Melanie (Moviemavengal)'s Reviews > Don't Call It Bollywood: An Introduction to the Hindi Film Universe

Don't Call It Bollywood by Margaret E. Redlich
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it was amazing
bookshelves: kindle

I received an advance copy of Don't Call It Bollywood: An Introduction to the Hindi Film Universe because I am a follower of Margaret Redlich's blog Don't Call It Bollywood

My only complaint with the book is that it's too short! Don't Call It Bollywood is an excellent overview of Hindi Cinema, popularly known as Bollywood. The author, Margaret Redlich, is not Indian, but she has a masters degree in film studies, and wrote her thesis studying non-Indian fans of Bollywood. I am also a non-Indian (or non-Desi) fan of Indian cinema.

The beginning of each chapter has Margaret's personal perspective and journey as a fan of Indian films. She describes her first time seeing a Hindi film, the transformation that came over her seeing the iconic Shahrukh Khan film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in a movie theater in Chicago, and being immersed in watching Bollywood by attending a college that had a large South-Asian student body. But the meat of each chapter is grounded solidly in her academic research and studies, complete with footnotes, giving a great survey of the history of Indian film all the way back to the first films over a hundred years ago.



My own love affair with Indian cinema started about 2 years ago, and it also involved the movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. I had seen Lagaan years ago after it was nominated for the foreign language Oscar. But back then, it was very difficult to find out about Indian cinema and find more of those films. (When you can't understand what the titles mean, that's a real handicap.) Netflix's algorithm recommended Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) to me because of my history of liking romantic films. I took a chance and watched it, and like Margaret, I was a goner. She describes coming out of the theater after watching DDLJ as feeling like she was flying. I watched Shahrukh Khan (SRK)'s film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi right after DDLJ, and that cemented my love of Shahrukh Khan. It's hard to explain just how captivating and charming he is on film. He is a STAR. Margaret shares my love of SRK, so I can very much relate to her story of falling in love with Indian cinema through his films first.

I loved the songs and the dance numbers in Hindi films, and the earnest love stories. Hollywood certainly doesn't make musicals anymore, and romantic comedies are becoming rarer and rarer as well in Western films. When I first started watching Indian films, I watched what I could on Netflix, and asked my neighbor from South India for suggestions. But I wanted to learn more. I bought a few books on Indian film, and they were helpful in pointing out some of the iconic films I needed to see -- like Sholay, but I so wish I had had Don't Call It Bollywood to guide me in those early days. Because Redlich's book does not assume that the reader knows anything about Indian film. That was my issue with the other books on Indian film that I read when I first wanted to learn more. They gave analysis of some of the key films in Hindi cinema, but described the films and talked about them assuming mostly that the reader had already seen them. Those books wanted to prove their points, like how Hindi films reflect what is happening in Indian society of that time, but that wasn't necessarily helpful to the true beginner to Indian cinema.

For me, who at this point has seen over 200 Hindi films, and another over 50 of regional Indian cinema, there was still a lot of great information I did not already know in Redlich's short guide to Hindi cinema.

There are certain aspects of Indian film that I have sort of subconsciously absorbed, but had not really analysed in a critical way. With Redlich's grounding in film studies, she talked about how the language of Indian film is not better or worse than Western cinema, but different. I had a real "aha!" moment reading this passage:

Once you speak the language of Indian film, you can watch a movie

on mute and understand what is happening. There are simple

messages, like wind blowing on a character means they are

falling in love, and more complex ones, such as the sound of a

creaking chain evoking a past tragedy and unfathomable

sorrow or the religious icons in a character’s room

foreshadowing their destiny.


Redlich brings the same insight into her reviews of films on her blog and her detailed examinations of some films that as she summarizes them. She's in the middle of a fascinating detailed look of the film DDLJon her blog.

I love Redlich's writing on her blog, and I was thrilled that she wrote a guide to Hindi film. I just wish that it was longer. I hope this is just the beginning, and now that she's given us a rough outline of the history of Indian film, that she will write another book expanding on the topic. She has also included some great appendices. There's a list of the films discussed in the book, but especially helpful to me was a list of some common Hindi words in film. Some of the meanings in film have more of a slang usage, and will be very useful to me in watching Hindi films. The subtitles don't translate everything!

At $2.99 this book is a steal, and a great read for the brand new fan of Indian film and a more experienced fan like me. Highly recommended.

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Reading Progress

May 16, 2016 – Started Reading
May 16, 2016 – Finished Reading
May 27, 2016 – Shelved
May 27, 2016 – Shelved as: kindle

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