Next time you’re shopping for mango pickle or papadam at a market in Union Square—or any where for that matter—why not throw in one of those Bollywood DVDs from behind the counter? Brother Cleve, who is curating our upcoming Wild Side of Bollywood film event, has been unearthing fabulous South Asian flicks in Union Square markets for years.
Cleve reports that the majority of Bollywood and Tollywood (Telugu language films) films you’ll find are subtitled in English.” In fact, most current Hindi films are in “Hinglish,” Cleve tells us. “Indians use a lot of English words and phrases in everyday conversation in the cosmopolitan cities of India; so this is reflected in their films.”
Inspired by Cleve, we set off to Union Square to find our own Bollywood gold. While visiting Bangladeshi market WellFoods Plus, owner Jahangir Kabir pointed out a few films before loaning us a copy of a Bangladeshi variety show called Ittadi (“et cetera” in English). The Ittadi DVD had no subtitles but this only enhanced its wacky charm. Apparently the most popular program in Bangladesh, Ittadi includes Slumdog Millionaire-style quizzes with a live studio audience, jaunty musical numbers, comic skits and video stories with everyday folk. The episode we watched included footage of an amateur stunt man who tied his hair to the top bar of a bicycle and then spun the bike over his head while twirling happily away. Good stuff.
When perusing dvds over at Little India, we struck up a conversation with owner Umesh Mistri. He told us that Bollywood has a reputation for blatantly stealing Hollywood’s stories. “Chachi 420, for example, is a remake of Mrs. Doubtfire,” says Umesh. Judge for yourself if Chachi 420 star, Kamal Hassan, makes a better woman than Robin Williams by checking out this Chachi 420 clip.
But we digress. The point is, Union Square markets like Little India, WellFoods Plus and Bombay Market do more than just sell food. They support film culture within local South Asian communities. And for the rest of us, the DVD collections at these markets offer a taste of far-flung pop cultures. So, the next time you visit one of these stores, consider a side order of Bollywood, Tollywood or a saucy Bangla variety show.