Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our first Bollywood...

It has been more than two months we have moved to Delhi, but we have watched our first Bollywood only a few evenings ago.

The term ‘Bollywood’ comes from the blending of ‘Bombay’ and ‘Hollywood’, and is the informal term popularly used for the Hindi film industry based in Mumbay (Bombay). In line with the Indian epics and with the Sanskrit drama, Bollywood movies tend to be melodramatic, with plots that tell about lovers and angry parents, love triangles, family ties, courtesans with gold hearts, dramatic reversals of fortune or convenient coincidences, and dialogues that evoke positive values: faith, family, duty, and self-sacrifice…

But it is certainly the ‘song-and-dance’ of Bollywood movies that made Bollywood a landmark worldwide. During the story in fact, the hero and heroine usually perform with a troupe of supporting dancers a dance to comment or highlight a specific action taking place in the movie. Songs-and-dances - a blend of traditional Indian folk music with MTV or Broadway styles - often feature unrealistic and instantaneous shifts of location or changes of costumes, and are often staged in beautiful natural surroundings or architectonically great settings. The success of the film in many cases depends on the success of these ‘musicals’, and the soundtrack of the movie often becomes more popular than the movie itself.

Our first Bollywood was ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’, the story of a small criminal boss who decides to become a medical doctor to fulfill his parents’ wishes. However, while his skills at the medical college are minimal, he develops a method of treatment based on compassion and empathy towards those in needs. These people are treated by Munna with what he calls ‘the magic hug’ - a form of comfort that his mother used to practice to him when he was a child. In contrast with the science-based, impersonal medicine taught at the college, Munna is eventually forced to leave the school. However, the miraculously awaken of a brain-dead man from his vegetative state thanks to Munna's compassion and care, results in the resignation of the school’s Dean (Munna’s main antagonist) and the implementation of Munna’s less conventional methods of treatment by the new Dean. Happy end.

Our first experience with Bollywood was definitively positive: even though the movie seemed sometime a bit naïf to our tastes, and even though we have certainly not been able to appreciate in full the details and artistic features of it, we have enjoyed it and spent an entertaining evening. We’ll certainly continue our exploration of Indian cinematography, and if you have any ‘must-see’ to recommend, please do it…


  1. Who is the fat tourist on the right ;-)? (Laura)

  2. Fat tourist or Bollywood dancer?

  3. Matteo, the # 2 in that series, Lage Raho MunnaBhai (or Keep on, Munnabhai), is much funnier and more of a classic. I wonder if it translates well without knowing the inside jokes and all the colloquialisms, which you can let me know.

    also recommend Dil Chahta Hai which marked a shift (to more normal dialogues as opposed to the stiff film dialogues - the songs ofcourse are a must in every bollywood movie).

    Another one which is typical Bollywood but fun is 'Jab we met' (when we met - note the hinglish titles totally common now).

  4. - Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejayenge

    this one is a quintessential Bollywood potboiler...its got everything
    - song, dance, romance, fight, melodrama.......