Bollywood in Canada

Bollywood, a playful word derived from Hollywood and the city of Bombay, refers specifically to the Hindi-language films produced in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, the city known as the heart of the South Asian film industry. The term Bollywood has come to represent Indian cinema as a whole, but India has many thriving regional and linguistic cinemas and there is no one type of Bollywood film nor are they all made in Mumbai. A recent trend has been to film in North America to take advantage of the large South Asian population and a well-developed film infrastructure. A corresponding trend has seen major US studios finance Bollywood films for the Asian market.

Since the 1990s, there has been an upsurge in Indian-produced films shot in such "exotic" locations as Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Niagara Falls and even Hamilton, Ontario. A typical example is the film work of Akshay Kumar, an action star of Indian cinema, who has made 3 of his popular "Khiladi" movies (Khiladi, a Hindu word, means a "player" or clever fellow) in Canada: Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (Player of Players, 1996), Mr & Mrs Khiladi (1997) and International Khiladi (1999), all shot in Toronto. His other films with Canadian locations are Bewafaa (Unfaithful, 2005), shot in Montreal, Humko Deewana Kar Gaye (You Made Me Crazy, 2006) and 8 x 10 Tasveer (8 x 10 Picture, 2009), which were shot in Calgary, and Thank You (2011), made in Vancouver. So popular is Kumar with Canadian South Asian audiences that he was named the brand ambassador for the Canada Tourism Commission in India in 2010 and invited to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto.

Noted Indo-Canadian filmmakers have brought Bollywood sensibilities to their films. Srinivas Krishna's Toronto-shot Masala (1991), a film that uses many Bollywood cinematic tropes to reflect on the 1985 Air India terrorist bombing, was voted the best film by a non-resident Indian in a 2002 British Film Institute poll of South Asian cinema, while Deepa Mehta's Bollywood/Hollywood (2002), also set in Toronto, is an exuberant romantic comedy deploying Bollywood's song-and-dance tradition combined with Hollywood's traditional insistence on a happy ending.

In 2003, Canada formally signed a co-production agreement with India. This has led to an increasing number of Canada/India co-productions, including Deepa Mehta's Water (2005), filmed in Sri Lanka and an Oscar nominee for best foreign-language film, and Heaven on Earth (2008), filmed in Brampton, Ontario. Richie Mehta's Amal (2007) and Dilip Mehta's Cooking with Stella (2010) were both filmed on location in India.

Canadian-born actors with Indian ancestry such as Lisa Ray, the star of Bollywood/Hollywood and Water, have built their careers in both countries. Neeru Bajwa, a Vancouver actress of Punjabi heritage, began appearing onscreen in Indian soap operas and moved to India to star in the Bollywood features Prince and Mel Karade Rabba, among others. And while Canadian talent makes its mark in Bollywood, the Indian film industry takes advantage of locations like Niagara Falls. According to Toronto film commissioner Peter Finestone, Indian film companies spent more than $850 million in Canada in 2010.

In recognition of the growing importance of Canada to Indian film producers, Toronto plays host to the International Indian Film Academy Awards, dubbed the Bollywood Oscars, in 2011.