A Brief Introduction to Bollywood

Bollywood movies may or may not help learning Indian life and culture, but this little article would sure help supplying a brief Bollywood introduction.


The word Bollywood stands for the Mumbai based Hindi film industry. Bollywood = Hollywood + Bombay (the former name of Mumbai). Although, Bollywood refers the Hindi film industry only, this term is often used for the whole Indian film industry, which is technically incorrect. Although Bollywood is a very popular and widely used term, but there are many who do not express happiness about the term, for it is derived from ‘Hollywood’.

Mother India (1957), Pyaasa (1957), and Guide (1965) are among the finest Bollywood movies of all time
‘Mother India’ (1957), ‘Pyaasa’ (1957), and ‘Guide’ (1965) are among the finest Bollywood movies of all time

The Indian film industry is the leading film industry in the world if we look at the number of movies produced every year. And, probably if we look at the count of viewers, as well.
While Bollywood is well known for its very dramatic masala movies and romantic movies, Bollywood also produces a number of  movies possessing social realistic story-line and sensible topics.

The Mainstream Movies: Masala and Romantic Movies

The Masala Movies are considered to be the most popular genre in Bollywood. ‘Masala’ is a Hindi word for spice, or mixture of numerous ingredients to make a desired mix. So, the term Masala can be taken as Hindi equivalent of the English term ‘formula’. Masala movies contain drama, action, romance, comedy, sadness, happiness, and everything. Songs are also integral part of the Masala films.

Sholay (1975), a complete masala movie, is biggest Bollywood hit ever
‘Sholay’ (1975), a complete masala movie, is biggest Bollywood hit ever

Romance in real life isn’t very commonplace in India, but romantic movies are extremely flourishing. A large portion of total films produced every year is occupied by love-stories. These love-stories are often the struggle of a couple in a conservative society and sometimes just fairy tales. Romantic love triangle is also a favourite topic of Bollywood.

Non-mainstream Movies and Parallel Cinema

However Masala and romantic movies are the face of Bollywood and Indians really enjoy them, there is also a herd of people who loathe such movies and want something sensible.

There is a segment of Bollywood movies, produced by smaller production houses, generally directed and acted by lesser known artists. These low budget movies are highly praised for their quality of story-line and topic. These movies are known for their more accurate portrayal of Indian life and culture compared to the mainstream movies.

Mirch Masala (1987), Salaam Bombay (1988), and A Wednesday (2008) are among notable non-mainstream movies
‘Mirch Masala’ (1987), ‘Salaam Bombay’ (1988), and ‘A Wednesday’ (2008) are among notable non-mainstream movies

The Parallel Cinema is trend running since the early days the Indian cinema industry, which advocates social realistic films. These movies are also often called ‘Art films’. Parallel cinema, although not commercially very successful, is well respected for its intellectual touch.

Brief History of Bollywood

Bollywood is one year older than Hollywood. Silent movie ‘Raja Harishchandra (1913)’ by Dada Sahab Falke was the first movie produced in India. First talking movie was ‘Alam Ara’ (1931).

The time period between the year of India’s independence (1947) to late 60s is regarded as the Golden Period of Bollywood. By the end of this age movie had begun turning into colour. Movies in this period were social drama and romantic. Masala term hadn’t yet come to surface. ‘Mother India’, ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Awara’, ‘Shree 420’, ‘Guide’, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ were some of the well-known film of the time period. Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar were notable actors; and Madhubala, Nargis, Meera Kumari, Vyajantimala, Nootan, Vaheeda Rahman were famous actresses.

1969-1971 time period witnessed the Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna who acquired the title of superstar after his consecutive 15 hits. Meanwhile Bollywood saw romance on its peak. Then, in 1973 entered the angry young man Amitabh Bachchan. He brought an era of movies loaded with fight and action sequences. It was the era of heroes and villains; and the Masala movies genre was on its peak. In 1975 came Sholay, the biggest Bollywood hit ever.

'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak' (1988), 'Hum Aapke Hain Kaun' (1994), and 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) are big love stories and drama as are their names
‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ (1988), ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ (1994), and ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) are notable love-stories and drama, as are their long titles

A depression shadowed over Bollywood in the early 80s. It was also the time when home video began gaining popularity. However, in the late of 80s, age of romantic movies returned when numerous hit love-stories and family-oriented movies starring Amir Khan, Salman Khan, and Shahrukh return Bollywood to happy days again. Meanwhile Govinda and Akshay Kumar leaded the comedy and action genres.

When the human kind entered the new millennium, Bollywood movies began to reflect the change. Movies like ‘Koi.. Mil Gaya’, ‘Dhoom’, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, ‘Company’, ‘Aankhen’, ‘Krrish’ showed modernness in their story-line and visual representation.

Music which has been an important part the Bollywood movies, noticed a change in this era after the entrance of digital music technologies. Music sales used to make a part of earning in the past, but piracy reduced this profit considerably. As a result, songs were then aimed to be aggressive to aid the promotion of the films rather than record sales.

Company (2002), Dil Chahta Hai (2001), and Aankhen (2002) marked the entrance of Bollywood in the new millennium
‘Company’ (2002), ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ (2001), and ‘Aankhen’ (2002) marked the entrance of Bollywood in the new millennium

After 2010, visual representation turned more mature, topics have become diverse, however Masala and romantic movies are still on the top. It is the age of multiplexes and malls when the profits from movies have raised tremendously. Big production houses and big star caste are enough to make a movie blockbuster regardless the content. Meanwhile, Hollywood is also registering a stronger presence in the Indian market, as more viewers are looking for movies other than Masala and Bollywood brand love-stories.

A good sign for Bollywood is that several non-mainstream film directors have become well known and they are able to make films with bigger budgets. Bollywood will have to compete with Hollywood in Indian market in the future-not-so-distant. Bollywood has to prepare for the upcoming war.

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