Speed Read: Hooray For Bollywood!

The Indian movie industry, the biggest in the world, gets toasted in Indy this month with films, fashion, and, of course, lots of dancing.

First, that name. Bollywood. It may seem like a no-brainer mashup—Bombay and Hollywood—to those of us of, um, a certain age. But for a younger generation that knows India’s biggest city as Mumbai, the portmanteau might not be as obvious.
We’re putting the “Indian” in Indianapolis. The city is a target market for Bollywood films and culture due to its steady increase of Indian Americans. When the nonprofit Indian Association of Indianapolis was founded 50 years ago, there were about 15 Indian families living in the city. Today, the group estimates there are about 15,000 of them.
“Bollywood” isn’t all swirling saris and over-the-top musical numbers. Which is what most of us think of when we envision Bollywood films, and we wouldn’t be far off-base—elaborate costumes and choreography are hallmarks. But the term actually refers to all flicks filmed in India, from heavy dramas to, yes, colorful romps in the vein of La La Land. Historically, the film industry in India has pretty much kept pace with the United States and Europe in terms of technology and audiences. Today, Bollywood produces the largest number of films in the world, even more than the real La La Land.
The Bollywood panorama will be on display at an Indian film fest going down here this month. The Cultural Journey: India, hosted by the Heartland Film Festival, features seven films August 17–20 at the Indiana Historical Society. They kick off with a Thursday-night screening of You Are My Sunday, a rom-com about soccer-playing friends that has gotten some traction here in the United States. A big one to watch for is Heartland’s 2014 Grand Prize winner, Siddharth, the saga of a Delhi father who travels across India in search of his son. Siddharth director Richie Mehta and other filmmakers, government officials, dignitaries, and local cultural groups will be on hand for the celebration.
Indian dancing, music, fashion, and cuisine bring the spectacle. Guests at the various galas can look forward to traditional Veena music and food tastings from local restaurants. Dance vignettes include performances by the world-renowned Aparna Satheesan, as well as Indianapolis troupes Bollywood Beats and the Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre.
Find your own hips swaying? You can learn these steps, too. Bollywood Beats offers cardio-fit classes in studios all across the city. Like Zumba or similar aerobic workouts, “it’s not a dance class,” says Mumbai-born owner Jenny Bhupatkar. “It’s meant to be fun, to keep you moving, and to burn calories.”
Don’t miss the interesting miscellany. A couple of events will tie the Cultural Journey to the Cultural Trail: a yoga session on the Canal, and a bike tour of the trail. Finally, a celebration to commemorate Indian Independence Day (which is actually August 15) will unfold on Monument Circle on the film fest’s last day, August 20, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. At an 11 a.m. parade, expect singing, dancing, and instrumental performances, along with plenty of local ethnic-food vendors.
Can’t make the festival? You can find Bollywood film screenings at local theaters all year long, usually once or twice on weekends. The IAI suggests Georgetown Cinema Lounge, AMC Castleton Square 14, and Cinemark Movies 8 at Greenwood Corners.
Hear Bollywood music on vintage vinyl. Get down to Indian-movie music at Bollywood Bhangra, a regular night at The Hi-Fi in Fountain Square, run by DJ Kyle Long (next event: September 2). Long has amassed a collection of Bollywood songs over the years: His collection started with a few hundred cassettes from an Indian grocery store, and now encompasses thousands of vinyl albums and tens of thousands of digital tracks.