‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Reminds us of a Great Bollywood Movie, and That’s More Important Than You’d Think

[Photo Source: Warner Bros.]

From its initial North America release on August 15 to the Sunday of its opening weekend, “Crazy Rich Asians” has already pulled in more than $35 million, classifying it a huge box office success. It has also attracted a large amount of press attention and social media chatter for a number of reasons. While it is a refreshing revival of the romantic comedy and has a number of strong female characters, the more impressive and important aspect of the film is its all-Asian cast – a first for Hollywood’s silver screen in 25 years.

The film is a classic, yet lavish, East-meets-West affair, and there are striking similarities to a film industry we know and love for its iconic and sometimes fantastical depictions of love.

Here are seven ways “Crazy Rich Asians” reminds us of Bollywood:

1. The heart of the film is a romance we all declare #RelationshipGoals.

[via Giphy]
It’s not a real Bollywood film if someone isn’t falling in love. Though taking place in Southeast Asia’s Singapore, “Crazy Rich Asians” is no different.
While the film is about much more than just the love story between lead characters Rachel Chu and Nick Young, everything else centers on their fairytale-like romance.

2. Class divisions separate the haves from the have-nots — and threatens the main love story.

Crazy Rich Asians
Michelle Yeoh as Nick’s disapproving mother, Eleanor Young [Photo Source: Screenshot/WarnerBrosPictures]
While the clichéd Bollywood love story is between a poor boy and a girl from a wealthy family, it’s the opposite here.
Nick’s mother and the Singapore elite look down on Rachel, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, because she is from a lower class background. It’s the one major factor that makes Rachel “unsuitable” in the eyes of Nick’s mother and could either make or break their relationship.

3. The major conflict arises when a character is forced to choose between familial expectations and the heart.

[via Giphy]
This one is no shocker. Fulfilling familial expectations versus pursuing individual goals and desires is a decision that divides the East from the West and the young from the older generations.
As in a classic Bollywood tale, Nick must decide between marrying the woman he loves and returning to Singapore to take over his family’s empire.

4. Gossiping aunties — you can’t escape them, even in Singapore.

Similar to the South Asian culture, Rachel learns that older women are referred to as “aunties,” even if they are not blood relatives. When news about Rachel and Nick’s relationship travels from New York to Singapore in an amusing yet relatable sequence at the beginning of “Crazy Rich Asians,” word finally reaches his mother through the mouths of gossiping aunties and their young socialite daughters.
India or Singapore, no secret is left unveiled by the aunties.

5. The film’s luxurious scenery sells the fairytale and provides vacation inspiration.

[via Giphy]
Who wouldn’t want to explore love on a sandy beach, in the snow-capped mountains or a bustling metropolis? It’s part of the allure of the movies. From the Marina Bay Sands and ‘world’s best’ Changi Airport to Sentosa Island and Gardens by the Bay, there are many popular sites that visitors and residents of the island city-state will recognize.
It’s the perfect setting for a love story involving one of Southeast Asia’s most eligible bachelors, and Singapore is already preparing for an influx of tourists in wake of the film’s blockbuster success.

6. It’s incomplete without the big fat Asian wedding.

Crazy Rich Asians
Colin and Araminta’s wedding [Photo Source: Screenshot/WarnerBrosPictures]
Though there are many beautiful moments in the film, one of the most breathtaking scenes is the wedding ceremony of Colin, Nick’s best friend, and his bride, Araminta.
It’s the wedding event of the year. From the outfits to the décor and a rendition of Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” that tugs at the heartstrings, it’s a spectacle you won’t be able to forget. And as always, it’s where the most drama happens as the wedding reception leads into the climax of the film.

7. It’s glossy, fabulous fun for a date night or girls’ night out!

[via Giphy]
It may remind you of films like “Dil Dhadakne Do” and others set in India’s elite circles, featuring gorgeous men, expensive jewelry, couture dresses, private jets and luxury cars. It’s a peek at some of the best that Singapore (and Malaysia, as some scenes were shot in the neighboring country) has to offer. While this isn’t a reality for many, the human emotions make it relatable for all, and it makes for a great cinematic escape for a few hours.
Really, the film speaks to the universality of love. Whether comparing Bollywood and Hollywood, East and West, the emotions that love evokes and the complications that come with it are very similar. However, the likeness of “Crazy Rich Asians” to the Bollywood stories that we are so used to holds a greater significance.

The successes of this film and others like it demonstrate that our narratives are becoming increasingly commercially viable for production companies, making them more likely of being told. The excitement around the film on all fronts highlights the desire for minority stories to be included in mainstream film and television. While it can seem irrelevant to non-East Asian diasporic communities, it is actually more important than ever to show up for our allies.

With just the success of its opening weekend, a “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel has already been confirmed by Warner Brothers. These films will pave the way for projects that represent the other diverse groups of our society, making our dream of seeing our cultures, struggles and stories reflected onscreen in Hollywood a reality.

[Read Related: ‘My So-Called Bollywood Life’ is the Young-Adult Novel That Expertly Bridges the Gap Between Bollywood Melodrama and Hollywood Rom-Com]

So, if you haven’t already, buy a ticket to “Crazy Rich Asians,” and if you already have, do it one more time. This is how we make ourselves heard and create change where it once seemed like our voices didn’t matter.

By Gabrielle Deonath

Gabrielle Deonath is a New York-based writer and content creator with a passion for storytelling. Through her work, she hopes … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Smriti Mundhra (@smritimundhra)

At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Editor by profession, writer by passion, and a mother 24/7, Nida is a member of Brown Girl Lifestyle's editing team … Read more ›