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Posted by Mallika Goel  06 Sep 2014
Bollywood’s coming of age (and it was a long time coming)

I'll be honest. I really struggle to watch Bollywood movies when I'm by myself. It needs to be a family activity in order for me to be able to power through three hours of drama, theatrics, song and dance. It's especially cringe worthy when it's clear the movie is a rip off of an English counterpart (Dhoom 3 is a perfect case in point - an unabashed remix of The Prestige, a movie which I incidentally loved).  I know that's harsh, and a gross over-simplification, but I've tried, I've really tried. A few months ago, I had three hours to spare on the flight over to Melbourne and there were a plethora of Indian movies to choose from on the IFE. It was the perfect opportunity to try again. I was itching to hear my language, re-connect with my culture and indulge in some Bollywood down time. 

I didn't last ten minutes. 


It's always the same storyline, the same convoluted love triangle and makes for agonizing viewing. I actually read an article that said when watching Karan Johar movies you had to "shut your mind off". Entertainment is one thing, but it's not everything. And if Shah Rukh Khan plays one more college kid named Rahul I think I've had it. Where's the substance? The point of view? And just to clarify, I'm talking mainstream cinema here - because we've always been good on the fringes, with compelling (The Lunchbox, Algorithms) and sometimes controversial deliveries (Water). 


Thankfully, it seems my anguished cries have been heard. Bollywood might finally be coming of age. Recently there have been a suite of movies peeking out from behind the curtain and edging their way into the limelight, inspired by real-world heroes. Has an age of braver cinema finally dawned upon us? Of risk-taking and resolve? Of directors (notoriously superstitious) deviating from the old formulas that had always been a sure win? Maybe our collective appetites as an audience have ripened for something different. We're demanding more from our stories. This is new and exciting territory for Indian Cinema. A new normal where 'mainstream', 'alternative' and 'great entertainment value' meet happily in the middle. Actors are increasingly embracing challenging roles, and delivering gritty, gruelling, transformative performances. Rani Mukerjee tried to do it in 'Rain', Farhan Akhtar took it to the next level in 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' and the latest highly anticipated release coming to a cinema near you, is Priyanka Chopra's interpretation of Indian boxing champ, Mary Kom. For Priyanka Chopra - model, actress, one time Miss World, beauty queen and total babe - it's a total win. She expands her acting portfolio, earns accolades from critics and admiration from her peers in the industry. 


Let's be honest. How many people had heard of the fierce fighting legend before all the media hype? I certainly hadn't. Mary Kom might bear resemblance to Hilary Swank's Million Dollar Baby, but you can't argue the fact that it's based off a real character and that alone gives it credibility. 


I say yay. Thanks Bollywood, I'll be heading to the movies for this one. 


Daughter of an Indian diplomat and now self-proclaimed nomad, this Auckland-based writer is a fitness enthusiast and adventure junkie. Bungy-jumping, skydiving, canyoning, even Tough Mudder – you name it, she’s done it. After completing a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a double major in Economics and Marketing, she decided spreadsheets and graphs weren't quite for her and followed her passion into the creative industry. She currently works at Australasia’s biggest strategic design practice, putting her writing skills to good use and helping to solve creative challenges through design thinking.

You can find her on the usual social suspects: instagram / twitter

Image credit: Sanjay Leela Bhansali Films / bookmyshow.com

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