How Bollywood gave me unrealistic expectations of love

Bollywood movies and TV shows were now available 24/7. I watched movies, celebrity interviews and music videos when not in school. I must have watched countless hours of women acting coy and helpless, dashing men rushing in to rescue their damsels in distress, brash and romantic dialogues and over the top gestures, colourful outfits and songs sung around trees.

Women gyrated in the rain and in fields singing about their love. Even if they were unwilling before, they eventually gave into the men and fell in love with them.

All the movies ended happily with the two lovers winning against the world and united at last.


Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

By the time I was 14 years old, Shah Rukh Khan, the undisputed King of Bollywood had burst onto the silver screen with two epic movies Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (the brave of heart will win the bride) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (something is happening). I watched these movies on repeat.

I watched Shah Rukh woo and romance his leading ladies in beautiful locations like Switzerland. The butterflies, the secret glances, the sari and hair flying in the wind (classic Bollywood move), the boy turning to catch the girl’s eye just before they parted, were all clear signs to me that this was love and that’s how it should be.  I wasn’t willing to settle for anything else.

I started high school and suddenly my life started feeling like a Bollywood movie. I fell head over heels for the cute guy in my class. The butterflies came in full force and I was on an emotional rollercoaster. Typical of Bollywood movies, I couldn’t sleep, eat and spent any spare minute daydreaming. Unfortunately, the object of my affection didn’t seem to know I was alive.

I’m not proud to say that I used feminine wiles I’d seen in movies like slipping blank cards into his desk on Valentine’s Day or finding excuses to stand around in places where he liked to go. I had seen these used to great effect in movies – I was confident they would work.

Whether these moves did work, I’ll never know, but he got the message eventually and we started dating.

The four years we were a couple were tumultuous and rocky. Instead of enjoying a happy, healthy relationship like other teens, many of the situations we found ourselves in didn’t resemble a movie.

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