by Sophia Huq
My name is Ashley Sophia Huq, but I go by Sophia. I’m the only person in my family with an American name. My dad was born in Sylhet, Bangladesh, and my mother in Kolkata, India, both places predominantly Bengali areas. I was born in Houston. My mother, whose name is Shahnaz Yasmin Huq, used to be a graphic designer; she even designed two of the coins that people use every day in Bangladesh. While I’m very different from my family in many ways, one of the things that connects me to them is my love for art, which I get from my mother. My mother gave me my first art materials, similar to the art kits of paints, colored pencils, and chalks that parents usually give their kids. She also enrolled me in an art class in kindergarten while we were living in England at the time. (I know that’s confusing, but you have to just trust me.) I also attended an art class during a vacation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where my family comes from. I would draw or paint whenever I had the chance, but my skills became even better after I moved from London to Houston. Now, I am a sophomore at Houston Baptist University, and I study Creative Writing.
Bollywood is similar to Hollywood but in the Indian genre where the movies have actors and actresses that are more famous than Hollywood superstars. I was probably around the age of five when I watched Devdas, my first Bollywood film. This movie was obviously a very inappropriate movie for a five-year-old to watch, since it’s about a guy who eventually becomes a drunkard to the point that he dies from alcoholism. Over the years, my mother would take me to Bangladesh with her, so I could spend more time with my family who really enjoy watching Hindi films. My parents got divorced when I was barely two, so I made time to spend with my family from both my parents’ sides.
Watching the movies has opened my eyes to my culture: the culture of South Asians. I’ve had the chance to grow in an environment where I can understand what it’s like to have family that loves one another, and I’ve given myself the opportunity to learn more about the creative side of the movies other than the picture-perfect family because the movies genuinely show what it’s like to have a life, to fall in love, and to have the true gift of friendship, even if it also includes getting stuck in love triangles. Several movies in particular have helped me with discovering my cultural identity.
There was a movie called Dhadak that came out during July 2018, and it is about the caste system. The movie is about a boy who was in a middle-class caste, and a girl who is in a higher caste. The girl invites her boyfriend to her brother’s birthday party, which is a very lavish party, and hundreds of people are invited since the girl’s father is running for a political party. During the party, the girl and her boyfriend leave the party and start kissing. The girl’s father finds them, starts beating her boyfriend, and eventually puts him in prison. The girl gets a gun and threatens her dad to let her boyfriend go, or she will shoot herself. Eventually, the couple elopes to Kolkata to escape; they marry and have a son. The girl can’t have contact with her family because her father will find and kill them. She ends up calling her mother, and her father and brother find out and bring gifts. The girl goes to get food and sweets, leaving her husband and son behind. When she comes back, she finds that her brother pushed both her husband and her baby off a balcony to their deaths.
After watching this movie, I asked my mother if this kind of thing exists. I was worried that whenever I was older and would fall in love, whether that would happen if the person I fell in love with was wealthier than my family. My mother shook her head and said no. In Bangladesh, she explained, the caste system doesn’t exist anymore and I could marry anyone I wanted to. Right now, I’m in a relationship and my mother says that as long as his family is good and loving and has a similar outlook on life as our family, then we would be good and have no problems.
Another movie that really got into my head is called Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. This story is about two best friends who fall in love with other people, but then they realize that they’re in love with one another. This movie feels like a fairy tale, because the protagonist has a father who died and his father was a fighter who rode on a horse, and then his son ends up in jail due to a little mishap. The boy ends up finding out that he has cousins who are thugs and in the same prison cell as him. The movie is told like a story, and one day I hope I’ll be able to tell my kids my love story like Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na did. The movie shows how a girl should be taken out on a date.
This movie was the first “new movie” that I had watched while I was vacationing in Bangladesh. A lot of the movies that I would watch were movies from the ’90s or the early 2000s, and this one came out in 2008. This movie taught me a lot about keeping long-lasting friendships. It even taught me that it is okay to fall in love with my guy best friend. Right now, I’m dating a guy who is actually both my best friend and my boyfriend. My boyfriend treats me like a queen and I feel like the main character from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. I feel truly lucky to have a happy ending like the movie did.
Watching lots of Bollywood movies made me realize that even though I don’t understand the language, it is clear that I love my culture. The South Asian culture is very colorful and very beautiful. I have learnt a lot from watching all these movies over the years. I’m definitely proud to be a South Asian girl and I am very proud of my cultural identity, and I’m so glad that watching Bollywood films has made me realize how lucky I am to be a South Asian girl.