How These 5 Bollywood Movies Inspired My YA Novel About Culture, Destiny, And Love

by Nisha Sharma

I have a few things in common with my Bollywood-obsessed main character in my book My So-Called Bollywood Life the first being a love for the Hindi language film industry. In the novel, Winnie Mehta, a New Jersey teen set on becoming a film critic, was given a prophecy by a Hindu astrologer. The man of her dreams had a name that started with the letter R, and would give her a silver bracelet before her 18th birthday. Winnie assumed she’d met her soulmate when she started dating Raj, the son of a family friend. But after three years of bliss, Raj and Winnie’s lives were going in different directions. When Winnie discovers that Raj cheated on her the summer before their senior year, she begins to question everything she’s learned about destiny, free will, and romance.

Then, there’s Dev, a fellow film geek, who helps her along the way. Dev challenges Winnie to think beyond her horoscope. When Winnie starts falling for Dev, she has to ask herself, does giving up her prophecy mean that she loses a chance at happily-ever after? Luckily Winnie gets a little life advice from family, friends, and a Bollywood movie star.

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma, $16, Amazon

Here are the five Bollywood movies that helped shape Winnie story:

'Dil To Pagal Hai'

This Shah Rukh Khan classic plays an important part in the book. It’s a love triangle effected by fate and a silver bracelet. Winnie Mehta in My So-Called Bollywood Life references the movie extensively as a mirror to the events happening in her life. The only difference is that Dil to Pagal Hai has more song and dance numbers, a rain scene to top all rain scenes, and the ending is way more dramatic as it occurs in a public forum.


I call this movie the Punjabi anthem because every Punjabi I know considers Sholay the most iconic film of all time. Sholay plays an important part in My So-Called Bollywood Life because Winnie repeatedly compares the ‘villains’ in her story to Gabbar Singh, the villain in Sholay, and one of the most quoted characters in Bollywood cinematic history. Sholay is a Bollywood masterpiece to Winnie and anytime she compares a person in her life to a character in the movie, you know it’s an extreme situation.


In Queen, the main character’s fiancé leaves her the day before the wedding, and instead of staying at home and moping around, she decides to go on the honeymoon they’d planned together. Eventually, the fiancé claims he’s made a mistake and wants her back. I love this movie because it enforces the importance of taking control of a bad situation. The heroine in my book and the heroine in Queen are both jilted at the 11th hour and decide to live on their own terms.


The 2014 remake of Khoobsurat follows a physiotherapist who takes a job at a palace for a family with secrets and heartbreak. Despite the underlying sadness, this movie is hysterical. The heroine is over-the-top dramatic, eccentric, and dances to her own drum beat. Her mother is equally as eccentric. This persona is exactly what I wanted for Winnie in My So-Called Bollywood Life. She’s so extra that she captivates the attention and love of people around her, including a hero who is nothing like her.

'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge'

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or DDLJ, is considered the longest running Bollywood movie of all time. It also has a four hour run time, and features the iconic pairing of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. If there is a Bollywood movie in existence that captures the high drama, the passionate romance, and the importance of family, it’s this one. I wanted to write a book where the family, not just the mom, was supportive and loving, where the friends played an important part in the romance, and where the hero and heroine were drawn to each other even if they belonged to someone else. The romance is truly alive in DDLJ, I hope that readers of My So-Called Bollywood Life and my future books can see the power of a great love story.