Mirror Mirror - 2019

Bollywood Cosplay: The Untapped Potential

By Jennifer Allen

“Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative; these things, to me, are truly the windows to your soul." ~ Bob Ross

I've mentioned a few times before that one of many facets of my Geekdom is that I love to Cosplay (short for Costume Play). In truth, I've enjoyed dressing up in costumes of one form or another since I was very young. I loved to try on my grandmother's old flapper dresses or some of my aunt's old stage costumes as a way to channel a completely different character upon myself.

Bollywood Steampunk: Sunahala Registana
Photographer: Andrew Williams
Makeup/Costume/Model: MakeupSiren

I thought that only entertainers were into wearing costumes. But that all changed when I went to my first Star Trek Convention at the age of 14. Star Trek: The Next Generation was in its second season at the time and I heard from a friend of a friend that there was a con in town. Once we arrived, I was completely surprised by the sheer amount of people in costume. Besides all of those in various styles of Starfleet uniforms from over the years, I saw Klingons, and even saw one person dressed in a very impressive Borg costume.

My first thought of Cosplaying was that I liked it, but could never feasibly do it. This was due to a few reasons which included everything from to lack of money to not having a sewing machine to “my parents would never understand it". Over time, however, the urge to dress up from my younger days sparked something in me, and I started dressing up mainly at annual Renaissance Faires to start with before gradually adding Conventions to my repertoire.

At this point, I love seeing all of the creativity that goes into every single outfit I see and appreciate each one, no matter how off the wall, crazy or unique it may be.

Dr. Who TARDIS Cosplay
Photographer: Jeffrey Allen
Dress: Skycreation
Model: Jennifer Allen

Now, a majority of Cosplay revolves around a few major categories: Comic Books, Sci-Fi, Anime, or Fantasy being just some of them. In all of my observations, I gradually realized that there is another category that has been severely underutilized: Bollywood.

Seriously, why is there not more Bollywood Cosplay?

There are so many movies and shows from South Asia that could be inspiration for such beautiful costumes, especially for women who (until recently) didn't have nearly as many choices for outfits as men. Yet there is hardly any to be seen in the mainstream.

The Bollywood film industry has had many decades of inspiration. Just about any Desi film you can think of has at least one or more performance numbers with brightly colored dancers. A lot of them also have beautiful wedding sequences with both bride and groom dressed so exquisitely. Some even have a plot set within a fantasy setting with even more elaborate set pieces and costumes that would be perfect to duplicate.

I've seen Spartans from 300 at various Cons. Wouldn't it also be fair to see someone dressed as Shivudu from Baahubali? You see several dressed as Batman, Deadpool, Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel. Why can't more Cosplayers instead find inspiration to dress up as Desi superheroes like Ajooba, Ra.One, Drona or Krrish?

I think the potential is certainly there. I've seen plenty of Cosplayers who chose to dress as a less recognizable character or pull off a hybrid costume from multiple genres. I've seen small number of costumes inspired by Bollywood, but also tied with something else. Most often I see it paired with Steampunk like Ariel Dixon's (also known as MakeUpSiren) work or Suna Dasi's (also known as Steampunk India). I do love me some Steampunk, so seeing it meshed so perfectly with South Asian clothing just looks so awesome.

So, will we ever see more Bollywood Cosplay?

I think we will as the films gradually gain more popularity with non-Desi audiences around the world. Who knows? You may be walking along near the next Fantasy convention and see someone dressed as one of the Sikh British Indian Army Soldiers from Kesari.

If you do spot someone, stop and not only ask to take a picture, but also thank them for representing the Bollywood culture in a way that should be better appreciated by everyone.


Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer & Graphic Artist.