Fox Star Studios
Varun Dhawan (left) and Alia Bhatt star in the 2019 film Kalank, which opened in 13 cinemas across the GTA.
Everyone should watch more Bollywood. With stars like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra crossing over to North American pop culture, the Indian film industry is becoming more visible in the west.
For just over 100 years, Hindi- and Urdu-speaking people have been entertained by Bollywood, affectionately named after Hollywood but located in Mumbai (formerly Bombay, hence the “B”). Bollywood produces double the amount of films as Hollywood annually, catering to India’s population of over 1 billion, plus a diaspora of 30 million.
But it’s not just South Asians who watch Bollywood. I’ve had many random conversations with taxi drivers who grew up watching Bollywood movies in their homelands, including a Romanian in Nashville and a Nigerian in Toronto. In their words, Bollywood posed no threat to communism and appealed to a Nigerian sense of extended family drama. An episode of the podcast 99% Invisible discusses a formalized film exchange between India and the USSR that started in the 1950s and is symbolic of a long-term and ongoing political friendship.
Film nerds and literary buffs will recognize references to Shakespeare and many popular western films. Bollywood is, in fact, camp. Movies are full of references and recurring themes that faithful fans get, but you don’t have to be well-versed to enjoy. Bollywood isn’t supposed to be taken too seriously.
I grew up in a house that didn’t favour