Although it is often used to refer to all of the movies produced in India, the term Bollywood refers only to the Mumbai based Hindi language film industry. Bollywood is one of the largest film producers in the world. The name comes from a combination of Bombay and Hollywood and does not exist as an actual place. The first film of this kind was made in 1913. It was a silent film entitled Raja Harishchandra. By the 1930’s there were over 200 of these films being produced each year.
Most of the Bollywood films attempted to tackle social issues of the times, such as the depression, the partition of India, and Indian independence and use them as a backdrop for the storyline. The films continued to be produced in black and white until well into the 1960’s even though the first colored film had been made in 1960. At this time, the story lines were romance and satire. Family centered films and romantic musicals re-emereged in the 1990’s. The 21st century films have greatly improved in terms of sound quality and storylines and this has led to an increase in the popularity of Bollywood films.
These films are mainly musicals with catchy music and song and dance routines woven into the plot. Sometimes the music is released before the film to encourage people to come to see the film. The productions are usually three hours long with an intermission at the halfway point. They are melodramas with a mixture of love triangles, corruption, politics, family problems and dramatic reversals of fate, as well as many other features in sub-plots.
The sound is rarely recorded on location. Rather it is recorded in a studio and lopped in with the sound effects later. Sometimes the sound occurs a few seconds before or after it is supposed to, which does cause a problem with the film.
People from all over India act in these films. They come from all walks of life and aspire to be famous actors, although only a few have achieved that status. Several different people could be hired to write the songs and lyrics for one film. Unadorned Hindi is the language used for the dialogues so that it can be understood by the widest possible audience.
Like movies made in Hollywood, Bollywood films can cost millions of dollars to produce. The sequences shot in other countries draw the most crowds as the ordinary people get a chance to see what other parts of the world are like. Most of the funding for the films comes from private investors. Until recently, Indian banks were prohibited from lending any funds to the film industry. The industry is plagued by plagiarism with bootlegged copies of DVD’s being sold before the film has even been released.