Most Bollywood movies seem to be insular. Most of them focus exclusively on Indian places and characters, never reaching beyond the border of the country. Not that this is a bad thing, and many are well made. It is fascinating, however, when a film goes beyond India’s borders, revealing India’s relationship with the outside world, including the US. These five films are pretty good examples of what to expect in a Bollywood film: romance plots, obligatory dance sequences, comedy scenes and melodramatic acting.
1. Bride and Prejudice: This may not be considered Bollywood as it is almost completely in English and a UK production company produced it. However, it is set in mostly in India, does feature Bollywood stars and the obligatory dance sequences, so the feeling is of a Bollywood film. I’m including it because it is the first movie I’d recommend to check out the “Bollywood” style and because there are also scenes in LA as well. Bride and Prejudice is a loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice with Indian customs and ideals. Lalita (Elizabeth Bennett in the original) has to deal with a wealthy American named Will Darcy. At first both find the other repulsive, but as the movie progresses, the two leads see past their first impressions to see each other for who they really are.
2. Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come): In this movie, Naina Kapur is a young college student whose family is struggling with a faltering restaurant in New York City. She has a best friend in Rohit Patel, who finds her attractive. Aman Mathur, a man full of life, breezes into the Indian neighborhood where Naina lives and causes positive reactions to the people around him, except for Naina. He also falls in love with Naina. However, he harbors a secret: he’s about to die. Desperate to make Naina happy, he tries to help Rohit win Naina’s heart, which causes all sorts of romantic complications. Very melodramatic, but nevertheless it’s fun to see a Bollywood Film set in NYC.
3. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight from the Heart): Nandini, daughter of a wealthy proponent of classical Indian music, takes an immediate dislike to the Indio-Italian young man, Sameer, who is given her room when he is brought to learn the classical Indian music. But their fights can only last so long as they fall in love. But her father angrily sends him away because she was arranged to be married to Vanraj. Feeling she has no choice, she marries Vanraj anyway. Vanraj sees Nandini’s feelings are for Sameer, so they travel to Italy to find him, and Nandini is so surprisingly touched by his actions she starts to reconsider her feelings toward him.
4. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You Don’t Live Twice): Three male friends set out on a road trip to Spain. Kabir recently became engaged, and tells his reluctant fiancé Natasha that he made a pact with his two friends Imraan and Arjun. They are all going to participate in three extreme sports, deep sea diving, sky diving, and bull running, which each one of them picked. Kabir has trouble with his fiancé doubting his loyalty to her, Imraan searches for his biological father in Spain and Arjun falls in love with their beautiful host, Laila. This one has beautiful visuals of Spain.
5. Hum Tum (Me & You): Crisscrossing through New York, Amsterdam, Paris, and of course Mumbai, this one focuses on Karan, a cartoonist who has a chance meeting with Rhea on a flight from New Delhi to New York. Karan relentlessly pursues her during a layover in Amsterdam, but he is unsuccessful and they part ways. He meets her several more times over the next few years, but every time some complication gets in the way of them pursuing a relationship. Eventually, after a failed engagement to Mihir (which Karan set up), Rhea realizes her feelings for Karan, and they consummate their relationship. Karan, feeling guilty for his actions, quickly proposes marriage, but Rhea tells him they shouldn’t rush into marriage for the wrong reasons.