“Shakespeare is so Bollywood”: Anita Rani shares her love for India’s cinema classics

The TV presenter discusses her latest BBC2 documentary, Bollywood: the World’s Biggest Film Industry

Bollywood: The World's Biggest Film Industry (BBC)

Countryfile’s Anita Rani discusses her latest BBC2 documentary Bollywood: the World’s Biggest Film Industry –  and why she still holds a candle for India’s cinema classics…


Your new show is all about Bollywood. I’m picturing all-singing, all-dancing movie marathons at your house…

No! I don’t actually watch all that much Bollywood – they churn out films, and I’ve got family members who’ll watch everything going. But I’m very selective and will wait till something’s highly recommended. They’re all very long – you’ve really got to invest time!

Any recommendations?

Lunchbox is a beautiful Indian film that came out last year – but there’s no singing or dancing, so it’s not strictly Bollywood. There are some classics you need to watch: Sholay, an early Indian western, is epic. Love, friendship, comedy, a great villain. Everybody knows every lyric to every song – they get played at every wedding! And Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham is really cheesy, but it’s a big hit for the diaspora in Britain. Omkara is the Indian version of Othello, set in the Rajasthani desert. Shakespeare is so Bollywood.

Back to the small screen…

Being Indians, we can’t actually just have a small screen at home. Our telly is decent-sized and we’ve got surround-sound. I’ve got my own swivelly Bond villain chair, but my husband and I sometimes sit together on the sofa. I like to get cosy, make popcorn, eat expensive chocolate and have a nice bottle of red wine. I’m often distracted by my phone, though, or have a book or magazine I’m flicking through.

What are you watching?

Atlanta. I’m obsessed with Donald Glover [who writes and stars in the show] – and I’ve been a huge fan of his music as Childish Gambino [his rapper alias] for ages. He’s a clever dude. Atlanta is very subtle, with such an interesting insight into the lives of his characters, especially how they’re viewed by outsiders. Westworld was entertaining but a bit full-on. The music documentary The Defiant Ones on Netflix is one of the best series I’ve seen in a long time – the people involved, the way it’s shot… It’s just perfection.

Whose advice do you take on what to watch?

Twitter’s always a good place to find out what people are watching. I think my husband’s taste is dreadful – his standards are much lower than mine. I know I’ve got great taste, so we meet in the middle when we decide…

So no rubbish gets past you?

Oh it does! I find myself watching weird alien history programmes, and there’s an Australian remake of Monkey that’s so bad it’s good!

Bollywood: The World's Biggest Film Industry (BBC)
Bollywood: The World’s Biggest Film Industry (BBC)

Do you miss old TV shows?

Yes, bring back Quantum Leap! I was bought my own TV at a young age – my mum and dad worked very hard running a factory and I was given a telly in my bedroom when a lot of my friends weren’t allowed one. Me and my brother watched brilliant shows on a Saturday morning like 8.15 from Manchester. I’d also watch a lot of late-night telly that I wasn’t supposed to see, like The Word and Baadasss TV… It was usually on Channel 4.


Anita Rani presents Bollywood: the World’s Biggest Film Industry on Monday 13th August at 9.00pm on BBC2