Movies are an integral part of the Indian culture. The Indian film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, is second in terms of popularity only to Hollywood. As a matter of fact, India overtook the USA as the largest film producer in the 1970s.
Indians love watching movies. In a not so affluent country like India, they offer an ideal escape from a reality which is often tough. Cinemas are places where Indians can go to forget their troubles for two or three hours and vicariously live their fantasies.
The first movie ever made in India was silent, Raja Harishchandra, in 1913, while sound first came with Alamara, in 1931. Kisan Kanya (1937) was the first colour film produced in India. In a century’s time, Bollywood has changed a lot: from scenes of dancing and singing around trees in the early 80s, of signifying a kiss with shaking flowers and crashing waves, to plots on sensitive subjects such as childhood dyslexia, in Taare Zameen Par.
Indian films are usually masala (spicy) ones that comprise all the ingredients, like music, dance, violence and melodrama, of a good entertainer. Hindi, Urdu and English languages are all extremely common in Bollywood. The Indian film industry was estimated at around 138 billion Rupees in 2014 – that’s $2.28 billion.
Hundreds of young aspiring actors and actresses go to Bombay everyday in order to fulfil their dream of making it big in Bollywood, which can be considered as a national symbol. But a thing worth remembering is that it is just a part, although a big one, of the Indian film industry. In fact, Bollywood produces the highest number of movies. Almost double the amount of those produced in Hollywood. Bollywood unites India, a nation of great diversity, like nothing else does. It fosters a national identity. Hundreds of millions of people are influenced by it through the movies they see.
Bollywood films are mostly musicals and, in India, a film's success often depends on the quality of such musical numbers. Very often, a film's music is released before the movie, thing which helps increase the future audience.
Indian audiences expect full value for their money. Songs and dances, love triangles, comedy and daredevil thrills are all mixed up in a three-hour extravaganza with an intermission. Bollywood plots tend to be quite melodramatic. They frequently employ formulaic ingredients such as star-crossed lovers, angry parents, love triangles, family ties, sacrifice, corrupt politicians, kidnappers, conniving villains, courtesans with hearts of gold, long-lost relatives, siblings separated by fate, dramatic reversals of fortune and convenient coincidences.
There have always been Indian films with more artistic aims and more sophisticated stories, both inside and outside the Bollywood tradition, however, they’ve often lost at the box office against movies with more mass appeal. But, all things considered, the most important thing is that Bollywood provides a great relief to the Indian masses in their daily lives.