When most people think of Bollywood, they probably think of Hollywood/Bollywood crossovers, like Slumdog Millionaire or Bride & Prejudice — movies set in India, with a couple dance numbers, but still mostly the same as Hollywood movies.
The truth is, though, that true Bollywood movies — movies made in India, and primarily in the Hindi language — are pretty different from Hollywood films.
While you might be a little nervous about subtitles (you get used to it) or not knowing any of the stars (you’ll come to know and love them in no time) to try Bollywood on your own, I have already done the work for you.
Ready to branch out with your movie-watching? I have four good reasons why you should be watching Bollywood films.
Now, granted, this might not be a selling point for some of you (if that’s you, skip ahead). However, Bollywood movies in general have more romance than Hollywood films, both in the sheer volume of rom-coms that come out, and in the level of romance in the movie itself.
As the industry has attempted to be competitive in foreign markets by Americanizing, a little of that same romance has been lost, but older films like Veer-Zaara and Devdas have a power to their romantic storylines that hasn’t been seen in Hollywood since the Golden Age of the 40s and 50s.
The Indian culture is also generally more conservative than America, so the romance tends to be less physical and more emotional, which I appreciate, if only because it’s something different.
2. Unique Stories
This mostly just comes with being an industry set in a totally different culture, but some of the movie plots, especially the more dramatic ones, are really original stories you just wouldn’t see in America — at least, not on the big screen.
What’s great about these different movies, too, is that bigger stars feature in them (though still not stars most Americans would know). Two such films are Black, starring Rani Mukerji and Amitabh Bachchan, about a deaf, blind, and mute woman and her teacher; and Barfi!, which stars Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra as two characters who are abnormal but highly relatable.
Side note: I knew who Priyanka Chopra (who now stars on the ABC drama Quantico) was before she was famous in the U.S. — and that’s the kind of claim to hipsterdom that comes from watching Bollywood (reason 2.5, if you will).
If you ever get tired of the same old Hollywood plots, then consider branching out to Bollywood, where even if the general concept is similar, the way it’s handled is totally different.
For example, the movie 3 Idiots is about college students trying to figure out who they’re going to become — and you’ve definitely seen a movie like that before.
But 3 Idiots is also highly informed by its context in Indian culture, which changes the way the story is told. There’s also lots of singing and dancing throughout, which leads me to…
3. Dancing! Singing!
While Hollywood is starting to come back around to this a little bit with films like La La Land, Bollywood has always been very musical — and that hasn’t really changed.
A movie about college students? A musical (3 Idiots).
A movie about a never-do-well photographer? A musical (Wake Up Sid).
A movie about a ’70s film actor who dies and is reincarnated in the present so he can avenge the murder of his soulmate? Yep, you guessed it. Also a musical (Om Shanti Om, which is also my favorite Bollywood movie).
What’s interesting about Bollywood too, is that the music is not usually performed by the actors in the film, but by professional singers whose primary job is to sing for Bollywood movies. It’s not uncommon, then, to be watching a movie, and get excited because Udit Narayan and Shreya Ghosal are the singers for the main characters, and they’re your (my) personal favorites.
The dancing, though, is always the actors, and the dances are awesome.
Some dances are integrated into the plot, and others feel very much like the movie just paused so there could be a music video (a tendency which is played for comedic effect in Om Shanti Om, with the song “Dard-e-Disco” — check it out: it’s funny, it’s ridiculous, and it’s on purpose).
The singing and dancing is part of what makes Bollywood So. Much. Fun. to watch. As well as…
4. Beautiful Clothes
So many colors!
It’s been well-established that I don’t often wear bright colors in my day-to-day life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a colorful wardrobe.
And Bollywood is full of color.
The saris, kurtas, and even “normal” clothes are fun, bright, and always come with scarves. The fashion is so good, it’s contagious. When I starting watching Bollywood movies at least once a week, my collection of bangles and scarves increased significantly.
I even bought a skirt from an Indian clothing store in town, and every time I wear it I get compliments, because it’s beautiful, and because it’s unique.
Integrating clothes from other cultures (in a thoughtful and respectful manner) is a great way to spice up your outfits, while also learning about a world that is different from your own — which is, after all, the most important reason to watch movies from other cultures.
Will you give Bollywood a shot?
As readers of a fashion magazine, fashion inspo should be the only reason you need to watch Bollywood movies, but I’ve given you lots more.
What’s great about Bollywood is that it’s an entire industry, so it’s multifaceted and diverse. If you don’t like romance, there are still some really good dramas. If you don’t like musicals, there are some movies where the songs play more like a musical montage in a Hollywood movie.
If you don’t like beautiful clothes, though, then you’ve got bigger problems.
Let’s chat in the comments!
Have you seen any Bollywood movies? Are there film industries in other countries that you follow? Would you watch any of the movies in this article?