I grew up on Bollywood rom-coms in the late 90’s and early 00’s. They are the first kind of movies I can remember, in pitch-black, cavernous theaters within the sprawling multiplexes of South Kolkata where I was born. Then, when I was seven years old, I moved to London with my mother. Somehow, these fun, bombastic Technicolor musicals became even more important. Late Sunday morning they built a bridge to a distant house.
But more than that, like all good rom-coms, regardless of country of origin, they were infinitely comfortable. I’ve seen three-hour epics like the Komori, Aditya Chopra’s Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan’s rides. MojabateinWhen I got chicken pox at my new school, I curled up in a blanket and watched a VCD of Dance World dramas for a week. Dil to Pagar Hai on repeat. I still associate that high-octane opening number with the morbid smell of calamine lotion.
Rewatching them now, I’m amazed at how formulaic they are compared to modern Indian cuisine, full of predictable marriage plots, grim elders, and the same troupe of actors from Mumbai’s A-list. But the music is sweeping, the costumes are gorgeous, and the performances excel in the way they balance broad comedy with overwhelming emotion. It was difficult to see actors who looked paler and more airbrushed than early 2000s British rom-coms, and could see actors playing lead roles themselves. I live
Below, we’ll introduce you to the genre with a shortlist of seven Bollywood rom-coms from the 90s and 00s. If you’re already an avid fan, it’s worth another stream.