Bollywood loves a good party and 2013 was no different with the industry celebrating its 100th birthday. It seems strange that such a huge part of Indian society has only been around for one hundred years, especially when you consider some of the groundbreaking moments that have occurred along the way; however, now it’s reached the tender age of 101 – and still gaining momentum – it’s probably time to celebrate some of Indian cinema’s greatest moments in a bit of a “This is Your Life”-style tribute.
Since it’s birth in 1913 with the black-and-white, silent film titled ‘Raja Harishchandra’, Indian cinema has developed from a pastime to what seems to be a religion. The Indian public see the cinema on an equal footing with cricket as the most popular forms of entertainment and hold the stars in such high regard, mobbing them whenever they appear in public or just go into the local town for a haircut. If you thought that fans and paparazzi were everywhere with Hollywood A-listers, that’s nothing compared to the biggest stars in India.
The likes of Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif and Hrithik Roshan are among the most popular having appeared in dozens of films between them, (all of which can either be streamed online with sites like http://erosnow.com and world cinema sections of DVD stores making it possible for those outside Asia to see what all the fuss is about), and are also among the richest in the country with the Mumbai-based producers desperate to get the biggest names involved in their next productions at any cost, safe in the knowledge that the “if you build it they will come” philosophy will work. This is because an estimated 1,000 films are produced in Bollywood every year, with genres now expanding beyond the traditional rom-coms to action and sci-fi to satisfy the demands of the insatiable Indian public.
As mentioned, the Indian cinema scene is continuing to grow, never taking even a slight glance back over its shoulder since the first film hit the big screens. Its growth has been so rapid that it has already overtaken Hollywood as the largest film producer in the world, being rewarded with the nickname of ‘Bollywood’ when it achieved the feat, merging the terms Hollywood and Bombay (now called Mumbai), the home of Indian cinema.
Despite the rapid growth of cinema in India, the first film to be produced with sound wasn’t released until 1931 – a full 18 years after Raja Harishchandra was released – with the honour going to ‘Alam Ara’. If you thought 18 years was a long time, it was then another six years until the first film was released in colour when Kisan Kanya hit the big screens and really prompted the explosion of Indian cinema as a national and soon, international, phenomenon that would rival Hollywood.
It has influenced all kinds of people, even those who may never have really taken a keen interest in the films or the stars previously. One such example is the fashion industry, especially in Asia but also increasingly in the Western world, too, as the clothing worn in Indian movies is a particularly focal point. The dresses and sharp suits worn by the stars in the films and at premieres are as important as the quality of the script and the location with journalists and media outlets paying close attention to the creations of homegrown and overseas talents.
Another example is in world cinema with the great director Baz Lurhman crediting Bollywood as the inspiration behind his hit Moulin Rouge, saying that the songs and dancing associated with Indian cinema inspired him to create the musical which, as we all know, became a hit right around the world on stage and screen.
As Bollywood continues to develop everyone hopes that we will soon see a star that reaches similar heights to the Hollywood A-listers as nobody from Bollywood has really ‘cracked’ the States as yet or made a name for themselves around the world. Online streaming has opened up new avenues for actors to be seen in different countries but until someone makes the transition seamlessly and makes the world aware of Bollywood it will still play second fiddle to its American cousin, even if it is producing more movies each year. It is still growing and evolving, and as stars and those behind the scenes develop their skills it won’t be too long – surely?