Opera and Hindi cinema


I was struck again last week by how very many characteristics Hindi films share with opera. It’s no wonder Sanjay Leela Bansali is staging an opera in Paris. I watched one in particular which I am now dying to see in Hindi movie form, if anyone wants to finance and make it! (More on that here.)

The list below is what I jotted down just off the top of my head (I am no expert in opera, believe me, although I have seen my fair share—my dad is an opera encyclopedia).

Hindi movies and operas both have lengthy, outlandish (sometimes outright bizarre) plots featuring such things as:

  • arranged marriages (and marriage brokers)
  • long-lost relatives
  • terminal illnesses (especially tuberculosis!)
  • sacrifices for the sake of love
  • bucolic rural/village settings
  • exotic historical epics
  • mythology
  • “comic” side plots that aren’t really funny but waste a lot of time
  • clever servants
  • cross-dressing and bad disguises
  • love expressed only through embraces (you seldom see actual kissing)
  • subjugation of/double standards for women
  • devotion to duty, country and religion
  • obsession with class distinctions
  • suicide as an honorable way out
  • subtitles

and—of course—songs and dancing!

What have I missed?

website statistics

11 Comments to “Opera and Hindi cinema”

  1. i think when different areas of performing arts come together is a beautiful thing

  2. Great insight Memsaab.

  3. both are cliched and to a large extent boring :P

  4. Given a choice, I would rather watch a Hindi movie than an opera, but there are some fun plots out there in opera-land. And now they are probably mostly copyright-free! :-)

  5. the caricatured villains/vamps!

  6. WOW! Rahul-bhai, you just have yet to see the right movie! Memsaab, I especially liked the part: “comic” side plots that aren’t really funny but waste a lot of time.

    Maybe that’s the “comic” part Rahul is talking about, which I agree is boring, but it’s the rest that’s so great.

  7. Shweta: you are right!
    Rahul: perhaps another thing they have in common as that people either love them or hate them and “gradually” acquiring a taste for them just never happens :-)
    Sitaji: :-D

  8. Fantastic list, Memsaab! Hindi movies do have a lot in common with opera.

    The only things I’d add to your list: love at first sight; 3-hour plots that get wrapped up in the final 5 minutes; and evil characters must die or reform and be forgiven.

  9. Nice list! Add the ever-predictable ‘item number’ to the list. I still have a hard time believing it has become so pervasive in Bollywood today…

  10. that is why I love opera!!

  11. Of course they kiss – the birds always do. Since QSQT or was it Ek Duuje Ke Liye, some sort of liplock has been the awkward norm and in the 21st century, they’ve taken it further, whether necessary or not, I’m always wondering (Ishqiya and the Bengali offering Shubho Muhurat come to mind)
    You must mention the super-fertility of the hero and heroine, especially on stormy nights and the hero’s going-away shortly after that – so operatic in scale.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: