Then Kautoori discovered Loehmann’s Twin Cinema, a bare-bones, two-screen theater tucked away in a Falls Church strip mall. The theater shows only contemporary Indian movies, sometimes playing to sellout crowds. Now he’s at the ticket counter at least once a week.
“I normally don’t miss a movie,” Kautoori says as he heads toward the parking lot after a screening of “Double Dhamaal,” a slapstick comedy infused with the colorful song and dance sequences that have become the trademark of Bollywood films. “They’re loud, they’re larger than life and they’re full-on entertainment.”
Kautoori is far from alone in his devotion. The Washington area has seen a boom in enthusiasm for all things Bollywood, and the fervor is manifesting itself not just in movies watched but also in movies made, concerts held, performance troupes formed and nightclubs transformed into glittering Bolly dance parties.
This Friday, thousands of Bollywood fans will line up to welcome pop singer Atif Aslam to DAR Constitution Hall. When Aslam, an Indian heartthrob whose music has been featured in many Bollywood movies, played the venue last year, he sold out the 3,700-seat hall, and organizers say 300 people were turned away at the door.
Adding to the excitement, this year Aslam is paired with popular Bollywood singer Sunidhi Chauhan, with whom he is on a U.S. tour. “They’re the Indian equivalent of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry,” says Manan Singh Katohora, a filmmaker and event planner who is helping to organize the concert. And there is a vein of intrigue about the tour, he adds, because the singers have a testy relationship.
That kind of drama would play perfectly as a Bollywood plotline.
The term “Bollywood” originally referred to the prolific film industry based in what was then Bombay, the city now called Mumbai. In recent years it has become synonymous with a style of movie: one that often stretches over three hours with an intermission, includes some thread of romance and allows characters to move seamlessly into dreamlike song-and-dance scenes. And, unlike American films, a single film will often oscillate between comedy, action and drama in a way that defies simple classification.
In sheer numbers, India outpaces the United States in movie production, releasing 1,000 feature films a year. Low budgets and cheap ticket prices make the movies accessible to both theatergoers and would-be filmmakers. The industry’s $2 billion in worldwide revenue — still small compared with the $10 billion American film industry — comes mostly from ticket sales to Indians, but a 2007 report projected that growth in international markets would exceed growth at home.