It is no secret that the nation of India loves its Bollywood movies. In fact, India produces so many movies that the nation's film industry has far surpassed America's in terms of both ticket sales and the number of films produced every year. The film production capital of India has been dubbed "Bollywood" (a combination of Bombay and Hollywood), and the movies now draw an international audience and are even gaining popularity in America, a nation that doesn't easily embrace foreign films.
What's Different About Bollywood Movies?
We love our movies in the US as well, of course, and here movies are a major part of the culture. Bollywood movies, however, do not mirror or inspire Indian culture the way American movies do - they provide an escape from it. Bollywood movies usually offer plotlines that are completely unrealistic, contain elaborate musical numbers, and deal with strongly melodramatic themes.
American cinema also offers barely believable plotlines, of course, but goes to great lengths to enable the audience to suspend their disbelief. If the audience is attracted enough to Keanu Reeves acting all heroic, for example, they won't notice that the idea of a bus which will explode if it drops below a speed of fifty miles per hour is just plain silly. Bollywood differs because the plot simply is what it is, and the people buy into it. In fact, movies which seem too realistic don't often fare well in front of Bollywood audiences.
Popular Hindi Movies Today
Just like Hollywood, Bollywood films are driven by their stars. Bollywood Actors and Bollywood Actresses are the attractions that draw audiences in, but it is just not the same sort of star worship in Bollywood that it is in the US. Bollywood audiences come to the theater to see new faces almost as often as they do established stars. It is the love of the art that really draws them in and what draws them in today are the following films.
Teesri Aankh - The Hidden Camera
Teesri Aankh tells the story of women who are exploited via the use of hidden cameras. The chief offender, Sudama (Mukesh Rishi) runs his illicit business from London, but his victims are in India. How does he do it? Who cares? It's never fully established. Full of lengthy and convoluted flashback scenes and sub-plots, it is the kind of film that nary an American audience would be willing to sit through, but the Indians are eating it up. Of course, the American audiences that won't watch this Bollywood movie lined up to see films like White Chicks and You Got Served. To each his own. Teesri Aankh - The Hidden Camera is currently showing (March, 2006) in theaters in India.
Taxi Number 9211
Leave it to Bollywood to borrow the plot from a barely watchable American film (The Ben Affleck & Samuel L. Jackson vehicle Changing Lanes) and make it into a surprisingly riveting film. Taxi Number 9211 starts out like Changing Lanes, with two otherwise unrelated people meeting under bizarre circumstances which have the potential to throw the lives of both into complete upheaval, but it then takes a sharp left into the Twilight Zone. The plot becomes completely unpredictable and, while the events are undoubtedly strange, the audience simply has to watch and finds themselves on the edges of their seats the whole time. Taxi Number 9211 is drawing large audiences and rave reviews in India today.
Bollywood Movies In America
Bollywood movies have been a fairly well-kept secret in the US until recently. While the film industry in India has been immensely popular for many years, few titles have been seen on our shores. In recent years, that has changed, however, with more Bollywood titles becoming available on DVD all the time. It is somewhat akin to the explosion in popularity that Anime Movies saw here in the late eighties and early nineties, although Bollywood's American popularity has not quite reached the level that Japanimation has. Give it a few more years, however, and we're sure to be seeing many more Bollywood movies in America as well.