Opulence and Bollywood Through Perfume

I love Bollywood movies. The women are gorgeous, the men dashing, the good guys saintly, and the villains so evil that they make Thomas Barrow of Downton Abbey seem kindhearted. And everyone is ready to break out into a song on the spur of the moment. To an uninitiated audience, Bollywood films can seem odd, at best. The philosophy in costumes, makeup and special effects is “more is more.” The item numbers, song-and-dance sequences, are entirely unrelated to the plot. You have to completely suspend your disbelief on the most basic points. But once you’re used to the characteristic cocktail of songs, tears, love, and tinsel, Bollywood fairy tales can be the best escapist fun.

la chasse

So can perfumes. Recently, when I was enjoying the heady combination of Bollywood and Guerlain Nahéma after a stressful day,  I decided to explore my favorite Indian films through scents.  I selected 10 movies and linked them with fragrances that captured their themes or characters. If you want to get a taste of Bollywood, please read on. Needless to say, the perfumes on my list are as opulent as the Indian cinematic extravaganza.

Lalique Le Parfum and Lagaan (2001)

Lalique Le Parfum and Lagaan have one feature in common; they’re perfect introductions to opulence, whether in perfume or Indian cinema. Lalique is a soft wrap of sandalwood, tonka bean and patchouli, with a spicy kick of pepper to keep things bright and lighthearted. Lagaan is likewise an easy to digest film that features a love story and an engaging plot. A group of poor villagers is challenged to a cricket match by British colonial officials. If they win, they will be spared heavy taxes for three years. Nominated for an Oscar (the honor it shared with only two other Indian films so far), Lagaan is the best way to be introduced to Bollywood.

umrao jaan rekha

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady and Umrao Jaan (1981)

Topping the list of my favorite Bollywood films is Umrao Jaan, a story of the famous Lucknow courtesan. The 1981 version stands head and shoulders above the 2006 release.  When I was thinking of a perfume that could convey the exquisite refinement of Umrao Jaan’s world with its poetry competitions, moonlight picnics, dance recitals as well as the heartbreak and melancholy, Frédéric Malle’s Portrait of a Lady came to mind.  It’s appropriately opulent and dramatic; its dark undercurrent takes one by surprise after the initial sweet rainfall of rose petals. I can just imagine gorgeous Rekha, an actress playing Umrao Jaan, wrapped in its rich veil.

Parfums de Nicolaï SacreBleu Intense and Dil Se (1998)

Watch Dil Se if only for its “Chaiyya Chaiyya” song sequence atop a moving train. It’s also an introduction to a Bollywood superstar, Shah Rukh Khan. He plays a journalist who falls for a beautiful woman (Manisha Koirala) without realizing that she is linked to a terrorist organization. Bollywood rarely touches sensitive social issues, but this film is an exception. There are still plenty of songs and dances, and the location shots are incredible.

SacreBleu Intense is my choice for Dil Se, given its complexity and slowly building drama. It starts out fruity and soft, but with time it reveals its dark incense and patchouli layers. But unlike Dil Se, it won’t make you cry in the end.


Guerlain Nahéma and Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Guerlain Nahéma is a perfume I wear when I crave something voluptuous. It blends rose, ylang ylang, plums and sandalwood into an intense potion. Nahéma’s extravagance matches that of Mughal-e-Azam, a period film set in the 16th century. It tells the doomed love story of Prince Salim and dancing girl Anarkali unfolding in the glittering Mughal court. Look for the “Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya” song on Youtube to get a taste for one of the best soundtracks in Bollywood. Madhubala, the actress playing Anarkali, with her charmingly crooked smile may not be a perfect beauty, but she’s unforgettable. Just like Nahéma.

L de Lolita Lempicka and Bunty Aur Babli (2005)

Romantic, colorful, and with a dash of darkness equally describes L de Lolita Lempicka and Bollywood’s version of the Bonnie and Clyde story, Bunty Aur Babli.  Except that there is little violence, all ends happily ever after, and songs with costume changes succeed one after another.


Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant  and Devdas (2002)

An olfactory portrait for Devdas, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s eye candy, was easy to paint. It has to be Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant. It’s a perfume journey of epic proportions that begins in a cardamom scented pastry shop and ends in an incense filled boudoir. L’Éléphant lacks subtlety and fine nuances, but it’s beautiful.

The same applies to Devdas. Shah Rukh Khan stars opposite Miss World Aishwarya Rai, while another Bollywood goddess Madhuri Dixit completes the love triangle. The doomed lover’s story is predictable and maudlin, but the sets, costumes and songs are so stunning that you won’t notice how you’ve spent 185 minutes in front of the television. Jungle L’Éléphant will linger long after you’ve regained consciousness.

Robert Piguet Fracas and Jewel Thief (1965)

Jewel Thief is my top recommendation for retro glamour Bollywood style. It’s a thriller involving mistaken identity, diamonds, dancing girls and virtuous maidens. Good girls in Indian films wear saris, so when you see a beauty bedecked in feathers and a skin-tight sequined dress, she’s a femme fatale.

Jewel Thief is a great vehicle for one of my favorite Bollywood vixens played by Helen. Judging by her mini-dress in the song, “Baithe Hain Kya Uske Paas,” she’s downright wicked. Helen was the most popular Bollywood dancer of her time, and my word, can the lady dance! Robert Piguet Fracas, a shocking pink tuberose, is Helen.


Parfums DelRae Amoureuse and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge ran for an astonishing 800 weeks in Mumbai when it was first released. It has the popular star-crossed lovers plot and two megastars, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. The backdrop to the story alternates between the mustard fields of northern India and the snow capped mountains of Switzerland. Such a dizzying adventure needs an equally flamboyant perfume, and Parfums Delrae Amoureuse fits the theme. It’s a lush bouquet of every imaginable white flower, with pepper and cardamom giving it an electric shimmer.

Knize Ten and Sholay (1975)

What perfume would fit Mr. Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan? Something dark but elegant, macho but with a sensitive side. My pick is Knize Ten, one of the best leather perfumes for those with classical tastes. My favorite Amitabh Bachchan’s film is also iconic. Sholay is an adventure story of two criminals hired to capture the notorious villain Gabbar Singh, and it makes Hollywood Westerns seem tame.


Chopard Casmir and Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

A drama centering around the romance between the Muslim Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great and the Hindu Princess Jodhabai, Jodhaa Akbar is another entry in the extravagant Bollywood film category. As the New York Times review puts it, the film has “enough elephants and gold to sink the Titanic.” Consider that 2 kg of gold were used for the Emperor’s sword case alone. Chopard’s Casmir has enough vanilla to supply a bakery for a month, but its amber, jasmine and sandalwood will make you feel as if you too are dressed in gold from head to toe. It may not be an everyday fragrance, but I promised an escape from the ordinary, didn’t I?

Do you like Bollywood films? What are your favorite opulent, flamboyant perfumes?



  • patuxxa: I am definitely saving this for both the perfume and the filme recommendations. I knew some films mentioned here but there are just so many Bollywood productions these days, one gets overwhelmed. Especially very curious about Umrao Jaan as it sounds like a lovely movie. January 20, 2014 at 7:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Umrao Jaan is totally different from the madcap feel of other Bollywood films. It’s more serious and more tragic, but also really well-shot and acted. Must see film, even for someone who doesn’t ordinary like Bollywood movies. January 20, 2014 at 8:11am Reply

      • mridula: and omg, the soundtrack is heartbreaking. I cry over many of the songs in this movie. But especially over this song, which is all about the impossibility of ever returning home: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRz7LS4gBrQ

        Your FM Portrait of a lady pick is so spot on. Please tell me what you would pick for Pakeeza? January 20, 2014 at 9:40am Reply

        • Victoria: I agree, I don’t know how many times I’ve watched that movie, but this song always feels especially heartbreaking. Asha Bhosle’s voice and Rekha’s performances are just mesmerizing. Every song on the soundtrack is a gem.

          Pakeeza was another movie I wanted to add, but the article was already getting very long. It’s another incredible movie, and rather tragic. I would probably pick Guerlain Chamade for her, because while opulent, the fragrance has a tinge of melancholy for me. Plus, the crystalline freshness of floral heart fits so well with the meaning of Pakeeza for me (pure of heart). January 20, 2014 at 11:09am Reply

          • Rose: Which version of Chamade do you prefer, Victoria? January 20, 2014 at 12:02pm Reply

            • Victoria: I have always liked the extrait de parfum more, because it had a stronger accent on the floral part of the perfume (the EDT was greener and sharper to me). The new reformulation of the EDT is marvelous, though. It’s still brighter, but it now seems more layered, more complex. January 20, 2014 at 12:29pm Reply

      • zari: What a fun post! You’ve named some of my top favorites here.

        Umrao Jaan has to be one of my all-time favorite films from any language, same with Mughal-e Azam. I would also recommend Pakeeza, which has not only beautiful costumes, but really beautiful meaning songs as well. January 20, 2014 at 10:33am Reply

        • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! It took a while to narrow down my list, and now of course, I’m regretting not adding Pakeeza. Meena Kumari’s nuanced acting is so different from that of other Bollywood stars. Another movie of hers that I love is Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, but like most of her films, it’s very sad and mirrors her own life to a degree. January 20, 2014 at 12:17pm Reply

  • Amer: Devdas is my go to bollywood film. Eye feast suits it better than eye candy. Aishwarya Rai is the ideal female that all men in the world would gladly die for. The night scene with the duet by the spring is unsurpassed! I don’t remember how l’Elephant smells but I think it is hard to find these days. Many shops don’t carry it anymore (discontinued?). I you were to choose a (male or not) perfume for the self destructive on top of unlucky hero to wear, which would it be? January 20, 2014 at 8:43am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s at every perfumery in Brussels, so definitely not discontinued. But since it’s far from a top seller, I’m not surprised Kenzo doesn’t distribute it equally well in all countries.

      Devdas could pull it all off! I was thinking of L’Elephant primarily for him. For the gorgeous Aishwarya, maybe Serge Lutens A la Nuit, sensual and romantic. Or perhaps, Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower? January 20, 2014 at 9:05am Reply

    • Anne of Green Gables: I got to know Aishwarya Rai through a friend (she was a Bollywood film addict) who showed me her picture taken at Cannes in 2002. She looked so stunning in yellow sari that I thought she must be a goddess. January 20, 2014 at 9:31am Reply

      • Victoria: Amer is probably referring to this song:

        And yes, she looks like a goddess! January 20, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

        • Ann: Wow! She is a goddess!! January 20, 2014 at 11:54am Reply

        • Amer: yes, that’s the one although I remembered it slightly different. Very nice song too, I think it is about the love of Krishna for his wife (who’s name I can’t remember for the life of me). Anyway, have we had a talk about Devdas before? I have this dejavu feeling… 🙂 January 21, 2014 at 6:26am Reply

          • Victoria: Radha–a very unique character in that in devoting herself to Krishna she spurned the social conventions (she was already married or involved with another, not to Krishna). There is some argument whether she and Krishna were married and the story is much more complicated in all levels. But it’s interesting that the divine love of Krishna and Radha is used as a parallel for the protagonists. Of course, what’s allowed to gods is not allowed to mere mortals….

            There is another excellent–and many serious Bollywood fans will argue, better–version of Devdas from 1955. If you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend it. January 21, 2014 at 8:43am Reply

        • Amer: ps: I’m in this type of mood today


          If only reality was that epic… January 21, 2014 at 6:36am Reply

          • Victoria: That must be my favorite part of Devdas! January 21, 2014 at 8:35am Reply

        • Anne of Green Gables: You tempted me into watching Devdas last night. It probably wasn’t a good idea to watch it during a weekday as the film was very long but I really enjoyed it. Some of the cheesy lines made me cringe but the music, dances, costumes and sets! It really was an eye feast as Amer said. Madhuri Dixit’s dancing was exquisite! January 21, 2014 at 7:37am Reply

          • Victoria: Gosh, you’ve finished in one evening! It took me 3 days, one hour or so a day. The dancing was exquisite for sure, and Madhuri Dixit is well-known for it. The dialogue does suffer from the “lost in translation” issues. January 21, 2014 at 8:49am Reply

            • Anne of Green Gables: I wish I could be as self-disciplined as you are, V. I’m terrible at stopping once I start watching or reading something. One of my favourite escapist fun is watching Japanese dramas. I must have watched around 100 series and for some of them, I’ve watched more than one time. I admit in shame that there were times when I spent the whole night watching them. Well at least, that’s how I became fluent in spoken Japanese so I have my excuses. 😉 If you ever want a J-drama recommendation, please let me know. January 21, 2014 at 12:08pm Reply

              • Victoria: You don’t even have to ask! 🙂 Yes, I would love some J-drama recommendations. I was surprised how much Hindi I picked up from the movies, but since most of it has to do with love and feelings, none of it is terribly useful for India travels.

                I’m not disciplined, I just have a short attention span. 🙂 January 21, 2014 at 12:21pm Reply

                • Anne of Green Gables: I learned some Hindi last night: “Kaki-ma Paro He?” 🙂 I learnt that in order to master a language, you really have to love the culture first. Then everything becomes much easier because it doesn’t feel like you have to force yourself to learn.

                  Have you watched any J-drama? If you did, which ones did you enjoy? Is there any particular genre (Comedy, Romance, Drama, Detective etc.) you like? January 21, 2014 at 1:02pm Reply

                  • Victoria: 🙂 You make such a great observation. I love the script Hindi uses, it looks so elegant. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone to practice my Hindi with, and it kind of dropped off. Not that I have many people with whom I can speak Japanese, but I have more motivation for it.

                    I haven’t seen much of J-Drama, so I’m open to any and all suggestions in various genres! January 21, 2014 at 1:15pm Reply

  • Melinda: We have this in common – a love for perfume and Bollywood movies! I haven’t watched any in a while, but this post makes me want to get my dvd out of my closet and watch some of my old favourites… as well as try some of these perfume recommendations. Thanks Victoria! January 20, 2014 at 8:49am Reply

    • Victoria: And judging based on your lovely blog, books too! 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 10:48am Reply

  • Solanace: Thank you for this incredible article, Victoria! Dil Se is my absolute favorite: the mountains, the love strory, Shah Rukh Kahn dancing on the train, the great story… I wish there was a Bollywood channel on tv, I’d be watching it all the time! January 20, 2014 at 9:15am Reply

    • Victoria: I would love a Bollywood channel too. I even have a few DVD of Bollywood item numbers, song and dance sequences, which are fun to listen to when I’m doing household chores. January 20, 2014 at 10:52am Reply

      • Solanace: I’ll go shopping for some Bollywood DVDs with your list in hand, because now I’m seriously craving it. Some of the perfumes you mentioned are favorites of mine, and it will be great fun trying your suggested pairings. (Sorry for the poorly written comment, consequence of the Monday morning hustle!) January 20, 2014 at 1:11pm Reply

        • Victoria: Gosh, don’t apologize! It’s Monday, after all. A colleague mentioned that today is what they call Blue Monday, a most depressing day of the year. I don’t know if it’s a uniquely Belgian concept, but with the rain and grey skies, it feels like it. January 20, 2014 at 2:34pm Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Oh, this is fun! I feel quite uncomfortable wearing opulent perfumes because it feels as if the perfume is wearing me rather than the other way around. But I really like Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant so maybe, I should start by watching Devdas. And I’d like to make the night complete by dressing up in my orange Salwar Kameez, Bindi on my forehead and eating Barfi. 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Maybe, Jungle is not the best introduction to the opulent perfumes then. It’s really over the top, but I believe that you like Lumiere Blanche, which was a variation on Kenzo. It does away with some of its overripe, pungent facets, and it’s way easier to wear.

      Also, a lighter option that nevertheless feels opulent is L’Artisan Traversee du Bosphore. January 20, 2014 at 10:54am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Maybe, I didn’t make myself clear in the last comment. I usually have trouble wearing opulent perfumes (probably, I should say loud perfumes) but strangely, I like Jungle. I prefer Lumiere Blanche on daily basis but Jungle definitely has more kick and drama. I happen to have a sample of Traversee du Bosphore and I enjoy wearing it time to time. As you said, it feels opulent while being sheer. I’m wearing Ambre Narguile today and it’s really wonderful when it works! If I overapply, then I get a headache. January 20, 2014 at 11:50am Reply

        • Victoria: Sorry, I see what you meant now! It was me who misread your comment. Interestingly enough, while Jungle L’Elephant was the first really big perfume that swayed me.

          Ambre Narguile is beautiful too, and I enjoy it in part because it’s not as sweet as some other oriental perfumes. I don’t wear it that much now, but you’ve reminded me to revisit it. January 20, 2014 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Sajini: What a treat to read this today. I’m a huge fan of Bollywood movies. Pairing perfumes with them is so delightful. Thank you! My favorite Indian movie is Pyaasa. Not sure what perfume would go with it. But it would have to be poetic, haunting and transcendent.

    Whenever I wear Guerlain perfumes that were popular in the 60’s (Chant d’aromes, Chamade) I always think of a 60’s bollywood beauty with bouffant hair wearing a pink sari) January 20, 2014 at 9:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Such a great comparison! Gosh, I love those ’60s films. Another movie I really wanted to mention but ran out of space was Teesri Manzil. Helen is also featured in it. This song cracks me every single time and makes me him along:

      Check out Asha Parekh’s eyeliner and Shammi Kapoor’s hair. They deserve their own space in the credits. 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 11:14am Reply

  • Natalia: I completely agree that a Bollywood film/opulent perfume combo makes a great ending to a stressful day! I happened to discover it last year when, after an extremely crazy day, I came home and suddenly realized that a glass of wine, a cheerful perfume and a Bollywood movie is exactly what I needed at that moment. That night, it was Aap Ki Khatir (the title translates as “For you” I believe) with the gorgeous Priyanka Chopra. It’s a typical Bollywood love affair set in the modern day London. Lots of singing and dancing, to be sure. And the happy ending, of course. For the second part of the antidepressant concoction, I remember I chose Shalimar Ode de la Vanille. January 20, 2014 at 9:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t remember offhand if I saw Aap Ki Khatir, but I’ll check it out. More Bollywood recommendations are always welcome! January 20, 2014 at 11:15am Reply

  • Adriana Galani: This is a stunningly beautyful post! I am myself into Bollywood movies, well, more into the musical part of it and even more into the 60-70 era of Lata Mangeshkar’s full glory, plus classicaly traditional Hindustaani music. On a google Adina Galani Search I am easily to be found with my sheer passion along. and, for a even better “view”, I invariably wear Magie Noire on stage! Never figured out why, but its the “stage fragrance” for me. I love the Madhubala/ Nahéma association, it is so perfect and sounds so very right! And I love imagining that Shridevi is wearing Shalimar while performing the “Mein teri Dushman, Dushman tu mera” in Nagina.
    Yes, agree, the 1981 Umrao Jaan is far better music wise than the 2006 version no matter the gold display. 🙂
    Lovely realistic post, thank You. January 20, 2014 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Just stunning! I listened to this song (and I recommend others to do the same):
      Absolutely exquisite! I need a moment to regroup before I go on answering comments, because your incredible voice left me with tears in my eyes. January 20, 2014 at 11:29am Reply

      • Liz K: Wow, thank you for sharing that link. I have goosebumps. January 20, 2014 at 3:24pm Reply

        • Victoria: Incredible! Adriana mentioned previously that she sang, so it was such a treat to hear her voice and put a face to a name. I love meeting people through this blog. January 20, 2014 at 3:43pm Reply

      • Jennifer C: Thanks for sharing that link. Adriana, you have a beautiful voice! January 20, 2014 at 6:48pm Reply

  • Tora: Now I am very intrigued to check out at least one of these films. The women are so beautiful and graceful in these photos. I have never seen any Bollywood films at all, but I am a great fan of literature based in India. A Fine Balance, Behind the beautiful Forevers, Interpreter of Maladies etc…..

    Thank you for this lovely glimpse into a world I am missing!! January 20, 2014 at 10:31am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t read A Fine Balance and Behind the beautiful Forevers, but I love Interpreter of Maladies and most other Jhumpa Lahiri’s works. And of course, if you haven’t seen any Bollywood films yet, I can’t recommend Monsoon Wedding highly enough. Mira Nair’s based in New York, so Monsoon Wedding is not a Bollywood film, but it’s very good. January 20, 2014 at 12:21pm Reply

  • James: I’m intrigued too. Not familiar with Bollywood at all. My most opulent perfume is Yves Saint Laurent Kouros. January 20, 2014 at 11:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Kouros would fit Sholay too! I also agree that it feels opulent, especially the rich musky drydown. January 20, 2014 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Ann: What a lovely post! It makes me want to watch some movies and wear perfume. Musc Ravageur smells very rich to me. January 20, 2014 at 11:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Ann. Musc Ravageur would get the Bollywood stamp of approval. 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Rose: Just reading this article made me feel less stressed out. Why are Mondays always so traumatic? January 20, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Rose: My perfume today is Hypnotic Poison and it fits with your Bollywood opulence topic. January 20, 2014 at 12:05pm Reply

      • Victoria: Perfectly Bollywood! 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 12:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: I feel for you, and I hope that your day will get better! I spent the whole afternoon trying to get from one meeting to another and by the time I got home, I was thoroughly drenched and tired. I think I need some Bollywood tonight too. 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 12:30pm Reply

  • george: Having watched the clip from Teesri Manzil, and Adriana’s amazing singing, you have well and truly pulled me down the bollywood rabbithole: I see a whole new field of interest opening up before me. January 20, 2014 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Very happy to hear this! Adriana can probably give you more suggestions on Hindi classics, and if you google Lata Mangeshkar, you’ll find lots of links and clips. Until very recently she was the voice of Bollywood. Asha Bhosle, whom I mentioned earlier in this thread, was her sister. because I’m a huge fan of Asha Bhosle, here is a good article from the Guardian:

      And here is another favorite from Jewel Thief:
      It involved Tanuja seducing the very reluctant Dev Anand with what looks like Coca Cola, after drinking which he looks intoxicated. Tanuja is not wearing a sari, so we can deduce that she’s a modern and very naughty girl. January 20, 2014 at 12:47pm Reply

      • george: O I loved that one! What I love most is that you can tell it’s a film-making tradition that takes dance seriously, because the camera movement is much more choreographed than in Western cinema, and responds and plays with the body movements within frame and also breaks a lot of Western conventions; the only place where I can think of a similar choreographing of the camera is in Madonna videos, which I think also comes from her dance background (like in True Blue where she leans back on the car, or throughout the Justify my love video), but even there it feels more voyeuristic than really getting in to the spirit of things. I of course know Asha Bhosle from the Brimful Asha but I shall be using the link to make my knowledge so much less superficial. 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 2:01pm Reply

        • Victoria: I remember a fellow dancer who made a transition to film making pointing out the camera work in the Bollywood films, and while I’m definitely not sensitive to many nuances that someone who has a film background, but I now pay attention to these elements.

          And thank you in turn. I haven’t heard Brimful of Asha until tonight, although my husband just pointed out that we have a CD. Must remedy this asap! January 20, 2014 at 2:43pm Reply

  • johanob: Great article Victoria!I love Bollywood Movies,my favorite definitely is Main Hoon Na.Not the typical Bollywood,but I am a guy,I like the action scenes in it,plus the storyline is really cool!(Both funny and sad!)The Title song Main Hoon Na(I am here now),is a tearjerker for me!!For the Action Hero,Shah Rukh Khan,I would choose Dior Homme Intense.Spicy and dark,with a soft side…like the character! January 20, 2014 at 1:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: I liked that movie too. The conflict at the heart of the movie is really unusual for Bollywood, and overall, it’s another great Shah Rukh Khan films. I haven’t watched it again after the first time, but I have it on DVD, so I might give it a try again. January 20, 2014 at 2:38pm Reply

      • johanob: Tell us your thoughts when you do watch it again,please!(and the Hero’s Scent of the Movie…lol!)
        There’s another recent one,about a dyslexic little boy,that was also really emotional(and unconventional for Bollywood),but a good Saturday afternoon movie nonetheless(I forgot the name,sorry!) January 20, 2014 at 4:00pm Reply

        • Az: Is it taare zameen par? With aamir khan? That one’s a tearjerker.(i love it!) January 20, 2014 at 4:32pm Reply

          • johanob: I think that rings a bell,will have to google and let you know! January 20, 2014 at 4:59pm Reply

          • johanob: Yes,you were spot on!Thanks!Loved that movie! January 20, 2014 at 5:02pm Reply

        • Victoria: I didn’t recognize the movie until Az’s hint, but I’ve seen it, and it’s great. Aamir Khan (he also plays a lead role in Lagaan) is so good in it. He is also good in 3 Idiots, which despite the title

          You want a serious movie, then I can’t recommend Bombay enough. I do warn that the events are quite tragic and I was crying for half of the movie, but the way it portrayed human relationships against the political backdrop of the 1990s was powerful. January 20, 2014 at 5:19pm Reply

          • johanob: Yip,I have seen Bombay;what a movie!LoveLove!Will have to seek out 3 Idiots,Aamir Khan is a wonderful versatile actor! January 21, 2014 at 12:03pm Reply

            • Victoria: When I was in India four years ago, many auto-rickshaws had a sign “this vehicle sits 3 idiots”. 🙂 The movie was huge and every time I would turn the Indian version of MTV on, one of the songs from it would be playing. The theme stuck in my head for days. January 21, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Virginia Kelley: Great idea for an article, nice selection of films, and I’ll trust you on the perfumes I don’t know — but — need to point this out — you are so totally wrong in saying that the songs in the movies are unrelated to the plot: they are entirely related to the “plot,” or to the story being told, and/or to the emotional experiences of the characters. They don’t come out of nowhere any more than the songs in an opera come out of nowhere. They serve various cinematic functions, including amplification, elaboration, revelation, etc.

    If you’re going to continue writing about Bollywood, I’d also offer this additional correction, an “item number” is an idea that’s unique to Hindi film. It is NOT any production number in a Hindi movie, it is originally a term for a song performance by an actress who is otherwise not a character in the story, or perhaps a very minor character like Helen in Jewel Thief [she performs in the club where Dev Anand’s character goes and they also have a brief plot-related connection]. Another example is Aishwarya’s performance in Bunty Aur Babli.

    In earlier eras, like the Jewel Thief era, this was a way to get a “sexy” cabaret-style performance into a movie without it being performed by the heroine, which would alter her character presentation. In modern times the heroine can have a “sexy” side, so it isn’t so necessary to have an outside character acting like that, though there is still enjoyment of a surprise extra appearance by a star, male or female, who doesn’t have a role in the story. January 20, 2014 at 2:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s my understanding of the item number, but I didn’t elaborate on it. Thank you for doing that. Making a connection between most of the item numbers and the plot is hard, because of what they are–a dose of sexy, provocative, or perhaps, a cameo appearance of another star. You can skip them and you don’t miss much of the plot. At worst, they’re entirely distracting and not effective (although it’s not the case with the films on my list). When I first started watching Bollywood movies, they used to baffle me, but now I love them. The item numbers in older films featuring Helen are my favorites. January 20, 2014 at 3:01pm Reply

  • Eva S.: So happy after reading this! 🙂
    I have to see a Bollywood movie soon!
    Today I am wearing my much loved Attar by Montale, makes me feel a tiny bit like a gorgeous Bollywood princess here in the snow! 😉 January 20, 2014 at 2:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: Would love to know what you end up watching! 🙂
      Attar is great and very complex. When Montale does its rose-sandalwood-oud based blends, they’re invariably very interesting. Of course, once you’ve smelled one, you’ve smelled them all, but they’re well-done. I like also Black Aoud, for a slightly darker, heavier interpretation. January 20, 2014 at 3:10pm Reply

  • Nadia: Do you like any films with Raj Kapoor? Also have to add Bobby to your list, a very sweet movie. January 20, 2014 at 3:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I do, especially Shree 420, Awaara, Sangam, and Meera Nam Joker (maybe not his best film, but it features a Russian ballet dancer, so I have a soft spot for it). When I was growing up in Ukraine, Bollywood movies aired every Thursday, and Raj Kapoor had its own following in the USSR. Some of the songs from his films were even translated into Russian. January 20, 2014 at 3:42pm Reply

  • Aisha: I remember my mom and dad watching Bollywood films when visiting the homes of Indian/Pakistani friends, but I was too young to pay attention to the movies they saw. As a result, I’m afraid the closest I’ve come to watching a Bollywood-style movie is “Bride and Prejudice.” I really enjoy Jane Austen novels, and love the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. So “Bride and Prejudice” was such a fun movie for this Jane Austen fan. 🙂 I really need to watch a “real” Bollywood movie one of these days though. January 20, 2014 at 3:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Bride and Prejudice is a fun movie! Have you seen Monsoon Wedding, which I mentioned earlier to Tora? You might enjoy it too.

      The Soviet Union was probably the biggest importer of Bollywood films, so I feel like I grew up watching them. I still remember being bewildered by these movies as a child–costumes, drama, songs, tears. My grandmother was also reminiscing recently that when she was young, going to the movie to see an Indian film was a treat. January 20, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

  • Adriana Galani: Thank You very much Victoria for making me famous around here. 🙂 Touching the audiance’s heart is the ultimate goal.
    Coming back to movies, well, I do speak Hindi good enough and I gathered enough knowledge to still keep Your point: many times, really, the songs have nothing to do with the plot but they somehow through the image and picturisation go with, and, that is the thought behind, not the music itself. It is my view, as a non Indian. Its nice, but mostly rainy right and it is about the two, but somehow always a group of dancers popping up from nowhere…. and well, miracles happen when she has long and short cut hair in the same song, which used to put my dear mom in “awe”.
    Now, someone really thought of showing us, non filmy ladies, that, finally, it is mostly about make up. See here:
    Am still and will remain a huge fan of the old Bollywood Era. O and by the way, I heard Ashwarya likes fruty fragrances… Why I don’t wonder much about that. January 20, 2014 at 4:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for sharing your passion and your songs!

      Many films today have so many songs that you kind of forget what the story was about (and there are often so many pointless costume changes within the song that it’s hard to concentrate on the music). It feels like some films are essentially nothing but item numbers connected by a few spoken lines. But of course, that’s to be expected that a large industry like Bollywood would have its hits and misses. The best films are spectacular, though. For instance, Umrao Jaan is not just my favorite Bollywood film; it’s easily in my top 10 all time favorites. January 20, 2014 at 5:04pm Reply

    • Ariadne: Who doesn’t relish and treasure a dose of spontaneous and maybe a bit incongruous song and dance!? Wasn’t that called a ‘happening’ in a prior age? Love this beauty link too. Not only is there magic to be made with perfume but also with a good kohl pencil! ;+) January 21, 2014 at 2:07pm Reply

  • Daisy: What a fun post! And a reminder that I should really see more Bollywood films. Sounds like beautiful escapism!

    I was lucky that the first time that I saw Devdas (the 2002 one) was in Paris on the IMAX. Can you imagine? Bollywood the size of a house! And Kenzo Jungle l’Éléphant is a perfect pairing! January 20, 2014 at 5:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re lucky, Daisy! I can’t imagine how incredible it must have been to see the whole movie and especially its song-and-dance sequences. Jungle l’Éléphant would probably be too subtle for such an experience. 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 6:47pm Reply

      • Daisy: I think I was also a little loopy on concession stand champagne. Only in France, right? 🙂 January 20, 2014 at 6:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: Only in France! 🙂 January 21, 2014 at 8:02am Reply

  • MontrealGirl: I love Jodhaa Akbar, both the movie and the music! I love the opulence and colors of Bollywood movies. As for the perfumes, I’m only familiar with the first two (Lalique le Parfum, which I have, and Malle’s Portrait of a Lady) so I will check out the others. I love the idea of associating perfume with movies. When Arquiste came out with Anima Dulcis it made me think right away of the Mexican movie “Like Water for Chocolate”. The perfume store’s sales lady was not familiar with the movie so I lent it to her so she could see for herself how well the imagery matched the essence of the perfume. She ended up loving both. January 20, 2014 at 6:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you haven’t seen Mughal-e-Azam, then it’s my top recommendation. Jodhaa Akbar is like a prequel to that film, in terms of historical events.

      Your pairing of Anima Dulcis and Like Water for Chocolate is so spot on! January 21, 2014 at 8:06am Reply

      • MontrealGirl: Thanks for the recommendation Victoria! I shared your article with an Indian friend of mine. She loves Bollywood movies so we’ve agreed to go watch a few together. See what wonderful effects you have on people’s lives? 🙂 January 21, 2014 at 6:34pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 Yay! There is nothing like watching a Bollywood movie with someone else, so that you can comment, laugh and occasionally cry together. Just last night I was remembering how a group of university classmates came over for a dinner party and then stayed till 4am as we watched Taal. It’s a film with Aishwarya Rai, one of her first ones. None of them have seen any Indian movies previously, and they loved it. It’s such a nice memory. January 22, 2014 at 5:33am Reply

      • MontrealGirl: Oh, I forgot to mention that the other pairing of movie and perfume in my mind is Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling with Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”. January 21, 2014 at 6:40pm Reply

        • Victoria: I can’t believe that I haven’t seen The Great Gatsby yet, the new version. Now, I’m going to look for a DVD and put on some Juniper Sling as I watch it. 🙂 January 22, 2014 at 5:30am Reply

  • Jennifer C: I’ve never actually seen a Bollywood movie. I’m looking at Netflix on my phone to see if they have any of these. January 20, 2014 at 6:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Netflix should have all of these, and many can be streamed directly. Of course, this is just a small selection of movies, some of my personal favorites, but I could easily draw up a much larger list. So, if anyone wants other recommendations, I’m always happy to talk Bollywood. 🙂 January 21, 2014 at 8:03am Reply

  • Maren: Thank you for this great post. You’ve mentioned some Bollywood films before which enticed me to watch Mughal-e-Azam awhile. Such a great extravaganza! I love the pairing with Nahema. So now I’m ready to search out some Lalique La Parfum and Umrao Jaan! January 20, 2014 at 8:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: So glad that you liked it! Mughal-e-Azam gets better and better on revisiting. And nomatter how many times I’ve seen it, I still can’t help hoping for a happy ending.

      Lalique Le Parfum is a bit underrated, but if you like creamy, soft oriental scents, it’s wonderful. It dries down to a toasted almonds and musk that make you feel as if you’re ready to bite into a powdered sugar coated Turkish delight. January 21, 2014 at 8:14am Reply

  • poodletwins: What a fun post! Ive only watched Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala which isnt Bollywood by far. Im now inspired to try a new style of film, with a perfumes to match. Many thanks. January 21, 2014 at 12:44am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a good film too, and I like Mira Nair’s films in general. Another favorite non-Bollywood film with an Indian theme is Bend it Like Beckham. January 21, 2014 at 8:16am Reply

  • lupo: Victoria, what a beautiful post!
    I lived in Sri Lanka for some time, and I used to love going to the movies: it’s a social event, families come with food and sit together chatting away while watching the screen. It’s not really disturbing, it goees well with the elegant messiness of the plots 🙂
    I love Bollywood movies too – the catwalk of beautiful saris at the cinema was something. I remember in Sri Lanka it was an explosion of heady jasmin and spices, the whole cinema used to smell like a sort of big Samsara bottle. And it was beautiful! January 21, 2014 at 2:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for sharing this, Lupo! I’ve never been to a cinema in India, but I can imagine that it’s similar there too–people participating in the story and sharing observations. I also love the tradition of wearing jasmine or other flower garlands in the hair, which makes for the best perfume trail imaginable. January 21, 2014 at 8:25am Reply

  • Annikky: I never felt drawn to Bollywood movies until I read about them on BdJ. After this post, I really feel that I should watch at least a few – they seem like a great antidote to the current Brussels weather. And simply fun.

    Of the perfumes you mentioned, I love Fracas and Portrait of a Lady, some I still need to try.
    I guess I could be swayed by the name, but I feel Bombay Bling! would fit some of the more light-hearted Bollywood films? January 21, 2014 at 6:12am Reply

    • Victoria: You should watch the link Amer posted today. It’s the best antidote to blues and rain!

      Bombay Bling is big and sparkly, so it would sure fit one of the madcap Bollywood adventures. January 21, 2014 at 8:27am Reply

  • Elia: I’ve seen 6 and smelt 6 so I guess I’ve done alright. God, I’ve not seen a Bollywood flick in ages. The last one I had listed to hunt down and never got to was Guide… January 21, 2014 at 6:25am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t seen Guide before, so I’ll add it to my list. January 21, 2014 at 8:35am Reply

  • Theresa: Terrific post, Victoria! I am going to keep the list of both films & perfumes to try. I love Bollywood movies – started checking them out of the library 5 or 6 years ago, and find them very comforting to watch in 45 minute segments, before I go to bed. It puts me in a “happy place” – kind of like perfume, in fact! My favorites are often older – any film I can get with the great Guru Dutt is amazing. I also went thru a recent Devdas binge. After watching the recent Shah Rukh Khan version (which was eye-popping and very fun) I then read the book, written in the early 1900s – very restrained and believable. Then I watched the 1950’s version directed by Bimal Roy – it is available on YouTube. I really liked that version, and thought it represented the book better. After reading about Roy’s love for the Italian neo-realist cinema, I could see why it appealed to my western sensibilities more. Still, all the versions were engrossing. I just wish Shah Rukh Khan wouldn’t quiver so much in order to express emotion!

    My own Indian favorite is Bobby (1973, dir Raj Kapoor). Just charming!

    thanks again, theresa January 21, 2014 at 3:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for recommending the novel. It has been on my list at one point, but now I feel like reading it. I also think that the 1955 film is much more true to the novel, and Sen’s Paro is more multifaceted than Rai’s interpretation. I had no idea that it was on Youtube, so I might watch it again tonight.

      I love Dimple Kapadia’s outfits in Bobby. Those short-short skirts and knotted shirts were something else.

      My husband just made a couple of other contributions: Amar Akbar Anthony and Professor. See, while my inclination is for the tragic films like Umrao Jaan and Mughal-e-Azam, his favorites are bordering on slapstick. 🙂 But I totally agree with his choices, and just reading the synopsis of Amar Akbar Anthony’s plot would be enough to give you a taste for it. Perhaps, you already know it, though.

      Can’t you tell that I can go on and on about Bollywood for ages! 🙂 January 22, 2014 at 5:41am Reply

      • zari: Victoria, I LOVE the movie Amar Akbar Anthony! That along with Andaz Apna Apna are high on my list of favorites! January 24, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

        • Victoria: I love Amitabh Bachchan in it, and he proves his versatility too. I mean, what other actor can still look sexy as he emerges from an Easter Egg? 🙂 January 24, 2014 at 10:44am Reply

  • Sandra: Great post! I never watched any Bollywood films , I am not sure where to start!!
    My soon to be husband (we are marrying in June) is Indian and he doesn’t watch any Bollywood.
    I am just starting to smell Jasmine and Sandalwood perfumes… Trying to find a good one for the big day January 22, 2014 at 4:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sandra, you can just start with the first move on this list and work your way down. Lagaan is probably one of the better films to get a taste of Bollywood. I tried to organize the list to help someone who is new to navigate the Bollywood seas (although on reflection, Jodhaa Akbar is also a good intro, but it helps if one knows a bit of Indian history). My husband has never watched any Bollywood movies either until he met me, but he got into it eventually. There are many excellent films with quirky plots, great sets and good acting.

      Can’t wait to hear what perfume you end up selecting! January 22, 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

  • zari: Hi Victoria, It just occurred to me to ask – have you seen the movie “A Room with a View”? With Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, etc. That is a comfort movie for me, and it is full of texture if that makes sense in terms of scenery and feeling. Have you thought of what perfume or scent would match that film? January 24, 2014 at 9:36am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve seen it such a long time ago that I don’t remember it much, except that when I google it, the scenes look familiar. I’ll have to watch it again! January 24, 2014 at 10:39am Reply

  • Elizabeth: Late reply here: Thank you for this article! I very much enjoyed reading it. I have been going through a very hard time at work lately and I am looking for some beauty. I watched Umrao Jaan on your recommendation and enjoyed it very much! I am also wearing Guerlain Nahema and Neela Vermeire Mohur. My father is from India but I know woefully little about my own Indian heritage. I need to make my way there someday. January 24, 2014 at 10:10am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re most welcome, Elizabeth! There is so much variety in Bollywood, so you have lots of great discoveries ahead of you.
      By the way, if you liked Umrao Jaan, you might enjoy the novel on which the book was based: Umrao Jan Ada by Mirza Mohammad Hadi Ruswa. Translation by Khushwant Singh is the best one, imo. January 24, 2014 at 11:00am Reply

  • Hannah: This is an interesting concept.
    I should try Lalique Le Parfum. January 24, 2014 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a very good perfume created by Dominique Ropion. January 24, 2014 at 11:13am Reply

  • Eva: Brilliant idea for a post!
    I love Indian culture and of course Bollywood. I’ll go through each of your recommendations. January 29, 2014 at 2:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Eva! I keep thinking of so many other great films that I might have to do a follow up post. January 29, 2014 at 11:04pm Reply

  • Ray: hi Victoria,
    I very recently discovered your blog as a result of venturing into perfumes. And it’s completely amazing. I love your reviews.
    Came upon this post and couldn’t resist reading every comment. I live in India currently. And it’s fun to watch bollywood. Although I must admit I haven’t watched most of the classics.
    I realize it’s an old post but still wanted to recommend a couple of new movies to you, seeing you are clearly a fan.
    Barfi is my favorite recent hindi movie. Interestingly it features Ranbir Kapoor who is Raj Kapoor’ grandson.
    do check it out.
    Rockstar, Wake up Sid and Rajneeti are some of his other hit films. he’s apparently as famous as his grandfather.
    I would also suggest , Highway, 2 States, Madras Cafe, A Wednesday, English Vinglish , Kahani, Udaan , The Dirty picture, Zindagi na milegi dobara, Jab we met and Chini Kam.
    Do check these out and let me know how you liked them. these are some of the best movies in the recent five years. have fun.
    much love 🙂 August 20, 2014 at 5:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for your nice feedback, Ray! It’s such a pleasure to read it, and of course, I’m happy that you enjoy my articles.
      More movie recommendations is always a good thing, and I’m writing these down. I’ve seen English Vinglish , Kahani, and The Dirty Picture on the plane when I went to India in the winter (those long flights make it easy to catch up on films!), and I especially was struck by Kahani and thought of adding to a follow up post to this one. I already have so many other movies I’d love to talk about. 🙂 August 21, 2014 at 11:32am Reply

  • Sowji: I think old movies like Pakeeza, Umrao Jaan and Jodha Akbar can be related to sandalwood fragrances in perfumes and movies that have a Country feel like Dilwaale Dulhanya Le Jaayenge can be related to lemon grass fragrances.

    Chic and girly movies such as Aisha can be associated with fruity and flowery fragrances. October 8, 2015 at 5:09am Reply

  • epapsiou: Great article. Did not know you liked Bollywood movies. Was it after meeting your husband?
    I guess you should change the second sentence. Barrow is now one of the nice ones.
    When I was growing up in India, radio was more popular (and had more content) than TV (limited to an 2 hours a week of songs) . So all the great Bollywood songs were heard first and seen later(or never). Which was good cause generally the songs were order of magnitude better than movies.
    Hence the songs conjure up images (and consequently perfumes) much different than those shown in the movie. January 27, 2016 at 1:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: My husband never watched Bollywood films before meeting me. No, it was because the USSR imported massive quantities of these films, so we grew up watching them. Thursday was a Bollywood film day.

      Ah, I got bored after the first two seasons, so I never got to the transformation of Barrow. But that’s ok. He made an awesome villain. January 27, 2016 at 2:35pm Reply

      • epapsiou: Of course. I remember now. Raj Kapoor was a very big deal there. Actually everywhere. Even turkey
        I also remember watching this a few years ago. Did not know Mithun was popular there
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR0yhsKueRE January 29, 2016 at 1:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, because Kapoor’s films had a socialist message, which went down well with the Communists. He even invited a Russian actress/ballet dancer to star in his film “Meera Nam Joker.”

          Mithun’s Disco Dancer was supposed to be very popular, but I watched it for the first time only a couple of years ago. It’s hilarious, often unintentionally so. January 30, 2016 at 8:55am Reply

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