A Brief History of Bollywood

Bollywood is the largest producer of films in India, and is located in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. The name is a portmanteau of Mumbai’s former name, “Bombay”, and “Hollywood”, and is often mistakenly used to refer to the whole of Indian cinema, instead of the largest film producer in the country.

It all began with Raja Harishchandra in 1913, a silent film that started a popular trend in India. Almost twenty years later, with the film industry booming, India released its first movie with sound – Alam Ara (1931) – which was a huge success, pushing Bollywood to switch completely to sound films. In 1937, the first Hindi colour film, Kisan Kanya, was made, along with a few to follow, though it did not catch on until the 1950s.

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The stresses that Indians suffered were reflected in Bollywood films during the 1930s and 1940s, both in the escapism that many featured, offering audiences a brief reprieve from their harsher realities, and in the more serious films that utilized the political unrest and struggles for independence to tell a story audiences could relate to their real-life circumstances. Some of the themes that influenced these grittier plots were the Great Depression, World War II, the violence of the Partition, and the Indian Independence Movement, all of which were monumental events in Indian history that changed the country forever.

After earning their Independence from Britain, India went through drastic growth and change. Some of the most famous and beloved Hindi films were released during this time. The popular theme for this time was the life of average, working-class Indian citizen, and the struggles, challenges, and problems that they typically faced, as well as the things they enjoyed and celebrated. Filmmakers became increasingly artistic, exploring various social issues and Hindi beliefs in their screenplays. There were also many epics produced during this time, such as Mother India in 1957, which portrayed dramatic, powerful messages and brought attention and praise to Bollywood on a global scale.

As the years passed, Bollywood’s horizon’s expanded. Movies began to portray more violence and darkness, including themes such as the Indian mafia, gangsters, and criminal activity. Bollywood films typically feature melodramatic plots accentuated with elaborate song-and-dance routines, which are very popular, though some of the grittier movies do not fit with such routines. It is widely believed that Bollywood’s musical tendencies have reignited the musical genre in American cinema, which would indicate that Bollywood has much more power and influence than one might initially think. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire, which was wildly popular and won numerous awards, are a testament to how prominent Indian culture has become on a global level.

Bollywood has grown into a prominent empire that is one of the most well-known and powerful movie producers in the world. The culture is constantly growing and changing, and Western influence continues to effect the way Bollywood films are written and produced. This puts Bollywood in a perpetual state of evolution, leaving everyone to wonder what is coming next, and wonder what amazing films might be expected to come from Bollywood in the future.

Belinda Chile

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