For anyone brought up on TV, it's hard to imagine the power
that films continue to wield in India. Every village has a cinema within
walking distance, and with a potential audience in the hundreds of
millions, film companies seen to have virtually cast-iron guarantees of
vast profits. The Indian film industry is the largest in the world,
producing around 750 full-length features each year.
Regional cinema, catering for different language groups, in particular the Tamil cinema of Chennai, is very popular amongst the local crowd, but has little impact national impact. It's only the Hindi Films, which accounts for one-fifth of all the films made in India has crossed regional boundaries to great effect, most particularly in the northern region of the country.
The home of the Hindi blockbuster, the "All-India Film",
is Mumbai, formerly Bombay. Famously known as "Bollywood ". This
"Hollywood of India", produces the second most number of
pictures in the world every year, next only to Hollywood, U.S.A.
Mumbai claims to be the world's largest production center for films. About 250 Hindi films are produced annually in this city, an average of five releases every week. The cost of production is very high, largely due to the 'stars' system, which allows popular film stars to charge fees as high as 30 to 40 percent of the total cost of the film. These days Hindi films are released in U.S.A, U.K and other foreign countries too due to large crowds of Indian population living in these countries.
To overcome differences of language and religion, the
Bollywood movie follows rigid conventions and genres; as in myth, its
characters have predetermined actions and destinies. Knowing a plot need
not detract from the drama, and indeed; it is not uncommon for Indian
audiences to watch films numerous times. Unlike the A Hollywood formula,
which tends to classify each film under one genre, the Hindi films "Masala
Format" includes during its luxurious three hours a little bit of
everything: dance, music, violence, revenge, intrigue and humour.
These movies knit the dreams of the common man on the silver screen. Thus, Mumbai is also called " The city of dreams". These films are a mixture of the colours of life, they include every thing emotions, social message, romance, violence, music, songs, eroticism whatever one can think of.
Frequently the stories feature dispossessed male heroes fighting evil
against all odds with a love interest thrown in. Other typical themes
include male bonding and betrayal, family melodrama, separations and
reunion and religious piety. Dream sequences are almost obligatory, too
along with a festival or celebration scene - typically 'Holi', when people
shower each other with color - comic character passing through, and a
depraved, alcoholic and mostly Western "Cabaret" filled with
strutting villains and lewd dancing.
The common criticism about the Bollywood movies has been that they lack originality, characterization is one dimension, fight scenes are woefully unconvincing, romances are sickly sweet and action is interrupted arbitrarily every five minutes for a compulsory song and dance routine. It is not surprising that Indian films seldom win awards at the International Film Festivals. One way in which Bollywood has moved closer to Holly wood in recent years, however, has been the development, alarming to traditionalists, of films in which the "hero" is no longer necessarily a moral exemplar; violence can be fun, and good does not always triumph.
But this multimillion industry also produces some of the good parallel movies. Renowned directors like Satyajit Ray, Shekhar Kapoor, and Shyam Benegal have made films of international class. However few films make a hit, the majority of them bomb out at the box office.
Film song is the popular form of music in India; an average of six songs play an essential part in the narrative of each film. A song can transcend its filmic context, remaining popular years after the film it was composed for ads even forgotten. Equally, a good song released before the film acts as a trailer to help fill the theatres. The songs are created through the artistic collaboration of a film director, lyricist, composer, arranger, studio instrumentalist, the "playback" singers, and finally the actor who mimes the song on screen. The most famous playback singer of India, Lata Mangeshkar is in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of songs she has recorded.
The exploits of Mumbai's Film stars - on and off screen and
their lavish lifestyles in the city's clubs and millionaires' ghetto of
Malabnar Hill are the subject of endless titillating gossip. Following the
careers of the stars requires dedication; each may work on up to ten
movies at once.
The Hero's or most famous lead actors of Bollywood are, starting with the Big B Mr. Amitabh Bachan, Anil Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and so on till the latest new comers like Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachan. The list of Heroin's or lead actresses, the beauties of Hindi Cinema include Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, Karisma Kapoor, to the latest new comers like Kareena Kapoor and Amisha Patel.
The Kapoor family starting from Prithviraj Kapoor has contributed a lot to Hindi films. Here stars are treated like Gods and social commentators consider Masala movies to be the collective dream of India in the same way Hollywood films are for America and much of the West.
At one time specially arranged tours made it easy to get into a film studio to se a movie being made, but those days are gone. If one is very keen try contacting Mehboob Studios, Hill Road, Bandra West; or Film City, Goregaon East. Otherwise one may well come across violent action scenes being filmed on Sunday afternoons, for e.g. in the broad backstreets around Ferry Wharf.
Visitors to Mumbai should have ample opportunity to sample
the delights of a movie. To make an educated choice, buy a movie magazine,
which contains extensive listings and reviews. Otherwise, look for the
biggest, brightest hoarding, and join the queue. Of the two hundred or so
cinemas, only eight regularly screen English-Language films.
The most central and convenient are the Regal in Colaba, the Eros opposite Church Gate Station, and the Sterling, the New Excelsior, and the New Empire, which are all a short walk west of CST station.