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Bollywood hullabaloo – The American perspective

It’s raining song and dance in America and they are soaking it all in. Bollywood movies are making a killing in the West with their loud, colorful and dramatic fest.

The US has always been Bollywood’s favorite destination, bringing in the moolah and Indo-American fanbase in equal measure. Today, any Indian movie that does well in North America can easily earn 10% or more of its worldwide gross. Besides getting more screenings, Hindi movies are also flooding home video and streaming platforms including giants like Netflix. So amidst all the popularity, what do Americans really think about them? To understand this Piplsay reached out to 10,000 respondents across 40 US states and got this interesting western perspective.

The Song and Dance affair

A while ago, Bollywood was known mainly because of its song and dance routine. Though they continue to be the biggest influencer even now, over half of the people surveyed found them to be an unwanted distraction while watching movies. This is hardly surprising considering the fact that they have grown up on a regular diet of Hollywood movies, which focus more on the story than on intense expression of emotions.

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While Florida leads the pack with their dislike for these musical breaks, California and New York have maximum respondents who seem to welcome them

Similarly, Bollywood stars who are hugely popular no longer seem to be the main crowd-pullers. Content clearly has begun to upstage them, much like in India where several big-ticket movies have bombed despite a stellar cast. Movies like Lunchbox and Hindi medium with their simple storyline and casting did exceptionally well at the US box office, with the former even becoming one of the top 5 highest grossing Indian films of all time there.

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Bollywood’s love affair with romance is as old as the industry itself and while it may claim to ace the genre, a majority of the respondents in the US think otherwise. Accustomed to more practical and realistic ways of life, Bollywood love stories more often than not seem like melodramatic to them.

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Ditto for sci-fi movies which still lack the stunning visual effects that English movies expertly dish out. They are also criticized for depicting multiple emotions all in one film, from action to drama to romance. Our superheroes tend to serenade their ladylove as passionately as they are trying to save the day. At least in terms of action, Bahubali 2 with its amazing VFX and graphics seems to have set a precedent for Bollywood to follow.

However, nuanced genres like drama, historical and biographical get a thumbs up from the US audience, with movies like Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat, Dangal etc having set the trend.

Despite the many challenges, a majority of Americans believe that Bollywood has evolved over the years, experimenting not just with genres but also in its storytelling

New age directors are willing to take risks as much as actors are now looking to diversify. In fact, the last decade has seen Bollywood increasingly churn out movies like Masaan, Newton, Vicky donor, Piku etc that are wooing the audiences with their simple portrayal of life.

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Yet, change is not a one-way street and audiences have an equal role to play in it as well.

Considering the increasing diversity and success of such offbeat movies, close to 80% respondents think that Indian movie-goers are also helping break the stereotype.

While Indo-Americans remain the biggest consumers, the increasing global appeal of Bollywood movies is fast attracting mainstream Americans as well. Not forgetting actors like Irrfan Khan and Priyanka Chopra who are popularizing our film industry there in their own ways.

With such a huge and growing audience, there is absolutely no stopping Bollywood. Its filmi future is definitely bright in the land of Hollywood.

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