Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Bollywood* Beginner Movies 1-3 — Romantic Comedies

I recently showed one of my favorite Bollywood movies to my book club, by their request. They enjoyed it so much that during the intermission a list of more movies was requested. 

After consultation with my backup crew (Hannah and Rose from An American's Guide to Bollywood), we came up with a good list of beginner movies in different categories. I'm going to spread them over the next few weeks so they aren't overwhelming. I'll include links to my full reviews, Hannah and Rose's discussions, and to the episodes of A Good Story is Hard to Find where Scott and I talk about them.


First up, we'll look at the genre that Indian movies are most famous for: romantic comedies. With lots of singing and dancing, of course!

I've got three "must see" movies below, with a few extras. The three groups below each feature one of the three actors who have dominated Bollywood for some time. They share the same surname, though they are not related, and are called the Three Khans.


1. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
(A Match Made By God)

We'll begin with the movie I showed my book club. 

Mild mannered Surinder winds up in an arranged marriage to the vivacious Taani. When she enters a dance competition, he enters in disguise. Shah Rukh Khan plays a double role as a nerd and an obnoxious "cool" dancer who inadvertently is competing with himself for his wife's love. It's a solid comedy and a funny, sweet look at true love. (My review here, Scott and I discussed it here, Hannah and Rose cover it here.)

  • Om Shanti Om
    An aspiring actor from the 1970s is murdered, but is immediately reincarnated into the present day where he attempts to expose the murderer and find Shanti, the love of his previous life. Finally — a movie with reincarnation! Light with tons of singing and dancing. (My review here, Hannah and Rose discuss it here.)

  • Happy New Year
    Six thieves enter a prestigious dance competition as a cover for pulling off a diamond heist. It's like a Bollywood version of Mission Impossible ... with a dance contest, of course! (Hannah and Rose discuss it here.)


2. Bajrangi Bhaijaan

A simple, righteous Indian man helps return a young, lost, mute girl to her home in Pakistan. Pawan is what the girl's parents have prayed for — a "god-sent man" who will protect their daughter. And therein hangs the tale, including a heckuva road trip. Light-hearted and charming. (My review is here. Scott and I discuss it here. Hannah and Rose cover it here.)

  • Prem Ratan Dhan Payo
    This movie is a fun, frothy fairy tale loosely based on The Prisoner of Zenda, tweaked to become Indian and, thus, much more family oriented. Salman Khan plays the double role of prince and loyal imposter. He's intelligent, good natured, and sweet. (My review is here.)


3. PK

A humanoid alien lands in Rajastan naked on a research mission but is stranded when the remote control for his spaceship is stolen. Amazingly charming, this lighthearted view of humans through alien eyes uses India’s religions (which is almost all of them) as a backdrop to finding his way home. (My review is here. Scott and I discuss it here.)

  • Lagaan
    This isn't actually a romantic comedy, but more of a romantic historical movie. A small Indian village battles a sadistic British officer in a winner-take-all cricket match. Lots of singing and dancing, and also Aamir Khan. India's pick for the foreign Oscars that year. (My review is here. Scott and I discuss it here. Hannah and Rose cover it here.)


Part 2 will feature action, myth, and romance (of course!) 

For my complete list of recommended films, go here. The list begins with what I've seen most recently.

* "Bollywood" as I'm using it is shorthand for Indian movies in general. The Indian movie industry has a lot of different centers that are based on regional languages and storytelling styles. There will be a few recommendations from others as we go, however, generally speaking, Bollywood (Bombay/Mumbai) offers the easiest entry points for Western viewers.

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