Freedom of expression (be it in pop culture or otherwise), is the birth right of all. This is a philosophy that BollyBrit® (www.bollybrit.com) strives to follow with its unique, forthright and candid commentary, absolutely refusing to follow the diktats set by other entertainment media outlets, who seem to have a made a career out of sugar-coating their written pieces or reviews, in a bid to win brownie points with popular celebrities and media houses. They even go a step further and promote mediocre films and celebs on social media in a bid to avoid facing the wrath of star crazy fans who troll journalists lest they tarnish the popularity of their idols. BollyBrit® on the other hand, features unbiased, out of the box, thought provoking and brazen features, movie reviews, commentary and candid, forthright opinions on mainstream films, celebrities and beyond.
BollyBrit® is a registered trademark and is based in and managed in London, United Kingdom.
BollyBrit® was founded by Jay Mamtora, in 2013. Jay grew up watching Bollywood films and has extensive knowledge of the older as well as the newer films, and was an aficionado even before Bollywood became cool, hip and trendy! Besides Bollywood, Jay also has a soft spot for sci-fi, Marvel and DC comics, Netflix and the odd cheesy rom-com or dramatic yarn churned out by the Hollywood staple production line.
The blog, effectively Jay’s baby, is something he designed (aesthetically the site has been unanimously lauded), wrote AND built from the drawing board – so effectively the entire site was built and designed on his own without the help of a third person or an external agency. BollyBrit® was nominated in the Best Blog category at the Asian Media Awards 2015.
It’s an achievement to be extremely proud of given the lack of backing from a major publication or corporate sponsorship and without its creator having a background in journalism. The blog is something that is managed out of sheer passion for films and nothing else. By day, Jay manages the editorial on Virgin Media’s website full time, so it’s a profession he knows rather well. Bollywood is something the creator has always been passionate about, so it made sense to combine the two. As Jay works full time, managing the blog is something he does on his own time, and until now, managed on his own. Post the Asian Media Award nomination however, with site visibility having grown overnight, the BollyBrit® family has grown too and now has a team of nine voluntary writers from across the world, each of whom have produced a diverse range of uninhibited content and made the site the respected platform it is today.
The team as it stands today:
Columnist: Aneesh Joshi (Washington DC)
It’s been a curious journey for me. My reviews and thoughts, not as a rule, but instinctually, do not normally flow with the tide that has other reviews joyfully floating in it. I just shared my piece on Tamasha, a film not a moolah-earner by the profit-and-loss statement’s diktats but definitely one that excited quite a few folks who were not concerned with the commerce (You see, it’s quite easy when you are not the investor!) But BollyBrit®’s editor Jay Mamtora liked it and recommended that I write more in spite of the fact that it might end up not being the ‘review’ that everyone felt or watched on-screen. I did mention that I was surely old-school and many of my views would/could not maybe appeal to the hip generation and that my pieces always stand a relatively strong chance of being blown-off as unnecessary analysis. But BollyBrit® gave me complete independence and never interfered in the content I provided, even if it went against prevalent norms or many groups’ views on social media. That’s one of the main reasons I continue writing for BollyBrit®.
About me, I am just a freelance student of cinema. I work as an engineer, and write as a film-lover. I am as swayed by the ‘novel’ format of Hollywood cinemas as I am by the ‘epic’ format of Indian and mainly Hindi cinema.
Columnist: Brooke Anderson (New York City)
As an Irish- and Polish-American Midwesterner who studied Film and Media in New York City, my point of view--as both a writer and a fan of films--has been shaped by a strange mixture of experiences. Being a white woman writing about Hindi cinema, there didn't seem to be much of a place for my voice in traditional Western media outlets, and I did not have enough ties to the Indian film community to comfortably reach out to its members. So I began, at the age of 19, to share opinion pieces about the ethical consumption of pop culture on my personal blog. And, lucky for me, that is how Jay Mamtora found me and invited me to join the team at BollyBrit®.
BollyBrit® is a place I feel I can truly belong; Jay encourages diverse voices and controversial opinions, and makes sure that each of us feels valued for our contribution. For instance, when I wanted to publish a piece on abusive men in entertainment that addressed serious allegations against some of Bollywood's biggest stars head on, I knew that I was asking Jay to take a risk. But Jay is fearless, and the content of BollyBrit® reflects that. As a writer, I believe nothing feels as good as speaking a truth that you believe people need to hear, and I would have never experienced that level of catharsis without Jay's belief in me.
I am 25 now, and I hope to make a career out of entertainment journalism with a focus on South Asian entertainment. Jay's mentorship has been integral in building my confidence as a writer, and through my experiences writing for BollyBrit®, I have only grown in my knowledge of the field I have become so passionate about. I couldn't be prouder to have my name and ideas associated with BollyBrit®, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to work with such a supportive and talented group of writers.
Columnist: David Stoney (London)
From an early age I have always had a love for movies and fashion. I enjoy going to the cinema each week and can always be found watching Netflix or a DVD, as well as shopping on the high street, albeit just window shopping at times! Having helped several stylists with wardrobe selection for both magazine editorial and advertisement, I always felt that it would be nice to have a platform to voice my opinions and personal tastes in clothes, especially drawing from film and TV. Fashion is on everybody’s radar and although we might not follow it religiously, we still take an interest.
When I was approached to contribute towards BollyBrit® as a writer for the fashion segment I literally jumped at the chance. Here was a website that had already branched out successfully in the blogging / review space and in the process given the writers (and of course readers) much more freedom and variety of topic. This was definitely a great opportunity which I wanted to be a part of and have enjoyed providing both fashion items and subsequently a movie review for The Danish Girl so far to date. Jay and the team are not trying to push an agenda or pigeonhole themselves in any way, which honestly lets people dip in and out of what they find interesting and relevant, which is quite refreshing in the web space.
About me: I live in London and work in the Financial Industry for a fairly new initiative dealing with Business Analytics and Consumer Service. In my spare time I try and keep creative by using my artistic skills for a variety of projects from wedding stationary to club night posters. I love drawing and painting, or any similar craft, and am currently working on illustrating a second children’s book. I was first drawn into the world of Bollywood by my close friends and the passion they expressed for the genre and have been captivated by the vibrant colours and themes ever since. I also enjoy listening to the odd track on my iPhone – my favourite being the Dostana soundtrack.
Columnist: Lidia Ostepeev (Sydney)
In November 2003 I picked up a program for Australia's first Indian Film Festival, saw Dil to Pagal Hai and was hooked. Since I'm from a non-Indian background my new-found interest was a lonely one. None of my family or friends were as enthusiastic about Bollywood as I was, so I took to chatting on forums and writing. My articles have appeared in Australian magazines and international journals. I've also reviewed films online.
At present I’m semi-retired, but writing keeps me enthused – thus far I’ve written just a single article for BollyBrit®, and I’ve been impressed with the way the site is presented, laid out and its candid content.
Columnist: Pankaj Sachdeva (Seattle)
BollyBrit® provides a great platform for cinema lovers to read insightful commentary and critiques on a range of topics, such as film reviews, features, and news. This diversity makes it the go-to website for anything related to cinema. I like writing for BollyBrit® as it believes in giving space to all different viewpoints, and gives a free hand to all writers to express their opinions without prejudice. It also has given a huge opportunity to new writers to share their views to a larger audience. For that, I thank Jay who deserves all the credit for building such a great website on his own from scratch. I have no doubt that it will continue to provide interesting content in the coming future.
Columnist: Ralph Redfern (London)
Since an early age I was captivated by movies, from the 80's fantasy films of my childhood through to more adult genres later, particularly action sci-fi fayre like Aliens and The Terminator. Film has always been a part of my life in some way. At university I wrote film reviews for the union’s paper, becoming the Film Section Editor and the following year the overall Newspaper Editor. Working in acting agencies for six years I saw one side of how movies get off the ground. I am drawn to these stories on screen because they entertain us and help us to understand ourselves, and each other. There are no mistakes in a well-made movie, every single creep of the camera and every word uttered by a character is important, is something the film wants to tell us. Like all forms of art Film has a responsibility to its audiences and that is why what we do in reviewing them is so important.
When I am not proselytising about or criticising new movies I work as a freelance events manager (ballet galas, film screenings, cultural festivals, international, corporate and private occasions) and property developer – it’s a living. I have been writing for BollyBrit® for a few years now. It is my contribution to the big film conversation going on 24/7 all around the world and something I am very proud to be part of.
All of Ralph’s reviews can be found here.
Columnist: Sal Salam (Chicago)
I began writing about Bollywood because there was a paucity of compelling writing about Hindi films and the people who made them. I tried to write the things I wanted to read but could never find. A lot of Indian entertainment journalism is advertorial and PR fluff or poorly executed scandal-mongering. I am interested in substantive, well-researched pop-culture writing that takes the rapidly growing, deeply problematic, entirely fascinating Hindi film business seriously while maintaining a sense of humour. BollyBrit® has been a great space for me to try and create that sort of content and to find a community of awesome writers who have similar goals.
I’ve been able to write the sort of long-form pieces for BollyBrit® that I suspect would be unwelcome on a lot of other pop culture blogs. I bring my queer intersectional feminism to bear on both my consumption of pop culture and on my writing about it. My essay on rising stars Varun Dhawan and Ranveer Singh, for instance, was an exhaustive (and exhausting) essay that covered not only the two actors’ filmography but systemic sexism in the film industry.
BollyBrit® also featured my parenthesis-happy piece on last year’s blockbuster, Bajirao Mastani, an essay I enjoyed writing tremendously. Its presence on the website brought it to a wider readership whose feedback was encouraging and gratifying. I hope to continue my alliance with Jay and Co. in our mission to generate fun, sharp, original content.
About me: I live in Chicago and work in HIV testing and prevention counselling. I am also committed to working with and for QTPOC (queer and trans people of colour) in my community and eating unreasonable quantities of chocolate. My earliest movie memory is Lamhe, a formative influence on my aesthetic and taste. I am basically a less attractive version of second-half Sridevi (the one with the Electra complex) from that odd, awkward, beautiful film.
Columnist: Samarpita Dutta (Auckland)
I had always been a consumer of the Hindi film industry and an observer of celebrity ever since I was a child. My love for Hindi films is matched equally by my love for literature and writing, and luckily for me, these two happily collided when I started writing for BollyBrit®
I chanced upon BollyBrit® after joining Twitter as I was on the hunt for others with the same Bollywood fixation as me (I thought to myself – surely I can’t be the only one?). I found Jay to be as avid a lover of Hindi cinema as I was and additionally, I found the website fun and engaging. After a few months of interacting with Jay on Twitter, I was asked to be their first ever external writer. I jumped at the opportunity and have never looked back since!
Under Jay’s tutelage and guidance, I got free reign to write the type of articles I wanted. A lot of the articles I write are fluff pieces extolling on the virtues of films or stars but interspersed in between are also think pieces that question the Hindi film industry as a whole and lay out the truth for what it is (basically my own ponderings). Often, these were articles that perhaps no other blog would have published, for example, an article I wrote which took a scathing look at Parineeti Chopra’s unintentional, but no less damaging, body shaming comments and their effect on the core of her fan base, young impressionable girls. Surprisingly, the article was a success, with many chiming in on social media with similar thoughts. For a publisher to publish an intensely critical article requires courage. And Jay has never held back, or held any of his writers back, from pouring their opinions out.
A lot of the content that is written for BollyBrit® is purely spontaneous i.e. there is no set agenda or schedule in terms of content. I get an idea, write it up and push it out to Jay, and Jay is more than happy to publish it. More importantly, Jay is also my sounding board. I have spent many an hour discussing back and forth ideas and concepts for articles and just the industry in general, and Jay has been there to support and supplement my thoughts with his own. This gave rise to some exciting articles such as a piece on 30 being the new 20, where Hindi film actresses were continuing to do major lead roles without being bogged down by societal expectations. The article was very well received and continues to be one of the most popular articles of mine on the site.
Since I started writing for BollyBrit® the addition of many new writers has led to an expansion in content as well as readership. Diverse opinions and writing styles all lead to a mixing pot of shared creativity and Jay encourages each writer to put their voice forward. I have never been happier or more encouraged writing for BollyBrit® and I hope this creative relationship flourishes.
In terms of a personal profile, I work as an engineer but look at Hindi films and writing about them as a serious hobby. I have had Bollywood in my veins since the 5-year old me fell in love with the timeless Madhuri Dixit’s grace while watching the Ek Do Teen song from Tezaab on my local cable channel in India in the early 90s. Since then, I have knocked about the world and currently live in New Zealand but continue to be as Desi as the pakoras I eat while having a Western outlook like the chocolate I consume.
Columnist: Zee Mitha (Lancashire)
Growing up with masala movies constantly on loop it's no wonder Zee developed an avid interest in all things filmi. Before Hindi cinema was widely available in theatres, movies had to be rented and watched at home, sometimes repeatedly - hence dialogues and scenes were memorized and became iconic. It's during this period Bollywood films really came into their own, the romanticism led to real, gritty films and directors started showing an alternative take on usual tropes. Bollywood is disparaged by some sections for being clichéd, tired and formulaic but scratch the surface and you will see a younger, fresher look. Story lines have moved on from the boy-meets-girl or twins-separated-at-birth plots. Fast forward to today and social media creates a mass frenzy. Between super-fandom and the ethos of "everyone's a (harsh) critic" BollyBrit® is juxtaposed to add a completely different dimension, which is reflected in the diversity of his contributors. We are global, of many ethnicities and orientations, yet our love and objective look at Hindi cinema amalgamates our passions. Amongst the pieces I've written was a look at the career of Rishi Kapoor- a piece he retweeted and was read by thousands – quite a big deal! Jay has managed to incorporate a range of styles and blended his own wit and approach to deliver a dynamic and vibrant site which is stylish, engaging and most of all entertaining. BollyBrit® has given me an outlet to channel my thoughts. Jay is highly motivated to produce a quality product, the site uses fantastic graphics and imagery to convey his message - that cinema unites people. It's fun to be part of such a great team, even though we are thousands of miles apart we regularly interact and thrash ideas. Zee often says, Bollywood is an industry not a genre and hopefully after write ups, more people will take this on board.
When I'm not in the theatre watching movies, I can be found stretching my brain or my body or both, usually at the same time!
Rishi Kapoor India’s National Treasure Comes Full Circle (retweeted by Rishi Kapoor)
All figures shown below are current as of January 2019:
478,000 page views
167,000 sessions (up from 78,000, same in 2015);
140,000 users (up from 65,000 in 2015 as per Google Analytics).
Facebook: 49,000 + fans (up from 43,000 in 2015)
Twitter: 2740 followers (up from 1400 in 2015)
Instagram (new platform): 275 followers
NOTABLE ARTICLES & ACHIEVEMENTS
Several BollyBrit® articles and viewpoints have gone viral – the most popular one (which received in excess of 10,000 visitors) was a candid outburst against Indian award ceremonies and how the majority of them are a sham. Similarly, an article on Kareena Kapoor Khan’s questionable career choices raised a fair bit of debate online.
More recently, Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone herself re-tweeted BollyBrit’s review of her critically and commercially lauded film Piku to her 15 million followers! She followed that up by re-tweeting the BollyBrit review of Tamasha too, which went viral and is still one of the most popular articles on the site.
Similarly, an interview with Mardaani’s Tahir Raj Bhasin is featured on his Wikipedia page and is one of the first articles that’s served under his name on Google.
In the years that BollyBrit® been active (nearly four), the website (Jay) has had the opportunity to interview Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan for their film Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. BollyBrit®’s creator, Jay, has also had the chance to be an extra in the blockbuster movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan where he interacted with the legendary Yash Chopra (who is now no more), Aditya Chopra, superstar Shah Rukh Khan and diva Katrina Kaif.
That's not it though. The blog has also managed to feature an interview with Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and director Kunal Kohli for their film Teri Meri Kahaani in London, followed by accredited media interactions with Saif Ali Khan (for Race 2), Ajay Devgn and Kareena Kapoor Khan again for their political thriller Satyagraha, Priyanka Chopra when she unveiled her single ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ at Guess in London's West End, Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz Ali when they were in London to promote their critically acclaimed Highway, Shahid Kapoor and Vishal Bhardwaj when they were in town promoting Haider, and Shah Rukh Khan, Farah Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood and Vivaan Shah when they were out and about promoting 2014’s big Diwali Release, Happy New Year.
A recent interaction with Bollywood's new blue eyed boy Varun Dhawan, when he was promoting the mega release Dilwale resulted in unexpected praise for the site too, when the young star tweeted a message to BollyBrit®, stating how much he 'dug' the site.
AWARDS & NOMINATIONS
The plan last year was to expand our writer base which we have successfully managed. The site as it stands has some phenomenal content some of which has been included here. The plan now is to make more consistent site updates and continue to grow our readership which now consists of a loyal fan base who swear by our articles and make decisions about movies based on our commentary and reviews.
There are also plans to expand our platform and make it available on YouTube. A recent interview with Bollywood’s John Abraham, was uploaded on to YouTube and can be found here.
The site continues to grow from strength to and hopefully we’ll be in even better shape next year than we are this year.
Here’s hoping – either way, it’s all about the journey and not the destination!
"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies..." ~ Roger Ebert
Supporting Statement/Testimonial from Media Hive Ltd
As a PR agency that specialises in entertainment and Bollywood among other sectors, we have been liaising with Jay Mamtora since the launch of BollyBrit.com (and before). We have seen the portal grow in content and form, supported by extensive social media following that has been built up organically, and we are extremely proud of our relationship with the outlet and its editor. BollyBrit.com is one of the UK's leading Bollywood and entertainment sites, which balances relevant, current and forecasting content between Bollywood and the mainstream. It has established itself as an outlet that confidently competes with some of India's very own Bollywood and entertainment websites.
The Editor, Jay Mamtora, advocates and demonstrates the highest journalistic standards, infused into engaging and thought-provoking content - not only through news stories, interviews, reviews and features but through amazing thought and commentary pieces that really engage, and indeed, build readers. He is extremely discerning as an Editor and the content reflects his high standards. This means that audiences are offered original and exciting content consistently. It is hugely refreshing to see website portals that practice this, evolving through unfettered passion, commitment and hard work.
BollyBrit.com is an extremely valued and important media outlet for us and often a first port of call for us in terms of Bollywood, entertainment and further lifestyle stories. We are extremely proud of our relationship with the outlet as it goes from strength to strength.
If you would like to get in touch with BollyBrit® please fill out this form and we will get back to you as soon as we can!