Inside Bollywood’s booming industry

By Sergio González | 12:13

Cinema in India

For most of us Bollywood is a brand new industry, which we discovered with Slumdog Millonaire (British-Indian production) or Laggan, nominated for Best Film in a Foreign Language in 2002 Oscars, but it’s actually almost as old as Hollywood and much more prolific. The first sound film was produced in Hollywood in 1927 while Bollywood’s happened in 1930. As for the numbers, Bollywood produces twice as many films than Hollywood

India is a huge magnificent land full of rich folklore in many different languages and cultures which shines through in Bollywood’s productions. Not only in the fact that sound is recorded after filming (easing its translation to the many languages spoken in the subcontinent) but also in the amount of influences that can be traced back, such as Parsi theatre or even MTV and Hollywood musicals. Music and dance, both traditional and their own peculiar vision of pop songs, are essential in every Bollywood film, which generally contains a romantic story as the narration engine and connecting thread. 

On the other hand, legends, tales and popular stories from epic Indian texts such as Ramayana or Mahabharata are a common source of inspiration in Bollywood and a good first approach to their culture and history.

India is also a land of colors and so is Bollywood, where grey is hardly ever accepted. Watching a Hindi film is a beautiful exercise for the eye and a new experience for Western viewers, who will find tender and inspiring loving stories with no final last kiss. Bollywood is still shy to depict kisses or show physical affection, although it’s changing quickly as India opens to the global village. It sort of resembles the Golden Age of Hollywood, though it’s not out of controversy.

And who’s who in Bollywood? Well, most probably you’ve seen a Aishwarya Rai’s film, though not Bollywood made. She is a former Miss World who found her way into Dino de Laurentis’ The Last Legion, co-starring with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley or in The Pink Panther 2, with hysterical Steve Martin. She has recently been a mom and until she returns to the limelight, Kareena Kappor is getting all the attention, as her films make millions in box offices.

Bollywood film poster

She’s the most visible of a large group of actors and actresses that boom in India, but who are starting their careers in international film industry? Sushmita Sen is another beauty queen who has stepped into Bollywood, mainly singing in special appearances. As for who’s Bollywood star system, Akshay Kumar ( action film star) makes around 3,5 million dollars per movie and he used to be at the top of the list, though he’s being overcome by Hrithik Roshan’s popularity who has even seduced Kristen Stewart, both personally and professionally. And by no means we should forget India’s favourite stars, the Khans: Shahrukh Khan, Slaman Khan and Aamir Khan.

As Hollywood tries to get us engaged with prequels and sequels of films we love, maybe it’s the right time to give Bollywood a chance for your next Sunday meetup with friends. Why not order some take-out Indian food along to start getting to know and enjoy this amazingly rich thousand-year old culture?

Photo credit: ruffin_ready

Photo credit: Meanest Indian


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