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 Schindlers 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 plagiarised 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 Nina Lamont insisted in Singin' in the Rain note ).

See also:

Not to be confused with Bollywood Nerd, although both come from India.