Finding Refuge in Old Bollywood
How Bollywood films from my childhood have helped my mental health
The past few months have been a big transitioning period in my life. Transitioning from college life to the "real world," transitioning from my own apartment to temporarily being back in my parents' home, and transitioning from a place of overall security to a place of uncertainty about where the next phase of my life will take me. In times like these, it's easy to feel some sort of longing for simpler times and this has expressed itself in various ways for me. One of the most recent has been a rekindling of my love for Bollywood movies.
Growing up, I didn't know many people my age who enjoyed Bollywood movies, mostly because I didn't know many Indian people (being that I'm not Indian myself). But in my family, we grew up watching old Bollywood films on VHS tapes and eventually upgraded to DVDs. Bollywood movies, for me, were a guilty pleasure that was reserved for the privacy of my own home. But as I've sat to think about it (and do some research), I've come to realize that my love for Bollywood is actually rooted in legitimate psychological reasons, not just my own personal weirdness.
A major part of what makes me love Bollywood movies is that nearly every single one is a musical. While it may just seem like loving musicals is part of my nerdiness, the truth is that music has the ability to improve our mental health.
For many people, this may already be common knowledge, but it's definitely worth reiterating. According to psychologists, music has many psychological benefits such as reducing stress, helping to manage pain, improving mood, and reducing symptoms of depression. This is what makes music therapy an increasingly popular kind of psychological treatment and part of what makes Bollywood movies so enjoyable.
Bollywood films often use bright colors through clothing and scenery and these choices are not just aesthetically pleasing, but they can also have positive affects on our moods. While the effects of color on mood are not directly linked to science, certain colors can evoke certain feelings based on what we associate those colors with. For colors like yellow and orange, because we associate warmer colors with happiness and positivity, those colors can often subconsciously boost our moods. With colors like blue, we typically associate that with the sky or the sea, things that we see as calm usually. And because of that, blue can have a calming effect on us. There are also positive associations with the colors red (boldness, confidence) and white (purity, freshness) and when all of these bright colors are used together, it can trick us into feeling better. So it is no mystery why the bright scenery and costumes of Bollywood movies tend to make me feel lighter and happier.
There have been many great Bollywood films that have been released since I fell away from this particular sect of cinema, but the fact that I have been revisiting older films rather than trying to find newer ones to watch is not coincidental. Being that Bollywood movies played a big part in my childhood, the movies from that era (1990s-early 2000s), that have the same kind of quality and feel to them, trigger my nostalgia, even if it is in a movie I have never seen before. This was the case when I watched Mohabbatein (2000) for the first time about a week ago. Although I had never seen it, the familiar actors and the style of cinematography created a feeling of nostalgia for my childhood.
Nostalgia is often associated with sadness based on the knowledge that the things we're longing for are long gone. But studies have shown that nostalgia can actually have positive affects on our brains and our mood. Think of it like the Pixar movie, Inside Out. When Sadness touched Riley's happy memories, although they turned sad, it was actually a good thing. It made her have a new appreciation for those memories and caused her to make the right decision (if you haven't seen that movie, seriously, what have you been doing?). Nostalgia is kind of like that. It makes us sad to think of those good things that are gone, but it also makes us feel more optimism for the present or the future.
The past few months may not have been much to feel excitement about, but if I've learned anything, it's that it is important to celebrate the small victories. I'm thankful to Netflix for allowing me to experience some small moments of happiness by reintroducing me to Bollywood. And for anyone, like myself, who is feeling the pressures of life and battling with their mental health as a result, Bollywood movies can make things easier, and even better, for a few hours.
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