Written by Alvin Abraham
When you look at modern day cinema today, it seems that every film that is successful in the United States is a part of Hollywood. Hollywood has undergone some changes since its initial movies in 1910, but over time it has become a staple of western culture and the epicenter of big film production. But elsewhere, on the eastern side of the world, lies a different but similar genre- Bollywood. Bollywood is an Indian film Industry that is based in Mumbai and makes almost exclusively Indian films. At first glance, Bollywood may seem like a rip off of its Western counterpart. But there are some distinct differences in the integration of music, the actors chosen to play the roles of the films, and the target audience of these two worlds.
Bollywood is something that is shown to have a lot of differences in production in comparison to Hollywood films. For example, while typically only musicals have multiple songs playing throughout the movie in Hollywood, The Bollywood Industry has almost every one of its movies have at least 4-5 songs that are played throughout the movie. Similar to musicals, these songs often reflect a key point in the movie, and it could show things like the change of heart a character has in a film. These songs are usually used as a means to integrate the Indian music Industry into Bollywood, as each movie also comes with CD’s with a soundtrack of the movie for a separate purchase. The films produced are also typically 3 hours in length, compared to Hollywood’s 2 hour runtime. This is due to the frequent number of songs and the slower pace that Bollywood movies tend to take.
Bollywood also has a particular format in which movies are made for actors. While in Hollywood a film can be successful without A-list actors, Bollywood movies make this act near impossible. This is due to the way that Indians decide on what film they want to watch. While we would typically watch whatever movie has a more interesting plot or story, The film’s audience mainly looks at the actors that are in the film. Almost every successful film in Bollywood has some of the best Indian actors, which include Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika, Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachan, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Prianka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, etc.
The main reason the Bollywood film industry is formatted like this is due to the different audience. Bollywood’s main audience is India and South Asia, and they consume cinema a lot different than we do. Hollywood usually has film critics and ratings to say if a film was particularly good, but Bollywood relies a lot more on word of mouth reviews. While the film typically has trailers and there are some sites that have Bollywood ratings, knowing if a film is good in India usually relies on the actors that are in the movie and the previous experience people had watching the movie. This leads to some of the tendencies that Bollywood makes, and it's what helps to separate the Industry from its American counterpart.
While the Bollywood film industry looks a little strange and foreign to us, there are some very good movies that have come from the industry. My favorite movie of all time, “3 Idiots”, is a Bollywood movie due to the difference in emotions I felt when watching that movie that I have never felt with other Hollywood films. I greatly recommend watching a Bollywood movie for any avid movie goer, if only to get the different experience. And when you come, be sure to bring some of the popcorn from America, because the ones in India just need a little more butter.
For the 2020-21 season, REACH will be releasing a new blog post written by our officers during the first and third Wednesdays of each month about different aspects of Asian culture, such as pop culture, conflicts faced, representation in media, history, celebration and holidays, and stereotypes. We hope you enjoy reading them!