Hindi cinema, often known as Bollywood and formerly as Bombay cinema, is the Indian Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai. The term is a portmanteau of “Bombay” and “Hollywood”. The industry is related to other regional industries, making up Indian Cinema – the world’s largest by number of feature films produced.
It was around 1947 that the industry went through significant changes. One could argue that it was during this time that the modern Indian film was born. The historical and mythological stories of the past were now being replaced by social-reformist films, which turned an often critical eye on such ancient social practices as the dowry system, polygamy, and prostitution.
The 1950s saw filmmakers such as Bimal Roy and Satyajit Ray focusing on the lives of the lower classes, who until then were mostly ignored as subjects. Inspired by social and political changes, as well as cinematic movements in both the U.S. and Europe, the 1960s saw the birth of India’s own New Wave, founded by directors such as Ray, Mrinal Sen, and Ritwik Ghatak. Driven by a desire to offer a greater sense of realism and an understanding of the common man, the films during this era differed greatly from larger commercial productions, which were mostly colorful escapism.
It was the latter that would eventually become the template for the Masala film, a mash of genres including action, comedy, and melodrama punctuated by approximately six song and dance numbers. This is the model still used for most contemporary Bollywood films. Manmohan Desai was one of the more successful Bollywood directors of the 1970s and is considered by many to be the father of the Masala film. Defending his approach, he said: “I want people to forget their misery.
I want to take them into a dream world where there is no poverty, where there are no beggars, where fate is kind and god is busy looking after his flock.” The hodgepodge of action, romance, comedy, and musical numbers is a model that still dominates the Bollywood industry. Though greater attention is now paid to plot, character development, and dramatic tension, it is, in most cases, sheer star power that accounts for a film’s success.