Indian cinema has been heavily influenced by Hollywood over the decades
Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra (1913) was the first ever silent Hindi movie ever made.
But it was only after the first sound film, Alam Ara (1937), that ‘Bollywood’ grew into one of the world’s most profitable and major film industries.
No doubt, Indian cinema has been heavily influenced by Hollywood over the decades.
Even the term ‘Bollywood’ has a very Western flavour, using a ‘B’ from ‘Bombay’ rather than ‘Mumbai’.
While numerous comparisons have been made between the two for years, there are definite reasons why Bollywood cannot be the same as Hollywood.
1. Language and Settings
In Hollywood, the spoken semantic is American English, a language known and spoken by the majority of the population.
In Bollywood films, however, the spoken language is generally a mix of Hindi and Urdu. Even films that are set in the UK and America will still predominantly in Hindi, with occasional phrases in English.
With India being such a vast country with so many varying dialects, some films can perhaps be set in other languages.
For example, if a movie is set in a rural/village background, the main language would remain the same although the dialect is different.
In a film like Peepli Live, the dialect is Awadhi. Despite this, the audience are still able to understand and relate to the characters.
90 per cent of Bollywood films, if not more, will feature multiple sing and dance numbers.
Why? In a documentary by Sanjeev Bhaskar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra mentions how there are songs at every occasion in Indian culture – even sad songs or celebratory ones.
Essentially, there is music and a song to suit every mood and emotion.
But in Hollywood, unless a movie is of the musical genre like Chicago or Grease, songs are not prominent feature in films.
In Bollywood, the regular musical numbers are also for the local public, who will spend money to buy a ticket to a theatre hall. Filmmakers want them to be entertained so that they keep coming back.
3. Industry Size
Hindi cinema is a huge fraternity. It is estimated that 1,000 Hindi films are produced annually while Hollywood only produces 500.
The revenue for the Hindi film industry is expected to reach $4.5 billion (£3.1 billion) in 2016 alone.
With Bollywood films being such an inherent part of the daily culture and life in India, the industry continues to grow more and more each year. Clearly, Bollywood is worth big bucks!
4. Production Houses
‘From the studio that brought you’ is a familiar tagline we see in many Hollywood trailers. It is because Hollywood films are often produced by major studios like 20th Century Fox or Warner Bros.
In Bollywood, movies are usually backed by individual producers or production houses like Dharma Productions or Yash Raj Films.
Many producers and directors work with the same group of superstar actors again and again. For newcomers to the field, it can be a very daunting place if you don’t have the right backing.
For this reason, it is difficult for independent films or different genre films to get a look in.
That said, in recent years, more low budget films are gaining popularity and giving the big masala commercial films a run for their money.
If we compare the special effects/animations in Hollywood to Hindi cinema, Hollywood’s quality is clearly better.
In any Sci-Fi venture like Star Wars, the special effects are mastered with a great deal of time and planning.
The quality of technology in some Bollywood films is sacrificed at the cost of production speed.
Many Bollywood movies have been remakes of successful Hollywood films.
Agni-Sakshi, Yaraana and Daraar are all adaptations of the Julia Robert’s hit, Sleeping with the Enemy. Unfortunately, only Agni-Sakshi has proven to be moderately successful.
Nevertheless, several iconic movies like Sholay, Lagaan and Shree 420 are still remembered due to their unique concept. Clearly, there’s always space for some creativity!
‘Main tumhare baccho ki maa banne wali hoon’ is the classic melodramatic, filmy dialogue!
If one watches the 70s’ films or even family dramas, there is high-octane emotions encompassed (so it would be handy to keep a box of tissues).
In Hollywood, melodrama is not often found in films regularly unless it’s a Jim Carrey-style comedy!
The quintessential length of a Hindi film used to be a standard three hours.
For instance, movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Aapke Hain Koun range between 185 and 189 minutes.
Occasional Hollywood films like Schindler’s List and The Green Mile would run for three hours, with the standard being within 90 and 126 minutes.
In Hindi movies, we see the main characters wear both authentic Indian clothing as well as Western ones.
Depending on a movie content, the characters in Hollywood films mostly wear Western clothing.
But in Gurinder Chadha’s Bollywood-Hollywood film Bride and Prejudice, most characters wore Indian clothing as the film encompassed the lives of Indians and NRIs.
Nevertheless, it would be interesting to watch an actress like Angelina Jolie wear a Deewani Mastani style anarkali!
10. Acting Royalty
In line with the single producer-led production houses, Bollywood relies on its core clique of actors and actresses.
The majority of these are from Bollywood royalty, where acting is the family’s vocation.
Big Bollywood families include the Kapoors, the Khans and the Akhtars. More often than not all the family members are involved with the film industry in some way, and they pretty much rule the box office.
This can make Bollywood appear to be highly exclusive to the outside world. Many struggle to break through the glass ceiling.
Because of the tight-knit fraternity, the majority of films in a year will feature the same faces again and again. Actors like Akshay Kumar release up to four films a year.
Thus, the diversity of actors and filmmakers differs drastically from Hollywood.
11. Bollywood is Aspirational
Film is also an escapism for ordinary members of the Indian public. Foreign locations, colourful costumes and extravagant sets usually win the hearts of the audience.
A film like Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham is a prime example of this. In the movie, we see lavish bungalows and the lifestyle of affluent characters like Yashvardhan Raichand (Amitabh Bachchan).
The fact that Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) leaves India and pursues a comfortable life in London, inspires middle-class audiences to do the same.
Furthermore, Suraj Hua Madham was picturised in Egypt. For those who wish to go there but are financially unstable, this is a way to live their dream.
Bollywood will probably never be like Hollywood, and it doesn’t have to be. With India being one of the fastest developing countries in the world, Bollywood no doubt has played a part in its growth.
There is also a growth in Hindi cinema as low-budget films like The Lunchbox have equal chances of success, if the content strikes a chord with the audience.