Bollywood Recommendations from a White Girl Who Knows Nothing About Anything

First of all, there are a lot of really amazing Indian filmmakers who wouldn’t be classified as Bollywood at all: Satyajit Ray and Mira Nair, for example. I have not seen any of their films. I want to, I should, but they’re not of Netflix. There’s also a huge array of different kinds of Bollywood movies and I’m only interested in the rom-coms. Sorry Amitabh–pas interessée.

I thought I’d recommend just a few of my favorite Bollywood movies, with the caveat that my scope is limited. I’m only going to recommend things that are on American Netflix. If you want a better list, I’ve been working through Time Out’s 100 Best Bollywood Movies. However, if you want a list of ridiculous tearjerkers about star-crossed lovers that like to dance that are available to stream along with your subscription to House of Cards, here are some movies you might enjoy:

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (“The Big-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride”) (1995)

I was tempted to write a post solely on this one. This is the most Bollywood movie of all time. I should know. I am white girl who knows nothing about anything. It ran in India for almost twenty years, from October 1995 to February of last year, making it the longest running Bollywood movie of all time. And it has EVERYTHING:

  • The breakout of writer-director Aditya Chopra, who is involved in a lot of movies I watch, and also according to Wikipedia has severe social anxiety, something I find instantly relatable
  • The breakout of Shah Rukh Khan, who is in 99% of Bollywood romantic comedies (When I started watching these movies, I was baffled how SRK got to star in so many romances because he is not conventionally attractive and usually middle-aged. At least in this one he’s young enough to be a love interest. He doesn’t do his own singing–none of them do. He isn’t really that great an actor. He dances well, but not enough to build an entire career. Yet, he is so thoroughly charming with his dopey face, I have officially decided that he is the only man worth loving ever in the history of time.)
  • Dancing in a little red dress in the snowy hills of Switzerland
  • A fantastic lady unibrow
  • Repeated scenes involving feeding pigeons
  • A cow
  • Very elaborate Indian weddings
  • Rampant sexism
  • The most emotional ending I have experienced in a long time, which involved me yelling aloud at one of the characters to please let go off the main actress’ hand
  • A good many train scenes

Barfi! (2012)

The other movies I’m mentioning I enjoy but cannot actually recommend as a good movie. Barfi! is the exception. The songs are all non-diagetic, so there are no dance scenes, and it feels more like Amelie than DDLJ . It was nominated for the Oscar for Foreign Film the year it came out, so at least fifty white men in California agree with me.

Barfi! is a love story about a deaf-mute man played deftly by Ranbir Kapoor with shades of Charlie Chaplin. He’s a harmless, mischievous guy who falls for a beautiful woman named Shruti (Ileana) but her mother advises her against the marriage. He also kidnaps his childhood friend, a wealthy, autistic girl named Jhilmil, played by a transformed Priyanka Chopra (who you’ll recognize from the ABC show Quantico and this year’s Oscars). The music is by Pritram and really fun and lovely. The color palette is vibrant and engaging, and it feels more like a fairy tale than anything. I will watch Barfi! with you any day of the week, no questions asked. Just be like, “A.C., I was–” and I will be like, “Okay, let’s watch Barfi!

Kal Ho Naa Ho (“If There Is a Tomorrow Or Not”) (2003)

One of my friends who is actually half-Indian, half-Pakistani is obsessed with this movie, which must give it some kind of credibility. It also stars Shah Rukh Khan and was my first introduction to him. It’s set in New York, which is lame, but the love story of this one is so ridiculous and melodramatic that it greatly makes up for how disappointed I was not to be in India. There’s a plot twist about halfway through that I did not see coming and CHANGES EVERYTHING. OH MY GOD.

Naina (Preity Zinta) is an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) who falls in love with a handsome new neighbor (SRK) and whose hopeless best friend falls in love with her. This would all be fine EXCEPT FOR THE PART I CAN’T TELL YOU ABOUT. There’s also a weird moment where SRK sings a Bollywood version of “Pretty Woman” where people break dance in front of an American flag. Don’t just take my word for it, take the advice of my mom who was cooking in the next room while I watched it: “There’s a lot of crying in this movie, it seems to me.”

Oh no! This post is way too long and the part about DDLJ is way longer than the other ones. WHO GIVES A FUCK THIS IS MY BLOG THERE ARE NO RULES I JUST SAID FUCK.


Other Recs:

Queen (2013): Jilted bride goes on a tour of Europe and finds herself, good if you are having feminist objections to the other films on this list

Band Baaja Baaraat (2010): They hate each other, so why not form a wedding planning company? Amazing premise. So many Indian weddings.

Jab We Met (2007): Not included on the main list because not on Netflix, but may I recommend signing up for a free trial of Spuul and streaming it that way? The basis of the Amy Adams movie Leap Year, it is amazing, the guy is cute and they dated in real life only to break up while they were making the movie. Plus it is only two hours and fifteen minutes! You can handle that!


About A.C.

Amateur time-traveler
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