Bollywood Dance Follows Movies, Music to the U.S.

Bollywood dance class instructor Samson Kohletkar, and student Sandip Roy.

hide captionBollywood dance instructor Samson Kohletkar leads, and Sandip Roy follows, in a class at the Indian Community Center in Milpitas, Calif.

Jessie Gold for NPR
Sandip Roy

hide captionSandip Roy tries out his Bollywood dance moves in class.

Jessie Gold for NPR

Sandip Roy's Top 11

With hundreds of films released each year, a Top 10 didn't seem adequate. Film titles are in italics.

1. "Abhi Na Jaao Chhod Kar" - Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhonsle, Hum Dono

2. "Tum aa Gaye Ho" - Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar, Aandhi

3. "Dil Cheez Kya Hai" - Asha Bhonsle, Umrao Jaan

4. "Chhaiya Chhaiya" - Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasti, Dil Se

5. "Man Kyon Behka Re Behka" - Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle, Utsav

6. "Na Jaao Saiyan" - Geeta Dutt, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam

7. "Poocho na Kaise" - Manna Dey, Meri Surat Teri Aankhen

8. "Huzoor is Kadar" - Bhupinder and Suresh Wadkar Masoom

9. "Maahi Ve" - Sadhana Sargam, Sujata Bhattacharya, Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam, Shankar Mahadevan - Kal Ho Naa Ho

10. "O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi" - Lata Mangeshkar, Parakh

11. "Dola Re" - Kavita Krishnamurthy and Shreya Ghoshal, Devdas

Americans are encountering Bollywood style on fashion runways and in music videos, and a new Hollywood movie is trying to introduce Bollywood to Western audiences.

While many welcome that trend, commentator Sandip Roy, an Indian immigrant, isn't sure what to make of the new Bollywood section at his local Blockbuster.

India's Bollywood film industry churns out hundreds more movies each year than Hollywood does. Most films from Bollywood — the catch-all name was originally a mix of "Bombay" and "Hollywood" — are chaste romances set in exotic locations and jam-packed with music and dance numbers.

Those songs often take on a life of their own as they're discussed, dissected, rated and traded by fans online. But as Roy says, the dances that accompany them also have their own devotees — and Bollywood dance classes are springing up in the United States.

The subtleties of Indian films may escape casual viewers, Roy says. "Now as Bollywood enters American pop culture, with all its kitsch and camp, I am suddenly the protective parent," he says.

There are challenges to understanding Indian culture through Bollywood, according to Roy: the cheesy subtitles, the flashy costumes. But to a native viewer, it all goes much deeper: "You don't just watch a Bollywood movie — you feel it."

Songs Heard in This Story:

  • "Aaja Aaja" by Asha Bhonsle, from Teesri Manzil
  • "Yeh Shaam Mastani" by Kishore Kumar, from Kati Patang
  • "Choli ke Peechey" by Ila Arun and Alka Yagnik, from Khalnayak
  • "Addictive" by Truth Hurts (samples "Thoda Resham" by Lata Mangeshkar, from Jyoti)

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