Bollyhood, a Concept, a Cafe

Laura Irvine December 19, 2007

“The Indian diaspora has always been strong,” says Ivan Jaigirdar, and nowhere does one enjoy it more than at Jaigirdar’s new Bollyhood Cafe at 19th and Mission streets. Now open 5 p.m. to midnight, the cafe offers a screen filled with Bollywood eye-candy, plates filled with South Asian food, and drinks to warm them both. visited the opening party, spoke with Jaigirdar about the cafe and got a whiff of his larger global dreams to make Bollyhood the hangout not just for Indian film lovers but also to open the place up to African, Asian, and European communities as well.

SF360: How did you get the idea for the Bollyhood Café?

Ivan Jaigirdar: One morning I woke up, and I thought ‘Bollywood Caf&eacute.’ (Laughs.). Honestly, I’m not kidding you. I pinch myself now because I think I can’t believe I came all this way to here. It was at the time when I was doing 3rdi Film Festival. When it finished, everyone wanted to party somewhere. I thought, yeah, that’s true, we need a party space. I’m on the board of ATA (Artists’ Television Access), have been for about 10 years, so I know about those sorts of spaces. But I wanted something South Asian centered, alternative, progressive — somewhere where we could have films, drink some Indian beer and wine, as well as some European stuff, Euro-fusion, and bring in street food, and ’70s Bollywood, which is what I think is a little bit more fun.

SF360: Is that your thing — 70s Bollywood?

Jaigirdar: No, not really. I grew up really Eurocentric in terms of my film tastes. My father used to take me all the neorealist films and all that. I never really looked at Bollywood until the last ten years. I’ve been brought up in film, so I’ve always been focused on cinema, but that’s the first time that I started grappling with ideas of getting something less stereotypical, contrived Indian — you know, with the usual Taj Mahal arches, etc. I didn’t want any of that, I wanted a more contemporary, modern feel that’s more about where we’re at now. Not to make categories, but more of how we represent ourselves rather than how we’re usually represented. That’s what I was trying to do.

Foreign cinema indeed: Ivan Jaigirdar’s Bollyhood Cafe brings Indian-film centered movies, food, and conviviality to the Mission. (Photo by Laura Irvine)

SF360: So why do you think Bollywood is the in thing right now?

Jaigirdar: I don’t know. There was the Hong Kong movie phase a few years back, and now it’s Bollywood. I think it’s a combination of things. The Indian business market and economy has just exploded, like the Chinese have, and India has always had the biggest film industry in the world. It’s just that now they’re tapping into America. The ground is already there — Africa, Egypt, Iran, Russia — so now it’s just catching up here and exploding. The Indian diaspora has always been strong, so I think it’s just connecting up finally.

SF360: What are the hours going to be?

Jaigirdar: 5pm to 12midnight. But our goal is to start doing brunches where we’ll serve Bhel Puri, street food, and other such things. Indoor and outdoor tables when it’s warmer. And also to try to connect with the restaurant next store [Little Baobab]. Have all the different continents represented — Africa, India, Asia, Europe — because we have that mix. That’s one of the goals.

SF360: A woman inside at the party was saying she thought you should have Bollywood dancers.

Jaigirdar: Yes, we want Bhangra and Bollywood dancers! We’re also hoping to have cabaret night, theatre, open mic for everyone, not just for us.

SF360: Are you planning on showing film series at Bollyhood Cafe?

Jaigirdar: Yeah, I want to really bond 3rdi with Bollyhood Café. This is more private while 3rdi is non-profit. I’d like to do series on Queer Bollywood, representation of women in film, and experimental cinema. And also we want to do a presentation on global warming, coffee & tea production… we want to go into those aspects and do discussions. Things that need to be opened up to everyone. It’s centered around South Asia but it’s inclusive of all the communities, and that’s our goal.