By Steve Persall
Times movie critic
Although it doesn't showcase movies, the India Festival in Tampa offers Tampa Bay a preview of a major coming attraction.
The vibrant culture and motion displayed this weekend will be magnified worldwide in June 2014 when the International Indian Film Academy Awards — a.k.a. the "Bollywood Oscars" — come to Tampa. It's the first time this four-day celebration will be held in the United States, after 14 visits to exotic locales like Singapore, Macau and Sri Lanka.
For most Americans, 2008's Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire is the nearest thing to Bollywood cinema they've experienced, with its Mumbai setting and climactic Jai Ho song and dance routine. Yet that movie is far from the real deal.
It's not Hollywood
Authentic Bollywood releases can stretch well beyond three subtitled hours, including intermissions American filmmakers discarded decades ago. Plots are often formulaic and melodramatic, with clear lines drawn between heroes and villains, and chaste love conquering all. Elaborate musical numbers can erupt at any moment, even in illogical circumstances. Many big-budget movies are aptly described with the Hindi culinary term "masalas," blending action, drama, comedy and romance like a chef's spices.
Curious for a taste?
AMC's Veterans 24 in Tampa and Regency 20 in Brandon, plus Britton 8 in Tampa, regularly include Indian imports in their movie lineups. Recently the theaters presented Boss, a crime drama starring martial arts heartthrob Akshay Kumar, and Besharam, a comedy starring Ranbir Kapoor as a car thief falling in love with his victim.
Netflix offers an assortment of current and classic Bollywood titles for your queue. One recommendation for starters is 2001's Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, a delightful sports drama — resulting in a crucial game of cricket — that was nominated for a foreign language film Oscar. Other Indian films attaining that distinction include Mother India (1957) and Salaam Bombay! (1988).
There's also a Bollywood Movie Club of Tampa Bay — coordinated through Facebook and Meetup.com by Times copy editor Caitlin O'Conner — meeting for theater screenings and other social events.
Sound like a pro
A few tidbits for sounding smarter about Bollywood: While it is India's most popular film export, Bollywood is only one of 16 cinematic cultures, separated by production centers and languages, in the nation's vast film industry. Bollywood movies are chiefly produced in the city of Mumbai in the Hindi language. Matching that diversity, the International India Film Awards are one of at least nine annual movie award shows for an industry now celebrating 100th year of existence.