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Bollywood: An Obsession.

by Kaizer Rangwala                                                                    [launch slideshow]

“Oh God, please, I hope he gets the tickets,” prays a desperate teenager as his father is whisked several blocks away by dubious characters for a shady transaction where cinema tickets for a sold-out blockbuster movie will be scalped for an obscene sum.

I distinctly remember the place in front of the cinema hall where I experienced frustration, anger, hope, and jubilation all in a fleeting moment as I watched my father get tickets to this “must see” movie.

What is this phenomenon that permeates the psyche of a teen and fails to loosen its grip decades later?

A Mumbai cinema house.
  A Mumbai cinema house.

It is India’s most prominent film industry: Bollywood. India produces more than 1,000 films annually in over 20 languages. Various states in India produce films in regional languages that have a limited market within the state due to linguistic limitations. Bollywood movies enjoy a national and international market because they are made in Hindi—the national language of India.

Nearly 100 million enthusiasts worldwide see Bollywood films in over 13,000 cinema halls every week. The term Bollywood is a droll reference to Bombay’s version of Hollywood, even though in 1995, Bombay was rebranded as Mumbai.

Mumbai is a city of extreme contradictions. The rich live side-by-side with the poor, slums dot the entrance to some of world’s most expensive real estate, and crime and corruption run side-by-side with extreme religious devotion. Bollywood movies are teeming with similar contradictions, tinged with escapism and fantasy to combine for light-hearted entertainment.

Actor product endoresment
Actor product endorsement.  

Bollywood provides affordable entertainment for all—it cuts across age, race, gender, and social status. The 3-hour long masala (generic) plotlines are packed with love affairs, dance and song routines, violent action, and chaste family values. The song and dance sequences filmed in Europe, Australia, Africa, or United States transport the average viewer with modest income to exotic locales for a small ticket price.

Unlike Hollywood, there is no modest sign aloofly perched up high on the hill, reminding the 17 million people of Mumbai that they live in the most prolific film capital of India. In Bollywood, it’s “in your face” sights and sounds taken to a whole new level.

Omnipresent promotional movie posters and product endorsement by actors plastered at virtually every street intersection, on empty walls, street banners, and shops broadcast the pervasiveness of movies in Indian culture.

The drama-dripping movie songs blare from cell phone dial tones, radios in shops, and passing cars. During festive seasons, wedding parties, or political rallies, loudspeakers infuse the celebratory air with popular Bollywood songs.

Even today, on a slow Saturday evening, when we settle down to watch the latest Bollywood movie, my two daughters, born in the United States, relish the Bollywood movies with the same fervor as their father. The mystique of wholesome Bollywood entertainment is undeniably universal.

View narrative slideshow of 12 Bollywood images   >>   
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Kaizer Rangwala has practiced planning for more than 20 years. After working for Jersey City, Indianapolis, and Farmers Branch, Texas, he now serves as assistant community development director for the City of Ventura. He holds a master’s degrees in architecture from New Jersey Institute of Technology and city and regional planning from Rutgers University.
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Bollywood World

Cinema of India

Mumbai Daily News & Analysis

Mumbai on the Net

Planet Bollywood

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