With Indian films having crossed the centenary mark, Bollywood, with its increased global audience is no longer confined within the boundaries of Indian theatres or Indian audiences as it ventures out into European film markets.
Linda Weber, a German resident expressed her undying love for Shah Rukh Khan and all things Bollywood. “Bollywood is colourful, vibrant, and is full of emotions and yes has Shah Rukh Khan. I love how the films break into sudden song and dance sequences.” Linda is not alone; there is a vast fan base for Bollywood films in Germany, Netherlands, France, Poland and United Kingdom, to name a few specifically.
Linda adds, “I love how the heroes romance the heroines in the films; it’s downright mushy and heart-wrenching. I cried out vehemently while watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai!”
Bollywood has transcended boundaries to exert a ‘soft power’, which can be experienced in terms of its global reach and influence. Bollywood stars and fashion have carved a niche for themselves internationally, especially in the European context. Is this Bollywood fever fairly new? Film scholar Dr. Shoma Chatterji answers otherwise, “I believe this influence of Bollywood on western culture or people is not a recent phenomenon, it has been there, existent for a long time but gained a colossal momentum recently, with more films being shot outside and hence, increased exposure in a highly global environment.”
“Bollywood is a sensation here. Every week our neighbourhood community organises Bollywood dance lessons and screens Bollywood films privately. It is fun, I love the way the heroines dress up and drool on the heroes. I like Shah Rukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor. My favourite film is Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani,” expressed Kristie Bernard, a 24-year-old French exchange student in India.
Non-Residents Indians (NRI) also seem to be revelling in the Bollywood culture, looked upon as the desi (native) connect to their homeland. Anindya Ghosh, a NRI said, “We (me and my family) enjoy Bollywood movies thoroughly. They are entertaining, melodramatic and magical. I prefer the yesteryear actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit, my son however loves Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh. My wife enjoys Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.”
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, known to fans as DDLJ, marked Bollywood’s entry into the European diaspora. It was shot in Switzerland and London and was based on the lives of NRIs. Following on, films like Queen, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Rockstar and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, to name a few, were also shot on European soil. Bollywood hence, forms the perfect amalgamation between Indian and Western audiences by creating a local connect. Director Imtiaz Ali, whose film Rockstar was shot in Prague and Czech Republic apart from India, said in an interview, “India has opened up to the world. We are shooting in foreign locations more now. We are also using foreign talent. That’s why our appeal is more global now.”
So is Bollywood parallel to European films? It will take some time, before it can be concluded as a contemporary; however it has definitely penetrated the European psyche.