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Essay on The Modernity of Bollywood

Film is a form of art that is formally used as a means of entertainment. Yet, through time making films are now a part of a massive industry. This paper will explore the importance of entertainment, specifically films that are made in India. The focus of this paper will be to introduce the arrival of film in India through different time periods and how several historical events have impacted the Bollywood industry. Moreover, once a general idea of how Bollywood development through time is explained, we will then establish why the Bollywood industry is unique and different from any other film industry in the world. This will also include the different factors which have influenced the Bollywood industry. Lastly, this paper will demonstrate how the modernization of Bollywood has had an impact on India. The approach of this paper will be through a historical retrospective, in addition to economic and anthropological aspects which will be used to demonstrate several concept within these disciplines. The economical concepts include capitalism, marketing and commercialisation. Furthermore, anthropological concepts such as social class, traditions and gender will also be discussed throughout this paper. Alfred Adler’s Inferiority Complex will be used specifically as a psychological theory as an explanation to an impact that has been resulted through the Bollywood film industry.

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As this paper will be focusing on Bollywood, it is crucial to understand what Bollywood actually is. Bollywood is the biggest film industry in the world and is also known as “the Hollywood of Bombay” (Nayar, 1997). It is commonly referred to as Indian cinema. However, the correct “definition” would be Hindi cinema, since the dialogue of the films released are in Hindi. There are several film industries within the Indian film industry. Yet, this paper swill specifically focues on the Bollywood industry and demonstrate the impact it’s had on people living in India.

Arrival of Film in India

The historical representation of film in India be classified in three stages. These stages would be the introduction film, the Golden Age and the modernization of Bollywood. Film was first introduced in India during colonialism, in 1912. Through film maing, the citizns of Inia had an opportunity to finally be free from foreign influence and they were now able to express their identity and illustrate their culture (Rao, 2007). According to Nasreen Rehman, a historian of South Asian cinema, the term Bollywood emerged during the late 20th century (Ghosh, 2013). Although Bollywood is known for producing films in Hindi, the first silent film called Shree pundalik released is actually regarded as a film in Marathi, and not Hindi. Marathi is the official language of Maharashtra, which is where the city of Bombay —now known as Mumbai— is located. This is why the first few silent films released are recognized as Marathi films, rather than Hindi films in the Bollywood industry. Although Shree pundalik is a film that was technically released in India, many have argued that this should not be considered India’s first film since it is basically a pictorial representation of a Marathi play and the cameraman was also British.

In 1913, Raja Harishchandra which is recognized as India’s first full length feature film was released (Chanakya Desk, 2010). This film also gives a representation of the famous Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. The influence of Indian epic poetry will be further discussed in this paper. Although, Raja Harishchandra is an important aspect to the history of Bollywood, Alam Ara was the first sound film to be released in 1931 in which the dialogue spoke is purely Hindi and this film had one of the greatest effects of the film industry (Chanakya Desk, 2010). It completely transformed the way future films were being made not only because of its commercial success, but because of the opportunity it gave directors to produce musicals. During this period, three fundamental historical events took place which was significantly involved with the plots of the films. The Great Depression, World War Two and the Indian Independence Movement all took place during the 1930’s to 1940’s and many film makers depicted the social issues through film. This is where the transition from portraying traditional and cultural stories in film to realistic social issues and struggles took place.

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The Uniqueness of Bollywood

This paper will now explore the different reasons why the Bollywood industry in unique and different from any other film industry. In India, the Industrial Revolution began after the country gained independence (Gupta, 1969). Thus, capitalism also began to emerge. The aspect of capitalism in the Bollywood industry is shown through the amount of films being produced in a year. There are approximately “1,000 films produced annually (about double Hollywood’s output)” (Ghosh, 2013). Rather than the quality of the film, it is the quantity that seems to matter in this film industry. Although Bollywood produces double the amount of films Hollywood, its revenue is much less since the tickets are priced at such a low cost. Every year, “ccording to the DI International Business Development (DIBD)” (Ghosh, 2013), Bollywood will be making an annual revenue of approximately $4.5 billion, while Hollywood makes around $51 billion. Yet, it costs $1.5 million to make a Bollywood film, while it costs around $48 million to make a Hollywood film (Ghosh, 2013). This demonstrates the different economic aspects from Bollywood and Hollywood. However, both industries pertain to the model of capitalism.

Another aspect which differentiates Bollywood is its influence from Hinduism and Sanskrit. According to Tesson, it is the god Brahma, who created the Veda — a religious scripture — of art which includes theatrics (n.d.). This demonstrates the importance of religion in the film industry. It is less common for film makers to portray Indian epics nowadays. Yet, Indian epic poetry had a great influence of film when film was first introduced. The two Sanskrit epics that are most prominent are Mahabharata and Ramayana. Both epics involve a heroic figure who must battle an enemy and protect a race or nation. There are references to the Hindu Gods in both tales and both take place in the ancient times in which great kings were ruling the land. Both tales are also categorized into several divisions. In the film Raja Harishchandra, the story involves a king named Harishchandra who must fulfil a promise he makes by sacrificing his kingdom and his family. Because of his devotion, the Gods restore his glory. This tale is taken from the Mahabharata and earlier films would have a similar theme. The film would show people that by being devoted to the Gods and their religious practices, good things will always happen to them. Thus, one of the influences of the earlier films in India is the ancient Indian epic poetry.

An interesting approach Bollywood uses is having one particular genre for all films. Most of the films being made would be categorized as masala films, which is combining several genres such as action, romance, comedy and drama in one film. Masala films began to emerge in the 1970’s and many actors that are now recognized as the most famous Indian actors and actresses gained their stardom through acting in masala films. These types of films gain a lot of popularity since the variety of genres appeal to great audience. Most Hollywood films typically use one or two genres in a film, which is why there are a variety of films that are categorized into genres. Yet, Bollywood film makers continuously produce films that are melodramatic, with many emotional plot twists (Tesson, n.d.).

Lastly, the most important factor which distinguishes Hindi films from any other films is the necessity of songs and dance. Every Hindi film is typically a musical since there are at least five songs that are played in every film. According to Gupta, songs are so important in Hindi films that without them, the films are bound to fail at the box office (1980). Not only are the songs and dance itself important in the films, but “background music has also been used extensively in most Hindi films since the late 1940s” (Morcom, 2001). Songs are quite important in Bollywood films since they represent segments of the film through music and dance. Although musicals are now connected to Bollywood films, the Bollywood industry was primarily influenced by the musicals produced by the Hollywood industry in the 1920’s to 1950’s. It is now less common for Hollywood films to produce an entire film as a musical for a broad audience. However, according to the Baz Luhrmann, the director of the well-known Hollywood musical, Moulin Rouge, the film was directly inspired by Bollywood musicals and its masala films (Andrew, 2001). According to Morcom, there is a “considerable amount of mutual compatibility between the usage of certain musical techniques in both Indian and Western film music” (2001) which demonstrates the similarities between Hollywood and Bollywood regarding music in film. Thus, all of these factors contribute in the result of Bollywood being unique from any other film industry.
Impact on India

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Many of these individuals feel as though they cannot relate to these films anymore and they also compare the films that are now being released to those made in 1950’s. They point out that during the 1950’s directors such as Raj Kapoor who is known for making realistic films would actually represent India, with the good and the bad (Rao, 2007). Thus, Bollywood films have become unrealistic and unrelatable to a vast majority of Indians since these films to don’t portray a realistic aspect of India.

A result of the modernization of Bollywood would be the sexualisation of women in songs. As previously discussed, songs and dance are crucial for a Bollywood film to be successful at the box office. Yet, the addition of item songs in films are progressively growing (Mohanty, 2010). An item song –also known as item number- is a song which has nothing to do with the plot of the film. It basically showcases a woman, sometimes a man, in revealing clothing dancing to a song for the pleasure of the male or female audience. The woman will dance in a seductive and sexual manner to please the audience and through this, she is being sexualized. She is being exploited by the film industry to and is being subjected to sexual objectification. Interestingly, the term item is actually Mumbai slang for a sexy female. In these item songs, many women are willingly being portrayed as sexual objects who are only present for a man’s needs. Through a psychological analysis, Alfred Adler’s Inferiority Complex theory can be used to answer why these females are approving of being portrayed in a sexual manner. Through Adler’s perspective, women have low self-esteem and self-worth since they have always been constantly discouraged to feel equal to a man. This leads to the feeling of inferiority to men. Thus, through these item songs, woman will try to dominate men through seduction and manipulation.

Works Cited

Andrew, G. (2001). Baz Luhrmann (I). In Guardian News and Media. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2001/sep/07/1
Ghosh, P. (2013). Bollywood At 100: How Big Is India’s Mammoth Film Industry? In International Business Times. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/bollywood-100- how-big-indias-mammoth-film-industry-1236299
Gopalan, L. (2008). Film Culture In Chennai. Film Quarterly, 62(1), 40-45. doi:
10.1525/fq.2008.62.1.40
Gupta, C. D. (1980). New Directions in Indian Cinema. Film Quarterly, 34(1), 32-42.
doi: 10.2307/1211852
Gupta, C. D. (1969). Indian Cinema Today. Film Quarterly, 22(4), 27-35. doi: 10.2307/1210307
Mohanty, P. (2010). Bollywood item numbers: from Monica to Munni. In Pixelonomics. Retrieved from http://www.pixelonomics.com/bollywood-item-numbers-monica-to- munni
Rao, S. (2007). The Globalization of Bollywood: An Ethnography of Non-Elite Audiences in
India. Communication Review, 10(1), 57-76. doi:10.1080/10714420601168491
Tesson, C. (n.d.). Bollywood. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://proxy4.vaniercollege.qc.ca:2105/encyclopedie/bollywood/

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Essay on The Modernity of Bollywood
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Artscolumbia
Film is a form of art that is formally used as a means of entertainment. Yet, through time making films are now a part of a massive industry. This paper will explore the importance of entertainment, specifically films that are made in India. The focus of this paper will be to introduce the arrival of film in India through different time periods and how several historical events have impacted the Bollywood industry. Moreover, once a general idea of how Bollywood development through time is explai
2019-05-02 03:40:28
Essay on The Modernity of Bollywood
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