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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs