The village where I live – Saltaire, near Bradford, West Yorkshire – is a former Victorian mill town, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. (A while ago I wrote a post about Saltaire and the weaving industry, with lots of photos of the village.)
When the woollen industry was at its height, thousands of people arrived in Yorkshire and Lancashire from India and Pakistan to work in the mills. After the woollen industry died in the 80s, the immigrants and their families remained, and Bradford now has one of the highest populations of people of Asian descent in the UK. It’s thanks to an Asian neighbour that I now know how to make the best lamb pilau, and it’s thanks to her, too, that I was introduced to the fabulous world of Bollywood.
If you love stories with lots of romance and drama – and who doesn’t love them! – Bollywood films are an absolute delight. If you’ve never watched one, you might think it’s all young couples gazing soulfully at one another from beneath the branches of a blossom tree, interspersed with lots of dancing and singing in colourful silks. In fact, the best Bollywood films have an excellent plot and that vital element for any romance – a genuine form of romantic conflict between the hero and heroine.
One of my favourite Bollywood films is called Jab We Met. (When We Met in English.) At the start of this film, the hero – Aditya – is suffering from depression. Everything in his life seems to be going wrong, from his business to his love life. He decides on the spur of the moment to leave everything behind him. He boards the first train leaving the station, with no idea where he is going. Already I love this idea. What could be more romantic than a train journey?
On the train Aditya meets the heroine, Geet. She’s late, and we first see her running along the platform, desperately throwing all her bags on board through the open door of the train, which is now pulling out. Geet has a whole LOT of random stuff to throw aboard before she throws in the final item – a large stuffed tiger. When Geet finally boards the train she’s smiling an enormous smile. It’s our first introduction to her.
It’s a brilliant “cute meet” between hero and heroine, and Geet is one of my favourite Bollywood heroines. She’s a complete contrast to Aditya – lively, driving him mad with her chatter, and totally full of life.
You can watch this scene here in the trailer to the film:
My new release – Felicity at the Cross Hotel – is set in a hotel in the Lake District. The setting is about as far removed from a train to Delhi as is possible, but I loved the heroine of Jab We Met so much, I wanted to pay a tribute to her with my own heroine, Felicity Everdene, at the start of the story. Felicity, too, is talkative and lively. She arrives in the Lake District in an old banger of a car, laden down with luggage – including a large stuffed giraffe with only one eye. The plot of my novel and the plot of Jab We Met are completely different, but I wanted to have a stuffed toy like Geet’s play a small part in my story, because I love the film so much. The giraffe also appears on the cover of my book, along with Felicity’s luggage.
With so many Bollywood films to choose from, if you’ve never watched one before it’s very hard to know where to start. Here are just a few recommendations from the many great films available.
Guide – A 1965 classic about a tour guide, Raju, who falls in love with a married woman, Rosie.
Bombay – Shekhar, a man from an orthodox Hindu family, and Shaila Banu, a Muslim, fall in love, facing hostility from both their families.
Lagaan – Set in Victorian times, this is a gripping cricket match between Indian villagers led by the hero Bhuvan (played by the brilliant Aamir Khan) and soldiers from the British army led by an evil Captain. Four hours long, but well worth setting aside an afternoon for!
Fanaa – Rehan (Aamir Khan again) meets a beautiful blind girl, Zooni. Persevere well past the bland opening, because this film has one of the most insane plot twists ever. (I can’t say more without spoiling it.)
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge – a cult classic set in London. Simran and Raj fall in love on a European rail tour, but when they return to London, Simran has to get married in an arranged wedding.
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Here is the blurb to Felicity at the Cross Hotel, my feel good romance for the summer!
A quaint hotel in a romantic landscape. The Lake District is the perfect getaway. Or is it?
Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …
Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he’s forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles.
With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?
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I’m really excited to say that Felicity at the Cross Hotel is on pre-order for Kindle on Amazon now (print version to follow soon!)
Do you love Bollywood films? If so, do you have any recommendations? If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!