New to Bollywood? Appreciating their art is simply a matter of understanding India’s unique way of making cinema. Our manual explains the basics:

What is Bollywood?

Bollywood is a term that refers to the Hindi film industry based in the Indian city of Mumbai, which used to be called Bombay. Bombay + Hollywood = Bollywood. The term is believed to have been coined by a Western journalist in the 1970s. Many Indians disagree with the word because it implies that Bollywood is a minor branch of Hollywood, when in fact India produces many more films a year that attract a much larger audience around the world than the United States. And the Indian film industry is older than Hollywood. for a year.

Are all Indian movies produced by Bollywood?

No. Bollywood is just one of the many film industries in India. Imagine if the United States had a thriving Spanish-language film industry that gave Hollywood a run for its money, or regional film industries in Chicago, Atlanta, and Seattle that rival those of Los Angeles. So it is in India. The various Indian film industries depend on both language and location. They include Kollywood, which refers to Tamil-language films made in the Kodambakkam district of Chennai city; Mollywood, which is cinema in Malayalam from the state of Kerala; and Tollywood, which refers to both Telugu-language films from the state of Andhra Pradesh and Bengali-language films made in the Tollygunge neighborhood of Kolkata.

While Bollywood and other Indian film industries mainly produce commercial films, India also has a strong and respected art film tradition, which is known as “parallel cinema”. The line between commercial and artistic cinema in India is stronger than in the US However, that line is beginning to blur as Bollywood moves into more artistic projects and Indian art films point to wider appeal. .

Are all Bollywood movies musical?

Most Bollywood movies include musical numbers. Today’s movies generally have fewer musical numbers than older movies. While 10 musical numbers in a movie weren’t unusual in the past, four to six are more typical today. And more and more Bollywood movies don’t have musical numbers.

It is important to remember that Bollywood movies are not musical in the American sense. Bollywood has more in common with opera than with Broadway. The main function of musical numbers in Bollywood movies (and operas) is to express emotions. Broadway musical numbers, on the other hand, primarily drive the plot. While Broadway musical numbers are embedded in the narrative, Bollywood musical numbers generally are not. Rather, they are metaphors, removed from the plot, that show how a character feels, not what they are actually doing.

Do the actors sing the songs?

Very rarely. The vast majority of movie songs are sung by replay singers, who are famous in their own right.

The film and music industries in India are inextricably interconnected. Almost all Indian pop music comes from movie soundtracks.

Why do so many Bollywood actors have the same last name? Are they all related?

Nepotism is common in Bollywood and many actors and filmmakers come from family dynasties that have been in the film business for generations. However, there are many celebrities with the same common nicknames, in particular Khan and Kapoor, who are not related.

How come there is no sex in Bollywood movies?

Two reasons: social and artistic. On-screen physical intimacy is frowned upon in India, even kisses are quite rare. But more importantly, Indian filmmakers are masters in the art of seduction. There may be no sex in Bollywood movies, but they sure are sexy. In fact, it is precisely because there are no sex that are filled with so much incredible tension, which is completely lacking in Hollywood movies these days. In the words of film critic Roger Ebert, “It is less erotic to sleep for 60 minutes than to spend 60 seconds wondering if you are about to be harassed.” I was talking about Bollywood.

Sometimes Bollywood musical numbers act as a substitute for sex, not describing it in a crude and overt way, but implicitly, even metaphorically. The characters are often so carried away by passion that they suddenly appear in exotic places around the world: the pyramids of Egypt, the canals of Venice, the mountains of Switzerland, places that have nothing to do with the plot but that they have everything to do with it. the limitlessness of fantasy.

Why are Bollywood movies so long?

For starters, Indians are used to longer forms of entertainment. Cricket matches last for days. The same goes for Indian weddings. A three-hour movie is not long by comparison. Also, Indians tend to be value conscious. They expect a full afternoon or evening of entertainment for the price of a ticket.

But the main reason Bollywood movies are long is artistic. The time commitment required of the audience increases their emotional investment in the story. (The same goes for operas, which are often as long or even longer than Hindi movies.) The effect can be very moving, even for Americans used to shorter films.

However, Bollywood movies are getting shorter, mostly because there are fewer musical numbers than there used to be. While three and a half hours before was typical, three hours or less is now the norm.

What is the biggest artistic difference between Bollywood and Hollywood?

In a word: “masala”. The concept of masala is key to understanding Bollywood movies. It is a culinary term that means “spicy mixture”. Masala’s cinema combines more than one genre in the same film, mixing elements of comedy, romance, action, and drama. The goal is to attract as many people as possible. That way, there is something for everyone in every movie: grandparents, parents, teenagers, young children, because Indians often go to the movies as a family.

Hollywood filmmakers do the opposite: They do very narrow niche marketing to target the demographics they think are the most profitable (and then ignore everyone else). An exception to this could be the James Bond movies, which have been hugely successful for decades. There is action, of course, romance, some cheesy comedy, and even a little melodrama when James feels bad because his best friend betrayed him or his latest lover dying in his arms.

That is not to say that all Bollywood movies are masala. Many fall strictly into one genre or another, but even then, a sprinkle of masala is often added.

Do Bollywood actors work in Hollywood?

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the first Indian actor to significantly interbreed in the West. He appeared in The Mistress of Spices (2005) with Dylan McDermott, The Last Legion (2007) with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley, and Pink Panther 2 (2009) with Steve Martin. He has also garnered more high-profile publicity in the West than any other Bollywood actor, having appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, and 60 Minutes.

Two Bollywood actors appeared in the Oscar-winning British movie Slumdog Millionaire (that’s right, it’s a British movie): Anil Kapoor, who played the seedy game show host, and Irrfan Khan, who played the police interrogator. Since then, Kapoor has appeared on the hit American television series 24, starring actor Kiefer Sutherland. Kapoor played a Middle Eastern leader on the show for one season. Before Slumdog Millionaire, Khan appeared in the English-language films The Namesake (2006), A Mighty Heart (2007), and The Darjeeling Limited (2007).

Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat will star alongside Avatar actor Laz Alonso in the upcoming Hollywood political comedy, Love, Barack. Sherawat will play a volunteer coordinator in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, who falls in love with his campaign counterpart John McCain, played by Alonso. Sherawat will also appear in another upcoming Hollywood movie, Hisss, alongside Irrfan Khan.

Do Hollywood actors work in Bollywood?

Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards made a cameo in the Bollywood film Kambakkht Ishq in 2009.

British actor Sir Ben Kingsley, best known for his Oscar-winning performance as the famous Indian independence leader in Gandhi (1982), appeared in his first Bollywood movie, Teen Patti, in 2010.

Western musicians are also breaking into Bollywood. American rapper Snoop Dogg performed on Singh is Kinng’s title track in 2008 and Australian pop star Kylie Minogue performed a song on Blue in 2009. Senegalese-American music star Akon is reportedly recording a song for the soundtrack to the upcoming Bollywood superhero action movie Ra.One.

Does anyone outside of India watch Bollywood movies?

Yes! Bollywood has fans all over the world. It’s big in other parts of South Asia, of course, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, as well as the rest of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Bollywood is beloved in Australia, the home of director Baz Lurhmann (of Moulin Rouge fame) who is a Bollywood filmmaker in spirit. Bollywood movies are routinely in the top 10 box office in the UK AND Bollywood is all the rage in Brazil (thanks to a hit Indian-themed TV show called Caminho das Indias). Toronto, which has a large Indian population. And Americans are finally beginning to understand what the rest of the world already knows: that Bollywood is fantastic!

Why don’t more Americans like Bollywood movies?

It is human nature to scoff at what we do not understand. Americans are used to watching Hollywood movies, which reflect our cultural values, traditions, and storytelling techniques, and Bollywood movies reflect the unfamiliar values, traditions, and storytelling techniques of other cultures. We have unfairly defamed Indian cinema because we cannot take it for granted as we do ours. In fact, we have to think a bit when we look at them. Some people find it fun to think; some do not.

Why would Americans want to see Bollywood movies?

Why do Americans like pizza? Because is good. Who cares what country it comes from? If you like good movies and you are not watching Bollywood, you are missing it.

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