Origins, history, music


India is world famous for its cinema. Harischandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar laid the foundations of Indian cinema in 1899.

The name Bollywood is a combination of Bombay (Mumbai’s old name) and Hollywood and it is often used to summarize all movies produced in India. While Bollywood is the center of the Hindi movie industry, movies are made in other regions and local languages as well.

Bombay became the center of India’s Hindi cinema industry when the Lumiere brothers, who came there for the first time in 1896 to introduce their creation- the cinematograph.

Dadasaheb Phalke is considered the father of Indian cinema since he was the first one to make a full-length movie in 1913. In it, both male and female characters were played by men.

His movie inspired many people who soon started making films or working in movie production. By the 1930’s 200 movies per year were produced in India.

The first Indian film with sound was “Alam Ara”, which was premiered in 1931. Six years later, in 1937, Kisan Kanya became the first Indian color movie.

The first Indian movies were inspired by ancient texts. Many of the movies’ plots were taking stories from ancient Indian poems, the Parsi theatre or the traditional folk theatre of India.

Despite the difficulties that the country was facing in the 1950’s, that was the time when India’s most critically acclaimed movies were made. Also, India’s biggest movie stars were born in this period. The movies of those years represented all the problems and struggles that society was facing.

In the end of the 1950’s a new trend in Indian filmmaking was born. The new movies featured comedy, laughter and rock music, rather than dramatic scenes and sad songs. The movies were presenting new concepts- those of love, laughter and happiness.

By the 1970’s and until the 1990’s Indian cinema went back to its previous role of recreating the sad and difficult everyday life of society.

In the 1990’s the industry went back to the romantic movies and comedies of the late 60’s.

Music in Indian cinema

Music has been a part of Indian cinema since the first audio movie. “Alam Ara” included seven songs. The movie “Indra Sabha” from the 1932 included 69 songs. Today movies from India include between six and ten songs.

Bollywood movies are not just about the story, the directing and the acting. The music in a movie is just as significant. Composers in the Indian movie industry are as important as directors and producers.

The songs from movies have been influencing the music business and pop culture for decades.

An interesting fact about the songs in Indian movies is that they are played as a background sound, rather than part of the dialogue. They are sung by professionals and lip-synced by the actors. But since the lyrics and choreography are carefully synchronized, the viewers are left with the impression that the song is a part of the act, as it would be in a traditional theatre musical.

The style of Bollywood movies has made an impact even on Hollywood productions. Various internationally successful Hollywood movies, like “Moulin Rouge” and “Slumdog Millionaire” have been inspired by the style and structure or the stories in Indian movies.

Further reading

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