Useful Notes / Bollywood
This is the informal name for the vast Hindi-language film industry (one of the world's largest film industries) in the world's largest democracy (India
, for those of you playing along at home). The name is a portmanteau of "Bombay" (the former name of Mumbai
, where it is based) and "Hollywood
" created by white people, notably a Variety journalist but wholeheartedly embraced by the local film industry and the Indian public. There are also non-Hindi film industries
based on other Indian languages such as Telugu ("Tollywood") and Tamil ("Kollywood"). Although these industries are huge, they don't receive much press and are not well known outside of India. The one exception of course is the Bengali film industry, whose independent film-makers, Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak went on to be influential across the world, with Satyajit Ray
being the first Indian (until music composer A. R. Rahman note
) to win an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.
Unlike other 21st century democratic nations, India is bound by a censorship system that is comparable with The Hays Code
. The Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) tends to dictate changes and order cuts rather than merely provide moviegoers a general rating (like the MPAA after the Hays Code died). It also takes a major hands-on role on films with political content, sexual imagery and other films with subversive content. Unlike the Hays Code, formed by Hollywood itself as a self-policing venture to forestall government interference, the CBFC is an Indian government office, and likewise all predecessor organisations before that were on the state level. The heavy government and state influence on censorship, with isolated exceptions, often goes unchallenged by civil society and industry professionals. This censorship also extends to American films for local releases, i.e., not just on television (which is common for American networks as well) but even for theatrical releases, even for films restricted for adult audiences
. Nude scenes and violent scenes are censored in equal measure with the exceptions of big subject films like Schindler's List
and Saving Private Ryan
This is one reason for the widespread market of piracy in India for international films since this is often the main way Indians get to see the uncut versions and in many cases films that don't come to India because producers and directors for smaller films don't see a market for films with more ambitious content. In a roundabout way this pretty much ensures why, in contrast to Europe and other nations where local film industries compete, poorly, against Hollywood, Hollywood movies with select exceptions rarely outperform Bollywood movies at the local box-office though its influence is keenly felt, as can be seen in the many local remakes (often plagiarized without credit) of popular American films into Bollywood films.
Compared to other national cinemas, the striking aspect of Indian cinema is the fact that there's very little changes in style and narrative. In general, the average Indian film of the 50s would differ from one made in the 2000s with only minimal changes in props, costumes and technique. The standard Bollywood narrative still involves the "masala film" involving family-dramas/unrequited-love/rich-girl-poor-boy romances. A tendency that has only gradually changed in the 21st Century and even then, far from mainstream. Bollywood producers and distributors generally make distinctions between films for the urban market and rural market. Urban films, which exploded in number in the 2000s, tend to be youth-focused, college set and concern young professionals or privileged rich kids while rural films tend to be family dramas set in the "heartland" and feature more traditional elements.
The main feature that ties Indian audiences however is the music and songs from popular Hindi movies, often in highly incongruous styles
bind Indians the world over, and also some Hollywood movies (such as the opening of Spike Lee
's Inside Mannote
). Where the music industry in America, England and France is essentially independent from the movies, in India they are practically the same thing and the music composer, singer and dance choreographer is as much a part of the film as the director and producer (and sometimes more). Indian musicals also differ from American ones in that they mainly feature non-specialist singers and dancers as compared to the classic musicals which had Broadway dancers and singers act before the camera. Playback singers are highly sought after, singers who sing for an actor in the soundstage while actors and actresses lip-synch before the camera (much like Lina Lamont insisted in Singin' in the Rain note
Not to be confused with Bollywood Nerd
, although both come from India.
- Adaptation Amalgamation: Often what is to expect when you have action or horror movie from Bollywood: they have a shortage of ideas in this so they produce tons of unofficial remakes (and they've started to have a shortage there, as well: The Godfather was remade at least 7 times, for example). A particular example is a movie named Commando (no, not that one) by Bubbar Subhash starring Mithun Chakraborti which combines Romancing the Stone with American Ninja.
- Almost Kiss: Often happens in place for the Kiss. (It's only lately that kissing on screen has become "okay" in Indian movies).
- Anvilicious: To fairly unbelievable levels. Tradition is good, listen to parents, and parents should be nice to the kids, etc.
- Arranged Marriage: One curious irony is the fact that most marriages in India, especially among middle-class families, tend to be arranged marriages but almost every Bollywood movie is about couples who Marry for Love and have a Happy Ending. Most films about arranged marriage tend to never portray it positively, so much so, that the film Hum Dil De Chukhe Sanam was shocking in its time for showing the heroine settle for her arranged spouse, simply because it didn't do the cliche Happy Ending thing again.
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Almost every Hindi film has a big musical number (sometimes more than one), and often doesn't even feature the stars of the film. For an exhaustive list, see on the other wiki.
- Dancing on a Bus: Not the most unusual location for a dance. Unusual ones involve moving trains, i.e. actual moving trains through a mountain pass as in "Chaiya Chaiya".
- Does Not Like Shoes: Out of every three Bollywood films, at least two will feature a perpetually barefoot heroine.
- Epic Movie: This is actually the rule in Bollywood filmmaking rather than the exception. Three hours is about the average movie length, and India's many religious traditions and great narrative epics, along with inspiration from American epic movies, provide fertile ground for movie-makers who want to go big.
- Gratuitous English: Often used to signify a certain character is pretentious/snobbish/rich or that a certain character is trying to be cool and fit in. NRI heroes who want to show they have "street cred" will often do the reverse, speak Gratuitous Hindi and other local languages. The ones who want to prove to the heroines they have Hidden Depths will do the real thing.
- One problem with Indian movies is that they generally are done entirely in one base language with loan-words thrown in. This is especially odd for movies set in Punjab and Gujarat where you don't hear full dialogues entirely in Gujarati or Punjabi when those are the languages spoken there. In the case of movies set in Mumbai, a city that is polyglot it's weird to see whole scenes done in Hindi without smattering of Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali and several other languages spoken there.
- Guns Do Not Work That Way: Most of the time.
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: There has been a progression (or regression) in morality in Bollywood movies that reflects Indian culture. Older movies (pre-80s) usually showed both male and female leads as virgins until marriage. 80s-00s movies usually had male-slut-female-virgin leads. This has carried over into the 21st century, although it is more common that movies that are targeted towards the middle-to-upper-class/younger/NRI crowd show the female lead character is not a virgin.
- Parental Marriage Veto: All love marriages, especially the inter-class, inter-community and inter-religious ones, will face opposition. Though the parent eventually gives in and goes along with it anyway.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: This is actually rarely shown, at least among the hero and heroine of the story, (the parents are shown to have one).
- Pimped-Out Dress: Many movies have at least one scene where the female lead is wearing a ridiculously awesome sari.
- Reincarnation: This is actually a Dead Horse Trope these days and only used in movies in an "ironic" fashion as in "Om Shanti Om" but it used to be quite common in the older titles.
- Reincarnation Romance: In some of the older Bollywood movies, a variation is "Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai" where the heroine meets a Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest instead and has her Happy Ending.
- Sidequest Sidestory: Bollywood has an obsession with providing value for money, leading many filmmakers to pad out their movies with arbitrary but often fun subplots featuring popular supporting actors. This makes the Indian film industry one of the few places you would see this trope outside of video games.
- Values Dissonance: For Western and international audiences, Bollywood movies, on the rare instance they are seen (most usually are there for the song-and-dance number), will strike them oddly for its class biases, religious stereotypes, pre-First Wave Feminist sexism, questionable look at minorities and foreign stereotypes, of the kind that no film and TV producer would get away with for its Transatlantic Equivalent in America and Europe. It often happens that the same film producers who criticize Westerners for portraying Indians in a stereotyped way, do the same or worse in their own films, with regional, religious and class minorities.
- You Always Hear the Bullet: The ricochet sound effect is heard frequently when a shot is fired, even if the bullet doesn't bounce off anything.