A London Romance with Bollywood

Shreshtha Trivedi
I met Shreshtha Trivedi during the London Indian Film Festival earlier this year. We hit it off immediately, and I was struck by the image she represented, that of a twenty-something modern-Indian-woman trying to find her way in the big bad western world of London. It was as if I was seeing myself a decade ago. I asked Shreshtha to write a guest post for me about being a young Indian in London. Here is her tribute to the Londoner that she has now become:
London is having withdrawal symptoms. After being the absolute centre of attention of the world for most of 2012, it’s finding it difficult to come back to normal post the Olympics and Paralympics 2012. But not to worry, there is still one place where London rules—in Bollywood! For decades the city has been a constant presence in Hindi movies: first popularised by Yash Raj Films – then adopted by the rest of the industry, including his protégé Karan Johar—and now it takes centres stage with first Cocktail  and now Yash Chopra’s ,Jab Tak Hai Jaan, set here in the city which is at the centre of the universe. Bollywood’s love affair with the city is as timeless and enduring as Dickensian legacy, the concentration of South Asian population in the city making it a logical alternative to Mumbai, perhaps even superseding the mother city. For a while in the mid-nineties, it seemed like expansion of multiplex culture and an increasingly socio-culturally aware audience meant films with home-grown theme such as Khosla ka Ghosla, Omkaara, Rock On, Rang De Basanti and Golmaal were what Indian audiences wanted to see. These movies provided an alternative to the formulaic love stories and gangster flicks set in the big metro cities of London and Bombay. A diverse stream of films such as Namaste London, Love Aaj Kal, London Dreams, New York, Patiala House followed though not all found success at the box office. There was no dominant genre any more, notwithstanding a certain Ms. Dhupia’s bold assertion that only sex and SRK sell in Bollywood. The pattern of ‘no pattern’ continued with the 100 crore club biggies such as Dabangg, Bodyguard, Bol Bachchan co-existing peacefully with mavericks, the likes of Gangs of Wasseypur, Vicky Donor and Kahaani. But London never had stopped calling and Bollywood is back at the gates of its overseas Mecca. The city prevails as the sacred NRI destination of dreams. Homi Adajania’s uber-glamorous Cocktail released earlier this year—brought the city backing into the focus. For the first time here was also a film which rose above the Big Ben-Trafalgar Square stock shots, showing off the hangouts which homegrown Londoners have an affinity for: Shoreditch, Borough Market, Battersea Park, Brick Lane, Portobello Road et al. 
SRK & Katrina Kaif in Jab Tak Hai Jaan
Soon, Yash Chopra’s much-awaited Jab Tak Hai Jaan hits the screens this Diwali, with the ever-green Shah Rukh Khan romancing the Thames again. For someone like me in my mid-twenties, this is a trip down nostalgia lane. After all, for those of my generation, Bollywood, has always been synonymous with dashing heroes serenading coy heroines in their slinky chiffon saris – as the scenery intercuts from the green and misty English capital to the Swiss Alps. Yet, as someone living in the city now, – I wonder whether London, has been yet fully utilised in Hindi cinema from a scriptwriting and cinematic point of view. Can these stories based in this megapolis justify the location? How key is London to the plot-line or character sketch, and will it feel the same if it ws to be set in Ludhiana? More importantly, will it ever become a true ‘character’ in a Hindi film—as opposed to merely being a picture-perfect postcard locale, providing the requisite novelty and glamour—like Woody Allen’s New York or Godard and Truffaut’s Paris, Wong Kar Wai’s Hong Kong and Fellini’s Rome. An urban geopolitical space in all its beauty, glory, quirkiness, colour, squalor, architecture, food, crime, melancholy, parks, crowds – a complex, vibrant jungle of classes and masses; of natives and migrants; of young and old; of bourgeois and bohemians…a melting pot yet dysfunctional at the same time it is. As a Londoner – who still gets awed, exhilarated and surprised everyday by one of the world’s greatest cities – I feel it has not yet been given its due in Hindi cinema. It’s time for London to get its deserving place under the Bollywood sun.
What do you think? Has London yet to be found by Bollywood? Do you agree? Do write in and let me know. 

About Shreshtha Trivedi:  A freelance multimedia journalist based in London, Shreshtha is also a wearer of many hats, her previous stints include working for The Times of India,  BBC and the Press Association as a senior copy editor, researcher and video journalist respectively. She completed her MA from Bournemouth University, UK, after receiving Reham al-Farra  Journalism Scholarship. When not working, she can be seen exploring London, reading, watching cinema and collecting ethnic trinkets.

About Laxmi Hariharan: Though born in India, wanderlust drove me out of my home country and I lived in Singapore and Hong Kong before being based in London where I now live. I am inspired by Indian mythology. It was in embracing my roots that I found my voice. My debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon http://tiny.cc/szqsew. Reach me here:
twitter at @laxmi

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