Bollywood Movies: Same old, Same Old, or Necessary Escape?

Sucheta Sachdev in Ego:


It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, with the rest of the day stretching lazily ahead. My boyfriend turns to me and says, “Let’s get a movie.” I agree, but this accord is short-lived; he wants to watch a Bollywood film, and I want to rent an American movie. “You always do this,” he says to me, “what have you got against Bollywood?”

I’ve decided to give his question some serious scrutiny; what do I have against Bollywood? It’s certainly not the song and dance; I have been known to choreograph an antakshari or two for cultural events. And okay, I’ll admit it; in the privacy of your own home, it’s fun to prance about and pretend you’re in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge with 50 back-up dancers.

The repetitiveness of the story line (boy meets girl, girl/boy is too rich / poor / unattractive / overeducated / undereducated / wrong caste / religion / parents are in the wrong kind of business/comes from a broken family, but finally, after the penultimate scene when the girl’s father/boy’s mother gets over their grudge, the couple lives happily ever after) does get a little old, but Bollywood mixes it up enough that the monotony of plot lines is still not, I suspect, a large enough vex. In fact, sometimes the tedium of the narrative is welcome; there are times when you don’t want to be surprised, or to discern the twist in the plot, and all you really want is predictability.

But these are superficial reasons for my aversion to Bollywood. If I give it serious thought, though, I think what disturbs me most is that Bollywood movies do not reflect mainstream South Asian culture.

More here.