What is Bollywood and Hollywood?
Bollywood and Hollywood both have many similarities and differences in regards to their portrayal of romance in film. The term “Bollywood” is defined as, “films produced by the Mumbai film industry, primarily in the Hindi language, distributed across the normal commercial film circuits of northern India, and containing song and dance item numbers as an integral part of the plot.” (Brief History). Hollywood film is defined as, “the cinema of the United States since the early 20th century.” (Brief History).
Bollywood differs from Hollywood because it incorporates three different characteristics: nationality, censorship, and music(Brief History). These three concepts greatly impact how romance is portrayed. Nationalism refers to the depiction of India as a whole, meaning it doesn’t speak to one particular group (Brief History). Nearly all Bollywood films are performed in the Hindi language, the most common in India (Brief History). In the world of Bollywood, different religions, social classes, and culture pairings are common. For example, one of the main characters in a romantic relationship may Muslim while the other may be Hindi. The idea is that love can transcend differences (Rosen ). The music is also eclectic and represents different worldwide styles, including some styles common in Hollywood (Brief History).
Another major difference between Bollywood and Hollywood is the censorship that is common in the Bollywood industry. Censorship refers to the government input and control they have over the making of the film (Brief History). Certain themes may be banned as well as sex and psychical contact of any kind (Brief History). This is in stark contrast to Hollywood films that often push the boundaries of acceptability in society. Hollywood cinema is filled with controversial topics and a freedom of sexuality.
In order to make up for the lack of physical contact in Bollywood films, often the acting and dialogue is exaggerated to express emotion (Brief History). Visual and verbal cues are common indicators of romantic feelings. Slight movements from a nod of the head to flick of a hand can have great meaning within the context of the plot. Hindi films often employee eye contact with the same passion as Hollywood film’s might gain from a kissing scene. Hindi film redefines how we view romances and re-emphasizes that romance is not pure about physical attraction. Bollywood films are usually very long, often surpassing three hours in length. This is to develop a complete story since much of what Hollywood films would typically portray in their actions can be explained through dialogue in Bollywood film (Rosen ). Even something as seemingly innocent as a kiss is taboo for a Bollywood actor (Bollywhat). Even as times change and censorship becomes more lax, most Bollywood actors prefer not to physical affection in fear of damaging their reputation (Bollywhat). Censorship remains one of the main differences in how romance is portrayed between these two film cultures.
Music and Dance
The proliferate music throughout Bollywood films also contrasts with Hollywood. Music and dance continues to be a much more important aspect to the world of Bollywood (“Bollywood Trends”). Often in Hollywood, film only has a very minimal soundtrack. Often music is relayed only in the backgrounds of scenes. Music in Bollywood, however, plays a much larger role. Due to censorship, music is used to convey emotion and romance (Brief History). One Bollywood director states, “not as a statement of principle or an assertion of aesthetic norms, but simple and unquestioned behavior, like the law of gravity.” (“Bollywood Trends”). The music is very diverse and doesn’t always have to make sense to the plot of a scene in the way that it would in an American film because it may be used purely for emotional content. Dance is also used as a form of sensuality in both Bollywood and Hollywood films. However it is more prominent in Bollywood films for the same reason music is so prominent. Dancers are allowed more freedom of sexuality than they are in acting, although it is still minimal (“Bollywood Trends”).
Hollywood and Bollywood often share many similar romantic plots. Often one film genre may be remade into another. For example the 1954 Hollywood film “Sabrina” was remade to fit Bollywood sensibilities in “Yeh Dillagi” (“Old is Gold”). Many Hindi films are re-makes of Hollywood classics and recycle the same plots only refitted to fit the genre. Rosen states, “The Hollywood romances emphasize the individuals within each relationship; the Bollywood romances emphasize the couple as a unit within the greater whole of society.” (Rosen) She also notes that Hollywood films typically emphasize individualism while Bollywood film typically emphasizes loyalty in a relationship, instead of the individual. This speaks to a different ranking of values within relationships.
America is also becoming more aquianted with Bollywood. The recent success of the film “Slumdog Millionaire” introduced a new American audience to Bollywood stylistics (Rosen ). Although “Slumdog Millionaire” is not a traditional Bollywood film by any means, it has a few characteristics of it mixed with Westernized thought. This mix of styles may lead to more blending of cultures through film. By looking at how different cultures portray the idea of romance, minds are open to different cultural differences and the ability to recognize similarities (Rosen ). Love is an emotion all cultures feel and can identify with as a theme in film. The growing popularity of Bollywood films in America speaks of the desire to understand diversity(Rosen ). Entertainment seems like a safe and informative venue for many Americans (Rosen ).
In summary, by better understanding the concepts of nationalism, censorship, and music that are incorporated into Bollywood film we can begin to look at the genre with a different set of expectations. To compare Bollywood to Hollywood is like comparing apples and oranges, one should access Bollywood with a different set of standards to fully enjoy and understand it. Even though there are many differences, at heart often the films are very similar, sometimes even remakes of each other! The key is just understanding why the film is constructed as it is and what it means to the plot of the movie.
, ed. “Brief history of Bollywood.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec 2012.
,ed. “Bollywhat.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec 2012.
, ed. “Bollywood vs Hollywood – The Complete Breakdown .” Variety International Film Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec 2012.
,ed. “From Hollywood to Bollywood: Romantic comedies and remakes.” Old is Gold. N.p., 12 2008. Web. 6 Dec 2012.
. “Romance in Bollywood.” Bollywood Trends. N.p., 02 2002. Web. 6 Dec 2012.
Rosen, H. “Carnegie Mellon University.” Carnegie Mellon University. (2010): n. page. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.