Natasha Ramchandani Bollywood : Now & Then


India is a major regional center for cinema. The Indian film industry is the largest in the world. In year 2002, Bollywood released an astonishing number of one thousand and two hundred films. The industry is supported mainly by a vast film-going Indian public. (“Cinema of India”)Interestingly, the Bollywood productions are gaining more and more popularity not only within the Indian community and Tamil and Hindi speaking population, but among many others around the world as well. Viewers include those from Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, Dominica, Haiti, Iraq, Iran and the list goes on. The Indian film industry has successfully penetrated into numerous vast, and unlikely, areas of the globe; a hit Hindi movie could be dubbed or subtitled in a dozen foreign languages such as French, Mandarin, and Malay, just to name a few (Metha ,60). It is fascinating to realize that even though many viewers are from so many different parts of the world, the one solitary bond that unites them is Bollywood. Bollywood is now a world-acclaimed film production center, and its progression from a humble beginning to its status and influences this very day, is truly remarkable. Currently, as Western audiences for the Indian cinema grow continuously, Western producers are anxious to take their cuts of the profits and the audience. They are funding maverick Indian film-makers like Gurinder Chadha (Bride and Prejudice) and Mira Nair (Vanity Fair). Both Chadha and Nair made their names in Western indie films; they've been tapped to "interpret" the Indian cinematic tradition for those in the Western world. Indian cinema is also influencing the English and American musical; A.R. Rahman, India's star filmy composer, was recruited for Andrew Lloyd Webber's ‘Bombay Dreams’. Some Indians have succeeded in the Western film industry purely on their own terms like the director Manoj Night Shyamalan (Signs). Indian actors like Aishwarya Rai are getting


good roles. Hollywood is also adopting some of the conventions of Indian cinema in otherwise Western-style films. The Guru features a number of Indian-style song-anddance sequences. The 2005 hit movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin not only features Indian actors, it ends with a song-and-dance sequence. (“Indian Cinema meets Hollywood”) Bollywood, the massive file industry in India first started in 1899. It all began when Cinema first came to India in 1896, when the Lumiere Brothers’ Cinematograph showed six short films in the Watson Hotel. Three years later Harishchandra Bhatvadekar shot and exhibited two short films. Following that, there were several attempts to film staged plays and imported films were shown in the first decade of the 20th century. The first indigenous silent feature film was produced by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, also known as Dada Saheb – the father of cinema. After that the industry became well established and by 1920, producing 27 films per annum. (“History”) .It produced films based on values and culture. Bollywood believed in motherhood, patriotism and true love, a common reflection towards the Indian community and their way of life. However, time changes and globalization has resulted in cultural exchanges of foreign and Indian values. This is especially obvious in the film industry. Indian cinema is becoming increasingly westernized. This trend is strongest in Bollywood, which is importing Western actors, racing to meet Western production standards, filming overseas, and incorporating more and more English in movie dialogues. Bollywood is also making hit films that deal with the overseas Indian experience. With female actresses becoming more and more daring in exposing themselves through dance or fashion, the change in its customs and values have obviously taken a huge turn, to entice and fit into the more widely preferred and accepted concept towards sexuality, relationships and appearances.


Bollywood is changing its façade from a clean conservative front, to doing a particular concept which they know would sell, sex. Knowing that their audiences has responded greatly to hot scenes acted by actors & actresses, after countless successes of a couple of trials & short scenes in some earlier movies, these things seem to have become a trend as they boost the profits for producers. A new trend for movies with sexually oriented themes has gripped a number of filmmakers in Bollywood. Consider a few of the recently released films like ‘Tum’ and ‘Hawas’. Both films are based on the subjects of a married woman’s infidelity in having out-of-marriage sex. And now in the offing is a third film (‘Murder’) on a similar subject. The question is why these subjects related to a woman’s sexually are suddenly getting so much attention. The director of ‘Tum’ contends, that her movie is not sleazy and there is much more substance in it than few sexually explicit scenes. Speaking in a similar tone is the director of ‘Hawas’. He says that his movie attempts to balance the two elements of sexuality and pure story-based content.But then is it a mere co-incidence that Razdan’s( director of Hawas) next movie ‘Girlfriend’ is based on another bold subject of a lesbian relationship. New Film makers are becoming very bold and moving out of the conventional ways of Bollywood films. (“Adultery: An excuse to shed clothes!”).With its new themes, concepts and expressions, the ‘original’ Bollywood has been long gone. As compared to what Bollywood was like in the past, the ‘new’ Bollywood is a total opposite of what is had started with initially. This growing trend in baring more skin and expressing more on sexuality is also an indication of the abundant struggling of actors & actresses who are willing to do anything to find a quick route to fame and fortune. Sadly, this new perception and lust for material goods has changed Bollywood into Hollywood. Money, fame, style, standard of


living is what attracts many into the industry. Female actresses now turn to beauty and looks, rather than passion and talent to work in this line of entertainment. Despondently, Bollywood has changed from a platform of expression and creativity, to an arena for fame and fortune. Thus, the Bollywood before and now is immensely dissimilar. With Bollywood starting off as a humble way for many budding and talented film-makers to make their debut, it has turned into a giant entertainment machine that produces thousands and thousands of films each year, with all of them sharing a similarity; hoping to achieve success and ultimately, fame and fortune. The initial concepts of the Indian films were an identity marker for the Indian community, with their ideologies and beliefs reflected in the films they saw. However, the Bollywood we know and watch now is nothing more of an Indian version of Hollywood. The lust for money and fortune has created many platforms for sexuality to be expressed and shown to the masses. Bollywood has lasted through more than a century, withstanding numerous wars, conflicts and disasters, its themes and ideas have changed along with time as well. Although its current concepts are seemingly widely accepted and preferred, they are certainly not what Bollywood started off at. In conclusion, if the Lumiere Brothers’ and the father of Bollywood, Mr. Dhundiraj Govind Phalke were still alive to this day, what would their reactions be? Would they even recognize their own creation of the film industry, Bollywood? The answer would most probably be a no.


"Cinema of India." 30 Nov. 2005. Wikipedia. 01 Dec. 2005 <>. Metha, Suketu. "The way we live now." Bollywood Confidential 14th November 2004: 60.

"Indian Cinema meets Hollywood." 30 Nov. 2005. Wikipedia. 01 Dec. 2005 < eets_Hollywood>. "History." 30 Nov. 2005. Wikipedia. 01 Dec. 2005 <>. "Adultery: An excuse to shed clothes!." 08 April 2004. India Daily. 01 Dec. 2005 <>.