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When Dadasaheb Phalke made the first Bollywood film Raja Harishchandra in 1913, he could not have envisioned the phenomenon he had pioneered. It grew from being a poor cousin of Hollywood to having flavored distinctiveness of its own. This industry, which though functions from a single city, has its roots firmly reaching every corner of India. In fact, it can be called one of the many unifying factors of our country. Right from the metropolitan teenager in the comfort of a swanky movie theatre to the villager watching his favorite Amitabh Bachchan starrer in a makeshift open tent; they all have Bollywood in common.
Bollywood has been called one of the biggest passions of Indians. The industry is based in Mumbai, also called mayanagri- the enchanted land; conceivably for the reason that it holds within itself this wonder world called Bollywood. There is no other dream that has been dreamt by soooooo many, yet realized by so few…..
For countless Indians, Bollywood has become a synonym for a way of life, of the wonders unseen and unheard of before. For generations of Indians, it has stood and still stands for packaged dreams, made and remade in movie studios, ready to be seen and consumed. Bollywood chases you all the time, peeping at you from billboards, bristling angrily from t-shirts, competing for attention in thousands of magazines devoted to it or literally shouting at you from everywhere- from the very ritzy café to the chaiwala’s stall, blasting at full volume, the latest movie’s soundtrack…..
It would be really unfair on our part to see Bollywood in totality from the same tinted lens and generalizing it as one big industry, which manufactures candy floss romances and feeds our imagination with a steady dose of a make- believe world. It would be naïve and unjustified to reduce the definition of a Bollywood film to a culmination of romantic story lines with soppy dialogues, lavish sets, never ending song and dance sequences and the ubiquitous happy endings.
Being neither a critic nor a die- hard fan, but an unbiased observer, I would like to comment here that cinema serves as a measure to gauge the strides taken by the society and to observe the immense change in nation’s outlook over time. A close observation of the Bollywood productions of different times would show gradual change in Indian psyche. It may sound absurd to may, but the growth of our country from a struggling underdog to a confident, strapping global super- power is echoed in many ways in the movies made in the recent years, the characters portrayed in our films are no longer downcast, demoralized or impoverished but apart of an economy growing at the rate of 9.4% (2006-2007). No longer do we see shady, dingy bastis in our movies but malls, designer showrooms and imported cars.
There are many who have carved fantastic success stories in Bollywood, but there are also those who stumbled and fell. Many others shined momentarily and then faded away, never to be seen again. And then, there are the invisible ones- the people behind the scenes, living unknown, unsung lives of anonymity. These are the people whose lives are far removed from the make-up and rouge lifestyles of the Bollywood superstars, but they are the part of the industry nevertheless. The ability to make others dream is extra- ordinary and unusual; Bollywood has done that for millions of us and perhaps, it is for this reason that it is and will remain an imperative part of our lives.