If you’d mentioned Bollywood to me, oh, say about 6 or 7 years ago, I (like many in the Western world) probably wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. What changed that for me?
Well, it wasn’t the wildly successful (and the gateway drug to Bollywood for many Westerners) movie Slumdog Millionaire – I was way ahead of that curve. So, you ask, what was my introduction to Bollywood movies? In a word: kismet.
To explain, I need to introduce my dear wife, K, into the story. You see, she’s the one who introduced me to the wonderful world of Bollywood, and more generally, Indian/South Asian cinéma as a whole. K is a huge fan of world cinéma – from Europe (French movies in particular, but Italian, Spanish and others too), the Middle East and East Asia as well as the South Asian genres.
She comes by this from her lifelong interest in storytelling – as an avid reader, a movie-watcher, as well as telling her own stories through writing, blogging and podcasting, and also from thinking – a lot – about storytelling (she specialized in children’s literature when she did her Master of Library Science degree, and has had kid-lit book reviews published in professional journals).
You can read, and listen to, her tell the story about how she (well, we, actually) saw a Bollywood movie on the big screen for the first time ever. And in the same theatre she had first started going to movies on her own, as a young girl. As the episode’s title so aptly says -The Wheel of Life, which turns in mysterious ways to bring us back to familiar territory; kismet as it were, fate or destiny.
So that sparked in her a renewed interest in Bollywood movies – she’d seen them before, on TV (in Toronto, OMNI 2 caters to the large local NRI community and the people of South Asian descent) but seeing Om Shanti Om on the big screen was a bit of an epiphany. Since then, we’ve seen quite a few South Asian movies on the big screen – at the Albion Cinemas in Rexdale which specialize in them, but also at big-box theatres in other areas with large South Asian communities, which have begun to carry the films as well.
Supplementing the theatre-going experience are DVDs, both purchased (mostly from on-line sources, though there are a few stores within driving distance where they can be found as well) and rented from Zip.ca (they have a limited but growing selection of South Asian films with English subtitles – essential for me; K has managed to pick up enough Hindi through watching a lot of movies that she can understand quite a bit of the dialogue without the subtitles, though for films in other South Asian languages like Malayalam, she’s as much at sea as I).
And that interest has opened up to her a network of like-minded Bollywood and South Asian cinéma fans from all over the globe, connecting via the Interwebs. She also now has a blog and podcast dedicated to the subject – it’s called Totally Filmi (I’m the one she refers to occasionally as “The Tech Guy” who does the “man behind the curtain” pulling of levers and pushing of knobs to maintain the blog and do the technical production and publishing work on the podcast).
In the process, I’ve become a bit of a fan of Bollywood movies, as well as other South Asian genres – they aren’t all “singing and dancing around a tree” films, I can assure you. While I enjoy all kinds of movies, I’m no cinephile and am prepared to just be entertained by a film without dissecting it, so I’m pretty easy to please when it comes down to it – YMMV.
By the way, if you happened to arrive at this post because you are in some way connected to the South Asian film business and you have any pull with the IIFA‘s, which in 2011 are being held in Toronto, and you could get K an invitation to cover them as a knowledgeable local blogger… well, that might also be kismet (as well as some good karma for you).