As a global desi born in New York and raised in Africa and India, a lot of my weekends in Nigeria and India were spent with my grandparents and their friends playing Bollywood charades, watching Bollywood movies, and obsessing over iconic on-screen pairs like Kareena Kapoor Khan and Hrithik Roshan. In a nutshell, Bollywood movies helped me connect with my culture when I moved back to India. Now, you might be wondering how and why Bollywood plays such an important role not only in my life but in my grandparents’ lives as well.
Indian cinema dates back to the early 1900s and was dominated by large-scale musical romantic films that allowed viewers to escape from reality. Every character tries to bring different Indian personalities to life. That is the beauty of — no matter where you are geographically, you can relate, dream and stay connected to your Indian roots. After spending twelve years in India, moving back to the States meant rediscovering my identity, finding my community, and adjusting to a brand-new environment. Bollywood played a very significant role in helping me achieve that.
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Today, Bollywood is a billion-dollar industry and is creating the same magic with stories beyond romance. As the times evolve, Indian cinema evolves with them. Today, with stories like “Dangal” and “3 Idiots,” Bollywood is breaking the stereotype and shedding light on important issues such as the representation of minorities and societal norms of success. This is inspiring today’s youth to voice their opinions through digital and social media storytelling.
After twenty-two years of living in three different countries, I’ve learned some of my biggest life lessons by watching Bollywood movies; lessons that played a role in helping me discover who I am today. Here are four movies that have helped me do that:
“Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” is a story about three life-long friends discovering their fears, insecurities and purpose on a bachelor trip in Spain. The movie title translates to “you only have one life.” While a lot of us want to go on that exclusive road trip with our best friends, one dialogue in the movie that really stood out to me was: “Apne kaam ko apni life ke saath confuse mat karo. Tumhara kaam tumhari life nahi, sirf uska ek hissa hai,” which translates to “Don’t confuse your work with your life. Your work is not your life, it is only a part of it.”
We often center our goals around our dream job or our dream city to work in. But in that process, we can’t forget to cherish and live in the moment with our loved ones. One of my professors, who is a full-time marketeer and a part-time professor once told me, “Your work is like a fundraiser for all the things you like to do in life.” His quote came from his personal experiences of spending time with his young daughters. While he enjoys work, nothing can replace his kids’ happiness. So go on that impromptu trip, take a day off, and indulge in self-care. Stop feeling guilty for not staring at your laptop; take risks and do what you’ve always wanted to do because zindagi na milegi dobara!
“Jab We Met” is a story of two individuals, Aditya and Geet, who are very different from each other but are finding purpose in life through love and work. When their lives collide, they not only find true love, but they also discover themselves. A lot of my pre-teen and teen years were spent trying to perfect myself for others, feeling extra self-conscious, and not appreciating myself enough. Simple life decisions were dependent on societal norms and validation from friends and family, but never from myself. If there was one thing I could tell my younger self to do, it would be to scream “Mein apni favorite hu!” which translates to “I love myself!” every single night in front of the mirror. The one thing you should prioritize before everyone else is YOURSELF. If you don’t love yourself, how do you expect others to do so? Jab We Met, thank you for making me meet my wonderful self!
“Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” is an iconic Indian romantic musical that explores the famous concept of a love triangle between a guy, his female best friend, and his love interest over 10 years. It is a beautiful cinematic experience that talks about love, friendship, and family. The movie is a little extra special for me because we both celebrated twenty-two years together last year! “Pyaar dosti hai; love is friendship,” in a romantic and a platonic way.
Friends and significant others play very different roles, but at the core, they are your cheerleaders, the ones that help you grow and who always have your back! For true friends and partners, they will not expect you to change yourself for them. You will always have a tight-knit bond. So don’t change yourself for others; explore yourself, and grow in that process. The right friends and significant others will always be around.
“Wake Up Sid” is a story about a young rich brat who is inspired by an aspiring writer from Calcutta to go chase his own dreams and own up to them. “Wake up Ritz!” is something I still continue to tell myself! What is a dream, hobby, or something you’ve always wanted to try but didn’t give it a shot because of family restrictions, societal judgments or fear of failure? Have you thought about what the outcome could be if you chased your OWN dream? “Wake Up Sid” has been that reminder for me! While I was fortunate to have the most supportive family to allow me to pursue my dreams and explore opportunities, I wish I took the plunge for many other things I wanted to do when I was living in India.
But guess what: there is no right age or time to do anything! Despite the unfortunate pandemic, I took a digital acting course from the critically acclaimed Acting Institute in Mumbai, Actor Prepares! I am now certified in Film and Theatre. This is the first time I’m publicly announcing it, so you heard it here first! If you’ve always had something at the back of your mind; go chase it and do it!
Four iconic movies with four iconic life lessons have shaped me into the person I am today, and Bollywood continues to inspire and teach. I’m excited to learn about what Bollywood movies have impacted your lives — drop them in the comments below!