For those of you unfamiliar with Bollywood and think it’s just made up word, let me tell you a bit about it. Bollywood is not a place like the movie capital of the West- Hollywood, it is essentially a popular nickname for the Indian film industry based in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) and a play on it’s western version Hollywood. What many people do not know is that Bollywood was born in 1899 with the production of a short film which is 11 years before Hollywood’s birth later in 1910 with a Biography melodrama.
When comparing Hollywood and Bollywood there are more differences than similarities here’s a are a few peculiarities of Indian Cinema I like to call -
You Know you’re watching a Bollywood Movie when…
Unlike the average Hollywood movie which is around an hour and a half to 2 hours, a typical Hindi Bollywood movie is almost twice as long at 3hours minimum. The main plot or storyline makes up for half the length of the movie or less, while the rest is filled with so called ‘entertainment’ in the form of song and dance, action sequences or comic relief by extra characters written in that don’t really fit into the main story. The movies is usually divided in two parts by the intermission or break while viewing it in movie cinemas. The second half is usually where most of the story of a Bollywood movie is….so don’t fret if you miss the beginning of the movie.
Almost all Bollywood movies have a minimum of 4-5 songs and can have a lot more too. Songs are sung by professional play-back singers and lip-synced by dancing actors and actresses along with hoards of extras. A film’s success often largely depends on the quality of it’s soundtrack, which is how the movie is promoted months before release. Now, if these movies were to be made in Hollywood they would definitely be categorized as musicals. Acting and dancing seem prerequisites of Indian male actors as much as of the women. They often undergo several years or months of dance training before making a break in Indian movies.
While in Hollywood and western cinema trees form a part of the scenery or of action sequences…but in Bollywood, movies involve song and dance around trees and other props. Most of these song-and-dance routines in Indian films feature unrealistic and instantaneous shifts of location along with changes of costume between verses of a song. And colorful is sometimes an understatement when it comes to describing the costumes used especially in dance numbers.
Almost every Drama film in India, is mainly centered around family, and each of the dramas are extremely similar to those of soap operas. Boy meets girl…girl’s parents object…and usually after lots of tears and drama they see their love for each other…and bless the couple who then live happily ever after. The love triangle aspect is also played with a lot in Bollywood.
Bollywood plots have tended to be melodramatic. They frequently employ formulaic ingredients such as star-crossed lovers and angry parents, love triangles, family ties, sacrifice, corrupt politicians, kidnappers, conniving villains, courtesans with hearts of gold, long-lost relatives and siblings separated by fate, dramatic reversals of fortune, and convenient coincidences.
If you’re watching a Bollywood movie that makes you feel like you’ve heard this story or you’ve seen it before…you probably have! Bollywood is infamous for resorting to plagiarism often denied or put as “inspired by the Hollywood movie…”. They may copy ideas, scenes, dialog, plot lines, tunes or riffs from sources close at hand from other foreign films like Hollywood, British and East Asian cinema or even Indian films themselves.
Movies like the recently release Ghajini said to be inspired by Hollywood films like Memento are in fact blatant copies of them. Here’s a list compiled by Wikipedia of Few of the films alleged to contain plagiarism.
Bollywood is the largest film producer in India and one of the largest in the world.. Bollywood is known to produce more than 800 to a thousand films a year, whereas Hollywood produces half as many. Bollywood has a worldwide audience of 3 Billion and in terms of viewership, it overtook Hollywood in 2004 and has been leading ever since. But bigger and more does not necessarily mean better. The quantitative aspect to film making in Bollywood only spreads it’s limited resources thinner giving way to poorer quality. The number of movies shelved without ever actually being released is quite high too. Bollywood actors often work on many different films simultaneously during a year, making them a common sight and leading their names to smaller movies.
So while Bollywood may be making more movies, Hollywood is raking in the big bucks collecting almost a staggering 75% of total revenues. Also, 50% of its earnings comes from the foreign market whereas for Bollywood it a mere 20%. It’s safe to say that Hollywood movies have a more universal appeal to film enthusiasts while Bollywood aims at and caters to the more niche audience of Indians in India and around the world.