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.
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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More