Bollywood films are some of my favorite films. What started out as an innocent quest to make it through Priyanka Chopra’s entire filmography has turned into the binge of all binges, settled squarely in Indian cinema.
If you check the dictionary for Bollywood you might get the slightly incorrect idea that Bollywood = Indian Cinema. That’s not quite right. Bollywood is a nickname of sorts for the Hindi language film industry – a large part of, but not the whole of Indian cinema – which is centered in Mumbai. Mumbai was previously known as Bombay. Bombay + Hollywood = Bollywood. It’s an OG “‘ship name” and me + Hindi cinema (as it’s formally called) = OTP. (Click here to Google “OTP”)
So this weekend and upcoming week, as you settle in for a N+C session, try a film or two or more from this list of some of my fav – in no particular order – Hindi cinema selections.
Who I’m Watching For: Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor
Why I Love It: This is the film that introduced me to Priyanka Chopra. Yes, that Priyanka, the one currently starring in “Quantico.” For that I’ll always be grateful but that’s not even why I love it.
I saw “Barfi!” on Netflix and was interested when I found out the main character was deaf. Having study ASL I’m always quite interested in media that center deaf persons and the Deaf community. Even though the main character, Barfi, played marvelously by Ranbir Kapoor, is deaf and doesn’t speak, he also doesn’t sign and hasn’t been formally educated.
Despite these factors, ones that often lead to alienation among other things for differently or less abled folks, Barfi charms the pants off of a woman he falls in love with on sight, the two….”date” but ultimately we know this ship can never sail.
Barfi’s father and only surviving parents works for the caretakers of Barfi’s childhood friend, Jhilmil (Chopra), who is autistic. Chopra did such an amazing job with her performance I paused the film to do some research– I had to find out more about the actor.
Funny, charming, and one of the dopest love stories around. “Barfi!” was also India’s official selection for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 8th Oscars. Check it out and you’ll likely see why.
Shuddh Desi Romance (A Random Indian Romance)
Who I’m Watching For: Parineeti Chopra
Why I Love It: This isn’t your typical Bollywood flick and it doesn’t have the usual Bollywood ending — you know…one that ends with a wedding. Well–sort of….
Arranged marriages vs. love marriages is a common theme in Bollywood. Love almost always wins and the reward is a wedding. But what happens when you want love but not necessarily the wedding? Or a live-in life-partner is more your speed and the idea of marriage seems more like a trap or loss of freedom than a gain of anything?
“Shuddh Desi Romance” explores all of this with the quirky and awkwardly funny Parineeti Chopra in the lead role. On screen kissing, sex before marriage, and opposite-gendered overnight guests — Bollywood anomalies that make for a fresh twist on the Hindi cinema rom-com.
P.S. Yes, Parineeti and Priyanka are actually cousins, but don’t get it in your head that all Chopras are related. That’s racist.
Who I’m Watching For: Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor
Why I Love It: I love these three in the same film. But the real reason I love this film is because it’s a BFF dramedy. It’s a really elaborate “bros before hos” story about loyalty, friendship, chosen family, and survival.
Set on the heels of Bangladesh’s independence, right after the third Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, two besties are out there in those streets trying to survive. A gun smuggler takes them under his wing and in return they offer to work for him. All is well and good–well as good as it can get considering–until one day an army officer demands one of them become his sex slave.
In order to spare his bestie, one of the boys volunteers to stay behind. The other boy later comes back to save his partner in crime and they flee. They grow up to become the biggest and most powerful goons in Calcutta, ultimately turning their illegal businesses into a thriving legal empire that benefits the community as much as themselves.
Two best friends surviving and thriving against all odds is my kinda story.
Who I’m Watching For: Parineeti Chopra
Why I Love It: To be honest I mostly love it for Parineeti. But it’s also a different take on the arranged marriage vs. love marriage trope so prevalent in Hindi cinema.
Main character, Gullu Qadir (Chopra) is born in to a lower-middle class family, and raised by her widowed father, who can’t afford to pay a large dowry to the family of a future husband. This means her options are slim but she refuses to settle. What’s more, she finally finds the man of her dreams, they love each other and all is well until his family unexpectedly asks for a large dowry.
Incensed, Gullu devises a plan to turn the tables, using the law that bans dowry against a greedy family and their son, which will in turn fund and fulfill her dream of heading to america. Plus, I learned a bit about dowries and the cultural significance as a result.
Hasee Toh Phasee (She Smiles, She’s Snared)
Who I’m Watching For: Parineeti Chopra
Why I Love It: This name should sound familiar by now. I knew I was gonna like this one when I discoverd Chopra’s character, Meeta, is a tomboy. As the plot unfolds it turns out she’s a genius nerd too.
This is a story of what happens when you meet the right person at the wrong time and one of you is already committed to someone else–another common storyline in Bollywood.
What I love about this story is that there’s so much more to it, and so much more to Meeta, a woman fighting (and yes, stealing) to work in the STEM field and be the badass brainiac she is.
It’s definitely worth the watch, even if only for Chopra’s portrayal of the quirky, funny, and awkward Meeta.
2. When Balan’s character, pre-med student, Vidya ends up pregnant by her university sweetheart she gets love, guidance, advice, and help from her widowed mother who assures her that she can keep the baby and fulfill her dreams of becoming a doctor. Despite the fact that Vidya’s college sweetheart insists on an abortion because a kid and marriage would derail his dreams of becoming a powerful politician like his father, she keeps the baby and fulfills her dreams with the help of her mother.
3. That same baby is born with Progeria, an extremely rare condition that physically ages him five times faster than he should. Still, Auro is a normal kid in every other way, with lots of friends who don’t treat him differently. In fact, it’s the adults of the media who bully Auro.
Bonus: Auro’s biological father, who plays a large role in the story is played by Abhishek Bachchan, the real life son of the man who plays Auro, Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.
Who I’m Watching For: Rani Mukerji
Why I Love It: This was my introduction to Rani Mukerji and I’m so glad it was. She portrays Shivani Shivaji Roy, a badass Mumbai police officer who takes no shit and plays no games.
When a young girl she saved once before goes missing, Shivani stumbles across a huge child trafficking ring. She goes beyond the call of duty to find this girl who is now like a daughter to her and shut down the cartels operating the trafficking ring.
Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela
Who I’m Watching For: Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh
Why I Love It: It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare, so I tend to avoid the Romeo & Juliet storyline…except when it’s starring two of my favs. You should remember Ranveer Singh from Gunday. Deepika Padukone and her adorable ass dimples play Leela, the daughter of the HBIC (Head Boss In Charge), Baa–a ruthless badass who hasn’t the least bit of mercy for her. Despite loathing the family business, Leela is inherently badass and is a boss in her own right when necessary.
Included in one of my favorite Bollywood soundtracks is one of my favorite item numbers, Tattad Tattad performed by Singh. There’s an extra surprise appearance by Priyanka Chopra in the song Ram Chahe Leela…which…is no longer a surprise.
You’re welcome. :0)
If you check any of these out let me know what you think and which ones were your fav!