In the time since Colin revealed himself to me as a closet Bollywood buff, Slumdog Millionaire turned the Oscars into a song-and-dance
spectacular and all things Indian have now been deemed hot. When Lady Gaga descended on Delhi to perform at an F1 gala earlier
this month, she tweeted a pic of herself partying with Bollywood royalty, including Shah Rukh himself. "Screw Hollywood," she declared. "It's all about
Bollywood." Hey, if Gaga says it, it must be true.
But what about us who've grown up with Bollywood? We've been singing (and dancing) this gospel for years. The music outnumbers all other genres in my
iPod three to one, and I'm far more intrigued by eternal bachelor Salman Khan's romantic entanglements than George Clooney's. I beg anyone heading to
the motherland to bring me back copies of Stardust, Filmfare, and People India, which hold prized positions in my personal magazine
library, a place where Us Weekly just doesn't make the cut. I even have a Bollywood keychain, featuring a floppy-haired cartoon character
wooing a buxom, sari-clad lass in a rain-soaked embrace.
I'll admit, though, that despite all this, I'm not exactly a die-hard fan. For every rare Lagaan (Tax) that holds my attention for four-plus
hours, there are scores of asinine Love Aaj Kals (Love These Days) that send me fleeing from the theater in convulsions after 15 minutes. I want to love Bollywood, I really do. Yet as much as I enjoy the accompaniments, the main courses themselves generally leave me unsettled.
But the fact remains that Bollywood is as much a part of my identity as my curly hair. Across the globe, kids of South
Asian extraction are raised on a steady diet of screeching violins, over-the-top displays of emotion, delayed reactions to ill-placed dishum-dishums in shoddily realized fight sequences, and, of course, spontaneous, perfectly choreographed and comically attired dance routines. It provides the sound track to every wedding, the punch line to every joke. With more than a billion Indians, it boasts a built-in audience
far more vast than anything Hollywood could ever dream of, and hundreds of millions of others are also caught under the influence. Think of Bollywood
what you will, but if you're brown, there's no escaping it—whether you're growing up in Delhi, Dubai, or Des Moines.
The Bollywood of my childhood would be virtually unrecognizable to anyone accustomed to the candy-coated and substance-free froth being churned out by
the dream factories of Mumbai today. There was a time when a Hindi movie was a wholesome family affair that transcended every strata of society: It
offered tear-jerking melodrama to depress the aunties; a sweet, fresh-faced girl to charm the uncles; a chocolate-box hero and cheesy romance to lure
in the girls; blood and gore to excite the guys; melodic music to appeal to the masses; grandeur and sophistication to be appreciated by the classes;
morality to appease the conservative set; double entendre-laden (but discreet) humor to entertain the shameless; and—a miracle!—an actual storyline
that could be followed and enjoyed by all (so what if it was completely implausible and devoid of any reality?).