What is Bollywood?

Bollywood: Bollywood is a term used to refer to the Hindi language based film industry situated in Mumbai, India.

What is Bollywood?

Bollywood is the nickname of the Mumbai-based Hindi film industry. The name is actually a nod to Hollywood, which is the center of the American Cinema. The term ‘Bollywood’ is a merger of ‘Bombay,’ which was the pervious name for Mumbai, and ‘Hollywood.’ However, the term is not directly taken from Hollywood, ‘Bollywood’ is actually derived from ‘Tollywood,’ which is the term used to refer to the cinema of West Bengal.

Many people believe that Bollywood is the center of all Indian Cinema; however, ‘Bollywood’ actually refers to only the Hindi film industry. There are various other Cinemas differentiated by language. Just in India, there is Tollywood, Bengali and/or Telugu based Cinema; Kollywood, Tamil based film industry; Ollywood, Oriya Cinema; Punjwood, Punjabi Cinema; Jollywood, Assamese Cinema; Sandalwood, Kannada film industry; Sollywood, Sindhi film industry; and probably many more.

Bollywood films are primarily known for the inclusion of singing and dancing numbers, not unlike the western musicals. Bollywood also has a more serious artistic side, where filmmakers focus more on the art of telling a story visually. However, Bollywood is more popular for (at times over the top) romantic, action and/or comedic musicals.

When was Bollywood created?

In 1896, while the country was still a colony under British rule, a showing of the Lumière films introduced films in India. The screening took place in Bombay, now known as Mumbai. In 1897, Professor Stevenson featured a stage show at Calcutta's Star Theatre. Hiralal Sen, an Indian photographer, with the help of Stevenson made a film of scenes from that show. It was titled, The Flower of Persia (1898).

In 1899, H. S. Bhatavdekar shot India’s first short documentary. ‘The Wrestlers’ was screened at the Hanging Gardens in Mumbai and showcased a wrestling match. It was the first film ever to be shot by an Indian.

The first Indian film released in India was Shree pundalik a silent film in Marathi by Dadasaheb Torne. The film was a photographic recording of a popular Marathi play. Also, due to the fact that the cameraman was British, and that the film was processed in London; the film is usually not credited as the first Indian film. That title goes to ‘Raja Harishchandra,’ a film by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke. It was a full-length silent motion picture in Marathi and was released in 1913. This was considered as the birth of Indian Cinema.

By the 1930’s the Indian cinema industry was booming and was producing over 200 films per annum. Also, the 1930’s saw the rise of the talking pictures in the industry. Films, ‘Indra Sabha’ and ‘Devi Devyani’ are considered as the first popular musicals that gave rise to the song-and-dance sequences in Bollywood films.

What are some things Bollywood is popular for?

Bollywood films are essentially known for their musicals, which incorporate almost impromptu performances of singing and dancing. The songs are often recorded by professional singers before the shooting of the dance sequence. The actors then lipsync the words of the song during shooting.

Most of the Bollywood films that are commercial popular are referred to as ‘mix masala (spices).’ This is mainly because they incorporate a variety of themes, so that the movie may have something for everyone. Movies usually are a mixture of singing, dancing, romance, comedy and action. Some movies may even contain a political or social message.

A stereotypical Bollywood film will involve star-crossed lovers, angry parents, family ties, sacrifice, corrupt politicians and kidnappings, from which the hero of the film will (against all odds) rescue the heroine, defeat the villain, and live happily ever after with the rescued soul-mate (usually denoted with a song); all in the duration of 3 hours.

Bollywood films have often also faced criticisms of plagiarism. There are many instances of scripts, ideas, plot lines, tunes or riffs having been copied from other Bollywood films, other Indian film industries or foreign films, such as Hollywood. This usually happens as production of a film is often rushed and budgets are often restricted, with majority of funding being reserved for actors. Due of this, script writers and music composers often borrow ideas from various sources.

They often get away with it too, as most Indian audiences are not familiar with the source material, and as Bollywood was not as popular before, most sources did not find out about the plagiarism. However, now the scene is changing, as due to globalization, many Indian audiences are now being exposed to international films, while Bollywood has been getting unprecedented recognition on a global platform.

What are some facts and trivia associated with Bollywood?

  • The formal name for Indian cinema is Hindi cinema.
  • Bollywood is generally considered as the world’s largest film producer.
  • Bollywood overtook Hollywood as the world’s largest film producer in the 1970s.
  • Indian Cinema produces approximately 900 movies a year.
  • The first film shot by an Indian was The Wrestlers (1899) by H. S. Bhatavdekar. It showed a wrestling match at the Hanging Gardens in Mumbai. It was also the first Indian documentary film.
  • The first wholly Indian-produced full-length feature film was Dada Saheb Phalke’s ‘Raja Harishchandra,’ which was released on May 3, 1913 at the Coronation Cinema, Bombay.
  • The first Indian sound film was ‘Alam Ara’ released in 1931.
  • The first Indian colour film was 'Kisan Kanya’ in 1937.
  • The Golden Age of Indian Cinema referred to Hindi cinema between 1940 and 1960.
  • In the 1950’s Bollywood focused on the India’s social issues, especially effect of urban life on the working class.
  • The 1950’s were also when Indian films were first released in the West.
  • The 1970’s of Bollywood gave rise to the Indian gangster films.
  • Bollywood films Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Lagaan (2001) have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
  • Lagaan (2001) won the Audience Award at the Locarno International Film Festival.
  • Bollywood films Devdas (2002) and Rang De Basanti (2006) were nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
  • ‘Neecha Nagar’ won the Best Film award at the first Cannes film festival in 1946.
  • ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ ran at Mumbai’s Minnerva Cinema for 700 undeterred weeks. It is considered as Bollywood’s longest running film.
  • Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ is influenced by Bollywood musicals.
  • The Filmfare Awards are considered to be the Bollywood equivalent of the Oscars.
  • The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is India's most prestigious cinema award for lifetime contribution to the Indian Cinema. It is awarded yearly by the Indian Government.
  • In 2013, Indian Cinema celebrated 100 years. Cannes made India its guest country of the year in honor of the event.


Image Courtesy: drjimble.co.uk, chandrakantha.com

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