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Culture » Arts & Entertainment

A Passage to India

Local lovers of world cinema bring “Bollywood” to Taylorsville.



They come from as far away as Elko, Provo, Idaho Falls, Logan and Evanston. Some speak the language the film is in; some don’t. A group of people from a variety of nations now living in a variety of places in the Intermountain West gathers together in Taylorsville on weekends to watch Bollywood films in the same theatres usually reserved for Hollywood releases.


It’s a weekly foreign film festival'not in Park City or downtown Salt Lake City but at the Showcase Cinemas, just off Redwood Road at 5400 South. It’s not organized or funded by any particular society or institution of higher learning but rather by entrepreneurs and community groups. The goal is not to educate American audiences about award-winning, high-concept films from another part of the world but to provide a growing immigrant community with a chance to see the first-run hit movies they would be watching with millions of others if they were still living in their country of origin. This blend of community and commerce allows people to come together in their new home, while at the same time offers a business opportunity for those putting on the event.


“Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in American society,” said Khurram Ameen, who helps his father put on the screenings. “This is a way to just bring everybody together, and it’s also good business for the theater.nn

While Hollywood might be better known in America, “Bollywood”'a term developed by combining the names Bombay and Hollywood'is the world leader in terms of movies produced and tickets sold. Part of those worldwide ticket sales are coming from Utah, thanks to a growing immigrant population not just from India, but from other parts of the world where Bollywood has made its mark.


Travel agent and entrepreneur Hadeed Ameen has been exhibiting Indian films in local theaters for a couple of years. The movies have generally been hits abroad and often feature some of the biggest stars from Bollywood. He generally relies on word of mouth and putting up posters at Indian-run small businesses to get the word out about the films. Hadeed’s son Khurram helps out by running a concessions stand featuring Indian food so filmgoers can pick up either popcorn or a channa plate on their way into the show. The movies are in Hindi with English subtitles, but Hadeed said his audience'which can sometimes number around 200 for a given showing'includes not just Hindi-speakers, but those familiar with subtitled Bollywood films from home countries such as Nepal, Afghanistan, Tibet and even the Middle East and Africa.


Hadeed said the difference between American and Indian films is often the way a similar plot plays out in terms of the two different cultures. “The story lines are the same,” Khurram said, “but the culture is part of the story. Our culture is more respect-based when it comes to elders. A lot of the story lines are oriented around the family'if you love somebody but your family doesn’t love them.nn

Khurram said the films are also a good chance for Indian-Americans who were born here to brush up on their Hindi, because “if they grew up here they are more likely to just read the language instead of speaking it.nn

Bollywood has become known for putting out romances with elaborate musical numbers and dancing, but many say that is a stereotype that is changing. They also point out that Bollywood is just one of several cinematic centers within the vast nation of India that appeal to the particular languages and tastes of those areas. The Indian immigrant community in Utah has become diverse enough that there is also an audience for “Kollywood” films, which refers to Kodam Pakkam, a city in the southern state of Tamilnadu where films are produced in the Tamil language.


Utah Tamil Sangam, a group of Tamil immigrants, began showing Kollywood films less than a year ago at Showcase Cinemas. The reasons for coming to the films are similar to those of the Bollywood group. “It’s good for the kids to get to know more about the culture,” explained Vivek Natarajan, president of Utah Tamil Sangam. “We tell them about a lot of things, but by watching the movies, they get to see it because of the way they will take a movie idea and base it on Tamil culture.nn

But while the reasons for watching Bollywood and Kollywood films are the same, the films themselves can be somewhat different. “Bollywood has a lot of dance, while Tamil films have a lot of emotions,” said Saradha Venkatraman of Utah Tamil Sangam. And while she noted that, “Tamil culture is more traditional,” that area of India is also “a very diverse community where a lot of different people live together. The movies show everyone together.nn

The world’s leading producer of films has made its way to the Beehive State thanks to old-fashioned American values like entrepreneurship and community. So grab a channa plate, and enjoy the show.


nShowcase Cinemas
n5400 S. Redwood Road