If you've been following the site lately, you'll have noticed that it's been quite heavy on Bollywood films. Indeed, I caught the Bollywood bug this summer, re-kindling a love affair that began 10 years ago when I started college in the US. It was then that my closest friends (most of them being South Asians) introduced me to a whole new world of cinema unlike anything I'd seen before. During this time I watched films like "Hum Tum", "Kal Ho Naa Ho" and "Jab We Met", which sparked my fascination with this unique style of filmmaking. Since then, time constraints haven't allowed me to keep up with Bollywood as much as I would have liked (these films tend to be more than 150 minutes long!) but its always held a special place in my heart. So this summer I decided to marathon some of the classics I'd missed, in anticipation of the project I'm announcing now. For your reading pleasure, this week will be Bollywood Appreciation Week here at Film Actually, where I'll celebrate the best of Bollywood.
But first, here's a brief introduction to Bollywood for the newbies...
There's a common misconception in the West that Bollywood refers to the entirety of Indian cinema, often grouping films like Satyajit Ray's "Apu Trilogy" under the label. This couldn't be further from the truth however, as Bollywood only refers to a subsection of Indian cinema, namely Hindi-language films (the "B" in Bollywood refers to the city of Bombay, the main centre of production for Hindi film). Indeed, the status of the Indian film industry as the most productive in the world (1,000+ films annually) can be attributed to the combined output of numerous regional cinemas like the Tamil and Bengali film industries.
But the misconception is understandable from an outsider's perspective. Apart from holding the biggest share of the market, mainstream Bollywood films have a high profile due to their populist appeal and glamorous stars. In fact, the filmmakers have perfected their own unique genre called the masala film, combining elements of action, comedy, drama and romance in grand musical spectacles. As a result, these films appeal to all demographics and are able to travel internationally, inspiring legions of passionate fans across the globe.
In addition to the more commercial fare, Bollywood has also seen a resurgence of arthouse sensibilities in recent years. Often referred to as Parallel Cinema, these films have seen an increased presence at the world's biggest film festivals, like Venice Film Festival winner "Court" and the beloved 2013 hit "The Lunchbox". But ultimately, glossy escapism is what we usually mean when we refer to "Bollywood", and will therefore be the primary focus of this week's series of articles. So without further ado, please join me throughout the week as I honor one of the most important and influential pockets of the world cinema landscape, where rain and romance are inseparable, deep feelings are sung not spoken and King Khan reigns supreme.