Melanie G. contacted me after writing up an extensive recommendation list of Bollywood movies for a friend, and realized that she loved many of them because of the Huge Amazing Excellent Romance Tropes Inside. She forwarded her list to me in case I wanted to share it with you – and oh, yes. Yes, I do. Movie time!
Some people say that the Rom-Com movie is dead in Hollywood, but I’m here to tell you it’s alive and well in Bollywood. I’m lucky enough to live in a town with a sizeable South Asian population, so our library has many Hindi films, and the local cinema multiplex has one screen dedicated to new release Bollywood movies. For the past few months I’ve been in somewhat of a Bollywood fever dream, glomming Shahrukh Khan movies especially. Luckily for me, SRK, one of the biggest movie stars you may have never heard of, has made over 70 films.
As I’ve been watching, I realized how many of our favorite romance novel tropes are found in Bollywood films, many that are usually only in historicals, but with a modern twist. For example, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (My Brother’s Bride) has an arranged marriage where the Indian bride meets the London groom in an online video chat.
There are many Hindi films on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu Plus, but it’s intimidating to know where to begin when you can’t understand what most of the titles mean. I have recommendations for a few films to get you started.
This movie is so popular it played in a theater in Mumbai for over 18 years continuously. Raj (Shahrukh Khan) is a wastrel rich kid from London who meets Simran (Kajol) on a post-college trip to Europe.
My favorite scene is when Raj first tells Simran he loves her with soulful eyes, and then laughs it off as if he was joking. As she storms away, you see he really meant it and he whispers, “If she turns around, she loves me, too.”
Simran has been engaged since childhood to the son of her stern father’s best friend back in India. How scary is her father? He’s played by the guy who was the villain in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!
Raj follows Simran to India to stop the wedding, but he must prove himself worthy to her and her family.
DDLJ has multiple tropes that I adore: Hero and Heroine stuck together on a road trip, Hate-to-Love, redemption of a prankster rake and the hero rescuing a miserable bride from an arranged marriage. As the tag line of the Trailer says, “Come….Fall In Love”.
It’s on Netflix streaming, and I’ve watched it multiple times. If you only watch one Bollywood film, this is the one to watch.
This film is a sweeping historical based on the real marriage of sixteenth century Muslim Mughal emperor Akbar to Hindu princess Jodhaa. It stars my other favorite Bollywood actor, Hrithrik Roshan, and Aishawayra Rai and was one of the most expensive Hindi films ever made.
The main trope is of course love after an arranged political marriage, but fans of kickass heroines will love the sword practice duel Jodhaa has with her new husband.
They used real palaces in India for the sets, and one dance scene has 1000 dancers. Not CGI, they really used that many extras. And the battle with 80 elephants! Watch the trailer to get a taste.
I bought this one on DVD I loved it so much, and so that I can watch a sleeveless Hrithrik Roshan tame a wild elephant any time I want!
It’s not currently available on Netflix streaming, but is most definitely worth seeking out the DVD.
This is a very sweet and funny Rom-com, and it has many of my catnip tropes: love after hasty arranged marriage, nerdy beta hero, and mistaken identity.
Shahrukh Khan (India’s superstar) plays a shy office worker named Surinder who agrees to marry the daughter (Taani) of his favorite professor after she tragically loses her fiancé in a car accident.
Taani agrees to the arranged marriage to honor the dying wish of her father, but tells Suri that she can never love again. She asks to take a dance class, and Suri goes to the same class disguised as “Raj”. Surinder then asks his hair dresser friend to make him look like the heroes his wife loves in the movies: “Make me the hero of my own love story.”
Mayhem ensues as Taani can’t choose who she is falling in love with, her sweet boring husband Suri, or the wild ridiculous fun “Raj”. Only as the outrageous Raj can Surinder seem to tell Taani how he feels.
Friends-to-Lovers stories your thing?
This fun Rom Com is about two friends who start a wedding planning business together. All is strictly business until one drunken night of celebration changes everything.
I found just learning about the Indian wedding customs fascinating. This movie is a little racier than most Bollywood as the lovers actually kiss on screen and much more.
Kush (Imran Khan) is asked by his brother in London to find him a bride in India.
He finds the perfect girl, Dimple (Katrina Kaif), but realizes he knew her as a wild rocker girl in college that he had a crush on. Kush’s brother and Dimple meet online via video chat, and agree to marry. Kush and Dimple of course fall in love as they prepare for the wedding.
Things spiral out of control when Dimple decides she wants to elope with Kush instead.
When Kush finally tells Dimple he loves her, she screams in frustration as she points to the engagement ring on her finger. “Why did you have to wait until NOW to tell me!”
If you want angst in your stories, this one is for you.
Set in 1953, a visiting archaeologist comes to excavate a local temple site. Pahki, the daughter of the local noble, falls in love with Varun, the young archaeologist, but Varun isn’t all that he seems.
This gorgeous movie is based on the short story, “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry. I can’t promise you a completely happy ending, but this film has redemption of a wrong done to a heroine the likes of which I have never seen. The ending of the movie had me smiling through the tears running down my face.
This film is a mashup of The Hurt Locker with a soap opera. It’s gorgeous, and the first half is sublime, but I will be honest that the second half takes much suspension of disbelief. Well, if we can go with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves having a time machine mailbox in The Lake House, we can handle a crazy amnesia storyline.
Samar Anand (Shahrukh Khan) defies death every day as a bomb disposal expert in the Indian army. Young Discovery Channel journalist Akira finds the closed off Samar’s journal, and reads the story, told to us in a lengthy flashback, of his lost love Meera (Katrina Kaif) back in London. Samar returns to London after 10 years, and a car accident erases his memory of his breakup with Meera.
Personally, I love me some emotionally damaged military heroes. In the flashback we see the young immigrant Samar making his way in London as a fun loving street musician, and you just have to know what happened with Meera that made him that hard shelled soldier.
There are so many beloved tropes for me in this movie – emotionally shut off hero, reunion with a lost love, Hero showing the sheltered rich girl how to enjoy life, and yes, amnesia!
I also have two great websites to recommend.
AccessBollywood has reviews of Bollywood films from an American Non-Indian perspective including new releases, and she also updates on new Hindi movies coming onto Netflix streaming. I sought out Lootera based on her glowing review, and I was not sorry.
BollyWhat: The Guide for Clueless Fans of Hindi Films has an invaluable FAQ. Now I know why some women in Hindi films have that patch of red in the part of their hair!
My obsession with Shahrukh Khan continues on, and since I emailed Sarah, I have watched female director Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om which is a 70’s spoof reincarnation film starring SRK. You must watch this number from the film titled, Dard-E-Disco, which translates to “The Pain of Disco”. Farah Khan is a choreographer turned director, and she made SRK, “an item girl”. Instead of the usual wet sari in the rain, she puts him in the water in this 70’s inspired spoof. It’s both ridiculous (on purpose) and red hot. Make sure you watch it until the 2:15 mark as she goes through the elements from earth, air, and most memorably water.
Farah Khan said this number was her gift to all women. Thank you Farah! To say that I am anticipating her next film with SRK, Happy New Year, due out next month, would be an understatement!
(SB Sarah: YOU GUYS THE TRAILER OMG IT IS AMAZING)
If you want to add icing to the cake, there’s an equally hot new video just released to promote the new movie. Again with the shirtless SRK, now with 8 pack:
It’s reached 2 million views in 48 hours, many of those from my computer!!
This short list of suggested Hindi films is just a starting point as I tried to choose movies that should be easy to find, and I’m hoping for many new suggestions for movies in the comments!