bollywood dreams

Bollywood Dreams, a four-part documentary series, will premiere on Al Jazeera English on October 11, 2022.

Mumbai, the bustling metropolis, is the destination for those seeking celebrity and stardom. The dream of those who come here is to make it in Bollywood. It is the world’s largest film industry, producing over a thousand films per year: a multibillion-dollar industry with some of the world’s most famous faces – but for most, the reality is much harsher. Few people’s dreams come true…yet they are still young and working hard for their big break.

Bollywood Dreams sheds light on the struggles of those still aspiring to be big stars, as well as those who work behind the scenes to keep the industry running. Behind the glitz and glamour, most people face an unforgiving reality. Whether they are aspiring actors, background dancers, or stuntmen, very few make a living in Bollywood, and many struggle to make ends meet. Despite this, thousands of Indians leave their homes for Mumbai in search of fame and fortune. What starts as a dream often ends in tragedy. This four-part series goes behind the scenes of Hollywood to meet some of these aspirants. Their stories provide insight into their lives by revealing what motivates them. This series investigates why, despite the obstacles, they are so determined to succeed in such a competitive industry.

Gautam Singh, Al Jazeera English’s talented multi-award-winning filmmaker who wrote and directed a Bollywood feature film, explores the hopes and dreams of those aspiring to success. The lens not only focuses on a few heartfelt individual stories in this four-part series, but it also reflects the larger India and the lives of some of its communities and artists in the context of the big Bollywood dream.

“Bollywood is thriving, with a yearly revenue of more than USD 2.7 billion.” Despite this, the majority of its workers live and work in pitiful, unsafe, and unsanitary conditions. “Most struggle to make ends meet and are denied basic human rights and dignity,” Singh says.

Big Dreams is the inspiring story of Rajini, a petite woman who dreams of seeing her name plastered across Mumbai billboards as Bollywood’s next big ‘little’ actor. The cultural expectations of being a woman from a small, traditional village, on the other hand, add to an already tumultuous journey. She navigates her family’s traditional expectations while pursuing fame and success in the world’s most powerful film industry.

Bollywood blockbusters are frequently action-packed, with death-defying scenes. But behind the camera are the stuntmen and women who put their lives and limbs on the line to give these films the ultimate thrill. With few safety precautions in place on set, many of these unknown and underpaid performers are frequently injured or killed. Vidya Shetty’s story, Daydreams and Nightmares, is tragic yet hopeful. Once a Bollywood stuntman, an accident on the job renders him paralyzed. Vidya’s life is no longer what he had hoped for, as he is now penniless and reliant on his family for everything. Despite his circumstances, he hopes to return to Bollywood and resume his dangerous profession one day. This is also Narisha’s story. Being single and a woman in Mumbai means she is vulnerable to the advances of men who promise to make her a star.

Dare to Dream is the story of Vijaya, a woman who lives, eats, and breathes dance, specifically a traditional folk dance known as Lavani. But, as a woman in India, her decision has ramifications. We watch as she puts her passion ahead of her parents and continues to dance despite cultural and traditional expectations.

The final episode, Recurring Dreams, tells the story of Sunny and Prashant, one a young man just starting out and the other approaching 70. Both are battling to realize their lifelong ambition of becoming Bollywood stars. Despite the fact that neither of them has landed their big break, they both maintain a positive attitude, telling their families that success is ‘just around the corner.’ That could not be further from the truth.

“One thing AJE does well is look at some of the major businesses and industries that are critical to a country and delve into how they function—and what it means to the people in and around them—and the impact it has on their hopes, dreams, and livelihoods.”

“Through the series I aim to showcase the dark underbelly of India’s film industry in a unique manner,” says Gautam Singh. “Each film explores the painful realities of Bollywood’s struggling artists using the wide scope of the human experience from tragic to comedic and everything in between. The whole series offers an insight into a complex, diverse and unequal country, through the lens of one of its most famous industries.”