Bonjour Bollywood!

Reading Time: 2 minutesBollywood, a combination of Bombay, currently known as Mumbai, and “Hollywood,” is an integral part of the Indian culture.

The name was coined in the 70s by a gossip journalist. Nevertheless, the industry goes back to 1913, with the movie Raja Harishchandra, by Dadasaheb Phalke— the father of Indian cinema. In 1931, the first Indian sound film was released, and by that time, the industry was producing around 200 films per year!

Now, if you’re European like me, you probably think that Bollywood is filled with outrageously exaggerated action scenes, special effects, and cheesy love stories! And you’re probably right, about 30 years ago!

>In fact, I thought the same until I came to India and watched a Bollywood movie. Today they are modern and highly influenced by its American counterpart to adapt to the younger generation and keep up with trends. However, their storyline still carries the profoundness goes well with the European taste. 

Films are not only entertaining, but they are also reflective of society— even more accurate with India. During the 1920s and 30s, Bollywood films were among the boldest in terms of love scenes. However, after the independence and the emergence of Hindu nationalists, Bollywood became very conservative.

Let’s take Chennai Express, a famous Bollywood action movie and comedy, and the first Bollywood movie I’ve ever seen. I heard about it through my colleagues and looked it up on Netflix, out of curiosity and a desire to socialize too. However, 10 minutes down the movie, I was laughing as if I was watching Le Dîner de Cons, one of my favourite French comedy. The train scene, when the protagonist meets his beloved, was hilarious! But more than that, the characters were charming and the story, very entertaining. Cliché scenes with both slow and fast motions were still present, but were more subtle and looked almost like a parody. The only negative point for me was the ever-present song numbers, lasting about five minutes each! However, this a very personal opinion and broadly speaking, I genuinely loved the movie. Another aspect to mention though could be the duration of the films in India; nonetheless, I don’t think any of us complained about the length of the Avengers: Endgame! 

Films are not only entertaining, but they are also reflective of society— even more accurate with India. During the 1920s and 30s, Bollywood films were among the boldest in terms of love scenes. However, after the independence and the emergence of Hindu nationalists, Bollywood became very conservative. Intimate scenes such as kissing were replaced by metaphors such as the intertwining of dandelions! India had to wait for the late 70s to see the reappearance of romantic scenes in Bollywood movies. Nowadays, these scenes can be compared to those displayed in American movies! 

Another example of the evolution of the Bollywood industry is the movie Dostana in 2008,  celebrating a same-sex couple. In this case, it reflected a more progressive society. But as the Indian culture shifts toward the western lifestyle, my concern is that Bollywood will become a feeble representation of Hollywood and lose all its unique nature.

Nevertheless, Bollywood remains a must for an expat who tries to understand the Indian culture.

Delhi: My streets, my supermarket.

Reading Time: 2 minutesThe thing about Delhi is, we cannot miss its lively streets even if we wanted to!  Unlike European cities, where we see shops closing down, one after the other, with the arrival of larger chains; Delhi is filled with tiny local stalls. Everything can be bought for a song here!

The first few shops I noticed when I arrived in Delhi and which seems to be ever-present are ice-cream vendors! After choosing your favourite ice cream, the seller will rummage through his pushcart freezer to find you your ice-cream of choice. This is refreshing on a hot Indian day, and it will cost you only around Rs. 30.

Other stalls you’ll see often are corns cooked in charcoal, called the masala corn, similar to the American version, but of course, with an Indian touch. Fresh sugarcane juice and lemonade stalls are also easily available, and perfect for the weather!

Chai stalls, or chai ki tapri, are also found in almost every corner, with other Indian snacks, sodas, and cigarettes.

If you want fresh and healthy food, there are fruit and vegetable stalls throughout the city! You’ll always have different varieties, but the most common one is the mango, also considered to be the national fruit of India. It is juicy and sweet and is everything compared to the ones we find in the West. As for vegetables, I was surprised to see a few ones I did not recognize, or have even tried— Indian marrows and bitter melon!

For all other purchases, convenient stores are easily accessible; they are small but have everything from household products, toiletries, and even food! I’m pretty sure you’ve already noticed that meat is a little more challenging to find, but not impossible! You can find them at international supermarkets or a local butcher selling chicken, lamb, and sometimes, pork.

The local stalls for me are a better experience because it gave me more contact with the locals than big supermarkets. They are very much a part of India’s spirit. Even though I was skeptical about hygiene, in the beginning, I’ve never felt sick so far. These places fed so much more than my curiosity and were useful for my daily life!