Film Studies 1022 Lecture Notes - Lecture 25: Shah Rukh Khan, Item Number, The Item

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What is Bollywood? 2016-03-29
The term refers to the Hindi language film industry based in Mumbai
(formally known as Bombay), India
Bollywood is also known as “Indian popular cinema”
The films are characterized by singing, dancing, genre-mixing, excess
of melodrama, lavish sets & costumes.
Bollywood is not the only film industry in India
Films are made in other regional centres all over India, in over 20
languages by multiple film industries
Bollywood films are watched by millions of people DAILY
They are exported to over 100 countries.
It’s a big business
Because it reaches so many people, Bollywood is considered to be a
major force shaping Indian national culture and identity (both in India and in
The term “Bollywood” was first used mockingly by the English
language press in India to refer to the Bombay film industry
The term has become a bit controversial in India because it is
derived from the term “Hollywood” and sets up an unfair and
unwanted comparison
It suggests a cheap imitation of Hollywood
It sets Hollywood up as the standard and suggests that Bollywood
should meet this standard
It suggests that Bollywood films should be evaluated using the
same interpretive strategies we use to evaluate Hollywood
oBasically like an attempt to recreate Hollywood, but it’s a
failed attempt
Masala Films
“Masala” commonly refers to a blend of spices
Bollywood films are often referred to as Masala Films because they
combine multiple genres into a 3-hour emotional roller coaster
oSlapstick comedy
oViolent action
oSocial and family melodrama
oAt least half dozen song-and-dance sequences
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Audience Experience
Indian audiences are very different from Western audiences and the
cinema experience is interactive
People “interact” with the film by clapping, dancing, singing along,
speaking lines of dialogue etc.
Like a cult movie experience. It would be like watching Rocky
Horror Picture Show
Bollywood: A Brief History
Cinema has been present in India as long as cinema has been apart
of the Western world
Bombay was not only the site of the first film screening, but it’s
where the first Indian film was made—not an accident
oBombay was the most important colonial city (rmb India was
under Britain’s control).
oBombay served as an entry point to exploitation of the Indian
oA place to which western influence would come in.
oThanks to the British present, Bombay was connected to the
Western world like no other place. Lots of western cultural
influences and lifestyles.
Indian film history begins with a Bombay entrepreneur
(photographer and publisher) who was inspired to make films after
he watched a silent film, Life and Passion of the Christ (1903)
After watching this film, he decided to bring the stories of Indian
gods & goddesses to “life” in a similar way.
oPresented local, religious stories
The most important early influence on Indian cinema was theatre,
especially religious folk theatre. Religious myths remain a source of
inspiration today.
The female roles in early Indian cinema were played by men
because women would not agree to act before the camera—it was
considered inappropriate for women to appear before audiences
As a result, hardly any women got involved in cinema until the late
But when they did enter, they soon became very popular figures
with large fan followings.
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Arrival of Sound:
oSilent films crossed linguistic barriers which was important
given the number of languages spoken in India
oWhen sound arrived, it complicated the accessibility of
oSound made Bollywood india’s “national” cinema, but alos
gave rise to multiple, regional cinemas based on language
and dialect.
oSound gave rise to the “playback singer”
Playback singers became stars in their own right
What they did was highly valued
oAlthough Hindi was chosen as the language for Bombay
Cinema, most people living in Bombay didn’t speak Hindi. It
was the language the majority of the country spoke though.
oLip syncing alleviated any sound issues—bad voices etc…
The Studio Era (1920s and 1930s)
oFilmmaking developed in ways similar to Hollywood studio
oStars were full-time contracts
oStudios paid for everything
oNo studio dominated the rest
oCertain studios did certain genres
Golden Age (1950s-1960s)
oFollowing independence from England (1947)
oSet the task of nation building and economic building.
oBrave romantic hero’s, peasants who were defeating greedy
bad guys
oIntentionally utilized to build the Indian nation and identity.
oThese films dealt with important issues pertaining to Indian
oMost of the stories were metaphorically about how to make
society better
oPatriotic films.
oDealt with what it meant to be Indian back then—nation
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