Bollywood Influencing Western Entertainment and Culture28 Jul 2015
India’s Hindi language film industry, commonly known as “Bollywood,” has been producing lavish, romantically themed movies for almost a century. Within the last few decades, however, it has become a multi-billion dollar juggernaut, spilling far beyond India’s borders. It stands to reason, then, that Bollywood’s influence would eventually begin to have an impact on the West. A recent viral video, as well as the release of a popular movie that features Indian actors and a Bollywood style dance number, proves that this signature style has claimed a place in popular Western culture.
When Canadian doctor Frank Gregoire decided to serenade his IndoCanadian bride, Simran Malhotra, with the popular Bollywood love song Kyunki Tum Hi Ho (Only You Are There) at their recent wedding, he had no idea it would become an internet sensation. The video of his performance was uploaded to YouTube, racking up more than 4.7 million views, as of the time of this writing. Gregoire has even received requests to perform the song at other couples’ weddings. Gregoire and Malhotra both feel that the song, which has been featured in several popular Bollywood movies, resonates with social media viewers because its message of love and hope has a universal appeal. Gregoire explained in a recent interview with BBC News that the couple wants to “challenge the world to make a headline news story of love and a positive message that takes precedence over all the hate, war, crime, and negativity showcased in the world.” [See Bollywood Song Makes Canada Wedding Go Viral, BBC News, 23.Jul.2015.]
Bollywood’s influence on the west was also apparent earlier this year, with the release of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the sequel to the hit 2012 film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The film features a diverse cast of British, American, and Indian actors, as well as a nod to Bollywood style influences. The film centers around a young entrepreneur named Sonny, played by Dev Patel, trying to open his own hotel in his native country of India, with the help of his elderly mentor Muriel, portrayed by Dame Maggie Smith. Actress Lillete Dubey, who is from Pune, India, has acted in and directed many movies produced in India and portrays Sonny’s mother in the film. In a recent interview with The Star, she notes that, while the film features aspects of Indian culture, there is still much for Western audiences to learn about India. “[India] is a massive country. We hardly know it ourselves. Just like America, it’s very, very vast. There are a lot of similarities, but more radical differences throughout the country.” Tina Desai, who plays Sonny’s fiancée, is also a native of India who has acted in several Bollywood-style films. She explains that the film “has a lot of heart … it’s about being optimistic and expecting the best.” She seems especially excited about the largescale, Bollywood-inspired dance number featured in a pivotal scene in the film, noting that the dance number perfectly embodies the hopeful spirit of the movie. [See Indian Actresses in ‘Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ Compare Hollywood to Bollywood, by Rick Bentley, The Star, 09.Apr.2015.]
While Indians have long enjoyed the films and music of Bollywood, it is only in recent years that Western audiences have begun to appreciate this style of filmmaking. Now, a whole new audience is finding joy in the infectious songs, uplifting plotlines, and festive dance numbers that define the genre, while also learning a bit about the diverse culture of India and her people.
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