Bollywood, Late Nights & Family Ties

The kids started school a couple of weeks ago. I am partially happy that they are sort of getting back into their routines of crankily getting up in the morning and rushing to load all of their bags into the car. They barely make it to class on time. (What is the source of this this tendency to procrastinate? Surely it’s not genetic?!?)

Moving on . . . the part of summer vacation that I miss the most is the staying up late at night part. Yes, yes, I know it’s not a great habit to cultivate—especially with kids ages five to 11. But we are a family of night owls who have loads energy between the hours of 8 and 1 a.m. What to do?

This year, I decided that one way to curb the energy that surfaces is to re-introduce the kids to their Eastern roots through the world of Bollywood movies.

I tried before, and encountered multiple challenges:

The movies were too gosh-darned long.

    The girls were a bit too young. (My son didn’t even stay in the room for two minutes. He ran off to his own room and dumped the Legos out of the bucket in which we had just put them.) Basically, the movies were a tad too, well, “foreign.”My attempt to help the kiddos appreciate the joy and fun of Bollywood fare bombed—big time.

This time, I planned my approach more methodically, and I conquered all three of the offspring! How did I do it? Here 4 steps I took:

1. Watch the clock. Timing is essential. Since any Bollywood movie lasts about 3 hours. You have to start the movie no later than 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.  Indian storylines have a lot to offer – they sing, they dance and they change their clothes during the singing and dancing. It takes a long time to get through all of this fanfare. In our experience, starting the movie past 9 p.m. meant that we wouldn’t make it halfway through the movie.

2. Ignore copyright rules. OR Pick the familiar storylines – the really familiar storylines. Kids don’t care about copyright violation.They just want to be entertained, and they want to be able to understand what’s going on. For that matter, many adults feel the same way. I discovered that American/Indian (not American-Indian) movies worked best to keep the family engaged. There’s a difference. I don’t mean movies featuring our Cherokee and Sioux friends—although those are great, too, I’m sure. Bollywood movies come in a several shapes and sizes, and at first, I followed the advice of my parents, aunts and uncles. They suggested classic Indian movies that featured black and white cinematography, covered very sad topics, had lush/fake scenery and showed ladies singing sad, slow songs in high-pitched voices. We konked out after about 10 minutes. It was like I stirred tranquilizers in our mango milkshakes. The movies may have been classic, but they worked like sleeping pills on us.

Instead, we prefer movies like Aladin and Partner. Both feature upbeat songs, a nice sprinkling of English thrown in to the Hindi dialogue and storylines that are familiar and easy to follow.


Aladin relies on the same classic story about a down-on-his-luck young man who finds a lamp and a wish-granting genie. This movie proved to be a great way to get the kids hooked on Bollywood because the singing and dancing that are part of the format make it quite similar to its Disney namesake. A rapping Amitabh Bachan with pretty ladies frolicking around in cheerleader-style outfits was a bit much for me, but the kids loved it.


Partner is based on Hitch, the 2005 Will Smith movie. It is one of our favorites and I especially love it because it is a terrific illustration of self-awareness and coaching. To say that Partner is based on Hitch isn’t quite accurate. There are scenes in Partner that are line-by-line duplicates of what is in Hitch. Looking at this from the perspective of copyright violation, this isn’t cool. Turning the other cheek and appreciating the fact that the kids understand, appreciate and are laughing at what they see, delights me.


So, if you find the right movies, you are well on your way to entering the world of Bollywood. There are just a few more items to keep in mind.

3. Pause and refresh as needed. We take frequent breaks to refill snacks, take care of business, explain what is confusing and fast forward through anything that may be inappropriate. Some movies are fine and don’t need the fast forward button. But modern Bollywood has become more PG-13 than not so I keep my hand on the remote at all times—just in case.

4. Learn from each other. As illustrated in Hitch/Partner, don’t get caught up in forcing the issue. The best coaches learn from their teams. Last summer, I was so upset when I failed at my attempt to share a bit of Eastern pop culture with the kids. But I realized that if I was taking drool-filled naps through the old, boring movies, then how could I expect the kids to sit through them?

When I thought about Bollywood from the kids’ perspective, I was much more successful. They sat down—or danced around the den, as the case may be—and watched a movie from beginning to end. Now, we talk about the movies we like, they sing the songs and they appreciate the good, the goofy and the greatness that Bollywood has to offer. Patience, research, timing, a positive spirit—and junk food helped me to show the kids that Bollywood can be kinda cool.
What about you? Have you had any success at convincing someone or a group to try something that they thought was not-so-fabulous? What did you do? How did you convince the person or group to embrace your idea?

Spilling The…


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