I have finally experienced a Bollywood movie. After a lot of talk and very little independent research I have been to a Hindi movie in Mumbai, the center of the movie-making industry in India. From what I had learned before the experience, I knew it would be a longer-than-I’m-used-to film, and that there would be some music and dancing in unusual places. I had no idea what I was in store for.
The movie we saw, “Partner,” was a new (and somehow twisted around) version of “Hitch,” from the U.S. This time the Love Guru was played by the most famous Bollywood actor, a former model who took his shirt off more times than we could count (including a scene in the airport!). The actress whom he’ll marry played the rich girl that he helped to connect with a goofy, clumsy, not-smooth young man who hunted him down while on vacation (much like “What About Bob?”). Anyway, the actor who played this other starring role is a politician who has won millions of votes to promote his acting and political career. The actress mentioned above is actually Canadian and a former model herself (who doesn’t know Hindi but just memorizes the lines they give her in movies) and the other female character is played by a former Ms. World. The cast was, needless to say, incredible.
This version also included a young man whose mother is the reporter and causes some extra grief for the Love Guru. The plot is almost the same, except for the dancing.
In the middle of fairly recognizable scenes (I’ve seen the American version, so I knew what was going on most of the time without translation) the movie would burst into song and dance numbers far more outlandish than anything I’ve seen on Broadway. Fantastic costumes would adorn random people who weren’t characters in the movie, or even reasonable extras as many of them weren’t Indian, and the characters sang these songs while somehow pretending like it was all very normal. I was impressed. I wish I could re-capture or recreate the facial expressions of the lead actor during the hip-hop/Hindi songs as he wooed his true love. Classic. Even my Indian friend sitting next to me couldn’t stop from laughing.
Now if I had seen the movie in a more typical theater there would have been dancing in the aisles for these scenes. The soundtrack for this movie was released weeks ago and only if the CD sells well and has catchy tunes will audiences even bother to go see a new movie. The theater was packed for this one.
We also had an “Interlude” about half way through the 3-hour adventure. 10 minutes to get up and get your snacks (which included dinner options as well as popcorn). Interesting.
It was also fun to think about how this movie industry fits into the Indian economy on a larger scale. Rumors have it that the Mafia has a lot of money invested in Bollywood films (or did at one point) and that other movies frequently push back their release dates to let those uniquely-financed films into theaters first. There is also a lot of connection between politics and acting, as evidenced by the actor in the movie I saw. It is a huge industry, and crosses into the local nightlife (where Bollywood DJ’s are the most popular for dance clubs) and pop culture in many ways.
So, “what kind of movies do they watch in India” is the question, and to that I answer this: long movies with somewhat loose plots interrupted by outlandish comedic roles that don’t really fit into the plot, a wedding scene (there is ALWAYS a wedding scene!), frequent dance numbers, and predictable events that occur in each film (boy meets girl, friends who fight, true love, etc). Those are the types of movies they watch in India. You guys would love it!