My name is Bollywood. The B stands for Bombay. Except I go by Mumbai now.
Imagine your favorite musical — Chicago, Cats, La La Land? The genre that continues to dominate at both the box office and award shows — Fosse/Verdon won four Emmys in 2019. Now multiply that by a thousand and you are left with a traditional Bollywood movie. These formulaic films are filled with endless meet-cutes, vibrant costume design and elaborate dance numbers.
Bollywood is the largest national film industry when factoring in the number of films produced and the number of tickets sold worldwide annually. According to Deloitte, it produces 1,500-2,000 films a year in 20 different languages, and Business of Fashion says it is expected to reach 20,060 crore rupees ($3.1 billion) by 2022.
With such a global influence and the sheer number of films released (readily available on streaming services), it saddens me that a majority of my peers are in the dark about the joys of Indian cinema. I could wax poetic about my love of Indian movies, but we would be here all night. As the weekend approaches, I challenge you to watch a Bollywood film, with the subtitles on of course. Think of this as an opportunity to appear posh and cultured at the next work happy hour.
We urge you to put a sheet mask on, get comfortable (Bollywood movies are two hours long on average) and get ready for a roller coaster of emotions. Here are five of the best (and my personal favorite) Bollywood romantic dramedies on Amazon Prime. They may not be the newest films out there, but they sure are the classics that will up your culture stock with your peers. Enjoy!
If you are looking to get a glimpse of Priyanka
Dil Dhadakne Do (2015)
Translation: let the heartbeat
For those of you who are blissfully unaware, before Priyanka Chopra was married to Nick Jonas, she was one of India’s most recognizable and highest-paid actresses. She plays Ayesha Mehra, daughter of Kamal Mehra (Anil Kapoor) who plans a cruise for his family and friends to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary. The dysfunctional Mehra family is on the verge of bankruptcy but pretends like everything is fine as they try to impress their friends. The movie weaves in multiple plotlines like forbidden romance, meddling parents, in-law tensions and manipulation to get ahead in business. This underrated dramedy is narrated by the family dog Pluto (Aamir Khan) and will have you laughing in your seat.
If you are looking to cry and laugh simultaneously
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham(2001)
Translation: “Sometimes happy, sometimes sad”.
This melodramatic romance musical is a classic. We follow the story of adopted Rahul who defies his billionaire parents by marrying a woman from a lower-class family. There is so much star power in this movie that it is blinding: Shah Rukh Khan ($600 million net worth), Amitabh Bachchan ($400 million net worth), Kajol ($18 million net worth), Hrithik Roshan ($45 million net worth) and Kareena Kapoor ($6 million net worth). You will laugh, you will cry, you will download the soundtrack and you will most definitely call your parents. A heartbreaking story about what matters to us in life and what we are willing to sacrifice for love. True fans refer to the movie by its acronym KKKG — or K3G — which is another fact you can spit at happy hour.
If you are looking for a movie to reiterate that you do not need a partner to be happy
Translation: the word Rani means Queen in Hindi
After getting left at the altar on her wedding day, a sheltered 24-year-old Rani (Kangana Ranaut) decides to go on her honeymoon to Europe solo. This box office hit centers around experiencing new cultures, gaining independence and finding yourself. The movie also won a Filmfare Award for the best film in 2015, if you do not want to rely solely on my word.
If you want to watch a grand Indian wedding
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013)
Translation: this youth is crazy
This movie is a summation of every traditional Bollywood plotline in one two-hour and 56-minute masterpiece. There is a trekking trip, a beautiful girl whose beauty is hidden under the guise of being a geek (wearing glasses), a friend with a token drinking problem, a dead parent, unrequited love and a big Indian wedding. After falling in love on a trip to Manali, Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) and Naina (Deepika Padukone) re-meet years later at a friend’s wedding.
If you are looking for a movie to tell you to take more risks in life
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
Translation: you will not get a second life
The creators of this film took the word YOLO quite literally when they shot this movie. Three lifelong best friends reunite to go on a bachelor party trip through Spain. Arjun (Hrithik Roshan) is a workaholic, Imraan (Farhan Akhtar) is determined to find his birth father, and Kabir (Abhay Deol) is uncertain about his fiancé. With central themes around friendship, aging, facing our fears, and falling in love, you will be unable to look away from the screen. Kudos to director Zoya Akhtar for the unique coming-of-age story.