Wade Into the Deep Bollywood Pool With Amazon’s Heera


Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt in the romantic comedy “Badrinath Ki Dulhania.”

Dharma Productions

All film lovers, amateur and professional, no matter how well-versed, have gaps in their movie knowledge. For me, one category in which I lack, and which nags at me the most, is Bollywood. I excuse myself by remembering that South Asian cinema is a gigantic entity, particularly when taking into account movies produced outside of Mumbai, which looms as large to that genre as Los Angeles does to “Hollywood.”

There’s no shortage of streaming services touting films in Hindi, but to give myself a brief refresher course in contemporary Bollywood, I initially checked out what the kids call a trusted brand — Amazon Video. In March the company began the channel Heera, which is available to Amazon Prime members for $4.99 a month. Its offerings are extensive: “Heera Bollywood Movies,” “Heera Telugu Movies,” “Heera Tamil Movies,” “Heera Marathi Movies,” “Heera Bengali Movies.” The site also offers series, including “Inside Edge,” an Amazon original about a cricket team that’s quite a bit more explicit in terms of content than most Bollywood movies — the first episode features a player having sex and taking drugs simultaneously in the workout room while a match is in progress. (While Heera itself is only available in the United States and Britain, Amazon offers the series worldwide on Prime.) Declining to give an exact number, an Amazon Video publicist told me that the site offers “several hundred movies and TV episodes.”

One salient feature of Bollywood fare is that individual movies encompass a wide variety of genres; this elasticity is part of how Bollywood film language is radically different from the West’s. “Badrinath Ki Dulhania,” directed by Shashank Khaitan and starring Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt, is a recent romantic comedy/musical/melodrama that begins with a lengthy text disclaimer about the illegality of dowries (dowries being a salient feature of the film’s action). The story concerns arranged marriages in a provincial region, but its lead characters, a handsome knucklehead and an independent-minded woman, are sufficiently stock to register as “universal.” It’s all fun and games until the woman runs off to Singapore to train for a job as a flight attendant. All the families are…

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