Hooray for Bollywood

Any trip to the area in and around Artesia, known as “Little India,” would not be complete until you discover the heart of Indo-Pak, or desi,existence: Bollywood—the Indian/Bombay film industry equivalent of Hollywood. And there's only one place in Southern California that shows all-Bollywood movies, all the time: NAZ8.

NAZ8 is the brainchild of Pakistani businessman Shiraz Jivani, who opened his first theater in 1992 in Fremont, which met with immediate success in the form of sold-out crowds and hundreds of grateful e-mails. Jivani opened a second NAZ8 in Sunnyvale and, a few years later, his third in Lakewood, Artesia's next-door neighbor, in a former United Artists theater.

According to the IndiaWavesradio program, Jivani's cinemas have attracted more Bollywood moviegoers than any other theater outside India. An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people per week visit the eight-screen theater on South Street, just blocks from the Cerritos Auto Center. The theater celebrated its third anniversary last month by treating hundreds of loyal NAZ8 customers to free movies all day long.

In addition to Bollywood films, NAZ8 prides itself on a concession stand that sells desimunchies such as samasaand chaialongside the requisite popcorn, Junior Mints and fountain drinks. The concession stand comes in handy when watching the famously long Bollywood fare, which on average runs three to four hours, always broken up by a 15-minute intermission.

“We love coming here,” said Gudo Chohan, Fountain Valley mother of four. “It's the only place where you can drink chaiwhile you're watching a great movie. Plus, it's hard to find a theater that plays Indian movies. Some theaters will play one or two every now and then, but when we come to NAZ, we know we'll have a selection.”

And NAZ8 shows actual desifilms that desipeople would go and see—none of this whitewashed BendItLikeBeckham, Bride&Prejudice, HaroldandKumarGotoWhiteCastlebusiness, but such bona fide classics as '60s cult film Mughal-E-Azamand epic tales such as Black, starring Amitabh Bachchan, the Indian Richard Gere.

If for no other reason, you must head down to NAZ8 and watch a Bollywood movie for the sporadic songs and dance numbers, which usually last no less than five minutes and employ hundreds of extras prancing around the main characters—choreography that will be memorized and later mimicked by little kids at desiweddings.

But don't worry, whities, Indians are very accepting. The whitest guy I know, my buddy Mike Clark, is a NAZ8 regular who, incidentally, shhh-edme through the length of Waqt—ARaceAgainstTime:

“Hey, Mike, I've seen that guy before—who is he?”

“Shhh, that's Amitabh Bachchan. You saw him in Black.”

“Oh, well, check out that chick. She's really hot—who is she?”

“Shhh, that's Priyanka Chopra, she's in a bunch of movies and she was, like, Miss World a couple of years back. Now shhh!


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