|Note of interest: Bollywood, as a place, does not exist. It's a concept.|
Here's what you need to know about Bollywood flicks:
- Music and Dancing: Expect to see somewhere around 6 musical numbers per movie. You know how it works: A guy is crushing on a girl and he bursts into song in the middle of a crowded street professing his undying affection for her, while all pedestrians within a 5 mile radius start a flash mob, matching our hero step for step.
- Music Videos: Not quite movie related, but any music video you see on MTV, VH-1, etc. is a clip from a movie. It's common to have a bit of dialogue before or after the singing starts, as they've just cut a chunk from the actual film. The music videos will start airing before the movie is released. I've seen some music videos I've hated, until I've watched the movie. Once I could put it into context of the script, I fell in love with the clip/song.
- Item Number: Many movies will have what's called an Item Number. This often comes at the beginning of the movie, before the story starts, but can show up anywhere during the film. Generally the IN will feature a super hit actress that is not a member of the plot cast, and in no way related to the story line, she just kind of appears out of no-where. In many cases, the song or dance she performs has NOTHING to do with the plot and if your not familiar with the framework of a Bollywood film, can be quite confusing. It's just a random interjection of yet another song and dance routine in the film.
- Singing: What you should also know, is the singing you hear in Bollywood movies is dubbed. Being a playback singer is big business here. The actors are lip-syncing.
- Length: Hindi movies generally run somewhere around 3 hours. If you see them at the theatre, you'll be granted an intermission.
- Plot Twists: Due to the length of the movie, you can expect a lot of plot twists. I've been surprised by quite a few movies when, an hour in and around the time my Hollywood conditioned mind expects the loose ends of the plot to start wrapping up, an entire new storyline will start. Then again, an hour later, when the plot takes another turn and an entire new story line starts. Some movies can be really unpredictable, which I find refreshing.
- Sex: You won't see it. You'll barely see any kissing (although the younger Bollywood generation is getting pretty risqué). If you find yourself watching a scene in which two people are moving in for the big smooch, the image of a bee or butterfly landing on a flower or a ceiling fan spinning (if they're smooching in a bedroom - after their wedding, of course) will flash on the screen. I find a bit of a paradox here, however. While the plot might be innocent enough, the dance numbers leave little to the imagination. See for yourself.
- Heroes and Heroines: Every Bollywood hero is capable of killing five guys with a single bullet, stopping a train with his bare hands, or flipping a car upside down with the smash of his fist. Every heroine is a damsel in distress.
- Antagonists: Every bad guy is armed with an axe, a sickle, or a sword. At all times. In any situation.
So that's my top list of things you should know about Hindi movies. Here is a list of some of my favourite movies that you might enjoy:
3 Idiots: Great cast, great music, rather typical plot but enough surprises to keep it interesting.
I Hate Luv Stories: Lots of Hinglish dialogue which makes it easy for the non-Hindi speaker to follow. Great music. Awesome cast.
Raanjhanaa: Again: Awesome music. Awesome script. Awesome cast. Tragically beautiful love story. I still think they could have incorporated the song Why This Kolaveri Di into the movie. It would have totally fit the plot.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan: So full of plot twists, I felt like I got three movies for the price of one when I saw it at the theatre. Love seeing Anushka Sharma and SRK on the screen together again. Great soundtrack.
Ek Tha Tiger: Great script. Good, albeit somewhat predictable storyline. Awesome opening scene.
Kal Ho Naa Ho: Again, crazy plot twists. Somewhat corny musical numbers, although catchy. Great cast. Love seeing Hindi movies based in the US. I think I got halfway through the movie before I recognized Saif Ali Khan.
Special 26: Great movie. Might not make sense for people who aren't familiar with Indian government to follow but if you can get it dubbed, you should be able to follow along. Even though it's based on a real story, take it lightly.
Barfi!: I loved loved loved this movie. Anyone who's a fan of Priyanka Chopra, or has seen her collaboration with PitBull or Thursday Night Football intro, wouldn't even recognize her in this film. She did an amazing job. Not a dialogue heavy movie, however you'd want to see it dubbed so you can really follow the narrative overlay.
Cocktail: Terrific story. Lovely acting. Again, great music. I really appreciated the storyline in this one and the music was great too.
Bol Bachchan: Great comedy, fun music. Really hilarious to native English speakers who've spent any time in India or anyone who's regularly observed "Indian English."
Anything else someone not familiar with Hindi movies should know? What to add your favourite Hindi movie to the list? Do so in the comments below!