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Bollywood Music and Movies

Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world in terms of quantity of movies produced. Every year, there are hundreds of movies released on the Indian market, with just a few successful hits. How do they manage to stand out from the crowd? Their key focus is for sure the music. A good soundtrack can make a film successful, and this is with their dance-and-song routines that have become the most peculiar trait of Bollywood movies.

But this is not the whole story: the actors, the plot, the blend of comedy, action, and drama also play an extremely important role. Curious to know more about it?

Keep reading to learn more about Bollywood movies, their music and what make them so unique!


  • With almost 2,000 movies a year, Indian Cinema is the largest film industry in the world.
  • There are two main genres of Bollywood movies: "masala movies", formulaic and characterized by musical numbers …
  • … and "parallel cinema", that tends to avoid both those features
  • Bollywood has been heavily influenced by Indian epics, Urdu poetry, classic theatre, and Hollywood musicals
  • Take a tour of Film City and try your luck: you may become an extra in a Bollywood movie!

Bollywood, the Hindi cinema

"Bollywood" is the popular name for Hindi Cinema (once known as "Bombay Cinema). The film industry includes Tamil, Telugu and other film industries, making them the world's largest film industry, that every year releases about 2,000 movies.

Bollywood by itself releases more than 300 movies annually, and it represents about 40% of the box-office revenue. The highest-grossing movies belong to the "masala genre", that mixes action, comedy, romance, and drama, along with the omnipresent musical numbers.

There are also films without musical numbers, and they do not use the usual popular formulas, is the "parallel cinema". In recent years, the distinction between the two kinds of movies has gradually faded, with more and more successful movies lacking the typical musical numbers. A striking example is Dangal, the highest-grossing Indian film of all time.

Major Influences that shaped Bollywood film

It can be said that Bollywood has been shaped by:

  • The ancient Indian epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana
  • Ancient Sanskrit drama, with its emphasis on music and dance
  • Parsi theatre, which used to blend realism and fantasy
  • Hollywood, especially the musicals, popular during the 40s-50s
  • Music television popular in the West, such as MTV

Urdu literature has played a major role in influencing Bollywood, as the vast majority of screenwriters of classic Hindi cinema came from the said literature. New Hollywood, Italian exploitation films, and Hong Kong martial arts movies also played an important role.

Main genres of Bollywood film

Most Bollywood movies are musicals and are expected to have song-and-dance numbers as an integral part of the script. The music is so important that the songs are often released before the film itself.

Bollywood movies are seen as a show that has to be worth the money. Many films are called masala films (as the blend of spice) because they are themselves a mixture action, comedy, and romance. Plots are usually melodramatic; they use formulas and clichés to tell a story that can resonate with the widest possible audience.

There are also the so-called "parallel cinema" films, that tend to earn less money at the box office and are heavily influenced by western aesthetic.

Dialogues and lyrics of Bollywood film

The songs and scripts are usually written by different people. The language used for the scripts is a mixture between Hindi and Urdu known as "Hindustani", which, again, is used to cater to the widest possible audience. Regional dialects are used for, to say, a village setting; while archaic Urdu is used in historical films.

Nowadays, many popular films also use English, a language that has begun to challenge the ideological work done by Urdu. Characters may shift from English to Hindustani according to the scene, and the combination of Hindi, Urdu, and English – called Hinglish – has become increasingly popular.

The language is often melodramatic, and song lyrics are almost always about love.

Bollywood's influence over the world

Not only Bollywood has helped India get rid of some old stereotypes but, since the beginning of the new century, it has begun influencing musical films produced in the West, and it has contributed to reviving Hollywood musicals – a clear example of this is Moulin Rouge!, directed by Baz Luhrmann.

Slumdog Millionaire, which won 8 Oscars, is an homage to Hindi movies, and Deewaar, a famous Hindi crime movie shot in the 70s, inspired many John Woo's movies.

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Classic Bollywood songs and dance

The music was written and used for Bollywood music is called filmi, and it was first introduced during the 30s. Nowadays, are pre-recorded using professional playback singers, while the actors will lip-sync while dancing on screen.

Songs are extremely important to the success of a movie, and really few films can be a hit without a successful soundtrack. With globalization, the lyrics are more and more becoming a mix of Hindi and English.

Playback singers are as famous as the actors starring in the movie, and the composers are also well-known. Often, fans will go watch a movie just to hear the songs sung and written by their favorite artists. Often, said songs are remixed and released with the soundtrack albums.

The dances are modeled on Indian classical and folk dances. The musical piece often sees the hero and the heroine singing and dancing with an ensemble of dancers, and many routines contain extremely quick shifts of location or changes of costumes between one verse and the other. Duets between the hero and the heroine are often staged in natural surroundings.

Usually, the songs are used to comment on what is happening in the movie. Often the song is worked into the plot so that the characters have a reason to start singing and externalize what a character is thinking. They can also presage an event. The routines should be seen as a "dream sequence", where happen a lot of things that wouldn't be possible in real life.

Famous Bollywood actress and casts

Being such a huge industry, Bollywood attracts and employs people from all over the Indian subcontinent. Many people – such as models, beauty contestants, television actors, and also ordinary people – arrive in Mumbai hoping to become a star.

Of course, very few succeed. There are also some non-Indian actors, but they are a striking minority. Competition is extremely fierce, and long career is not always guaranteed.

Some of the most successful actors are:

  • Shah Rukh Khan, who is currently the highest-paid Bollywood actor and has starred in extremely popular movies like Raees;
  • Salman Khan is famous for its roles in Sultan, the second highest-grossing Bollywood movie in 2016, and Tubelight;
  • Aamir Khan, with a thirty years long career and a following that spans from South America to China;
  • Madhuri Dixit Nene is maybe the most iconic Bollywood actresses to date. She acted in more than 100 movies and won many different awards;
  • Sridevi, who started her acting career in the 60s, when she was a child. She is regarded as the first female superstar of the Indian cinema. Unfortunately, she died on February 2018, after quitting her acting career in 1997.

Best Bollywood movies

With so many movies released each year, it is really difficult to pick the best movies. However, we chose five that we think you should really give a chance: they are all extremely good movies, entertaining, well-written and brilliantly acted.

Rang de Basanti

The movie was released in 2006 and it features an ensemble cast, and the protagonist is played by Amir Khan. It tells the story of five men in Delhi whose lives change as they act in a documentary about five Indian freedom fighters. It was praised for its screenplay and acting, and when it came out broke all box offices openings in India.

3 Idiots

This movie stars Amir Khan as well, and it is a coming-of-age comedy-drama about three students at an engineering college. It is a satire about social pressure under the Indian education system. It won several awards and there is also a Mexican remake that came out in 2017.

3 Idiots are one of the few Indian movies to become successful also in China and Japan, and it manages to have a strong impact on the Indian education system.


Another movie with Amir Khan. It came out in 2001 and it is a historical epic sports drama set during the period of the British Raj. It tells the story of a small village whose inhabitants are challenged by a British office to a game of cricket. If they win, they won't have to pay the taxes that are destroying their economy.

A Wednesday!

The movie is set between 2 pm and 6 pm on a particular Wednesday, and it depicts a police commissioner, soon to be retired, that narrates an accident that happened in that day.

The film was shot with a small budget, but it was still a box office success thanks to critical acclaim and word-of-mouth. Critics particularly appreciated the storyline and the ending.

Bollywood themed tours in Mumbai

Mumbai is where the magic happens: here more than 100 movies each year are produced, and you will be delighted by the tours you can take.

For example, you can visit Film City, built in 1978 and providing facilities for movie producers. The complex is almost 350 acres big and there are 20 fully equipped indoor studios. The only way to visit it is to take a guided tour.

The tour is two hours long and will take you to various destinations inside Film City. There are six tours per day, and they cost $49 per person. You can also join a Live Show Tour and witness the live shooting of TV, watching the actors working on set and have your photo taken with them. There are four tours each day, costing the same price as above.

You can also join one of the tours organized by Bollywood Tours: they will drive you past Bollywood stars' homes and to a shooting studio. Some of their tours also include a dance show and city sightseeing.

And for those dreaming about an acting career, you can become a Bollywood extra. There is always a high demand for foreigners, and the easiest way to make it happen is to hang around Colaba Causeway in Mumbai, where you can be sure someone will ask you to be an extra.

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