Finding Bollywood in Madrid!

Finding Bollywood in Madrid!

Melissa Wright
Madrid - Plaza Cibeles
Madrid – Plaza Cibeles

In September 2012, I left the United States, the country of my birth and my home for thirty years, and moved to Spain’s capital and largest city: Madrid. In preparation for a new life on a new continent, I packed two pairs of shoes, three pairs of pants, half a dozen ill-fitting shirts, my favorite college hoody, and 285 Hindi films.

Hi, my name is Melissa, and I am a Bollywood addict.

Munnabhai MBBS
Munnabhai MBBS

My addiction began in Washington, D.C., where Indian films were relatively easy to come by thanks to a couple of suburban movie theaters and a great little video shop near my university. It survived trips to London (Munnabhai MBBS in the hotel room on a rainy spring day) and long flights to Paris (I’m not saying Bachna Ae Haseeno is a terrible film, I’m just saying it might have been the reason I was nauseous for the majority of those eight hours).

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

It even survived a move to Tennessee, where my sister and I formed two-thirds of the audience for Nashville’s only showing of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Madrid, on the other hand, is proving to be a challenge.

To be fair, this sprawling city of six million people has a lot to offer. There’s the sun, wine, the sun, great nightlife, lots of museums, and have I mentioned the sun? But as I unsuccessfully searched for a showing of Ram-Leela in the cinema listings a few weeks ago, I realized that madrileños are anything but filmi.

So what have I found?

BollyMadrid 2013
BollyMadrid 2013

Indian restaurants, dozens of them. South Asian grocery stores dotting the corners in Lavapies (a famously multi-cultural neighborhood in the city center). Saris and bangles for sale in Bengali-owned shops. A very nice Senegalese man in the Alonso Martinez metro offering me a pirated copy of Yuvraaj for €2 (twice what it’s worth but I’ve never been much good at haggling).

And, of course, there’s dance.

Madrid has more Bollywood dance options than you could possibly imagine. The quality and authenticity of what they offer tends to vary (a recent trip to Madrid’s “Bollywood Festival” promised Bollywood dancing but featured mainly belly dance and “orientalized” flamenco, with a few minutes of Mundian To Bach Ke to keep the crowd happy) but they’re out there. In fact, next week I’m dragging a friend to a Bollywood dance class being held just a few blocks from my apartment—fingers crossed for a good time!

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

So is my addiction going to survive in Spain? Hard to say. Takeaway curry and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani on the laptop isn’t quite the same as singing and dancing along with your favorite stars in a big rowdy theater. But until the major distributers decide to do more business in Madrid, I’ll have make do and follow some very good advice—“adjust!”

Crowd at BollyMadrid 2013
Crowd at BollyMadrid 2013