News / Asia

India’s Popular Bollywood Film Industry Turns 100

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (L) speaks with actresses Katrina Kaif (C) and Anushka Sharma during the inauguration ceremony of the 18th Kolkata International Film festival in Kolkata, November 10, 2012.
Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (L) speaks with actresses Katrina Kaif (C) and Anushka Sharma during the inauguration ceremony of the 18th Kolkata International Film festival in Kolkata, November 10, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anjana Pasricha
— India’s hugely popular Hindi film industry known as Bollywood celebrates its 100th birthday Friday. With a loyal following not only in India, but several Asian countries, Bollywood is evolving from making extravagant, romantic films to more experimental cinema. But its primary mission remains entertainment for movie-mad Indians.               

It is a special day for 33-year-old Ekta Kapoor as she gets ready to watch Bollywood’s newest release - Bombay Talkies - a collection of four short films commemorating 100 years of Bollywood.  Kapoor is like millions of Indians - passionate about Hindi movies. 

"Excitement. I love anything to do with Bollywood right from childhood. Can’t think of life without Bollywood," said  Kapoor.

Since the day that a black and white story of a king from Hindu mythology, Raja Harishchandra, hit the silver screen in India in 1913, Bollywood has traveled a long way.

Known for films peppered with catchy song and dance numbers, Bollywood is the dominant film industry in India - a country that produces more than 1,000 movies and sells three billion movie tickets each year.

Experimenting

For decades Bollywood was defined by its staple fare: family entertainers and romantic sagas played out by glamorous film stars - almost always with happy endings and a heady dose of fantasy.

"It is the family values, the song and dance, the stars, the kind of un-ironical optimism, it is all very cheerful and it is very sort of sweetly optimistic and that is something that travels very well," explains Anupama Chopra, an author and film critic in Mumbai. "It is almost a catharsis where you are just letting it go because of the melodrama, the emotions and everything is heightened to the power of 10."

But Chopra said that is changing slowly. The escapist fantasies are giving way to fresher stories as Bollywood begins to tread new ground. And a new crop of experimental filmmakers is making an impact. The new artists are directors like Dibakar Banerjee, who tells one of the stories in Bombay Talkies.

Banerjee said there is potential and space for new ideas in the industry, but it is not going to be easy to build on this trend. He says today most stories are being driven by urban India.

"The new rich or affluent urban middle class has become the biggest contributor to a film’s success and the subject and the stories and the conflicts in the films over the last 10-15 years have become more and more urban. There has been an increase in some kind of challenge to the old moral order, the old social order," she said.

Bollywood films are hits not just in India, but across Asian countries from the Middle East to Central Asian countries like Afghanistan, and East Asian nations like Indonesia and Malaysia.

They are even finding a small audience in some European countries. Top Indian film stars have long been household names in these countries, giving Bollywood the title of India’s cultural ambassador in Asia.   

Appealing to other Asian audiences

Banerjee explains what gives Bollywood a strong connection with Asian audiences.

"The concerns of the average Indian people were the concerns of these people, which was one of preservation of family, the preservation of tradition, a certain way of life, under the fiercesome assault of Western values," said Banerjee.

"These films told us, we are all right, we are all there. But over the last 20 years even that is changing. We are in flux now, and the only way we can maintain the cultural leadership is to redefine our content to make it a little more truer to the reality of India today.”

As Bollywood steps into its second century, it is exuding optimism after shrugging off competition from the proliferation of entertainment channels on television. The government gave filmmaking formal industry status just over a decade ago, making it easier to raise financing. It also opened the door for foreign film studios such as Warner Brothers to invest in India.

Films as a "religion"

But primarily it is India’s love for cinema that ensures the industry’s future, says film critic Chopra.  

"My longstanding belief is that films are a religion in this country. This is the second golden age of Bollywood… we are in a space where you have growing markets, you have a plethora of new talent, you have audiences willing to accept things that are unusual. For me it is all uphill from here," said Chopra.

That is certainly what fans like Ekta Kapoor hope - they want Bollywood to explore newer dimensions, but never lose the vibrancy and glamour that gives it its unique identity.

  • A youth takes a picture of a mural of the Indian movie Anarkali in Mumbai, India.
  • A film camera is garlanded with flowers after a prayer ceremony before the start of the shoot for Bollywood film 'Black Home' on the outskirts of Mumbai, April 26, 2013.
  • Bollywood actress Chitrashi Rawat (3rd R) runs along a beach during the shoot for the film 'Black Home' on the outskirts of Mumbai, April 26, 2013.
  • Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan and his wife actress Aishwarya Rai at an event in Vancouver, British Columbia, April 6, 2013.
  • A security guard walks past a Hindi movie poster at an auditorium during a festival celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema in New Delhi, April 30, 2013.
  • Ram Pratap Verma, a 32-year-old aspiring Bollywood film actor, watches a film at a cinema in Mumbai, May 2, 2013.

You May Like

Multimedia Parents of Disaster Ferry Passengers Lash Out at Authorities

Twenty-nine bodies recovered from water but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid