By now you’re probably familiar with the term Bollywood, a word used to describe the Hindi film industry which is now broadly used to describe Indian-made films. Bollywood films span a number of different genre’s including action, romance, and comedy which come together to tell stories with meaningful hallmarks of Indian culture. An important component of Bollywood films is the musical elements which add a fun atmosphere and assist with pacing by allowing for significant plot development to occur within the performance.
So you want to get into Bollywood cinema but don’t know where to start? Here are five movies to get you started!
- Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDJL) (1995)
This romantic film is iconic in the history of Bollywood. Playing in theatres for more than 27 years since its original release DDJL is the best place to start your Bollywood journey.
The film that launched Shah Rukh Khan into global stardom, DDJL tells the story of two young Indians who fall in love during a European vacation. Despite their love, their families have wildly opposing values and the female lead is already promised to marry someone else. The film follows the lovers as they overcome their cultural pressures and familial values to follow their hearts and fight for their love. Whilst there are elements that may feel outdated (the film was released in 1995) it maintains important themes and hallmarks of Indian culture, as well as highlighting generational differences and progression. The musical scenes are also thoroughly enjoyable and you’ll find yourself wanting to sing along!
- Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (K3G) (2001)
An important cultural film, Kabhi Khushi depicts significant scenes of Indian culture in a fun and light hearted way. Featuring scenes of important festivals and dances, the film is also wildly patriotic. The film tells the story of a family who remains in India and a mother who tries to inform and educate her son on Indian culture.
Despite the somewhat caricaturised storytelling and melodramatic features, the film is light hearted and fun with important messages about the significance of culture and family. This film is a perfect cornerstone to beginning your journey into Bollywood film.
- Lagaan (2001)
Lagaan is a sports drama set in the late 1800s while Indian was under British colonial rule. The film follows the story of a family struggling financially after years of drought and arduous taxes. The villagers in Central India are challenged to a cricket match by a British Indian army officer and if they win their owing taxes will be wiped away. The villagers have never played cricket before and must face the challenge of both learning and winning the game for their future livelihood.
The film contains important themes of team work and Indian community-focussed cultural elements. Of course, there is a romantic subplot between the main character and the sister of the army officer, however the subplot remains very sub as the focus is the community coming together to challenge the colonial authority they are forced to live under. The film is an enjoyable sports epic with important elements of historical significance and culture.
- 2 States (2014)
A much more modern film, 2 States is a romantic comedy based on a novel of the same name. 2 States tells the story of a girl from South India and a boy from North India who fall in love during their time at school. When they finish their education they decide they want to get married, however they face opposition from their families.
2 States importantly depicts the differences between North and South Indian culture and values in a light-hearted and enjoyable manner. The film is an engaging romance with fun dance numbers and an authentic discussion of the cultural dichotomy of the North and South. With the perfect blend of entertainment and cultural commentary, 2 States is a great example of modern Bollywood Cinema.
- Mission Mangal (2019)
This 2019 drama-Bollywood film follows the story of scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation. The film features an ensemble cast with some of the biggest names in Bollywood including Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, and Sonakshi Sinha. The film takes on the science genre in an action packed film following the story of the scientists trying to complete the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on an extremely tight budget. The dramatic story maintains important themes in Indian culture regarding team values, and also manages to incorporate beautifully dramatic songs as is typical of Bollywood films.
by Greta Merran