Monthly Archives: December 2016

Old Bollywood Movies

New to Bollywood? Appreciating its artistry is simply a matter of understanding India’s unique way of filmmaking. Our primer explains the basics:

What is Bollywood?

Bollywood is a term that refers to the Hindi-language film industry based in the Indian city of Mumbai, which used to be called Bombay. Bombay + Hollywood = Bollywood. The term is believed to have been coined by a Western journalist in the 1970s. Many Indians take issue with the word because it implies that Bollywood is a lesser offshoot of Hollywood, when in fact, India produces far more films annually that attract far greater audience numbers globally than the U.S. And, the Indian film industry is older than Hollywood-by one year.

Are all Indian films produced by Bollywood?

No. Bollywood is only one of many film industries in India. Imagine if the U.S. had a thriving Spanish-language film industry that gave Hollywood a run for its money, or regional film industries in Chicago, Atlanta, and Seattle that rivaled L.A.’s. That’s how it is in India. The various Indian film industries are both language- and location-specific. They include Kollywood, which refers to Tamil-language films made in the Kodambakkam district of the city of Chennai; Mollywood, which is Malayalam-language cinema from the state of Kerala; and Tollywood, which refers to both Telugu-language films from the state of Andhra Pradesh and Bengali-language films made in the Tollygunge neighborhood of Kolkata.

While Bollywood and India’s other film industries primarily produce commercial movies, India also has a strong and respected art-film tradition, which is referred to as “parallel cinema.” The delineation between commercial and art film in India is stronger than it is in the U.S. However, that line is beginning to blur as Bollywood is delving into artier projects and Indian art films are aiming for broader appeal.

Are all Bollywood films musicals?

Most Bollywood films include musical numbers. Today’s movies generally have fewer musical numbers than older films. While 10 musical numbers in a film wasn’t unusual in the past, four to six are more typical today. And more and more Bollywood movies don’t have any musical numbers at all.

It’s important to remember that Bollywood films are not musicals in the American sense. Bollywood has more in common with opera than with Broadway. The main function of musical numbers in Bollywood films (and operas) is to express emotion. Broadway musical numbers, on the other hand, primarily drive the plot. While Broadway musical numbers are integrated into the narrative, Bollywood musical numbers usually are not. Rather, they’re metaphors, removed from the plot, that show how a character feels, not what the character is actually doing.

Do the actors sing the songs?

Very rarely. The vast majority of film songs are sung by playback singers, who are famous in their own right.

The movie and music industries in India are inextricably interlinked. Nearly all Indian pop music comes from movie soundtracks.

Why do so many Bollywood actors have the same last name? Are they all related?

Nepotism is common in Bollywood and many actors and filmmakers come from family dynasties that have been in the movie business for generations. However, there are many celebrities with the same common surnames, particularly Khan and Kapoor, who are not related.

How come there’s no sex in Bollywood movies?

Two reasons: social and artistic. Onscreen physical intimacy is frowned upon in India-even kissing is fairly rare. But more importantly, Indian filmmakers are masters of the art of seduction. There may not be any sex in Bollywood movies, but they sure are sexy. In fact, it’s precisely because there’s no sex that they’re filled with so much incredible tension, which is missing entirely from Hollywood movies these days. In the words of film critic Roger Ebert, “it is less erotic to snoggle for 60 minutes than spend 60 seconds wondering if you are about to be snoggled.” He was talking about Bollywood.

Sometimes Bollywood musical numbers act as a substitute for sex, depicting it not in any crass, overt way, but implicitly, even metaphorically. The characters are often so carried away with passion that they suddenly appear in exotic locations around the world-the pyramids of Egypt, the canals of Venice, the mountains of Switzerland-places that have nothing to do with the plot but have everything to do with the limitlessness of fantasy.

Why are Bollywood films so long?

For starters, Indians are used to longer forms of entertainment. Cricket matches last for days. So do Indian weddings. A three-hour movie isn’t long at all in comparison. Also, Indians tend to be value-conscious. They expect a full afternoon or evening of entertainment for the price of a ticket.

But the biggest reason Bollywood films are long is artistic. The time commitment required of the audience heightens their emotional investment in the story. (The same is true of operas, which are often as long or even longer than Hindi films.) The effect can be powerfully moving, even for Americans accustomed to shorter films.

Bollywood movies are getting shorter, though, mostly because there are fewer musical numbers than there used to be. While three and a half hours was once typical, three hours or less is now the norm.

What’s the biggest artistic difference between Bollywood and Hollywood?

In a word: “masala.” The concept of masala is key to understanding Bollywood films. It’s a culinary term that means “spicy mixture.” Masala filmmaking combines more than one genre in the same movie, blending elements of comedy, romance, action, and drama. The goal is to appeal to as many people as possible. That way there’s something for everyone in every film-the grandparents, the parents, the teenagers, the little kids-because Indians often go to the movies as a family.

Hollywood filmmakers do the opposite-they do super-narrow niche marketing to target the demographic groups they think are the most profitable (and then ignore everyone else). One exception to this might be the James Bond movies, which have been enormously successful for decades. There’s action, of course, romance, some campy comedy, and even a little melodrama when James feels bad about his best friend betraying him or his latest lover dying in his arms.

That’s not to say that all Bollywood films are masala. Many strictly fall into one genre or another, but even then, there’s often a dash of masala thrown in.

Do Bollywood actors work in Hollywood?

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the first Indian actor to significantly crossover in the West. She appeared in The Mistress of Spices (2005) with Dylan McDermott, The Last Legion (2007) with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley, and Pink Panther 2 (2009) with Steve Martin. She has also garnered more high-profile publicity in the West than any other Bollywood actor, having appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Show with David Letterman, and 60 Minutes.

Two Bollywood actors appeared in the Oscar-winning British film Slumdog Millionaire (that’s right, it’s a British film): Anil Kapoor, who played the sleazy game-show host, and Irrfan Khan, who played the police interrogator. Kapoor has since appeared in the hit American television series 24, which stars actor Kiefer Sutherland. Kapoor played a Middle-Eastern leader in the show for one season. Prior to Slumdog Millionaire, Khan appeared in the English-language films The Namesake (2006), A Mighty Heart (2007), and The Darjeeling Limited (2007).

Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat will star opposite Avatar actor Laz Alonso in the upcoming Hollywood political comedy, Love, Barack. Sherawat will play a volunteer coordinator on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, who falls in love with her counterpart on John McCain’s campaign, played by Alonso. Sherawat is also appearing in another upcoming Hollywood film, Hisss, along with Irrfan Khan.

Do Hollywood actors work in Bollywood?

Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards made cameo appearances in the Bollywood film Kambakkht Ishq in 2009.

British actor Sir Ben Kingsley-best-known for his Oscar-winning performance as the famous Indian independence leader in Gandhi (1982)-appeared in his first Bollywood film, Teen Patti, in 2010.

Western musicians are breaking into Bollywood, too. American rapper Snoop Dogg performed on the title track of Singh is Kinng in 2008 and Australian pop star Kylie Minogue performed a song in Blue in 2009. Senegalese-American music star Akon is reportedly recording a song for the soundtrack of the upcoming Bollywood superhero action film Ra.One.

Does anyone outside of India watch Bollywood movies?

Yes! Bollywood has fans all over the world. It’s big in other parts of South Asia, of course-Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka-as well as the rest of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Bollywood is beloved in Australia, the home of director Baz Lurhmann (of Moulin Rouge fame) who’s a Bollywood filmmaker in spirit! Bollywood movies are routinely in the box-office top 10 in the U.K. And Bollywood is all the rage in Brazil (thanks to a hit Indian-themed television show there, called Caminho das Indias.) Finally, Bollywood is huge in Canada, particularly in Toronto, which has a large Indian population. And Americans are finally starting to catch on to what the rest of world already knows-that Bollywood is fantastic!

Why don’t more Americans like Bollywood movies?

It’s human nature to mock what we don’t understand. Americans are used to watching Hollywood movies, which reflect our cultural values, traditions, and storytelling techniques, and Bollywood movies reflect another culture’s values, traditions, and storytelling techniques, which are unfamiliar to us. We’ve unfairly maligned Indian cinema because we can’t take it for granted like we can our own. We actually have to do a little thinking when we watch them. Some people find thinking fun; some don’t.

Why would Americans want to watch Bollywood movies?

Why do Americans like pizza? Because it’s good. Who cares what country it comes from? If you like good movies and you’re not watching Bollywood, you’re missing out.

Old Bollywood Movies

If retro styles are in, then it is certainly because we believe that, ‘Old is Gold.’ The sweet and simple melody of songs, meaningful interludes and the charisma of natural expressions in the olden times is a regaling experience. The look of sixties and seventies has a charm of its own. There were all kind of films then namely action, suspense thrillers or the Indian family drama. The essence of old Bollywood movies relates to a hero who is the super hero and essentially a Jack of all trades.

Parallel cinema of art form was associated to social concepts, the prevalence of evils in the society or simple facts of normal living. In the earlier days, women oriented subjects were limited or the films revolved on a single theme. The complexity that is present in today’s Bollywood films like multi-star cast, dual stories, assortment of screen play and specialization in functions was not adhered in the olden times. Film making was a devotion and a process which internalized in the directors mind. Most of the vamps or villains were predictable in their behavior and certain mannerisms were associated with them. There were stories about the kings and queens, patriotic movies and also others which had the pathos of romance. The actors were veterans and had a clear mind to play the role. Improvisation was their key objective. It is also true that story writing and lyrics writing was a true passion. The words were initially formed and the tune was set accordingly which is reverse to today’s trend.

Quality was well maintained about continuity in the films. Flashback scenes were not of a very high detail yet the link was very well continued. The masking concept was very much in use for mingling two different shots at the editing table. Sounds were mostly verbal and the action scenes had less drama than the modern concept. Compositions and musical arrangement were simple and genuine. No treatment was given to alter the vocalists sound. There was a special charm in the look of the sixties. The fashion was original with familiar trends that came with the western influence.

The adaptation of hairstyles was very evident in the black-white era. Make up ideas were minimal and the heroines had their own style concepts. Eastman color films also led to another change breaking the cliched presentation in the black and white films. The actors then were also playback singers and this worked as an advantage to the films popularity. Press conferences and film launches were comparatively a straightforward affair and award ceremonies were laudable for their simplicity. Elegance reigned supreme and this added to the glamor of the filmdom.

How to Learn Hindi? See a Bollywood Movie!

You may be trying to discover how to learn Hindi in fun and different ways. Homework and practice is good and helpful, but maybe you want a change of pace. Fortunately for all of us, there’s Bollywood! Watching a Bollywood movie is an adventuresome exercise in how to learn Hindi.

Bollywood refers to the Hindi-language film industry that is centered in Mumbai. The word is a mix of “Bombay,” as Mumbai was called until 1995, and, of course, “Hollywood.” The term was first used in the 1970’s, when film production in India was so prolific that it exceeded even the United States.

Bollywood is not to be confused with Tollywood, another term used to describe part of the Indian film industry. Tollywood is centered in Tollygunge, an area of Kolkata, and produces films in Bengali. More broadly, Bollywood should not be confused with the Indian film industry taken as a whole, as there are other locations and languages in India in which films are made.

Although Bollywood movies occasionally use some English and some Urdu poetic terms, it is a Hindi-language cinema. Many Bollywood movies are available on DVD and it is possible to get them through Netflix or Blockbuster. So almost anyone looking for an original way how to learn Hindi has this resource available. Does your community have a large Indian or Pakistani population? An annual film festival? Or a university with a foreign film program? If so, you may be able to find Bollywood films on the big screen, at least every once in a while.

Bollywood films are usually musicals. Whether a film succeeds at the box office or not can depend on the audience’s reception of the music and dance numbers. It is typical for a Bollywood movie to use such plot devices as convenient coincidences, the reunification of separated relatives, star-crossed lovers with disapproving parents, love triangles, derring-do, and extreme reversals of fortune. There are heroes and villains. There is action, romance, comedy, farce and melodrama. In fact, Bollywood movies are such a mixture of so many elements that they are sometimes referred to a “masalas,” the term used to describe the spice mixture that is such a significant element in Indian cooking. Of course, it takes time for all those musical numbers, plot twists and complicated interpersonal relationships to unfold. A Bollywood film generally runs three hours and has an intermission.

As time passes, Bollywood movies are incorporating more Western elements in their plots. For example, instead of depicting young adults entering into arranged marriages, some films are showing young singles dating and enjoying the nightlife.

Watching Bollywood movies is fun. One way or another, they should be accessible to most people in the United States. It’s a great way to hear dialogue spoken rapidly, hear the rhythm of spoken Hindi, get a flavor of the culture and fashions of India and have an entertaining evening all at the same time. And watching movies, watching television and listening to radio are effective ways to learn any language. So use Hindi-language films as a resource as you work out your plan for how to learn Hindi.

Review of Bollywood Film ‘Aurangzeb’ A Yash Raj Production Starring Arjun Kapoor

Aditya Chopra is the Aurangzeb of quality cinema. A number of films produced under his Yash Raj banner seem to be made by bright marketing guys instead of passionate cinema-loving writers and directors. Yash Raj Films has both the power over Bollywood and the paisa to fund these marketing guys who then brainstorm a variety of promising premises that can easily rake in money at the box office. A few of these premises are executed well but a vast majority suffers from bad treatment.

The fault is lazy writing, in most cases, and I think that’s because the writers hired to pen the screenplay don’t know what effective film writing is. I imagine these guys sitting around a circular table in an air-conditioned office, dressed up like dapper businessmen in full-sleeve shirts (including tie) and trousers, and discussing marketing concepts like ‘idea generation’, ‘new product development’ etc and trying to come up with an ‘innovative product’ that has ‘mass appeal’; film aesthetics is something that eludes them so they fling it out of the window.

It’s not like they’re totally oblivious to film concepts, as they know how to develop a coherent narrative; the problem is that their work totally lacks the nuance that make films function as art. Aditya Chopra happily gives the green light to these projects, then casts either recognized Bollywood stars or fresh faces who can act ‘the Bollywood way’. These projects are released with the well-known Yash Raj logo, marketed well enough to generate public interest and then released across most multiplexes and single-screen theater halls in India. Money is made and then everyone moves on… to the big bash celebrating the commercial success of the film, a spectacle of both power and paisa!

‘Our family is more important than our dreams’ says Anupam Kher’s character in the film, and Aditya seems to take this adage seriously – the ‘fresh faces’ he casts are usually related to someone in the big-bad-Bollywood family. Arjun Kapoor, producer Boney Kapoor’s son plays our hero(es) here, taking on the double role of Ajay and Vishal, long-lost twins who’re living completely different lives; while Ajay is the rich, reckless and spoiled son of a corrupt real estate developer, Vijay is… the other son living with his mother. We know nothing much about Vijay here, whether he had a life of his own, friends, interests etc because his basic function is to act as a plot device for the ‘swap’ that takes place.

Aurangzeb however doesn’t begin with either of these two characters; it’s the narrator Arya who narrates Aurangzeb’s story. In many ways Prithviraj Sukumaran is as much a protagonist as Arjun Kapoor but since he isn’t a big name in Bollywood, he doesn’t share any space in the film’s poster. The character he plays is the Assistant Chief of Police in Gurgaon who lives in a family of police officers. His uncle Ravikant (played by veteran Rishi Kapoor) is the DCP while his brother-in-law Dev (Sikander Kher) is another ACP.

Arya’s father calls him one day to confide in him something important about his past. The tainted officer who retired after accepting responsibility for a mistake that led to the death of a woman and her son tells his son that he had fabricated the entire story up; he reveals that the woman and his son were still alive, and that he was in a relationship with the woman. He convinces Arya to take care of the woman’s financial needs after his death; the plot itself is very eager to kill him and so, in the very next scene we see Arya visiting the woman to inform about his father’s death. Some glycerin-induced tears are shed by her while Arya stands at a distance; just then her son Vishal arrives and asks what’s happening. Arya reaches out for his gun because thinking he’s Ajay but then stops when he finds out that he’s Vishal. After he leaves their home, he calls up Ravikant and tells him to come over.

The beans are spilled soon as Vishal’s mother reveals to her son who his father is: Yashwardhan, a crime-lord masquerading as a real estate developer; on realizing her husband’s true business, Vishal’s mother acted as a mole for the police and then left her husband, leaving Vishal’s twin Ajay behind. So Yashwardhan is still under the impression his wife and other son were dead, and is currently having an affair with Nina; all we know about Nina is that she manages a high-profile escort business and helps the Yashwardhan’s company by bringing in most of the clients.

Arya is surprisingly quick in convincing Vishal’s mother to swap places with Ajay, and in the next scene itself, Ajay is taken hostage by the police officers and Vishal leaves to fulfill his task – getting confidential information about Yashwardhan’s illicit dealings which would lead to his fall. Only in Shakespeare’s stories you may have heard of such a quick swap taking place and so, to make the situation seem less implausible, there’s a rapid set of shots during a song sequence which inform about the research Vishal undertook before the swap – he browses the internet to look at gun models: fabulous research!

And what’s even more surprising is that nobody suspects him, neither Yashwardhan, nor Nina or his fiancĂ© Ritu. Ajay on the other hand ‘plays Bigg Boss, Bigg Boss’ ( in his own words) with his mother at a secluded house in the fields. Speaking about Bigg Boss, a reality show I used to watch when I was young, I am reminded of a similar swap taking place in the second season of Big Boss: it took merely ten minutes for the other housemates to spot the ruse!

Aurangzeb is replete in punch-lines but there’s little subtlety and lack of meaningful exchange. Characterization is only skin-deep and so is Arjun Kapoor’s performance, but he’s only doing as he’s told. It’s Aditya Chopra who’s funding many of these projects and sadly even winning many awards in India; he’s business sense is smart (his Wikipedia page mentions he graduated from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics), but I wish he’d use his power and paisa to encourage quality productions. His production Aurangzeb has a workable premise but sadly ends up sagging with sloppy treatment. The film should fall.

The Rise of Bollywood Movies

The Bollywood movie industry is by far one of the largest film industries in the world. On an average, it produces more than 800 feature films and over a thousand of short films annually. Producers love making Bollywood movies simply because there a millions of millions of movie enthusiasts in India. Movie tickets here are the cheapest in the world.

1896 is the year when cinema first entered India. The first silent films were introduced by Lumiere Brothers. Most Bollywood movies are 2-3 hours long. Themes vary from drama, romance, action, suspense and comedy. The Indian Censor Board is a great crusader in preventing pornography and nudity in Bollywood movies.

Bollywood movies integrate their culture in every film. Originally, Indian films have a number of scenes displaying folk songs and dances that are incorporated in the movie’s storyline. This is why most people would look at Indian films as musicals.

Over the years, Bollywood movies went under major transformation and have also undergone a number of changes and improvements. Because of the rise and popularity of Hollywood movies, Indian films also adopt some of the trends similar to western films. This is evident in some movie scripts where the English language is sometimes used. The plots used in some Bollywood movies are also patterned in western-style of scriptwriting.

Similarly, Bollywood films also have some amount of influence to Hollywood films. Musicals are also used in some scenes of western movies as seen in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Actors, writers and producers from both Bollywood and Hollywood industry have interests with each other’s movie genre. This gave rise to the new era of Bollywood movies. The versatility and art of Bollywood movies are truly world class and can enter the international scene with outstanding and credible merits with Aishwarya Rai acted in many international films.