There is a playlist on my Spotify account that I am very proud of. Titled pain, death and smirnoff, it is eight and a half hours of old Bollywood songs, ranging from Kishore Kumar yodelling to a melancholic Jagjit Singh crooning about missing his childhood. Surprisingly—considering the playlist is over eight hours long—I am very selective about the tracks that are on it and enjoy explaining my five-point rating system for old songs to anyone willing to listen. Unsurprisingly, considering my personality screams Gen Z sad girl who only listens to American pop music (and I do!), new people I meet are always shocked by my love for Hindi cinema.
This passion for the Hindi film industry, especially the first few decades of its genesis, is not entirely random: I come from a family that was, on both sides, a part of early Bollywood. With three great grandparents who were film directors, a stunning grandmother who was constantly being wooed to star in films (“Please, just one role!” they would beg and she would refuse, again and again, citing mere disinterest) and a father who, along with his siblings, grew up in Madhubala’s picturesque Kismet bungalow in Bandra (now torn down), sleepy conversations about the good old days would always include stories related to Indian cinema. I knew, at a very young age, that R.D. Burman was my favourite composer and Sharmila Tagore was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I knew that Madhubala died due to a hole in her heart and that Amitabh Bachchan was often dismissed for being a lanky, awkward boy. With the launch of Google Arts & Culture’s new online exhibit, I am set to know more.