Bollywood for me is not simply an cinematic art form, but has been an integral part of understanding about life. One of my earliest memories as a toddler, was watching the Subhash Ghai film ‘Ram Lakkhan’ and the Ajay Devgun debut film: ‘Phool aur Kaante’. Since then, i have hooked to the song and dance, melodramatic genre of cinema called Bollywood. Well Amitabh Bacchchan detests the term and he prefers to term it the Indian Film Industry. I would rather call it the Hind ‘Phillum’ Industry, as there are other regional vernacular film industries that are bigger such as Tamil and Telugu film industries. Films are a part of the rubric of contemporary Indian Culture. The trajectory of post liberalization India can be charted through Bollywood films from Darr to Dostana to Dabangg.
I am not a purist, nor claim to be a student of cinema but I am a affecionado of Bollywood fims. I have watched films from the brilliant to the bizzare. This term ‘Bolly Holic’ has been coined by my graduate student colleague in English Literature at the Nanyang Technological University Mr. JX Ho over a heated conversation over Rang De Basanti with another opinionated Colleague from India (ex JNU). The beauty of a Dulhe Raja or a Partner by David Dhawan, cannot be expressed by a rational mind. A Dabangg or a Wanted is simply too entertaining for words. Bollywood has progressed with a better educated audience watching films like Kahaani or a Dirty Picture.
Bollywood is India’s Soft Power as is American films. A DON franchise film or an Agneepath, was shown in Singaporean theaters with non South Asian viewers. Bollywood films emote so well, that the language gap is transcended. I have watched films in theaters across, South East Asia and the Middle East. There is a theater exhibiting Bollywood fare across almost every major capital across the Globe. As an expat kid in the Persian Gulf, Bollywood as a medium to connect to my cultural ethos. Watching ‘D’ and ‘Company’ connected me to Mumbai, the city of my Birth as does ‘Kahaani’, the city of my ethnicity.
The emotions expressed in a Bollywood film from a mediocre student in 3 Idiots to the heartbreak in Rockstar all resonate with me and many millions. The quest to be someone and the zest for life in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is so refreshing. These are all cinematic experiences which make my life richer.
People should not compare Bollywood with Hollywood films, they are as different as having parathas and pizzas. Let us enjoy them for what they are for.