Bollywood. Tollywood. Kollywood. Lollywood. On a curious whim, I looked up how many   ‘-ollywood’s there are out there. Turns out there are more than thirty-five movie woods. Here is a wiki-list. The inspiration doesn’t just end with the name. Several Hollywood movies have inspired desi movies. I don’t see evidence of inspiration in the other direction although it might be time for that. The biggest complaints I used to have about desi movies were that some of them didn’t have a proper story line, and that some of them were a cheap imitation of Hollywood movies. Over time, I have discovered that outside of the name and some imitation movies, the desi wood movies are pretty original. I have come to love the craziness and the script and the songs and the dances and other several fun attributes that have allowed me to enjoy them for what they are.

Take for example – only in a desi movie will you have a bunch of hungry bleating goats running after a group of men and women clothed in nothing but fresh leaves running for their dignity! And the dialogues- once you get past the ‘stage drama’ feel, they are so creative! The lines draw from mythology, literature, current events, several cultures and everything else around us. “Look here my dear aunt, Lord Rama didn’t make a plan for constructing the bridge across the ocean when he was searching for Sita in the forest. He made the plan when he found himself on the ocean shore”. Obviously a reference to the Ramayana! Another one from the same movie – “The only difference between a lion and me? A lion can’t shave its face and I can”! There’s no good way to translate these lines without losing the rhyme and rhythm of the original language, whether it’s Hindi or Telugu or Tamil or any other language.

And those songs with the hero and heroine running around trees! My eyes are almost always fixated on what they are both wearing and whether they are coordinated or not!! It struck me recently that I enjoy the songs separately, outside of the video or the movie. I have begun to believe that the songs are written separately and they are somehow made to fit the predominant emotion in the story and that the dance is created after that. If you listen to the songs without reference to the movie storyline or the video, many are melodious and beautiful. For example, in the movie Airlift which is a movie on the evacuation of Indians living in Kuwait when Saddam Hussain’s army invades Kuwait, one of the best songs is about how much the lead character, a businessman who leads the evacuation, loves his wife. The song and the accompanying video are so out of place in the movie, but when you listen to the song separately, it’s a very beautiful song.

One of the best pieces of advice I heard was this – “The best way to enjoy a movie is to accept the premise”. “Everything becomes fun and easy once you do that.” This came from a nerdy professor in infectious diseases and public health up in Chicago. Before I heard this, I could never understand why my brothers laughed their way through every silly desi movie I saw them watch while growing up. To me, there was always something wrong with every movie. I was a lot more into reading books than into movies. Then I met the man who was soon to be my husband and he turned out to be much worse than my brothers in terms of movie watching. Ninety percent of the chick flicks and action flicks I watched in my life are because of him. Unfortunately for me, the nerdy professor’s advice was at least a couple weeks late. Two weeks before I heard him say it, my (now late) husband showed me a movie Phir Milenge (We will meet again). It was one of our weekend dates and it was the first movie we saw together at home. The movie is about a businesswoman who incidentally finds out she has HIV when she donates blood. She traces it to a college sweetheart she meets at a reunion. Her colleagues at work gossip and she loses her job. The movie is about the legal battle she goes through to get her job back. Needless to say, it’s inspired by the Hollywood movie Philadelphia. I was training in infectious diseases back then and I found everything wrong with the way HIV was portrayed in the movie. I sliced and diced it so much that my poor boyfriend-soon-to-be-husband started out to say gently at first and later begged me desperately not to overthink it! “Hey, it’s just a movie! I just picked it because you like infectious diseases and thought you would enjoy the movie!!” In hindsight, I was a little too harsh and didn’t give the movie-maker any creative license.

Now I enjoy the moving pictures regardless of whether they are from Hollywood or any of the desi-ollywoods. All I have to say about moving pictures after a 13-year immersion in movies with Anil is this. They rock! They make billions of people feel good about life!!