Watching Indian movies in Singapore

No need to fly to Mumbai.

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If the malls of Orchard Road are too bland, and you’ve had your fill of Singapore’s nature-based activities, why not catch an Indian movie in Singapore? Almost 10 percent of Singapore’s population identify as Indian, so Bollywood looms large over the cinematic landscape. Here are some suggestions of where to head.

Bombay Talkies screens Hindi movies from Bollywood.

Bombay Talkies screens Hindi movies from Bollywood.

Bollywood Hindi films, usually subtitled in English, can be found at the Bombay Talkies cinema in Beach Road, a spot popular with non-Indian Singaporeans as well as Indians. While Indian films can often be divided along regional and linguistic lines, a common feature among them are the numerous full length songs and dances in each film. So be warned: each movie is typically about three hours long, with a 15-minute intermission for you to refill your chai and chaat.

So you’ve heard of Bollywood, but how about Kollywood? Kollywood films are significantly different from the north, coming from south of Bombay, and are popular with Singapore’s native Indians who are mostly of Tamil origin. They feature less of the glitz and glamour of Bollywood, and often focus on themes of family, village and traditional values. In Singapore, Tamil films are screened at the historic Rex Cinemas on MacKenzie Road near the Little India train station. Many of the films do not have English subtitles, but the real Tamil blockbusters of the year most probably will.

Even if you’re not watching a movie, do swing by Rex for a look while in Little India — it was first opened as a general theatre way back in 1946 by the famed Shaw brothers, moguls of Chinese cinema.

The historic Rex Cinemas screens Tamil movies from South India - but check for English subtitles before you go.

The historic Rex Cinemas screens Tamil movies from South India.

Given the success of the inaugural Singapore Bengali film festival in 2012, mainstream cinema operator Golden Village (GV) cinema in City Square mall near the Farrer Park train station in Little India will screen Tollywood, or Bengali films from Kolkata, from July 2013. This genre tends to be somewhat more subtle and contains fewer songs and dances.

Mainstream cinemas do also screen the occasional Indian blockbuster - in this case Chennai Express, given Indian star Shahrukh Khan's international appeal.

Mainstream cinemas do also screen the occasional Indian blockbuster.

Do note that watching an Indian film is a few dollars pricier than usual, with a ticket costing up to $15 — price differences depend on the budget of the movie. However, you do definitely get more bang for your buck, with up to three hours worth of screen time to enjoy.

Do lower your expectations of facilities as the smaller cinemas, too, as they tend to be not as well-maintained as the big chains. And avoid Sunday’s huge crowds — Sunday is the main rest day for the blue-collared Indian diaspora in Singapore.If you’re in Singapore over a weekend, you can also tune into the city’s Indian TV channel, Vasantham. Bollywood movies are shown on Saturdays at 16:00, while South Indian movies, including Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam ones, are shown from Saturday nights all the way through till Sunday nights. You’ll be surprised at how entertaining they are.

Bollywood films (Hindi)
Bombay Talkies

#02-00 Shaw Towers, 100 Beach Road
Check listings in Life!, the entertainment supplement of the Singapore Straits Times

MRT: Esplanade or Bugis. Take the Beach Road exits.

Kollywood films (Tamil)
Rex Cinemas

No.2, Mackenzie Road
Check listings in Life!, the entertainment supplement of the Singapore Straits Times

Call to check on English subtitles
MRT: Little India. Take Exit A.

Tollywood films (Bengali)
Golden Village at City Square mall

Five to six times a week, with three to four releases every month.
Check to see if there are any during your stay.
MRT: Farrer Park. Take Exit I.

Last updated: 14th November, 2014

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