Bollywood seems to be one of the reasons why India is so prominent on the global map. True, there are other reasons for it but none of them are as glamorous as the world of Lights, Camera, Action! Bollywood has nowadays become synonymous with instant celebrityhood.
Bollywood has witnessed a lot of progress from its nascent years. It has been continuously evolving, at times for the better and at times just to deteriorate. Such is the power of Bollywood that it can make or break a man in a matter of days. Bollywood fascinates one and all; it has captivated the hearts of millions of viewers in India and abroad.
Talk of Bollywood and you get to hear of nepotism, the ill famed casting couch, fickle arrogant actors and et cetera. But all this still fails to take away the sheen from the lustrous Bollywood.
Bollywood had humble beginnings. Raja Hrishchandra was the first silent feature film made way back in 1913. Ardeshir Irani’s Alam Ara (1931) was the first sound film. This was just the beginning of what would later become revered as Bollywood. It has seen a monstrous growth ever since.
Almost every child has nurtured dreams of becoming a Shah Rukh Khan or an Aishwarya Rai. Hundreds make their annual pilgrimage to Bollywood with dreams of achieving stardom. Hundreds come and hundreds go, and a select few stay. The great Indian Bollywood saga is more enchanting than a fairy tale, spicier than Indian food.
Think Bollywood and what first comes to mind is the good Samaritan hero, the poor damsel in distress, unending song and dance routines, slapstick comedies, the bad villain who will be slaughtered by the good hero, the mad in love couple and there stern unreasonable parents and the rich boy poor girl in love story.
But like everything else in the cosmos, Bollywood too refuses to be categorized into a tight genre and often, a brave man willing to take a few risks ventures out into unsheltered territory to make a masterpiece. In the recent past, we have seen incredible movies like Lagaan, Taare Zameen Par, Chak De! India, Rang De Basanti which went on a path less travelled.
Bollywood’s evolution with time can provide enough fodder for a million books to be written, odes to be sung or dung bombs to be hurled.
Till 1960, most of the Bollywood movies were black and white.
Melodramas and over the top musicals were the order of the day. In 1930s, movies like Toofan Mail, Devdas, Pukar set the bandwagon rolling.
1940s saw movies like Shaheed, Barsaat, Mahal, Andaaz etc shine at the box office. At that time, stars like Ashok Kumar, Nargis, Dilip Kumar, Nimmi, and Madhubala ruled the roost. In the beginning, women from “good families” did not dare venture into the labyrinths of Bollywood. Actresses were generally those women who were going through hard times and had to support their families.
Come1950s and movies like Mother India, Aan, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, Baazi, Awara, Sujata, Do Aankhen Barah Haath, Kagaz Ke Phool, Chori Chori, and Shree 420 saw the light of the day. All these movies were dramas which threw light on the vulnerability of humans and the trials, tribulations and subsequent rise of the underdog. Nargis and Raj Kapoor and their alleged affair provided a lot of fuel to the gossip mongers and their firehouse chemistry also set the screens on fire.
1960s ushered in movies like Mughal-E-Azam,Guide, Aradhana, Sahib Bibi aur Gulaam, An evening in Paris etc. Mughal-e-Azam broke box office records for the highest grossing film till 1975. It played upon the conscience of the Indian cinema lover. The love story of the demure Aanarkali and Jahangir and fate’s cruelty to them had everyone mesmerized. In fact, even today, we can sometimes hear people sing “Jab Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya”.The song almost became an alternative anthem for Indians.
This was also the decade where the image of the fully clothed Indian heroine took a u-turn owing to Sharmila Tagore and her tryst with a two piece in An Evening in Paris. It was the start of what would one day become the ‘ lets cut cost by letting our leading ladies bare a bit or a bit too much era’.
Start1970s and it was action films, violent gangster “chor daaku” films and romantic confections which fed the movie hungry audience – Golmaal, Don, Sholay, Kabhi Kabhi, ulie, Bobby, Deewar, Pakizah etc. Amitabh Bachchan entered the scene and was baptized ‘the angry young man’ and his characters lived up to this namesake. Sholay set a trend and everyone pretended to be Jai and Veeru, while Gabbar Singh became the epitome of villainy. In our generation there are many who have not seen Sholay but no one can still escape being asked, “Kitne aadmi the kaaliya?”. In 1999, BBC declared Sholay the film of the millennium. No wonder we can still catch people humming “Ho jab tak hain jaan jane jahan mein nachungi” and who can forget “Yeh dosti hum nahi todeynge”? Jai, Veeru, Gabbar, Dhanno and Basanti became household names.
Over the years, Bollywood films have toyed with many themes, stories and have come a long way. Yet there are hardly any movies that have distanced themselves from the clichéd Bollywood song and dance routines. Nach gaana seems to be the staple in the Bollywood extravaganza. As one would say in the filmi way, “ye Jodi to swarg mein bani hai”.
Then as time progressed, Bollywood saw new entrants, new stars like Govinda famous for his raunchy comedies and pelvic thrust dance routines, Shah Rukh Khan the so called” Bollywood ka Badshah”, Salman Khan, Amir Khan, Saif Ali Khan. All these men at that time were skinny, bony, curly haired, chocolate boys quite unlike the macho men that they now seem to be.
They made movies which were so full of mush that at times, one felt like screaming – get real! But the boy meets girl, pehla pehla pyaar hai type movies sure made the audience happy. Many a young damsels spent their nights dreaming about their knight who would shield them from the ugly world. Lovey dovey, gooey and mushy movies were playing havoc with the Indian teen audience. These escapist movies always managed to portray everything in such a rosy light,that happily ever after became the order of the day. It worked for long – the movie makers were happy and so were the audience. But the next generation of cinema goers wanted to live in the real world, a world where nothing is black or white but in shades of grey. So, the chocolate boy actors of yesterday became the mighty, shrewd, practical men of today. Sarfarosh, Gulaam,Taare Zameen Par, Chak De!, Rang De Basanti, Lagaan, Being Cyrus, Omkara – movies which were practical, sensible and masterpieces in themselves..
Another thing which became a trademark of this era were items songs with highly lewd lyrics like ”Dilwaloon ke dil ka karaar lootne…mein aayi hun UP Bihar lootne”. The item songs also acted as the pedestal the new entrants needed to make their presence felt, by gyrating to songs with abominable lyrics in scanty rags and with a hundred inebriated men drooling over them lustily. Also, the Indian heroine migrated from being the fully clothed Bharatiya naari to the high hemline, plunging neckline bombshell. Another thing which till now was quiet taboo in our ‘pure and clean Hindi movies’ i.e. kisses and what are fondly called ‘bold scenes’ became common place.
Bollywood has come a long way, seen a lot, shown a lot and it marches ahead without faltering much. It still spins stories; some believable, some bordering on the edge of vulgar and brainless to some which make you sit up and realize that the reel world is not completely brain-dead. This is the great Indian never-ending Bollywood saga.