Why they hate Bollywood

I recently debated the future of Bollywood among American desis with a couple of second genners who aren’t fans of the cinema. ‘Asoka’ thinks assimilation will make Bollywood irrelevant in the U.S. desi community, because the movies are poorly-written. I argue improvements in quality, distribution and filtering point to a bright future. The ever-reasoned ‘Birbal’ split the difference. Names have been changed to protect them from the Bollyfans who walk among us.

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‘Asoka’
Bollywood will vanish among desi Americans

“I‘ll bet you $20 it doesn’t change. U.S. desis, especially the new generations, are more assimilated. They (and I’m one of them) will never be into Bollywood. I view Bollywood as an example of the excesses and frivolity of our culture and not something I am interested in preserving for myself or my offspring. I can count the number of friends I have that like Bollywood films on one finger (men and women)… even the girls I know don’t like Bollywood, and I have as many if not more female friends than male friends.

“The U.S. model will never mimic the UK model unless we start forming ethnic ghettos here. If that happens then I think you’ll be right. What it comes down to is that most Bollywood stories suck by western standards. Production value means nothing when the best Bollywood film would be a C-list Western film.

“The reason that smart Bollywood commentary is lacking is because there isn’t much coming out of Bollywood that can be considered smart… The last Hindi film I saw was Mr. and Mrs Iyer, which I thought was decent. The last Bollywood film I saw was in India and Toral from The Apprentice was in it. I’ve seen Devdas and KKKG and thought they were so bad I wanted to rip my eyeballs out. The only Bollywood film I actually liked was Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and by American movie standards it was just okay… Yes, if you are [non-desi] it is exotic and quaint…

“I go to [Indian film festivals]… they have some great Hindi language film and Tamil language films. I both enjoy them and would take my kids to see them someday. They are not, however, Bollywood films, which in my view tend to advocate materialism and shallowness, bigotry against other races, and bigotry in their representation of 2nd gen Indians living abroad. For those reasons I would not expose my children to Bollywood films.

“I still think it’s about the ghettos. We will see in 10 years. I think if you [polled] under-26 Sepia Mutiny readers, they [would] overwhelmingly be non-Bollywood watchers.”

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· · · · ·
‘Birbal’
Bollywood will spread, but I’m not a fan

“I‘m not a fan of Bollywood at all. Even Lagaan, which was supposed to be a good film, wasn’t as good as most mediocre western movies I’ve seen, and I like movie musicals and emo…

“I watch movies with subtitles, but I’ve never seen a great Bollywood film. The best was – OK, entertaining, sort of like a mediocre big budget blockbuster in the US. At the best, we’re talking around Pirates of the Caribbean level…

“That said, I think [Asoka] is wrong at judging the audience… [The young] know much about Bollywood. I actually see this increasing, since the younger generation grew up with Zee TV on the satellite, while we did not.

“I went to see Lagaan with two American women, Bollywood is the new Chinese cinema for lots of hip urbanites. They see it as exotic and quaint, still it’s making inroads…”

· · · · ·


Manish
Bollywood will rise

Bollywood’s popularity among U.S. desis will increase. We know this empirically.

Part of why desi Americans don’t watch Bollywood is distribution and filtering. There isn’t any decent theater nearby, so you only get crappy, pirated videotapes. And you have no friends who watch, so you don’t know which one movie every few months is decent.

But the future points to more Bolly in the U.S. In the UK you have broad distribution of Hindi films at mainstream cineplexes, you don’t need to drive an hour. Same in some cities in Canada. Same will happen here, it’s inevitable. Birbal nails it, distribution is way up among younger desis with 4-8 desi satellite channels and movie downloads online. My youngest brother got into Bollywood via the Net and female friends who watch. Lots of desi college girls are very into Bollywood, with posters all over their walls.

It’s really, qualitatively different seeing an official print on a big screen vs. a 3rd-gen pirated copy at home — the colors, the sharpness, the sound. It’s 3x better an experience. A lot of the technical quality flaws are due to the medium in which you’re seeing it.

Yes, there are only a handful of smart, original movies, three to four a year. Going randomly without filtering (like I sometimes do ) is going to waste your time. Those three to four totally rock, though, and those who miss them are missing out in a big way, not just for the movies themselves but also for the cultural landmarks they become. It’s like missing Star Wars when it first came out, or Born on the Fourth of July, or Munich. Bonus: they invariably star attractive desis.

Also, this is a moving target. Someone who timed out on this three years ago would have dismissed the huge upshift in slickness that just happened (slick CGI and cut screens, better acting, adventurousness in screenplays, physically fit actors), just like if you dismissed India three years ago you would’ve missed all the Baristas, highways, ATMs and shopping malls.

Bollywood is the love that dare not speak its name. In the U.S. it’s largely a female phenomenon among second-genners, and the only guys who even realize it’s there are those who hang out with women and their female friends. People don’t talk a lot of Bollywood on SM in part because that’s what Sulekha and friends are for.

Yes, there’s a much higher percentage of poorly-written stories in cinema of a less developed country. You go through consumerism and cheese before you get to restraint and irony. But those 3-4 a year are neither C-list in the U.S. nor A-list. They’re something you can’t get in American cinema. At all. They’re like gelato in Italy or fireworks in London or deep dish pizza in Chicago, they’re in a league of their own. Western films are ridiculously unadventurous with emotion. They’re the Keanu Reeves of global cinema. And I don’t yet know whether Asoka is in the 95% who lack distribution and filtering, or the hardcore 5% who don’t like emo cinema.

Also, they’re all subtitled now, and it’s not a monolithic category any more. Instead of just romance and action, there’s now horror, sci-fi, artier flicks and so on. A new film out, Zinda, is a rip of an edgy Korean movie, Oldboy — instead of cloning big cheesy American flicks they’re fanning out to much more novel stories. This is all recent, last 3-5 years.

Lagaan looked slow and overhyped (I haven’t watched it yet, skimming it didn’t excite me). See Bombay, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or Dil Se if you’re a romantic, Rang De Basanti, Yuva or Krantiveer for something more substantive, Raincoat for a character study.

It’s about subculture formation, not ghettos. SM is a primo, número uno example of this subculture formation. There is a uniquely second-gen angle on Bollywood — snarky mockery of the bad ones (Turbanhead), smart analysis of the good ones. We need not just smarter movies but also smart, American-focused Bollywood commentary. Non-desi reviewers in the NYT, New Yorker and Village Voice miss too much cultural context. In mainstream Indian media, here’s the most thoughtful review of Rang De Basanti I saw, and I disagree with almost everything it says. It calls the nationalism subtle (by American standards it’s in-your-face), thinks the Punjabi is authentic (it’s totally fake, it’s 90% Hindi), and gives away the ending right up front.

Not only will Bollywood rise here, there will also be a Memoirs of a Geisha equivalent. Leaving aside that movie’s stereotyping, I’m talking about a movie with nearly all Indian actors, filmed in English and aimed at the mainstream U.S. market. And, of course, second-gen cinema can only improve.

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Bollywood is changing because Indian society is changing. But if someone locks in ‘anti-Bollywood’ just like our parents locked in ‘anti-Western family culture’ 30 years ago, they risk becoming as anachronistic as the mad scientist in Back to the Future 3:

Doc: No wonder this circuit failed. It says “Made in Japan.”
Marty: What do you mean, Doc? All the best stuff is made in Japan.
Doc: Unbelievable!

152 thoughts on “Why they hate Bollywood

  1. Ena,

    I agree, I don’t think DCH was exactly groundbreaking, though I can see where it moved slightly away from “typical” Bollywood movies.

    If it had really been groundbreaking, it would not have taken the easy route out on the Dimple + Akshay relationship, which is what just about every mainstream Indian movie does when there’s a relationship that goes against the commonly accepted grain (older woman + younger man, OH! the horror!, white girl + Indian boy, NEVER!). “Out of Control” was another example (in addition to the blackface episode); in the second half of the movie, the writers suddenly made it look like the white girl tricked Ritesh’s character into marrying her, and in the end she accepts that while he was married to her he also married a good Indian girl back in the Punjab, and even poses for a “family” picture outside the courthouse before the credits roll. What BS! (Sorry for the spoilers, but honestly, nobody should waste any more money on seeing that one.)

    The only exception I’ve seen recently is Rang de Basanti, where amazingly, Aamir Khan’s mother accepts Alice Patten’s character as her son’s love interest, and we even hear Aamir say to his friend “I don’t know if the babies will come out white or brown”, and they both laugh.

    On the whole 2nd gen question, an offshoot of that which I find interesting is Bollywood movies that don’t qualify as hits in India, but do very well here. Bluffmaster is a recent example.

    On the appeal of the outfits that someone mentioned, I agree, while some movies just ape slutty “Western” fashions (micro-minis and spilling out of a wifebeater on top), the ones that strike a chord – especially with women – are the ones that do interesting or beautiful things with Indian elements of fashion. My tailor in India tells me that after Bunty aur Babli was released last summer, she received several requests a week for copies of Rani Mukherjee’s outfits. Vidya Balan’s costumes in Parineeta were gorgeous too, though of a different decade.

  2. There is definitely a cultural gap here, I do not expect 2-gen’ers to enjoy “Pyaasa”, “Sahib Bibi aur Gulam”, “Masoom” or even “Lakshya” the way I do, but sometimes people surprise you as the 2-gen Bengali girl I met who got every subtelty of “Charulata”.

    The demographic that “Birbal” and “Asoka” represent are a tiny slice of even the NRI/PIO community, hence nobody makes Indian movies for their tastes, sorry guys :-)

  3. to elaborate,

    Indian movies (not just Bollywood) which are subtle are subtle in a fashion which is not accessible to most 2-gen’er and frankly their parents never took the troble of explaining such movies to them.

    so they are stuck with the in-your-face one’s which they cannot enjoy.

  4. The demographic that “Birbal” and “Asoka” represent are a tiny slice of even the NRI/PIO community, hence nobody makes Indian movies for their tastes, sorry guys :-)

    I think you are wrong. I think that they and I represent the vast silent majority, most of who don’t even care enough to opine on this thread.

  5. Abhi said:

    “I would want my eventual offspring to watch REAL Indian films, in Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, etc. These are very worthwhile and have nothing at all to do with Bollywood”

    could you give me some examples of such non-bollywood movies, which in your view are REAL

  6. Ena

    DCH was a ground-breaking movie for Indians for two reasons.

    1) It was released in 2000 (I think) about the time when the software/outsourcing boom was really kicking in in India. It reflects the aspirations and conflicts, as well as confidence, of Indian youth at that time, especially men. For us in the early twenties at that time, it was and remains a strong male-bonding experience just to watch it. As guys, we just identified with the characters in the movie and it felt like our stories being told. Which is probably the biggest plus in itself.

    2) I guess the movie did take the ‘easy’ way out on the young man-older woman relationship, but again you guys fail to take it in context. The fact remains that as a society, urban middle-class young India is emerging from a shell and rediscovering its own concepts of dating and romantic love. For a lot of people, it is an important question as to how much one should pursue ones own love (how does one know what is ‘love’ anyway, if it does exist and so on) and how to keep the family happy. These are things that Americans take for granted, but in India it usually ends up being a deeply personal decision for each person, something that my Western friends absolutely don’t get.

    DCH was one of the first movies which got out of the stupid ‘Dil to paagal hai’ type of fantasy romance and placed the idea of dating and relationships and some other issues in modern India in a somewhat realistic (within Bollywood norms) setting.

    Again, all this may NOT make any sense to people out of that social context. Americans might find the concepts of romance in the movie quaint and archaic and too traditional and ‘backward’ and whatever.

    When I discuss bollywood among my other 1-gen friends, I find that they treat DCH as a landmark and a watershed movie, and almost talk of a continuity of movies in that trend upto Rang de Basanti. Of course, nothing ever measures up to DCH.

  7. In response to all the posts claiming that your average mainsteam Hindi film is not a true depiction of India, I don’t really think that’s the intention of the filmmaker in the first place. KKKG was crap, but to say that a desi american shouldn’t watch it because it doesn’t represent the real India is unfair. I saw the movie and thought it was entertaining. Silly, but entertaining nonetheless. And I think that’s all the filmmakers of these type of movies are asking from the audience, is to enjoy the movie and have fun watching it. A lot of the huge Hollywood blockbusters are just entertainers and nothing more. You either like movies like KKKG or those other frivolous yash raj films, or you don’t. They don’t have to be meaningful to be enjoyable. Why take those types of movies so seriously?

  8. A section of bollywood is going through a corporatization phase currently. This, in turn, is leading to market segmentation where movies are being made targeting primarily the indian multiplex & overseas crowds. Film promoters have found this market attractive as they end up making as much or more from overseas box office/ DVD / cassette sales than from the domestic market. Last year, “Black” was a superhit with this crowd but failed miserably in tier 2 urban theatres + rural india. DCH was made in 2001, perhaps the earliest effort to target this specific market. It would be a mistake to think of the indian moviegoer as a monolithic consumer of hindi movies, although there are movies which are successful in both markets i.e. lagaan, devdas etc. These become megahits.

    Interesting that as bollywood gets more globalized, it is spawning a reaction in the “hindi” belt. Bhojpuri movies have taken off like a rocket at the box office & are returning incredible ROI numbers. Needless to say, bhojpuri movies are retro bollywood with 10-20 songs, rural settings etc. Many big bollywood stars, including the bachchans, have already signed up!

    sanjay

  9. DCH also captured the angst felt by some of us when we are at crossroads in our lives. Saif Ali Khan’s character was excellent as was Sonali Kulkarni’s. They were against the whole arranged marriage thing and found their own way of coping. I was impressed with the way the older woman-younger man romance was handled. For one thing, it was one sided and secondly, it was not vulgar or obscene and nothing like the MILF scenarios we see in some movies. The older woman was also an alcoholic…another taboo with the indian mentality. There was a single mother who completely supported a brooding artist son and an uncle who saw his niece’s trauma but couldn’t help because of class struggles. Amir Khan’s character was immature and unbelieving until reality struck him too.

    I personally DCH it because it allowed all the characters to grow and embrace maturity in their own ways. The music helped of course. Besides, what’s not to like about a movie that has a song that is a parody of older romantic videos? :-)

  10. Bollywood needs to upgrade its movie theaters. They audience to seating ratio is 100:1. Advertisements can only be seen from a birds eye view. At least thats what 6th grade california text books are saying. Check out the picture and see for yourself.

  11. Bhojpuri movies have taken off like a rocket at the box office & are returning incredible ROI numbers. Needless to say, bhojpuri movies are retro bollywood with 10-20 songs, rural settings etc. Many big bollywood stars, including the bachchans, have already signed up!

    Music to my ears!!

    M. Nam

  12. Most Bollywood movies these days are being made for a younger, hipper and more well to do crowd, save for the ocassional Mithun Chakroborthy(sic??) potboiler. As a result, seems like they’re getting drubbed in the rural areas by the C-grade or regional language movies. Hard to say if the trend is permanent but seems like ultimately Bollywood will stop catering to the rural population and consequently the “formula” movies will be replaced by more “sensible” cinema.

  13. could you give me some examples of such non-bollywood movies, which in your view are REAL

    with all due respect – what makes you think they are NOT real…
    do you think the mother-i-can-see-miracles, the till-we-die-hyperemotional-relationships, the omnipotent-scumbags-running-fiefdoms, the indentured-slaves-posing-as-’servants’ are not real? beg to differ. or is it the green-field fantasy not real? the fantasy IS very much real.
    if the people didnt see themselves and their aspirations reflected in the movies, the industry wont exist. Of course, the fact that the NRI audience is calling the shots… aamir khan’s genius is not in his acting – the sonuvabitch is an accountant, painting by numbers and raking the money through his target market. got to hand it to him.

  14. Can someone recommend some good, new Bollywood movie sans prolonged song/dance routine. My wife keeps bugging me to rent some Hindi movies.

    Another one to add to the list: Chandni Bar

  15. May be you should look at this commercial (60 sec) and you will realize his talent..!

    sorry about being rude earlier… i should have said i respect him more because of his abilities as a businessman than as an actor…

  16. I don’t want my evetual offspring growing up to think that Bollywood films represent what India is like. I would want my eventual offspring to watch REAL Indian films, in Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, etc. These are very worthwhile and have nothing at all to do with Bollywood, which better serves its purpose as being an opiate for the masses.

    Ha Ha Ha…just what we bollywood fans want! They’d rebel against you as teenagers and become total bollywood fans for the rest of their lives!

    :D

  17. The bigger issue facing the Indian movie biz is one of balancing art and commerce… That is the biggest issue facing filmmakers everywhere not only in India.

    “We are in the transportation business. We transport audiences from one place to another.” “If I made films for the critics, or for someone else, I’d probably be living in some small Hollywood studio apartment.”

    That’s Jerry Bruckheimer quoted here Filmmakers as a rule go through tough times to make it big. In India even the ones born into affluent non-filmi families have struggled, stumbled and succeeded after staking everything. Few make it and the rest are never heard from again. That’s why your average mass market producer wants to play safe and give the audience what it wants and even when working on something offbeat tries to keep the market in mind. And they quite rightly believe that “if I can make it thru tough times let me tell the poor guy in the front bench that he too can…” There’s plenty of reality in Bollywood even in the most crassly commercial movies.

    Hindi movies are the big playground where filmmakers from every regional movie industry work on every now and then. Amitabh got one of his first big breaks in Bombay to Goa a remake of a Tamizh hit by the Ramanathan family (to whom he to this day expresses gratitude). There is a lot healthy give and take between the regions (especially in the South) film industries. To some extent Bollywood does reflect Indian movies as a whole.

    Kush I shd have read that list again before posting.

  18. “Hindi movies are the big playground where filmmakers from every regional movie industry work on every now and then.”

    Shiva,

    Yes, there is incredible give and take. Let me add some more examples of cross-over: Sharmila Tagore, Suchitra Sen, Kamalhasan, Sridevi, Aparna Sen and many others started in regional films. Doesn’t our lovely Aish and others act in regional movies too.

    Even Satyajit Ray made Hindi (+Urdu+English) movie, Shatranj Ka Khilari

    Bombay to Goa is a fantastic movie.

  19. Another good movie that came out last year was Hazaron Khawaise Aisi – requires some familiarity with Indian politics. Also Iqbal which came out recently.

    of comments on this board tell me that Bollywood remains of interest to many even here at Sepia – which i consider generaly to be the home of 2nd gen desi-americans. As many posters have already said, the classic Bollywood film (MHN, KKKG, DDLJ etc.) are not being made for 2nd gens specifically. They are being made for the daily struggler in India who can get his occastional flight of fancy. Ironically Shah Rukh Khan – King of Bollywood masala film is more popular with 2nd gen then with 1st gen or even with their counterparts in India.

  20. Lots has been said on this thread about how Bollywood isn’t representative of Indian cinema, but the sort of materialist, escapist fantasy that most on this thread seem to think IS Bollywood is not representative of Bollywood either. Almost all those films are made by two directors called Karan Johar and Yash Chopra – standard bearers of a sort of fucked up, juvenile, and (as it so happens), UBER glamorous aesthetic that started with Silsila and culminated with KKKG and Kal Ho Na Ho. From 70s masala, to 80s cop movies, to 90s romance to today’s genre-bending surprises, there’s TONS to learn and love about Bollywood.

    Some recent favorites (in no particular order) that are 100% Bolly:

    GENERAL Bluffmaster – geared towards the Bolly nerd because it is full of references to 70s masala films but there’s plenty for a novice to enjoy too.
    Bunty Aur Babli – again, traditional 70s masala referenced strongly but without 70s style conflict.
    Saathiya – bollywood romance “updated” for the times.

    POLITICS/COP FLICKS Khakee – a great cop story with hindu-muslim politics, comedy, Ash, masala and BACHCHAN! Dev – recreates Gujarat riots in a fictional bombay neighborhood Gangajal – one of many movies in the welcome-to-the-hell-that-is-Bihar genre

    BOMBAY UNDERWORLD
    Vaastav Satya or Company (either will do)

    INDEPENDENT MOVIES (warning: both these could’ve used some trimming) Main Meri Patni Aur Woh – a shy, “homely” man in UP marries a taller, gorgeous woman and becomes convinced that every man is hitting on her Iqbal – deaf and mute Muslim kid from rural India overcomes obstacles to play pro cricket

  21. Gareeb hindustani gavvaala- tanik post to gaya bhaiyya. Is site pe mazaak bilkul mana hai -joote padenge ram ram

  22. %#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?& }+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?%#$@#?&}+!@#$&?

    /annoyance over not being able to understand a damned thing being said at this point

  23. Anna,

    Some help in translation.

    tanik humra post ko rehney do, mazha lene do…. = please let me post stay (do not delete), enjoyment for everyone

    Reheney do choedo bhi jaaney do yaar… = let it be, leave it, let it go friend.

    ThePoorIndianVillager is pretty hilarious. Using rural style of communication – part hick, part humble.

  24. Translation for public good

    Manish Bhai, tanik humra post ko rehney do, mazha lene do….

    (Manish do not delete the post, this is fun)

    Gareeb hindustani gavvaala- tanik post to gaya bhaiyya. Is site pe mazaak bilkul mana hai -joote padenge ram ram (ThePoorIndianVillager Your post will be deleted. This site prohibits frivolity. Any violator will be beaten with shoes)

    Eee sasur ke naati bhayye kahan se aa gaye khaine chabake ;-)

    (God knows where does these beetle chewing(grandsons of father- in- laws)bhayyas (affectionate terms for people of UP )came from.

  25. Anna, I am trying this fun. Let’s see how it comes out. Within parentheses and italics is my take – Please note

    Arrey chal ae, [Come on dude] *spits paan… Do we really care about what some mongrel somewhere thinks about our movies? Nobody is begging you to watch our movies if you don’t want to. Shove all the nautanki [street theater] where the sun don’t shine. Our mithun da and govindas [Mithun and Govinda are Bollywood megastars] are not for phony-pseudo intellectual -narcissistic-firangs. Saala, bevdaaa [Goofball ,Imbecile]….. Save all your ” Oh India is so poor, the movies don’t reflect reality ” drivel for somebody else. Go cry somewhere else…. Jai Hind [Jai = Let praise be] Jai Shri Raam DhaniChand Mangal Ram [Note: Just using random North Indian names] uttarpardes, Bharath… [One of the States of India - UP, India]

    Manish Bhai, tanik humra post ko rehney do, mazha lene do…. [Brother Manish, Do not delete my post, Fun for everyone]

    Note: Such a style would perhaps be used in any village in North-Central India with words will change according to their native language and dialect. The original author of the post can always correct me. That will be more fun.

  26. I think the charm gets lost in translation. The english equivalents (if they exist) lack soul.

    I agree. That is why I cracked up.

    I have to give you this perhaps 80% of Indians in India (and also South Asians – Pakistan, Nepal) right now would speak that way you wrote your post.

    In 2003-2004, I was in Hyderabad. Even in South India, the general style remained the same and everyone used Hindi to interact with me – since I did not understand Telugu. The funny part, in Delhi, people will tend to throw English language more around.

    PS: How do you translate “Saala” in English within your context. Another meaning is brother-in-law.

    Back to Bollywood. Focus, man

  27. Abhi — ‘I would want my eventual offspring to watch REAL Indian films, in Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, etc. These are very worthwhile and have nothing at all to do with Bollywood, which better serves its purpose as being an opiate for the masses.’

    I agree with you 200%, hopefully with time, Bollywood will come to its senses and allow some real drama into movies

  28. If I have to see Real India why would I spend 200 rupees for it ?? I can very well see it outside , no ? And why in heavens would I want to see a documentary ?

    Kush

    Saala mean brother in law, in context it may refer to relations of amorous kind with other’s sister.

    English is usually considered to be elite language all over India. So it is a mark of your social status. Now a days yankee slagns are in.

    As far as Hindi in south goes, there shouldn’t be any problem in cities like Hyderabad or Banglore. Some of my colleagues are from Karnataka and Andhra, and according to them it is not difficult to find people who understand Hindi in these two states. However it is a big no no in Chennai or for that matter rest of Tamilnadu. I have no idea about Kerala , but I have heard that it is not rare to find Hindi speakers in Kerala, as many from Kerala work outside the state.

    Regards

  29. As far as Hindi in south goes, there shouldn’t be any problem… However it is a big no no in Chennai or for that matter rest of Tamilnadu.

    I am from Madras/Chennai. A surprising number of tradespeople and staff in the shopping districts (in every part of the city) speak Hindi (being Sindhi/Marwari/Kutchi/Gujarati). At Central Station you will find rickshawallas and porters who can speak the language. Somebody very near and dear to me – a non-tamizh speaker – lived in the city for over 15 years without ever having to speak the language. Coming to the movie business apart from the producers/directors/singers/actors etc, the junior artistes starting from clapper/spot/touch-up’boys’ through extras, dance/stunt and makeip artistes understand all Southern languages and Hindi quite well. Don’t ask me why and how, but many years ago when I was watching a dubbing session at Filmalaya in Bombay I was sternly advised not to confabulate in Tamizh – “Don’t think they don’t follow the language.” And Kush, the inter-regional collaboration can be traced back to the earliest days of Indian cinema in the 1920s and ’30s. S.S.Vasan the Southern movie moghul was among those who watched the first “preview” of Pather Panchali and is reported to have come away speechless remarking that Indian cinema was now entering a new era.

  30. All I can say is, rest assured. Bollywood will never die. I just got two more people hooked last night! Muuhuuuhaahaaaa! <–evil laugh ItÂ’s something like cotton candy—lots of colors, larger than life and nothing but sugar and air. Yum!

  31. The US entertainment industry is unassailable, for the same reason US leadership in top-tier Universities (Harvard has more jews than white-gentiles), numbers of nobel prizes (50% of US nobels are won by jews)….etc. etc…. are all unassailable: 6 million ashkenazic jews with an average IQ of approximately 115. Verbal IQ is even higher, which would seem to help in writing good scripts. No other nation on earth has near as many ashkenazic jews.

  32. With almost every desi family in west now having a dish, and no longer have to watch western programs. More young people will be exposed to bollywood 24/7 so they will start to watch.

  33. Of all the (actual) Bollywood I’ve seen – less than twenty (sad)…I’ve only disliked maybe 1.5 films. One was Mast (though I liked the very end where he carried her around the fire, I thought it was touching, too bad it wasn’t the end of a better movie) & the other I can’t remember, it just grated on my nerves. :P

    If someone wants to throw out old videos, feel free to toss them my way. :)

  34. If someone wants to throw out old videos, feel free to toss them my way. :)

    ditto…and if i ever get tix to any current movies i can’t stand, first dibs.

  35. OK but… what’s so wrong with BW being over the top, melodramatic, thunderclaps, etc etc. From a technical point of view, sure, they may not be up to HW standards, but acting, style, direction wise – it’s a completely different genre, it’s a completely different style of moviemaking. If they want to have the thunderclaps, let them, it just makes for fun. Everything doesn’t have to be ‘realistic’ or introspective or profound or whatever.

    And so what if it doesn’t have a strong plot, so what if it has random songs and dances and etc. That’s part of the charm – why should it be bad to have those just because Hollywood films don’t? Why the necessity to compare to Hollywood all the time and say it’s dumb just because it isn’t like that in comparison? Hollywood isn’t necessarily better, I know I got sick and tired of seeing the same old wooden nonsense with the over pontificating silently suffering protagonist and the continuous sex scenes and gratituous violence and I went to BW instead because there’s so much life in the films. Why should K3G or KHNH be “bad” (as compared to Hollywood, of course) just because they have songs and dances and melodramaticness and thunderclaps etc – that’s just because we’re so conditioned to think that HW = the best = the only way, and then if anything else is completely out of HW’s realm, we can’t let ourselves take it in stride. It saddens me really, but what can you do.

    FYI, I’m a second gen Canadian desi. :)

  36. One more thing… firstly, BW movies are an integral part of Indian culture just for the fact of existing, the songs being played over and over again etc. whether or not they’re representative of the general demographic, they are also a part of the culture as it stands because of their influence.

    honestly, I’m sure this wasn’t the intention, but having it said that the formula movies are ‘insensible’ and should be replaced by more sensible movies is a bit insulting, to me at least. A lot of us like the formula movies for everything they have in them and again, just because they’re not HW-style sensible, they’re automatically categorized as backward, brainless, unrealistic – of course they’re unrealistic, but that’s why they’re fun! Yet it doesn’t make them ‘backward’. It only does if you think that they’re not up to your standard because they’re not ‘cool’ enough to fly in HW.

    Personally I don’t mind the increased special effects/tech level but I hope to heck they don’t ‘modernize’ (as if it’s better) and start outputting form stale flicks like HW does in storyline. Like there was this one 70s movie that was absolutley mental – it apparently started out with a bunch of people flailing about in the snow on a bright clear day – they’re supposed to be dying in a blizzard. :P Or the end of Ajnabee, which has a plot point centering on the fact that the villains are sailing away from landlocked Switzerland on an ocean liner, and will not be captureable because they’ll be in international waters… etc. Sure it’s not sensible, but so what? Have a sense of humor, take it in stride and laugh about it.

    The whole thing honestly smacks of a inferiority complex to me, to be blunt.

  37. I was never terribly interested in most of the 2.5 hour masala movies or the Bengali movies (someone is always crying within 5 minutes of the start) I grew up with but I was certain happy to check out the gangster movies. Company, also by Ram Gopal Varma was my first real introduction to Bollywood.

    RGV was the first Bollywood director I followed the work of. I don’t feel too embarassed recommending his movies to non-ABCD/non-FOB friends. As far standard masala (as an ABCD), I’ve come to appreciate the innocence and silliness of selected Bollywood flicks – see Hero, Disco Dancer,etc.

    The way at least to male movie-goers hearts are gangster movies a la Sarkar.

  38. And all those brilliant Ashkenazim are busy making Scary Movie 4.

    While folks half way around the world are making Fight Club. Crap in the entertainment industry is pretty universal, Hollywood or Bollywood.

  39. As long as there are enough young men who think interesting “OUTFITS” is one reason to watch films, Bollywood will flourish. Mafia men who fund the industry will force film makers to make films that sell like GARMA GARAM cakes. Films that thrill the front benchers. but then, good cinema is happening. Down south. In Kerala. A movie named “Thanmathra” is making ripples in that small state. It’s on Alzhiemers Disease. Hope this movie gets a Hindi remake some time in the near future. It will do us Desis proud.

  40. It’s making news worldwide YAAAAAR. Our favourite HIndi BLOCKBUSTER Dishum, Dishum is now the laughing stock of sensible people worldwide. One of my Arab friends told me that in Egypt, they split their seams watching movies like Devdas and Saajan. They even have a comic movie named “HINDI MOVIE.” The movie features characters who are completely blown out of proportion. Highly emotinal men and women, who try very very hard to look attractive and remain obsessive about their fair skin. how sad. They never get to hear of a Satyajit Ray or an Aravindan or a BuddhaDeb Das gupta!

  41. Hmm

    I think that bollywood and hollywood are incomparable. I also think that bollywood is the only film industry in the world which survives locally in spite of a HUGE hollywood fan following, so it has to have some good in it. I say lets not compare Indian and western cinema at all. To those who like to watch, okay; to those who don’t, well, okay.

    I hope you guys get my point.

  42. 99% of Bolloywood movies are crap. There are a few good ones, such as Mother India. These movies do nothing but make India, and Indians look stupid, especally Hindus. You gain nothing from watching them. you actually lose something- BRAIN CELLS.

  43. OK, it’s a Saturday and I’m checking out old SM threads. This one seems to have mostly – though not altogether – petered out. Wanted to share this great site with people here who are looking for recommendations: Philip’s fill-ums, a site maintained by a Phil Lutgendorf, a UIowa Prof who teaches a course on Indian Cinema. He includes both recommendations and commentary on his site. The commentary includes many interesting and unique takes on Indian culture from the perspective of an extremely sympathetic Westerner, and are extremely enjoyable reading. Someday I plan to see more of the films he’s listed. So far, I’ve seen, like, one.

  44. I read several comments and I don’t know why some indians (in the States especially) bash Bollywood movies in general. I even read a comment where they hinted that indian kids are more assimilated in the States than in Europe? Pardon me? I am an indian kid (2nd generation) and was not even raised with indian movies. Not long ago (2 months) I was introduced to an Indian movie on the Dutch tv: Mother India and I was impresses. Later I was introduced by a non indian to Monsoon Wedding and Lagaan. Despite the songs in Lagaan and the predictablity of the story I liked the movie I also saw some others later, which I didn’t like (the singing, the plot, etc.) The people (American indians) that criticize Bollywood movies should also realize that Hollywood makes crap movies too. They also make good movies, but most of it is predictable anyway. Sometimes they even make a hit, like a woman in red (for example) which is a remake of a an European movie. I live in Holland and maybe Europeans can sometimes open their minds to other kind of movies, because they are more versatile? I prefer French, British and Spanish movies anyway and here on tv we see those movies on a regular bases and even movies from Japan, China, Rumania and so on. Maybe they should do the same with the American children. Then they wouldn’t only overrate their own movie-industry. It is not great either. Let’s put it like this: Hollywood makes a lot of crap and sometimes (if the story is not stolen from European movies) a good movie and Bollywood (since it is a big industry) makes rotten movies too, but also great movies. Just keep an open mind. Start reading a book from time to time from another culture and watch other movies too from different countries, maybe you’ll be less biased then.