ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Well, as you can tell, "Slumdog Millionaire" is a multicultural, bilingual production. Bilingual as in Hinglish, Hindi and English. As NPR's Bilal Qureshi reports, Hinglish is not just the new language of urban India, it also represents a new movement in Indian cinema.

BILAL QURESHI: Epic melodramatic musicals are one of India's national pastimes.

(Soundbite of Bollywood movie)

QURESHI: You know, those colorful, lavish song and dance spectacles Bollywood churns out by the hundreds every year.

(Soundbite of Bollywood movie)

QURESHI: The gritty, independent films of British director Danny Boyle couldn't be more different. But when critic Aseem Chhabra saw Boyle's R-rated "Slumdog Millionaire," he had an immediate reaction.

Mr. ASEEM CHHABRA (Film Critic): When I was watching "Slumdog," again and again, I kept saying to myself, my God, this is just like watching a Hindi film.

QURESHI: That might be because it features two Bollywood stars and a sweeping soundtrack written by Bollywood's leading composer. But "Slumdog Millionaire" joins a growing catalogue of Hinglish films.

Mr. CHHABRA: And what these films also do is they take a little bit of emotions from Bollywood, they take a little bit of sensibilities of Western films, and then mix them together.

QURESHI: The breakout Hinglish film was "Monsoon Wedding" in 2001.

(Soundbite of movie "Monsoon Wedding")

Unidentified Actor #1: This is too much. This is no time for family members to arrive.

Unidentified Actor #2: (Hindi spoken). It's only four o'clock (Hindi spoken). Just relax.

QURESHI: "Monsoon Wedding's" screenwriter was Sabrina Dhawan.

Ms. SABRINA DHAWAN (Screenwriter, "Monsoon Wedding"): You know, if you want to make a film now which is authentic and truthful to the way urban Indians speak, it has to, to some extent, be in Hinglish.

QURESHI: In addition to being honest about how people speak, "Monsoon Wedding" was honest about how people live in India. It touched on themes that are never addressed in the Bollywood fantasies, themes like poverty and sexual abuse. Then there was the story of Indian immigrants in Britain whose pesky daughter wanted to "Bend It Like Beckham" and a Bollywood starlet looking for her Mr. Darcy in "Bride & Prejudice." And this month, there's another Hinglish film opening in the U.S. It's called "Loins of Punjab." It's set in an Indian immigrant community in New Jersey where a ragtag mix of South Asian immigrants is trying out for an "American Idol"-style singing contest. The catch: they're all singing Bollywood songs.

(Soundbite of movie "Loins of Punjab")

Unidentified Actress: (Singing in Hindi)

Unidentified Actor #3: A little more sexy, like this, huh? (Singing in Hindi)

Unidentified Actress: (Singing in Hindi)

Unidentified Actor #3: Excellent, excellent.

(Soundbite of cell phone ringing)

Uidentified Actress: Excuse me. I'm with Gurgi(ph). Can I call you back?

QURESHI: Director Manish Acharya is a little concerned about the commercial viability of his film, a film that might have limited appeal in both India and the U.S.

Mr. MANISH ACHARYA (Director, "Loins of Punjab"): My co-writer and I, when we wrote it actually, we thought to ourselves, like, how many people would there be in this world who would like Woody Allen and like Hindi film songs? And we thought, OK, there are probably seven of us in the world. Two of us are writing it. So there might be five people who come and see it.

QURESHI: "Monsoon Wedding's" screenwriter Sabrina Dhawan says what's important about "Slumdog Millionaire" is that it's a Hinglish film directed by a Western director.

Ms. DHAWAN: It's not just about the Indian filmmaker or the Indian actor who wants to come to America to become successful, but it's also that there is reciprocity and there are filmmakers from the West who want to make films in India and about Indians, very much set in an Indian setting.

QURESHI: And if that back and forth process yields a hit, you can expect there'll be more Hinglish films coming soon to a theater near you. Bilal Qureshi, NPR News.

SIEGEL: You can watch clips from "Loins of Punjab" at npr.org. And this Friday, on NPR's Morning Edition, you can hear an interview with the director of "Slumdog Millionaire," Danny Boyle.

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