-guide-mind-blowing-sex-teaching-muslim-women-how-set-bed-fire

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  2. I love how enthusiastic you are about approaching your auto ethnographic process and experience! Your points raised about the Eastern influence on Western cinema, made me rehash the debate over globalisation and the increase in transnational films. There is debate on whether the hybridisation within films, (like Moulin Rouge) is culturally appropriate when borrowing elements from nations other than the creators own within their films. Possibly something to check out!
    I also found this blog by Emily Smith called ‘Indian Culture Lost in Westernized Bollywood Films and Music’ – http://blogs.longwood.edu/emilyesmith/2012/12/02/indian-culture-lost-in-westernized-bollywood-films-and-music/ which explores the evolution of Bollywood and the notion to appeal to a broader audience (western) and through doing so, is losing some of their traditional elements. I hope this process continues to be greatly enjoyable for you!

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog and as someone who rebelliously watched the films a kid (my artsy parents were not encouraging of the platform) I love your topic. I do think Netflix has some classic Bollywood films with subtitles, as does Youtube (Kuch Kuch Hotha Hai and Mohabbatein). The BBC also did an interesting documentary called Bollywood Breaking Barriers. It is focused on the ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘what’ makes Bollywood – here’s the link, thought you might enjoy it! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p011vj41

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  4. From an autoethnographic perspective, you really have narrated your story in an engaging and exciting way. Am looking forward to reading about how you experienced the films

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