Bollywood films (the coupling of Bombay and Hollywood) refers the the Hindi language faction of Indian cinema. Please note that there are others like Kollywood (Tamil Cinema), Tollywood (Telegu Cinema) which all have their respective production houses and distributors. Indian cinema is one of the oldest cinematic schools in the world producing it’s first feature length in 1913.
Since Indian cinema was born in the wake of global turmoil, with heavy domestic repercussions, it has always been escapist in it’s spirit. From the get-go bollywood films incorporate songs and dancing within the storyworld as if it were a pedestrain thing to do. The narrative ordinarily teleports characters to clubs, ancient ruins, Switzerland for a quick jig and carry on with the plot as if nothing ever happened. These 4+ minute breaks in come equipped with an entourage of friends and acquaintances who also serve as dancers.
The typical Bollywood film is on average 180 minutes long and similar to the classical hollywood structure is broken into three acts. The exposition or first act introduces the protagonists where. This act tends to be comically driven where the characters meet and interact. Typically films involve a romantic theme in some way or form. A common convention of the first act is the song of the lovefool. In this type of song the hero covets the heroine but is spurned. Many a time this song is used to indicate a change in attitude of one of the characters for the other. These songs serve a dual purpose because they also place the hero in a position of being idolised or if depicted with an entourage he is the alpha male and she the alpha female.
Their love folly propells the narrative into the second act where they are faced with an obstacle in typical bollywood style it will be in the form of a ‘negative’ character or a villain. The movie drastically changes tone here. The pinch of the second act or the end of the second act is when all indian movies will have an intermission.
I watched the village in India and the movie broke for intermission right where the young girl scales the walls and finds the ‘real world’ outside the camp. I wandered back into the theatre like a zombie only out of respect for the dead mute. But for hindi movies you really need one.
Back to Bollywood. The third act brings all the characters together. Through some elaborate coincidence most of the surviving characters will somehow be in close proximity of each other and end up at the resolution. Some movies even go as far as to line up the characters in the final shot as if they were posing for a photograph.
It’s a real treat watching the right Bollywood movie. For an outsider who has never been in contact with an Indian or never has been exposed to Indian culture this charade would seem unnecessary and excessive. But to a middle-class blue collared worker the prospect of seeing switzerland in technicolour, a beautiful woman/hot man, gyrating hips, crying, a few gags, love lost, reassured masculinity for Rs 120, (conversion rate Rs 47 to a dollar). The cinema in India is an experience everyone should have. People dance in the isles, scream, boo, whistle, clap. Not all at the same time. And not in the multiplexes.
I love the cinema.