Bollywood Cinema
Sources used:
“The Road to Bollywood” - Film Comment Magazine, May/June 2002
What is Bollywood?
Bollywood is the Indian Hindi-language film industry!
• Located in Bombay (a.k.a. Mumbai)
• Bollywood produces about 200 films out of
•India’s 800 a year (Hollywood only makes around 250)
Famous Bollywood directors...
Bimal Roy: Devdas (1935),
Madhumati (1958)
Raj Kapoor: Sangam (1964),
Bobby (1973)
Yash Chopra: Deewaar (1975),
Dil to Paagal Hai (1997)
A typical Bollywood film...
A typical Bollywood film usually consists of the following elements:
• Romance
• Comedy
• Drama
• Suspense
• Violence
• Family values
• Music and dance
These films are “typical” Bollywood and are commonly
referred to as masala films.
“There is no division of genres, as exists in the West: no Westerns,
no romances, no thrillers.” (author Chidanada DasGupta)
• Films are typically lengthy,
running between 160 to 220
• Stylistic, melodramatic
• Between 5 and 8 song sequences
Filmmaking conventions
Films are made differently in India...
• “Broken up” shooting schedule
• Actors work on many films at one time
• Use of dubbing techniques vs. sync sound
Lagaan (2001) is one Bollywood film that recently
broke through these filmmaking conventions
• Camera movement
• Use of the zoom lens
• Focus on color, “slick, high-gloss”
Bollywood and Indian culture
Indian culture affects Bollywood’s plot lines, characters,
and song sequences.
• Marriage
• Eastern vs. Western culture
Pride in India, appeals to NRIs
• The “Hindu Family Values” movie:
Respect for elders, Hindu traditions, “Joint Family”
• India as a country of many languages and sub-cultures
Content is generally inoffensive, appeals to a mass audience
• No kissing!!
Music permeates every aspect of Indian culture and religion.
Therefore, it seems fitting that these films should devote so much screen time to
song and dance.
Song sequences!
Songs are a necessity in Bollywood cinema.
Bollywood musical numbers complement the
narrative, they do not construct it.
American musicals see songs as dramatic turning
points in the plot, while Bollywood songs are
generally used to expand emotion as a result of
turning points in the plot.
“Yeh Ladka Hai Allah” - Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
Viewers would most likely be able to understand
a Bollywood film’s meaning just as well without
the song sequences.
• During production, most time is spent
filming the musical numbers
• Important to the commercial success of a
• Playback singers
Actors never sing the lyrics themselves!
Song sequences, continued...
Typical Bollywood musical numbers:
• Grand locales, montages
• Lovers’ duet
• Religious ceremonies
• Highly choreographed dance
• Emphasis on color and costume
Bollywood film songs traditionally do not
exhibit character development, but many
recent movies have changed this
In Lagaan, characters communicate through
subtext in lyrics, thereby advancing the plot of the
The future of Bollywood...
Bollywood has adapted to modern
culture in a variety of ways
• Dance club / music video song sequences to
appeal to a younger generation
Bollywood influence in
Western cinema:
• Musical numbers
staged in a
imagination are more
Modern musicals like Moulin Rouge borrow
certain Bollywood conventions to reinvent the
American musical genre. + see also Dancer in
The Dark

What is Bollywood?