From Bombay to your local Blockbuster
It's the largest film industry in the world. It starts with a "B," (as in Bombay), and rhymes with Hollywood. Just in case you still don't get it, we're talking about Bollywood – the Indian film industry that produces around a 1000 movies a year, twice that of Hollywood.
So, how can you recognize a Bollywood film? Well, to start off, Bollywood films are usually in Hindi, the predominant language in India. Movies usually last around three hours. And chances are, you'll think you're watching a musical because every ten minutes or so, a number of the actors will break out into song and dance. Don't be scared if the actors change clothes around 20 times within the five or so minutes of the song, or if the background switches between the Eiffel Tower and the Swiss Alps. Instead, sit back and admire the (usually) beautiful choreography of the dances and the songs themselves.
Whether the movie falls under comedy or action, drama or horror, if it's Indian, it will most likely have some element of romance to it. Bollywood movies are incomplete without a love triangle (or square, or pentagon). Even then, don't expect any kissing. That is too scandalous for the Indian public to watch, though that seems to be changing with time as the films are becoming more "westernized."
Now, everyone can join in on the Bollywood fun because these films are trickling into your local Blockbuster or library. They come with subtitles, so don't fear if you can't understand Hindi! To help you start out, we, Poorva, Priyanka and Rachita – Silver Chips Online's self-dubbed Bollywood experts – have chosen ten films that have made it big at the box office.
Genre: Romance, Drama
Year Released: : 2002
"Devdas" is India's most famous love story, its prominence analogous to that of the Western Romeo and Juliet. Originally a book by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, "Devdas" has been adapted as a film several times. The movie portrays the story of Devdas (Shahrukh Khan) and Parvati (Aishwarya Rai), two lovers separated by class differences. Devdas is from a wealthy family that refuses to let him marry Parvati (or Paro), for she is of a much lower social status. Humiliated by Devdas's family, Paro's mother, Sumitra (Kiron Kher), vows to get her daughter married into a wealthier family than Devdas's. Pride and arrogance come between the two lovers, though they know they cannot forget each other. Devdas runs away trying to leave Paro and succumbs to alcoholism. He finds Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit), a beautiful courtesan who falls in love with Devdas and takes care of him, but his heart still belongs to Paro. The movie won ten Filmfare Awards –India's version of Hollywood's Academy Awards – in 2002. "Devdas" was India's entry in the "Foreign Film" category at the 2003 Academy Awards.Poorva: The movie is a classic but the scenes felt like they dragged on for a bit. But whatever flaws the movie might have had, the absolutely gorgeous song-and-dance numbers made up for it. Dixit is a stunning dancer and so it's always a pleasure to see her lively Bollywood steps as a song comes on.
Priyanka: For me, "Devdas" was a little boring at times, but its timelessness and class make up for the length, which might be a turn-off for amateur Bollywood film-viewers. This movie is also acclaimed for the cast, which has award-winning actresses Dixit and Rai.
Rachita: I have to agree with Poorva – the songs make up for the movie's length and frequent ability to bore.
Year Released: : 2004
If you like movies with fast and attractive vehicles – think "The Fast and the Furious," – you'll like "Dhoom," one of Bollywood's recent action blockbusters. The movie is about a gang of motorcyclists – led by the suave and macho Kabir (John Abraham) – that makes trouble in the streets of Bombay. The local authorities assign the gang's case to slick cop Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan). When Dixit opens fire on one of the gang members, a permanent enmity is forged between the officer and Kabir, and the two become avidly interested in one-upping one another for pride and fortune.Poorva: "Dhoom" was an entertaining movie to say the least. I loved the songs (quite unlike in the follow up of this movie, "Dhoom 2").
Priyanka: This movie's plot is trite and its characters are all superficial and shallow. But its cool action effects, banging soundtrack and attractive actors absolve it of all its flaws.
Rachita: Action lovers will enjoy "Dhoom" and its newly released sequel "Dhoom 2." The second installment pairs Dixit with a new thief and spins into a wildly entertaining two hours of car chases and explosions.
Title: Dil Chahta Hai
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Year Released: : 2001
"Dil Chahta Hai" tells the story of three best friends and their post-college love lives. Akash (Aamir Khan) is madly in love with a girl who loves him back but has sworn to marry another. Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) finds himself slowly falling in love with the girl that his parents would like him to marry, but she has already found someone else. And Siddharth (Akshaye Khanna) becomes enraptured by his much-older neighbor. The movie shows the development of the three friends as they go through their lives, through laughter, fights and, of course, love.Poorva: Some parts could be made shorter, but it's still worth watching the movie. The actors deliver fine performances and "Dil Chatha Hai" seems to be a hit with today's generation.
Priyanka: This movie is a really good one for anyone to watch. It has humor, drama and an all-star cast…not to mention a ton of English words thrown in everywhere (but that falls under "humor"!).
Rachita: Probably the most "westernized" movie on our list, this film goes deeper into human emotions than usual Bollywood flicks, making it entertaining and engaging.
Title: Hera Pheri
Year Released: : 2000
Deemed one of the funniest recent films, "Hera Pheri" follows three unemployed men, Raju (Aakshay Kuman), Shyam (Suniel Shetty) and Baburao (Paresh Rawal), who live together in Mumbai. The comedy arises when, in their thirst for wealth, the men accept a wrong number phone call from a kidnapper demanding ransom from the rich Deviprasad (Kulbhushand Kharbanada). Raju and Shyam convince the reluctant Baburao to act as intermediaries between Deviprasad and the kidnapper, hoping to squeeze some money out of the ransom for themselves.Poorva: Hilarious – that pretty much sums it up. Paresh Rawal delivers a brilliant performance. Yes, the jokes get a bit corny at times, but hey, that's what Bollywood comedies are all about.
Priyanka: If you're not into movies about stupid people getting into stupid scenarios, then steer clear of "Hera Pheri." But, if you enjoy the occasional immature comedy, then give it a try! Be warned: "Hera Pheri" has a lot of characters with long, similar names, which might make viewing confusing for the inexperienced Hindi film connoisseur.
Rachita: Paresh Rawal is India's Sacha Cohen – ridiculously funny.
Title: Kal Ho Naa Ho
Genre: Romance, Drama
Year Released: : 2003
Set in New York City, "Kal Ho Naa Ho," which roughly means "tomorrow might never come," is a story about Naina (Preity Zinta), who takes life too seriously. But perhaps she cannot be blamed – her father committed suicide, her paternal grandmother refuses to accept Naina's adopted sister Gia and their family business is not going too well. But Naina's life takes a turn when she meets Aman (Shahrukh Khan), who teaches her how to smile. Naina falls in love with him, but Aman hides a secret that stops him from loving her back. Instead, he tries to get Naina and her childhood friend Rohit (Saif Ali Khan) together, for Rohit already loves her. Kal Ho Naa Ho won eight of the eleven Filmfare Awards it was nominated for.Poorva: "Kal Ho Naa" Ho is such a cute movie (and not just because Saif Ali Khan is in it). The first half of the film is sweet and funny but after the intermission, the drama begins. I know you want to know what Aman's secret is, so go watch the movie…today. Because tomorrow might never come.
Priyanka: This is one of Bollywood's best recent productions. It tackles issues like extramarital affairs, which directors generally shy away from. Another plus is that the movie takes place in New York City and is filled with English words, which makes it easier to understand.
Rachita: For me, this movie was the usual Indian love story with a little extra drama disguised as depth. Where it shines is in the personable characters.
Title: Khabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
Year Released: : 2001
"Khabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" (better known as "K3G"…seriously) is the quintessential Indian movie – complicated, dramatic and filled with scenes in which characters just break out into song. The movie follows a wealthy family in its struggles to stay connected. When Rahul (Shahrukh Khan), the adopted son of Yash (Amitabh Bachchan), falls in love with the low-class Anjali (Kajol), his parents disown him. Rahul moves to London and starts a family with Anjali. Some years later, Rahul's brother Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) goes in search of Rahul, desperate to reunite the family by bringing his older brother home.Poorva: To start out, the cast is amazing (if you take away flaky Kareena Kapoor). They know how to act. Kajol makes the movie fun with her goofy role. Watch this movie to get a sense of what Bollywood really is. By the way, the soundtrack is beautiful.
Priyanka: "K3G" seems like an intense movie, but it's really not – there are many funny parts and a lot of spontaneous dance scenes (like any other Indian movie). Just be warned, the movie runs 210 minutes, so make sure that you have a lot of patience, time and tissues.
Rachita: This movie truthfully depicts Indian family relationships, taking it beyond your average Bollywood love story. As an added bonus, the scenes with Kareena Kapoor are hilarious!
Title: Kaho Na Pyar Hai
Genre: Drama, Romance, Action
Year Released: : 2000
A mega hit at the box offices, this film debuted Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan with the basic Indian love story plot. Rohit (Roshan), an orphan, and Sonia (Amisha Patel), the daughter of a rich businessman, fall for each other after being stranded on a deserted tropical island, but Sonia's father disapproves. In an effort to woo the old man, Rohit organizes his debut singing concert. But just hours before his concert Rohit witnesses a drug deal and is killed. Grief stricken Sonia moves to New Zealand to find solace, but ends up meeting Raj (Roshan) – Rohit's look-alike – and uncovering the mystery of Rohit's death.Poorva: The movie seems to be the typical Indian movie – boy loves girl but they can't get married. Yet it's a pleasure to watch, probably because I get to see Hrithik Roshan dancing!
Priyanka: "Kaho Na Pyar Hai" movie has a crazy, unbelievable plot. This lack of "realism" is kind of fun in movies!
Rachita: "Kaho Na Pyar Hai" was basically a vehicle to launch Hrithik Roshan into Bollywood. But by no means is that a bad thing, as this movie is fun and entertaining.
Genre: Historical, Drama
Year Released: : 2001
Set in British-ruled India in the 1800s, "Lagaan" chronicles the story of a group of peasants living in a village impoverished by a severe drought. When the British double the taxes, feisty Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) accepts a dangerous wager – if the villagers can beat the British officers at a game of cricket, taxes will be cancelled for three years. If they lose, taxes will be tripled. Tension builds as the villagers become increasingly adept at the game and one officer's sister falls for the brawny Bhuvan. This movie scored eight prizes at the Filmfare Awards, including "Best Film" and received an Oscar nod for "Best Foreign Language Film."Poorva: I have yet to find a person who has not liked this movie. Though it lasts for over three hours, "Lagaan" seems much shorter than that as the plot is well thought out and entertaining. Not to forget, the songs in the movie are great – I can listen to the soundtrack forever.
Priyanka: "Lagaan" is amazing. If you're not into history or know absolutely nothing about India-Britain relations, watch it anyway – it's that good. Plus, it has a stellar soundtrack – what more could you ask for?
Rachita: No one can complain that "Lagaan" is the "typical" boy-loves-girl-but-they-can't-get-married Bollywood mess. It's honest and engaging, especially at its climax when Bhuvan's band of villagers takes on the British officers in an intense three-day cricket match.
Title: Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Year Released: : 2003
Munna Bhai (Sanjay Dutt) is a big-hearted gang leader in Mumbai. His parents want him to be a doctor and Munna Bhai doesn't want to disappoint them. So whenever his parents come for their annual visit to Mumbai, he turns his home into a hospital and has his gang act like the doctors and patients. One year, though, his parents decide he should get married to Chinki (Gracy Singh), Munna's childhood friend and daughter of Dr. J.C. Asthana (Boman Irani). But Dr. Asthana knows of the life Munna really lives and reveals it to Munna's parents, who are then heartbroken. Munna decides the only way to make it up to them is by becoming a real doctor and gains admission to a medical school, whose dean happens to be Dr. Asthana. Though Dr. Asthana is determined to kick him out, Munna wins the hearts of patients and other hospital workers.Poorva: This movie stars the usually irritating and annoying Sanjay Dutt, but I still think it's amazing. That's saying something. "Munna Bhai M.B.B.S." is both sweet and funny, and one of my favorite movies. If you're in the mood for a laugh, definitely see this movie.
Priyanka: For some reason, I really dislike this film. But, everyone (including all of my family members and friends) disagree, so give it a chance! Watch out, though, a lot of the humor in the movie relates to Indian culture, so some of the jokes might leave you thinking "What?!?!?"
Rachita: I'm in between Poorva and Priyanka for this movie. But if you like it, then check out the sequel, "Lage Raho Munna Bhai."
Genre: Adventure, Action, Drama
Year Released: : 1975
Yes, "Sholay" is old, but it is also the film that many veteran Bollywood fans would call the greatest Indian movie ever. "Sholay" follows small time crooks Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jaidev (Amitabh Bachchan) as they help the aged Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) exact revenge on Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan), an evil bandit who killed Thakur's family. The movie boasts intense action sequences (for 1975) and a star studded cast, making it a venerated film in the history of Bollywood.Poorva: Every Indian person knows of Amitabh Bachchan for his amazing action films (from when he was young, that is). Watch "Sholay," and you'll know why. My parents have probably seen the movie 50 million times but it still remains a great movie to watch for our generation. The plot, the acting, the songs, the dialogue and basically everything, is great.
Priyanka: This movie channels the feel of old American westerns. If you're into good old fight scenes, stereotypical villains and classic movies, check out "Sholay."
Rachita: Although the special effects are a little outdated, this movie is heralded as Bollywood's best. Consider it an initiation into Indian cinema.
Priyanka Gokhale. More »
Poorva Singal. More »
Rachita Sood. Rachita Sood wants you to tell her a joke. She probably won't get it, but she'll laugh anyways. In the little free time she has, Rachita enjoys jammin' to ROXANNE, dressing in earth-toned clothes and munching on Peeps. More »