An American Girl’s Fall into Bollywood

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Life can really take you on the most amazing paths; some bad, some good, but always interesting. Who would have thought that I, a girl working towards a degree in chemistry and former professional ballet dancer, would one day be writing for a magazine about Bollywood? When I first discovered Bollywood, I felt like Alice visiting Wonderland, or Harry Potter arriving at Hogwarts, falling into a magical world I never knew existed. Bollywood has changed my life, enriching it not only because of the joy of watching the movies, but through the friends I have made, the things I have learned, and all the wonderful experiences.

As I said, life can take you into some interesting paths, and unfortunately mine got a bit of a detour with an illness that gave me a lot of time on my hands. But fortunately because of this I got to indulge my love for watching movies. Give me a romance or a musical and I am on cloud nine! I now had time to catch up on a lot of movies I had missed, and one those movies was Bend it Like Beckham. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to look up Gurinder Chandra on the Internet and saw that she was making a Bollywood-inspired Pride and Prejudice. I did not understand what Bollywood was, but since Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books I couldn’t wait for it to come out on DVD. As I watched Bride and Prejudice, I was ready to start watching it again about halfway through. It’s a movie I’d rate very highly (Now I know that this is not technically a Bollywood movie, but I didn’t know any better at the time!). I loved the songs, the dancing, the colors, the actors and actresses, and especially the story; I was totally mesmerized. After watching Chandra discuss Bollywood on the DVD, I was off again to the Internet for more information.

After some research I learned a little more about this fascinating industry, and then to my surprise I found that Netflix had bought a Bollywood library. I typed “Bollywood” in their website search box and the first movie on the list was Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. The description stated that the movie had been in the theatre for 10 years and was one of the biggest hits of India cinema, so I rented it. I loved it so much that this time halfway through I called my husband and said I have found the perfect movie! From the moment when Shah Rukh Khan looked at Kajol in the train station I was hooked. That same week my cable company added Hit Bollywood Movies to their on-demand movies section, so I went from never knowing anything about Bollywood to having lots of access. I had found my new genre; I just loved everything about them and decided I needed to watch as many as possible.

I searched for movies with Aishwarya Rai since she was the only Bollywood actress I knew and one of the movies that came up was Kyun! Ho Gaya Na. Now, I am sure this will lower my “Bollywood cred”, but I loved this movie and especially Vivek Oberoi! I was immediately smitten (in the filmi sense) and wanted to know more about him. Off to the Internet again (thank goodness for computers!) where I found the Vivek’s Angels website. Through this site I made wonderful friends from all over the world, had huge amounts of fun, and got to learn a lot about Vivek Oberoi the man as well as the amazing actor. But since this is not an article about him I will continue on with my story instead of raving like the fan I am!

One day I was chatting with one of my friends from that site, who asked me if I liked the song ‘Yeh Hai Meri Kahani’ from the movie Zinda. I had not heard it yet, so she gave me the link to listen to it online and thus began my love of Bollywood music. The music has so many different elements and styles, the singer’s voices are so wonderful, and it all merges together so perfectly that I feel the music in my soul. The more songs I heard, the more I loved the music and began to start collecting a library of favorite songs.

In the beginning, one of my problems was that I didn’t speak Hindi, so the songs would go through my head but I would not know any of the words. So I would sing ‘Da da da da junmie’ or ‘something something dil, something something pyaar’… maddening. What’s a girl to do? I was slowly learning some words while watching the movies: pyaar, kyun, dil, kya were some of the first. My friends had taught me some words and had even introduced me to the Hindi script Devanagari. I would get so excited if I understood a new word or two! I thought how cool it would be to watch a movie without subtitles or listen to a song and know what the song was about and how I would love to impress my friends by speaking/typing to them in Hindi. I still had lots of time on my hands, so I decided to see if there was an online course in Hindi.

Amazingly, a class offered through a government organization in India was starting in about a month. I signed up and then found out that the course required knowledge of Devanagari, so I bought a book and taught myself the script (with help from my instructor). Ten months later, we have just about completed the class and I have very basic knowledge of Hindi. I can hold a basic conversation, understand some of the dialogues in the movies, and even get a line or two of the songs. I cannot tell you how much that thrills me. I can also proudly say I am able to read (using a dictionary!) and write in Devanagari. I love learning Hindi and want to continue because it is a very complex, interesting and beautiful language. Though, I am not quite ready to watch a movie without subtitles -maybe in 10 years or so!

So far my journey into the magical world of Bollywood has broadened my mind, helped me meet amazing new friends and begin learning a new language. Still, there would be another way that would soon fuel my love for Bollywood.

Every day I would read news about Bollywood and go to forums that discuss the movies and their stars. One day I stopped by a forum that was looking for journalists to write for their magazine. My first thought was “Ooooh, I would love to do that!” But then I thought, could I do that? Compared to most Bollywood fans, I am still relatively new to the movies. I thought it couldn’t hurt to try, so I got brave, applied, and here I am writing for Bollyspice magazine. I went from being someone who did not know anything about the Indian Film Industry to one who gets to learn more and more each time she writes a tidbit or an article. I am ecstatic that I get to write about the films and actors and actresses I enjoy watching so much.

I have probably watched over 100 movies now and some of those over and over and over again. My iTunes is now filled with Bollywood soundtracks and with each new movie I watch, I add a few more songs. One agonizing thing is that my local cinemas don’t show Bollywood movies, so I have to wait for the DVDs to release for all the new movies; maddening! Just so you don’t think less of me because I have liked some less-than-popular movies, I will tell you that some of my favorites now are DDLJ, Veer Zara, Parineeta, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Vivah, Saathiya, and oh the list could go on and on – I am addicted to love stories! Plus, being a dancer, I love the dance sequences and I go back just to watch them again! These films are so well done; the stories, the scenery, the beautiful costumes, the music and the wonderful actors and actresses; all of this rolls into a perfect movie watching experience!

Bollywood has truly brought happiness into my life. My world has become larger, and I feel blessed for all the people I have met, for the friends I have made and for the amazing journey it has taken me through. I can’t wait to experience more of these movies and see where life will take me next.

By the way, recently when I re-watched Bend It Like Beckham, I noticed the Hrithik poster on Pinky’s wall…did you know that I love Bollywood movies?

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