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During my four months spent at Boston University’s Mugar Library researching the Hindu wedding ritual and Indian society, it never occurred to me that Bollywood would emerge as a significant force in influencing how young couples plan their Hindu weddings. In fact, it was not until I began attending Hindu nuptials and interviewing couples that it suddenly dawned on me that engaged couples are negotiating their wedding planning
among three, rather than two, sets of values: that of traditional India circa the 1960s when the first generation migrated and espouses the concept of the arranged marriage, modern western culture which emphasizes love marriage, and Bollywood which functions as a compromise between western and eastern values: love and romance clothed in Indian fashion and celebrated in Indian songs.
Video: Young Indian American couple use the Bollywood movie trailer concept for their Save the Date. View their parody below or click here: The Trailer: Tane Prem Karu Choo-”I Love You” by AVL Films.
In the course of research for my book “Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement and Marriage,” I learned that Bollywood plays a significant role in modern-day love in the Indian community as early as the courtship through the engagement, wedding-planning process and wedding-day festivities. In the marriage market, where “boys” and “girls” meet via arranged meetings from parents, family friends and matrimonial technologies such as Shaadi.com, young people on the brink of marriage still yearn for love and romance similar to the stories on Bollywood’s silver screen. This proclivity towards romance manifests itself in engaged couples’ websites where they share their story of how they met and fell in love and even in the now-popular slide shows of the couples from during their courtship that is shared at the wedding reception. Couples don’t want a marriage void of the romance touted in Bollywood movies.
On the wedding day itself, young brides often wear a traditional sari for the ceremony followed by a fancy lengha inspired by a Bollywood mega-star for the reception. In one particularly striking example of Bollywood’s influence on western Indian-Hindu wedding planning, one of the women I interviewed for the purposes of my research ordered a custom-made “Vegas” gold lengha based on an outfit actress Madhuri Dixit wore in one of her movies.
Another example of Bollywood’s inspiration on the wedding day is the wedding photography itself: often times photographers pose the bride and groom in positions derived from dance sequences in Bollywood movies, poses that these couples happily mimicked, despite never using such poses in real life. Often times, couples received wedding photos similar to images on Bollywood posters and Bollywood DVD covers.
Finally, the wedding reception itself integrates elements of Bollywood film culture, including displaying photographs from the couple’s secret yet romantic courtship, young relatives’ choreographed Indian dances, and DJs playing Bollywood film songs. The photo montage is meant to educate families and friends that the marriage is based on both love and cultural/religious compatibility. Female relatives will often perform a choreographed dance set to a popular Bollywood film song for the benefit of guests during the reception. And DJs are entrusted to play a fair mixture of popular mainstream music as well as Bollywood tunes.
For second-generation Indian Hindus, Bollywood is symbolic of love and romance in India. “Bollywood Weddings” are a widely accepted if not recognized way to display one’s Indian heritage and Hindu faith on the most significant rite-of-passage in one’s life. —KAVITA RAMDYA
Kavita Ramdya is the author of “Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement and Marriage in Hindu America”.
Models: Married couple Suman and Rishi. To view more photography by the talented artists of Photographick studios, please visit www.Photographick.com.