Hollywood with a B

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Bollywood, the Indian cinema industry, capturing the hearts of millions around
the world.


As a first generation Indian-American, my movie viewing normality has never been composed of just the basic Disney films or American hits. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed Hindi-language Bollywood flicks-their two and a half to three hour lengths and captivating music sequences are always a treat to watch with friends and family.

But on my five-week summer trip to India, I realized that not only are the movies just fun to watch, the whole country of 1.3 billion people revolves around the various stories told by these Bollywood films.

The name “Bollywood” combines “Hollywood” with “Bombay,” the old name for the Indian city of Mumbai. The biggest film producing country in the world, India makes around 2,000 films annually compared to about 800 films made in the  U.S.

India’s Bollywood movies also sell the most tickets annually, perhaps due to the rampant advertising. Just seconds outside the departures from the airport, movie posters tower several feet high on billboards that surround the roads. In shopping malls and departments stores that are the Indian equivalent of Macy’s or Kohl’s, pictures of Indian actors and actresses modeling the stores’ clothing are dotted across the aisles. In fact, the faces of famous film stars are plastered on the front of products like cookie packages and juicers. The famous icons of these movies are sometimes looked up to as gods, and people will sometimes purchase a product just because their favorite movie star is on the cover.

What really sets Bollywood films apart from Hollywood movies, however, is the music. Unlike the American music industry with music albums by individual artists, the Indian music industry is driven almost  entirely by music from popular  movies.

Days before the release of an anticipated movie, songs from the film are released on YouTube to hype up the general public and draw them to the theaters on release day. In the movies, the actors lip sync to music sung by proclaimed Indian musicians with lyrics that drive the plot along. These songs become adored by the entire nation in no time at all. They’re played in shopping malls, at weddings and parties, and in stores. Slow love songs and bass-ridden EDM bops can be heard in the streets being played in homes.

These theatrical song sequences combined with incredible costumes and plots about everything from love stories to historical tragedies create artistic masterpieces that are loved by all. While they sometimes exaggerate situations and seem unrealistic, the beautiful messages and vibrant scenes will always hold a place in my heart.

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