About the Site

In case this is your first time finding my blog, and you have questions, here are some answers!

1.Is this written by an Indian/South Asian/Desi person?

No, I am not Desi.  I am a miscellaneous white person from America.  But I have been watching these films for over a decade, and reading all the gossip news and news-news out of India that whole time as well.  And I have 2 degrees in film.  But there is still so much to learn!  So if you notice a mistake in a post, or want to add information you think I missed, PLEASE mention it in the comments!

2.  What all do you write about?

I write about lots of things!  The main categories are in the menu, you can just click through to see all the related posts.  My Film Reviews are in depth analysis of particular films, my Film Summaries are scene by scene descriptions of films (usually new films still running in theaters).  Box Office is box office data and analysis.  Filmi News You Can Use is general star gossip and industry news. Star Birthday Posts are in depth career history and discussion in honor of their birthdays (a good place to go if you want background on a particular artist).  Videos are just for fun, if you want to look at a bunch of fun fanvids and song videos, I put up posts sometimes of videos I like that all share a random theme (Bhang songs, Slashfic fanvids, etc.).  And speaking of fun, check out the TGIF section!  Or, if you want to learn more about me/general background info on the industry, look at the Monday Morning Questions.  And finally, if you are new to the films and trying to figure out who is related to who and who used to date and all that stuff, check out Hindi Film 101.

3. How can I get started with your writing/this site/Indian film?

Buy My Book!  I wrote a quick cheap ebook to provide an introduction to Indian film for those who are completely new to it, or long time fans who may be curious about the history of the industry, or the technical details of why you see what you see onscreen.

Or, if you want to try my writing first before you commit, check out My To-Do List and click the link for a film you want to learn more about.  That’s the best way to get a sense of how I write and what I write about.

4. Why do you write so much about non-Hindi Indian films?

Because people like it!  My Malayalam posts started getting a lot of traffic, and comments, and requests to cover other movies from that industry, so that’s what I went with.  But I am ready willing and able to write about anything film related.

If you want me to write about some other industry, Bengali or Punjabi or French or Brazilian or Nigerian or Nepali, just tell me!  Put a comment on the To-Do List post, and I will add it to my list.  I can’t promise that I will get to it promptly, but I will get to it eventually!

5. Are you a massive Shahrukh Khan fan?

Yes, I am a massive Shahrukh Khan fan!  Thank you for noticing!  I’m not going to apologize for it or try to hide it, there is a huge bias in all my coverage of the industry because I think he is perfect, and the most important industry figure today.  Feel free to try to convert me to Aamir or Salman or Akshay or Amitabh in the comments, but it’s not going to work!  I’ve been with Shahrukh for over 10 years now, and I have never wavered.  Yes, even after watching Happy New Year.

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26 thoughts on “About the Site

  1. Pardon me for writing as a “comment” what should ideally be addressed as an one-to-one query. I am not particularly interested in Bollywood in any positive way, but am mildly intrigued by the title of your book and of this blog.

    I feel you may be in a position to answer a question to which I have found no definite answer in any scholarly source, Indian or foreign: Is there a watershed date in the history of Hindi cinema after which it is valid to use the term ‘Bollywood’ and not before that date?

    PS: If you can answer this question (with objective qualifying criteria, if any), I just may buy your book. 🙂

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    • Ooo, a book sale! Hard to resist! As you can tell from the name of the blog, I don’t really like to use the term “Bollywood” ever. My understanding is that the term itself first came about in the 1970s-80s, and was used dismissively by the Indian English Language press. But it entered the world stage in the late 90s when a combination of circumstances led Indian film into a new global era.

      1. The liberalization of the Indian economy in the 90s loosened the import-export restrictions which had previously kept film, along with other goods, from being widely distributed abroad. “Bollywood” began being packaged and sold overseas partly to bring in foreign box office for the films and partly to sell the entire “Indian” experience on the market (Notably, Harrods, the famous London department store currently owned by a South Asian family, hosted an entire “Bollywood” week)

      2. In response to, and to some degree pushing forward this liberalization, certain directors and producers started actively going after the international market. Which meant designing films that were somewhat different than the Indian film styles of before. If you can find it, Priya Joshi wrote a wonderful journal article called “Bolly-lite” where she breaks down exactly what changed. Conflicts became private rather than public, for instance. So, in Bobby, the young couple fell in love, but it was about class and religious issues as well; but in K3G, it was just about family objections and nothing else. These new films that Joshi calls “Bolly-lite” rapidly spread abroad and influenced the global concept of “Bollywood” as something with songs and melodrama and no social value. Hum Aapke Hain Koun was the first of these in 1994, followed by DDLJ, and then Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and finally K3G which was a MASSIVE international success.

      3. Finally, building on the growing publicity and awareness of India in the world, the diaspora audience and international distribution routes started by Hum Aapke Hain Koun and continued by the other “family-romance” hits, there came the two big “cross-over” movies, Lagaan and Devdas. They are, of course, not typical Indian films by any means, being historicals, extremely long, and with few of the traditional “masala” touches (no fight scene, no comedy, pretty straight-forward narrative). But, the filmmakers consciously went after the Western audience, critic’s screenings of Lagaan even had little explanatory pamphlets available. These two movies became “Bollywood” in the minds of most filmgoers in the Western world.

      So, to answer your question, it is less about the date than the content. I would say, “Bollywood” as we know it on film began with Hum Aapke Hain Koun in 1994. But, through out the 90s through today, there have always been movies released through the Bombay Hindi industry that would not be considered “Bollywood”. As a purest, I would argue that none of the movies actually fit the popular conception of “Bollywood”, that is a allusion. But, if I bend a little, I would say that films aimed at the global market starting with Hum Aapke Hain Koun in 1994 would be the ones most appropriate to call “Bollywood”.

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      • An excellent summary, but I have one major caveat. While HAHK was the first success in the international market (first to break into the UK’s top ten), I strongly disagree that it was the first that was “aimed at the international market,” since it is so quintessentially Indian in its content and execution. In fact, the most frequent comment I have seen about this film from overseas fans of “Bollywood” is that they just can’t relate to it. This is in stark contrast to a film like DDLJ, which is credited with being the first to legitimize the NRI experience and characters, by acknowledging that they are no less “Indian” than those in India.

        I do agree that the term Bollywood came into the public consciousness, in the west at least, in the early 90’s, shortly after the economic liberalization. In fact, it was a conscious decision by the Indian government to try to sell Hindi films abroad, both to earn foreign exchange, but more importantly, to use them to increase India’s “soft power”, i.e., gain influence by spreading its pop culture, much as American pop culture has spread the world over and influences many countries. And yes, those films were deliberately marketed as romantic fluff, to the extent that if anyone out of India saw a Hindi film with a serious theme, they took pains to say that it was not a “typical Bollywood film.” (I may add that all the Indians I knew in the U.S. and Canada at the time, were very puzzled, and kept asking each other, “What the heck is Bollywood? I never heard of it before!”)

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        • Yes, on a surface level, all of that is true 🙂 (well, except for your comment that HAHK was in the British top ten, Dil Se was the first)

          But if you look at the overall trend of the industry, the 90s “Bollywood” started with Hum Aapke Hain Koun. DDLJ imitated it, so did Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and finally K3G, Lagaan, and Devdas took it too a whole new level and cemented the international image of Indian film.

          Hum Aapke Hain Koun was the first Indian film to really hit it big with the international market, the family market, and bring people back into the cinemas after the VHS and TV revolution. It was such a massive success, and such an unusual success in reaching those new markets/reviving old markets, that dozens of producers immediately started trying to imitate what it had done.

          HAHK was a success by aiming at “Indian” values. Big family events, big combined families, lots of Indian food, clothing, music, all on display. This is in stark contrast to earlier films which dealt with real social issues of India and presented a more cynical and layered view of the country. And less family friendly content, the 80s are infamous for how sexual and violent most films had become in an effort to reach the young male audience (the only audience still coming to cinemas, as women and children had begun to stay home with the TV and the VHS). Of course, there had been films with similar themes before, but it is the massive success of HAHK that is important, that is what caused the rest of the industry to slowly turn in a new direction.

          The generally accepted interpretation of HAHK’s success is that Hum Aapke Hain Koun created a vision of India that would appeal to those who no longer lived in that India. Whether it was those now living abroad, or those who had migrated to urban areas and no longer live in combined families, or those who’s families had dispersed to other regions.

          The massive record breaking success of Hum Aapke Hain Koun proved there was a market for these kinds of films, the fantasy vision of India and Indian families. It was the thin edge of the wedge, as it were, that eventually led to more and more and more extreme examples of this same trend. But it was the beginning of the trend, and “Bollywood” as it has come to be seen began with the success of Hum Aapke Hain Koun and the many many imitation films that followed it. That’s why, if you are looking for a definitive date when the Bombay Hindi film industry started turning into “Bollywood”, it would be with the release of Hum Aapke Hain Koun.

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  2. OMG. I id a snooping around on your blog. And you are not even Indian! I salute thee o’woman of great knowledge! I bet a lot of us won’t be able to match up to your knowledge levels. Glad to have chanced upon this blog!!!!! 😀

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  3. Hello Margaret, I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now & especially enjoy the passion for Indian films that shines through. I would like to mail you about a couple of things that maybe of interest to you but couldn’t find an email id for you on the blog. Can you drop me a line at amritar0208 (at) gmail (dot) com
    Looking forward to hearing from you.

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  4. Is there a way to get in touch with you other than in this public space? I would like to share something with you that I’m not sure is appropriate for discussion here. I haven’t found a place on the blog indicating how to contact you other than to leave a comment on a post. Maybe I’m missing something?

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    • I don’t dislike Hollywood, I just prefer Indian film. Tastes vary of course, but I respond more to emotions and relationships in films than to logic and plot. And in general, Hindi cinema tends to be stronger in those areas than American. What bothers me is when people feel the reverse and assume that is an objective measure of quality, not just taste. In the same way that reading romance novels is denigrated, or watching soap opera style TV shows. I get bothered when writers in the West, or even some writers who specialize in Indian film, come at it with an assumption that it is somehow “less than” American film just because the actors show emotions and there are songs and a love story in almost every film.

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  5. Hi – I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and really didn’t know a thing about you. Now I do (or at least about your blog). I have a blog that discusses Film, TV, Travel, and ART. I’ve reviewed a number of Indian films but have found that my readers don’t get enthused about Indian/Bollywood Cinema.

    As you have written that you are from Chicago area, I am wondering if you read the blog Access Bollywood written by Kathy Gibson who lives in the Chicago suburbs. Aside from Bollywood and Indian film reviews she also posts a weekly column about Indian Films available via streaming, Upcoming Indian Films, and Box office results of Indian films.

    She and I met in Sarasota, FL when she down there visiting her parents who winter in Sarasota. I’ve even sent her DVDs of films she hadn;t seen – likely they didn’t play in Chcago – One was Company directed by Ram Gopal Varma and starring Ajay Devgn, Manisha Koirala, Vivek Oberoi, and Mohanlal. The other was a film from late in 2015 called Masaan.

    I live near Savannah, Georgia now, and we do get some Indian films that I saw theatrically like Fan and Sultan, but I mostly watch Indian films via DVD. Neerja, Talvar, Kahaani, Dear Zindigai, Ishqiya, Queen, 2 States, and Highway to name but a few.

    Here is a link for you to look over the reviews I’ve done of Bollywood/India films:

    https://jmmnewaov2.wordpress.com/category/india-filmsdvd/

    And here is a link to Kathy Gibson’s website –
    https://accessbollywood.net/

    I think you might enjoy seeing a film with her.

    Looking forward your review and Kathy;s of the upcoming Badrinath Ki Dulhania starring Alia Bhatt. It opens on the 10th.

    Cheers,
    Michael Davis
    The Arts

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    • Thank you for introducing yourself!

      I do know about Kathy Gibson, I sometimes read her blog, and she was nice enough to write a review of my book, which I really appreciated. We also have a mutual friend in common, moviemavengal who has her own blog https://moviemavengal.com/

      It was very nice of you to send a copy of Company! I had a terrible time tracking down a DVD of it when I was ready to see it. It’s streaming all over the place, but without subtitles, so unless I could find a DVD I had no hope of watching it. It is brilliant, I was just mentioning it again to another reader who had just seen Saathiya for the first time, so he could appreciate the background that Viviek brought to the film.

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      • I find Sardarji overrated. I would suggest you to watch Carry on Jatta. It is much more entertaining thatn Jat and Juliet and Sardarji. It is a great comedy movie. Everyone loves it and it revived an almost dead movie industry.
        Apart from that, there is a movie named Angrej. It is a really brilliant movie. According to me, only Indian movie that has shown Indian culture(punjabi to be exact) in realistic manner. I sent it to my American friend who wanted to know about Indian culture
        PUnjabi movies are small but it is a great escape from grandness of Bollywood which bores me now a days. Yes, majority of Punjabi movies are bad but still there are some really good movie. Here is the trailer of an upcoming punjabi movie. Here is the trailer of an upcoming punjabi movie

        Please watch it and give your opinion

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          • Have you seen Angrej?
            Also, please watch Carry on jatta. It is superior to Jatt and Juliet and Sardaarji
            Manje Bistre does look good. It reminds me of my childhood. It is set in 1990s. It is good that I shall be able to watch it. It faces no competition. If it was released now, I would have to skip it due to Logan and Kong: Skull ISland. Both are awesome movies.
            As a movie goer, I would suggest you to watch both. You will get R rated version of Logan, which was not available in India.

            Do check Carry on Jatta. It is a gem of a movie with really good comedy.

            I am biased towards Punjabi movies due to obvious regional bias

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          • Oh, I am glad there is a sign so users know what is happening! I wasn’t sure. I approve everything, it’s just the time difference, if you are in India, I am still asleep and you have to wait until I wake up. .

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  6. Hey! I’ve been reading your blog religiously for the past one year, but am commenting for the first time. I just wanted to say I LOVE your blog! And I think I’m gonna start commenting more often from now. You have a great set of readers. It’s a great pleasure to know there are a whole lot of non-Indians who know and love Indian films. I think it was your Kali review that brought me here and since then there has been no turning back. Keep up the awesome work!!!

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