Bollywood Through The Ages

 
 

Paurush Kumar introduces us to Bollywood via its storied history and how its developed into what we see today.

 

The name ‘Bollywood’ is a play on Hollywood, where the ‘B’ comes from the main city where the film industry is based: Bombay (now known as Mumbai). The Hindi film industry began its lucrative journey back in 1913, with films where the principal characters were borrowed from mythological characters, and plots were based on the central idea of victory of good over evil.

Slowly and steadily, the Hindi film industry began to shift towards depicting historical events and started to import some action from Hollywood. The action genre began early in Bollywood, and the depiction of the rich trampling on the poor received warm reception because of class distinctions prevalent at those times.

In the 1950s, Satyajit Ray and Bimal Roy started making social-reformist films. These pictures cast a critical eye on the social practices of the time such as the dowry system, polygamy, and child marriages. Pathar Panchali and Devdas are examples of how these directors paved the way to bolder and better film-making. These movies received warm reception from all classes, leading to better cinema going forward. Mother India is another example which revolutionized how female heroines were considered in those times.

Driven by the desire to offer a greater sense of realism and understanding of the common man and their problems, movies like Bhuvan Shome and Calcutta 71 came and offered a new take.

Driven by the desire to offer a greater sense of realism and understanding of the common man and their problems, movies like Bhuvan Shome and Calcutta 71 came and offered a new take just as Ray’s movies were fading in prominence. The theme of the common man and their problems is well depicted in the recent A Wednesday, which makes the point that little has changed since those times and the common person is neglected even today.

It was only in the early 1970s that the concept of ‘Masala Films’ came into existence. A ‘Masala Film’ is a mash of genres including action, comedy, and melodrama laced with songs and dance numbers.  These movies are still made and are unanimously appreciated.

It was only in the early 1970s that the concept of ‘Masala Films’ came into existence. A ‘Masala Film’ is a mash of genres including action, comedy, and melodrama laced with songs and dance numbers.

‘Masala Films’ are necessary. They make you forget the worries of your routine life and transport you to a world where nothing is real. The concept began with Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar Anthony and Chhalia and is still in practice as seen in the recent Golmaal Again. In the 1990s came the “king of Bollywood popcorn flicks,” director David Dhawan. Hilarious films, such as Biwi No.1, Coolie No.1, and Haseena Maan Jayegi, did well at the box office.

The 2000s were a mixture of various types of cinema. Realistic cinema and masala cinema were prevalent. There was a gradual shift from problem depiction of classes in the society to the caste issues. This change was welcome but began to focus on the average person rather than the caste.

These movies were content-driven but could not outdo the commercial success of ‘Masala Films’ which were superior in the eyes of the viewers. Films promoting family values were preferred over those that really brought forward the problems of the society. Vivah and Refugee are films that speak about the preservation of culture and were released over a decade ago, receiving a positive reception.

The current situation in Bollywood is revolutionizing. The love stories being written in today’s times are no longer concentrated on the same old formula of “meeting-leaving-loving.” Movies like Dum Laga Ke Haish’, Jab We Met, and Cheeni Kum speak about love in an altogether new light and depict love in small towns of India.

The recently released Lipstick Under My Burkha speaks about the chains in which women are still bound to in the society today.

The recently released Lipstick Under My Burkha speaks about the chains in which women are still bound in the society today, and how certain sections of society still do not shy away from chaining women. Pink is another bold movie that deals with the concept of a woman’s consent, and how it was high time that the society stopped treating women as objects and the inferior sex.

Up to the 2010s, it was the star power and the ‘Masala Films’ that decided the box office revenues of movies. Lately, the content-driven cinema has taken the driving seat and movies like Masaan, Newton, and Black are being appreciated and getting their dues at the ticket windows. Even in this changing time, Bollywood still features some beautifully artistic movies, such as Bajirao Mastani and Ram Leela. ‘Masala Films’ have taken a backseat and are only offered occasionally. Nowadays, these movies are not guaranteed to succeed: they must be of high-quality to impact the box office.

Bollywood’s shakeup has not left sentiment, satire, and melodic numbers behind. However, more prominent consideration is presently paid to plot, character development, and sensational strain. Unfortunately, much like its Californian counterpart, Bollywood is still dominated by sheer star power.

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