Discovering Bollywood, or, The Peculiar Case of Destiny and the Forbidden Dancw
© 2005

    Have you ever heard the saying: "Let something go, and if it loves you, it will return?" That's kind of how I view my initiations into Bollywood.

   When I was around eleven-years-old, I used to LOVE to channel surf, and foreign shows especially caught my attention (they still do). In Chicago, around 1992, there was a cable channel (53) that showed foreign shows from Korea to China to India. For two hours, beginning at eight pm every night, channel 53 would show Indian soap operas, shows, and music. I'd watch these shows occasionally when I was bored and felt like seeing something foreign. Back then, nothing particularly interested me, but for some unknown reason I watched almost everything on channel 53 that summer.

   About a year later, the film FORBIDDEN DANCE came out, and I was obsessed with it. I'd watch it on cable almost weekly, even tapped it. The theme song - in Portuguese - was all the rage, and I was in love with this song. One day, while flipping through the channels, I stopped on channel 53 and heard the familiar beat of this song. I quickly loaded up a tape in my VCR and recorded the last few minutes of the video that was playing this song. "Wow," I thought, "even India loves this song." That was the last time for ten years that I'd see or even think of Bollywood.

   In 2001, I was once again channel surfing, when I happened upon an Indian soap opera on the International Channel. It was like a rush of nostalgia for my days in the Edgewater neighborhood, watching channel 53 and feeling so sophisticated. I ended up going online that night and typing in Bollywood in a search engine. (Read: How I came to know that the Indian film industry is called Bollywood is a mystery to me. I just typed that in, like I knew all along. Perhaps the name stuck in my brain back then, and I'd only remembered when I saw an Indian show. Who knows? But it's really weird, almost fateful.)

   The first name I learned was Karisma Kapoor. I started reading her biography, then found myself immersed in another world. I loved it. Within days, I was once again searching for something Indian on my television. To my luck, the International Channel was airing music clips, and "Bole Chudiyaan" came on. I swooned - the colors, the dances, the glittery jewelry, the gorgeous actresses. Bollywood had returned to me.

   For weeks I watched the Bollywood shows on the International Channel and a local channel, looking for that song again. It came on again, and this time I had the title of the movie. I went online, typed in the name of the movie, and it landed me at Thus, my bollyification began.

   Three years later, I now can speak Bolly, know almost every actor, know about caste, colorism, rivalries, states of India, and I have also amassed tons of music. (Read: In the beginning of my BW experience, I thought all the female singers were screeching, and I couldn't discern one voice from another, but now it's a piece of cake.) And I've also learned that the movie where the FORBIDDEN DANCE theme was duplicated was a Sunny Deol film called GHAYAL.

   There are still things I want to learn. I want to watch more films, and I plan to use the BollyWHAT forum more often, because I know that there is a wealth of information there just waiting for me. Bollywood has made me love all things India. Just mention India and I go ga-ga. I want to visit India, eat India, dream India. And the best way I can do that is by watching films and listening to India's beautiful music. Bollywood has returned to me, and I plan to never let it go.

  Mera badan American hai, lekin mera dil Indian hai! (My body is American, but my heart is Indian!)

- MeethiKhatti



This filmi ramble was
written by MeethiKhatti

discovering bollywood - a new series

How did you discover Bollywood? So many fans have a story -- one told, retold, analyzed and polished -- of that lightbulb moment in which they encountered Hindi cinema like a revelation, a window into something they had never imagined film could be. From those who once had no idea that Hindi cinema existed to those who grew up loathing it, Discovering Bollywood tells their tales of that single moment when they suddenly, finally "got it."


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