Indian cinema is almost synonymous with the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai. This industry is the largest and the most popular of its kind.
Lumiere films of Paris had a show in Mumbai in 1896. That’s when motion pictures gained popularity. By early 1900’s cinema became a sought-after medium of entertainment. Indian producers took inspiration from world cinema and made films about India’s society and culture. The concept of low-cost tickets and movie talkies caught on. By 1930’s studios like Bombay Talkies were built in Mumbai. They introduced advanced sound technology and editing facilities. Filmmaking soon became an established profession in Mumbai and gave rise to the Hindi film industry, fondly called ‘Bollywood’.
Bollywood is a powerhouse of talent with remarkable actors, directors and music composers amongst others. The Hindi film industry produces more than 200 films every year. So where are all these films made? Mumbai is home to some of the oldest film studios. Studios like Gemini, Film City, Mehboob Studio and RK Studio have been around for a long time in Mumbai. Though bigger banners prefer to shoot at foreign locations, a considerable number of films are shot in local studios every day.
Hindi films are characterized by expressionism, melodrama, larger-than-life heroes and lavish production budgets. No film is complete without the signature song and dance routine. Flanked by back row dancers, actors sport the brightest outfits and coolest moves. These performances are such a rage with the locals that some movies have special ‘item numbers’ – snazzy dances embedded in the movie solely for entertainment value.
Action, romance, comedy, sci-fi, drama – you name it, Bollywood has it. Early years of Hindi cinema focused on caste and culture issues. Filmmakers made creative interpretations about the socio-economic scenario in the country. Many Asian and Third World countries started identifying with Indian cinema as more suited to their sensibilities than Western cinema. 1990’s saw the era of masala potboilers – romantic musicals with a hint of comedy, action or drama. The 1960’s gave impetus to parallel, realistic cinema. But commercial cinema was back with a bang in the 70’s. Actors like Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan created waves in the industry. While audiences worshipped them, producers cashed in on their star value. Commercial cinema only got bigger in the 80’s and 90’s with films like Darr and Baazigar which highlighted Shah Rukh Khan as a lead actor. His popularity skyrocketed with the release of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ), a 1995 flick that changed the face of new age cinema. Having crossed the 58 crore mark (580 million) on the Indian box office and 17.5 crore (175 million) overseas, DDLJ went on to become the biggest Bollywood hit. And then there was no looking back! Bollywood’s graph kept soaring by 15% each year.
Present-day Bollywood has myriad shades. It is more realistic and less dramatic. It tells real stories, carves real characters, at the same time – retains the songs and dances and glamour. Indian audiences have started believing in it. Global audiences have started applauding it. Given the unadulterated entertainment value, Bollywood has created a genre of filmmaking which is on par with world cinema. Indian artists have started winning recognition and global limelight. Music maestro A R Rahman recently bagged two Oscars for his work in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan have millions of fans in India and abroad. They’ve been immortalized in London’s wax museum, Madame Tussauds.
The Hindi film industry creates employment for many. It calls for talented actors, directors, background singers, dancers, choreographers, editors, costume designers, set designers and technicians. Many peripheral businesses thrive on the industry’s existence. Filmfare and Stardust are dedicated Bollywood magazines. They also conduct extravagant award ceremonies to recognize talent in the industry.
Despite the global slowdown, the Hindi film industry is going great guns. This year Rakesh Mehra’s film Delhi 6 alone grossed Rs. 40 crore (400 million). Piracy is killing the business of cinema to a great extent. The industry is now running awareness campaigns and requesting stricter anti-piracy laws.
Packed with razzmatazz and all that jazz, the Hindi film industry continues to pull audiences and showcase great cinema.
Top DVD List
- Mother India, 1957: This epic saga talks about the sufferings of an Indian peasant woman
- Mughal-E-Azam, 1960: Love story of a Mughal prince and a court-dancer
- Sholay, 1975: A cult film about the good guys battling the bad guys
- Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, 1995: A profound romantic musical
- Lagaan, 2001: This period drama spins a story around cricket and the British Raj in India
- Rang De Basanti, 2006: A story of patriotism and the youth of the nation
If you want to catch the latest blockbusters, head to a cinema hall in your city: