Commonly known for its spontaneous dance numbers, extravagant costumes, and exotic backdrops, Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world, producing over a thousand films annually (about double Hollywood’s annual output). The word Bollywood was not coined until the 1970’s, when the writer of a magazine gossip column played on the word “Hollywood”, with the B coming from Bombay, what was then the film capital of the world. But Bollywood’s history began long before its iconic name, its roots dating all the way back to Raja Harischandra, a 40-minute silent film produced in 1913. While the film’s producer oversaw twenty-three more films during the following five years, the overall growth in the industry was slow. Most films during the 20’s were versions of episodes from classics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. But in the 1930’s, the number of films produced annually began to skyrocket as talkies and color films began to appear.
Around 1947, the Indian film industry went through drastic changes, giving rise to films that more closely resemble modern Indian cinema. Rather than focusing on historical mythological stories, many films focused on social reformism and telling the stories of the lower classes. This realism continued in the 1960’s, but the topics of Bollywood movies made a dramatic shift to subjects more personal than political; with films like Mughal-e-Azam, the cinema traded revolution for romance, giving rise to the classic romantic and action-filled Bollywood films we know today. The 1970’s, in particular, saw the rise of gritty, violent films featuring gangsters and mafias, and it was during this time that now renowned Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan gained his reputation for “angry young man” roles.
The following two decades marked a swing towards family-centric romantic films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, giving rise to new stars like Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, and Salman Khan. This period of time saw a huge growth in comedic films, with the overall tone of Bollywood shifting to a more light-hearted trend. From campy romantic comedies to epic historical dramas, modern Bollywood encompasses a broad range of films as diverse as India itself , and today, Bollywood continues to boom as an industry that not only stretches across India, but the entire world.
About the Author: Hi all! My name is Anumita Das and I am a junior at Boston College studying marketing and communications. During the summer of 2016, I began my first marketing internship at BollyX. As I participated in South Asian student associations throughout high school and college, I was excited to fuse my culture with both fitness and my passion for business. My favorite part of BollyX is the infectious energy of its community, and whether I’m writing blog posts or dancing in a class, I always try to embody the positivity and enthusiasm that I see in my fellow rockstars every day!