Bollywood Océane Blondeau, Léa viaccoz

What is Bollywood ?

The origin of the word

The term ‘Bollywood’ is a mix between the initial of Bombay (become today Mumbai) and Hollywood which is the American cinema (The West).


As Hollywood, Bollywood is a term used to indicate the cinematographic industry of India. Films are realized in 2 different languages: in Hindî and in Urdu. It is one of the largest global film industries and center of film production because more than 1000 films are produced each year, a lot of people are employed to work hard and a lot of people come to see movies, more than in Hollywood.


Today, Bollywood is very famous in India and well known in The West because movies are very specific. Indeed, scenario is often the same thing: a melodramatic love story, some dance and music.

The music: as in the musicals, some scenes of the film are sung. It is often to express taboo subjects in their traditions like sexuality or sensuality for example.

The dance: The dance in movies is essential in Bollywood. Other dancers accompany the principal character to build a choreography and to give pep and energy to the film. Over the years, dances evolved. Indeed, we have gone from the dance of courtesan or the folk dance in much more modern and more western dances.

The humor: it is a compulsory element in movies of Bollywood. Indeed, the self-depreciation is often practiced, actors use also comic texts, comic gestures and dances not to make too serious and this can be stayed just of cinema.

Bollywood films are also specific in the time because one film lasts on average between 3 and a half hour and 4 hours. It is very long for us but for them it is normal, there is always one break in the middle of the film.

All of these characteristics make Bollywood very famous in the world.

Evolution of Bollywood

The first feature has been shot in 1913.

Then the cinema will evolve and in the 1950’s the real kind of Bollywood’s film we know today, born.

Later, Bollywood will still evolve, India opens to the world and gradually we can see the American influence in the movies of Bollywood. Indeed, in the 60’s/70’s, it appears the action and disco music in the movies while before it was more calm and sweet. This opening to the world mixed with the India tradition which remains the basis of Bollywood, gives rise to the Massala movies. The criteria of beauty are going to change as well with the western influence. Therefore, actors (men) are tattooed heroes, bigger (sign of wealth), they wear a thick mustache, etc. And now they are thinner, they have got more muscle, they are paler and the mustache disappeared. For women, the difference is less noticed expect for the complexion which is paler too.

The cinema evolved too, it has got modernized while remaining faithful to its roots, its traditions and its codes. The cinema Bollywood is the reflection of the social evolution in India.

The cinema atmosphere

The cinema atmosphere with the spectators

Bollywood films have as their primary goal to make viewers happy. They must fill the public by responding to the main concerns of people, by portraying problems that may be theirs, with the difference that many times the stories take place in the wealthy classes of Indian society which is far from the majority of the population. But it’s the dream that is most important in cinema, the escape of the public through the life of their heroes, as in a fairy tale.

Socially, the importance of cinema is such that, in addition to their role as characters, actors are also given an important role as role models. Some are even considered demi-gods; others take on importance in the Political debate on a small or large scale. As most Bollywood films broadcast a moralizing message, the voice of the heroes is often that of reason.

The first thing the visitor notices, after the gigantic screen, is the thick cloud of smoke that fills the room. It is forbidden to go outside to smoke.

In India, cinema is a place of life like any other: we smoke, we eat, we drink, we phone, the mobile phones ring and we respond loudly, often giving details about the action of the film we are Seeing. And we discuss among spectators, we comment and everyone gives his opinion. The gentile is encouraged when he fights valiantly against a ghostly band and he is applauded because he comes out victorious, the chief of the bad guys is whistled. The public participates, it’s fully active and lets itself into credulity, although everyone knows that all this is only cinema.

Some figures

There are almost 15,000 obscure cinemas throughout the country. They are very popular: 150 million Indians go there every week and more than 2.5 billion tickets are sold every year!

Export accounts for 85% of production. The trade in products derived or associated with the cinema is very important: videos, DVDs and audio CDs are the main resources. These are products that are exported but also highly valued by the Indians. It’s even common for the latter to buy the original soundtracks of certain films without even seeing them. Bollywood music is part of the pop of the country, the melodies being often qualities, they are self-sufficient.

Bollywood and problems met


In a still very traditional country where the seventh art is so popular, one does not project anything in any way... All the films intended for a public screening must be validated by a certificate of censure and this since 1952 A committee of censure composed of a jury of 12 to 25 persons is appointed for this purpose by the central government of India. He votes for each production the validation or not of certain scenes or the entire film.

The preamble states: "A film is forbidden if it’s against the interests, sovereignty, integrity, security of India, its friendly relations with other countries or Threatens public order, decency and morality. " This results in a particularly marked censorship of scenes of sex, violence and interreligious conflict.

It’s forbidden to see scenes of total nudity, or even to see a woman's chest. Sexual scenes should always be suggested and never shown.

In an Indian production, it’s now formally prohibited to see an actor smoking while this is tolerated in foreign films. It’s also forbidden to show killings of animals or caged animals since a new amendment of September 2007.

Another problem of Bollywood is the hacking of its movies. DVD pirated are often available on the market at the same time as the movie in room, the bonuses are deleted and movies are tampered to put two on the same support, for a quality reduction.

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