There is something poetic about the fact that while Indian cinema celebrates 100 years of existence, this year I can celebrate the tenth year anniversary of watching my first Bollywood film. If you don't know the story of the how that happened, you can read all about here. I didn't follow Indian films actively right away, obviously - I stumbled around, finding films I thought I might like, and ones I thought I ought to watch. It was only two years later, in 2005, that I actually began watching films on a less sporadic, accidental basis. I began to really get to know the stars, and look beyond the clichés. I began hanging out on Bollywood forums and websites (well, mainly the BollyWHAT? ones) and I made a friend in my city, who let me borrow a bunch of films and introduced me to so many new things, be it older Hindi cinema or the wonderful worlds of Southie cinema.
In 2007 I was already somewhat of a veteran, in that I knew what I liked, what I didn't like and what I wanted to see more of, and started this blog to showcase my fascination to the world. Ever since then, it's been my own personal opinion repository, one I sometimes maintain with extreme regularity and passion and that I sometimes let fall to the wayside in a rather regrettable manner. My love for Indian cinema remains ever-present but fluctuates - one month I'm watching three films in an evening, the next I haven't watched a single film, or even rewatched an old favourite.
The love has never gone away, though, and Indian films is the one fandom I think I'll always come back to. Therefore it's probably odd to most people that in my time watching these films, in all my time taking in their sounds and sights and cultural ideas, I've never actually been to India.
And unlike for most people, I can't even claim that it's been an issue of time or money. I've had enough time and money to travel to other far away corners of the world - I've been to the US, twice, South Korea, twice and I've even swung by the United Kingdom enough times to make up the money for a plane ticket to India. But travel is an odd beast, and my problem with India has been that I haven't wanted to go alone, nor has traveling alone to India been recommended to me.
Weirdly enough, even as I've expanded my horizons and gained more in-depth knowledge about Indian society, politics, history and culture as a whole, what eventually made me finally go to India was film-related. I was exchanging emails with a long-time friend who I'd initially met online but eventually got to know face-to-face as well, when visiting her country. She was also a fan of Indian films, so I wrote to her about how much I was looking forward to what is surely the most curious casting in the most bombastic film saga of recent memory, Aamir Khan in Dhoom 3. Jokingly I asked her, "You wouldn't want to swing by India at the end of this year?" and to my great surprise, she replied she'd love to visit India (a second visit for her). So we began talking, and then we began planning, and now we're booking.
Are your eye-brows raised? "Did she just write she's going to India to see Dhoom 3, out of all the movies in all the years, Dhoom goddamn 3?" No, that's not it. It's more one of those wonderful things where circumstances just come together and collide to create a new thing. My former music teacher probably shows Bollywood to her students on a yearly basis. It just happened so that I was the only one in that class receptive to Hindi cinema's charms, and wanted to see more. Similarly, I've wanted to go to India for over 10 years now, but have never had a friend to go with, and then suddenly I realise there is a friend who is not only willing to go, but is happy to go see Dhoom 3 and embraces the idea (and whose tastes in film tend to line up with mine), and the release of Dhoom 3 happens to coincide with a decent time to go travel in India (not too hot, not too damp) and when it's convenient for us two Westerners to go, as it's Christmas holidays.
So you see, Dhoom 3 just happens to be at the intersection of all these good things. I don't expect worlds out of it, as a movie - it's just a movie, starring some people I like, and it's a movie I'd probably see regardless of the circumstances. The fact that circumstances just happened to fall together, after my joking question, was kind of perfect. I'll be the first one to tell you that Indian culture, or cultures, are rich beyond belief and to only watch the films would be missing out on the various aspects, both positive and negative, of an interesting nation and its people. At the same, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the films form the backbone of my personal attachment and interest in India. Thus it feels fitting that I'll be heading to India with somebody that I don't have to drag into cinemas against their will, and instead can go see films with, and visit all the historical, cultural and just plain interesting sights as well.
I'm so happy to be going to India, because it feels like a long overdue visit, and I'm even happier that it feels like I'm going to appreciate it a lot more, now that I've done my share of reading and studying India, and the fact that I'm going with somebody I like, and who I know is interested in similar things as I am. It also feels very fitting, that I'm going near the anniversary of when I first got into Indian films - almost as if it was always meant to be.