The Bollywood Vista
By Asif Anwar Alig
Encyclopedia of Bollywood—Film Actors, compiled by Renu Saran, Diamond Pocket Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi – 110020 (India), 260pp, Indian Rupees195, Soft (ISBN: 978-81-288-2899-7. Bollywood needs no introduction today. As the world's largest film industry and admired by millions across the continents it enjoys worldwide popularity. Dubbing Hindi movies in other languages was a tough nut to chew some five decades ago, yet Hindi films were popular as far off as Europe and Russia. The boom in communication & information technology sectors proved a blessing for its ability to reach millions. Cinema lovers can easily recognize most Hindi film actors and actresses but the younger generation isn't abreast of many talented actors of the early period as yet.
Hindi cinema, or Bollywood attained several breakthroughs since its inception. The huge entertainment industry from India's finance capital Mumbai (earlier Bombay) appeals to global cinema lovers. Often denoted with Indian cinema's sobriquet Hindi movies, Bollywood is the narrower version of India's diverse film industry accommodating multilingual movie productions alongside popular Hindi movies. Assamese; Bengali; Telugu; Tamil; Bhojpuri; Nepali; Brajbhasa; Rajasthani; Tulu; Punjabi;
Bihari; Chattisgarhi; Oriya; Gujarati; Marathi; Haryanvi; Manipuri; Kannada; Malayalam; Kashmiri; Kosli and Konkani cinemas are the integral parts of India's film medium
Bollywood, as the world's largest film producer, enjoys an undisputable ascendancy. A derivation from the erstwhile Bombay, like Hollywood for the US film industry, it has attained worldwide fame over the decades. Referred to as regional Bengali cinema for decades until identified with the other regional cinema—Telugu in Telangana & Andhra Pradesh states, Tollywood inspired the creation of Bollywood term in the 1970s when India eventually overtook America as the world's largest film producer country. By 1932, the Tollywood term was used in India as the earliest possible Hollywood-inspired idea. It was identified with Bengali cinema from Calcutta's (now Kolkata) Tollygunge area until Indian cinema achieved nationwide popularity.
Indian cinema began its journey when Dadasaheb Phalke directed the country's first silent feature film Raja Harishchandra (1913). Until the 1930s, India produced at least 200 movies annually. Ardeshir Irani directed India's first sound movie, Alam Ara (1931). It was a big commercial success and so brought about a new resurgence in the entertainment industry. Its success paved the way for creative filmmaking in the coming years. based on the Great Depression, World War II and India's freedom struggle up to partition with violent plots, Indian cinema from early 1930s to late 1950s was educational and a pathfinder for a big social change.
Eminent filmmakers incorporated social issues in their movie plots. Bollywood had its 'Golden Age' from the late 1940s to 1960s with the production of finest movies ever. Guru Dutt's Pyaasa (1957) & Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Raj Kapoor's Awaara (1951) & Shree 420 (1955) were critically acclaimed movies with strong socio-cultural themes. Epic movies like Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957) and K. Asif's Mughal-e-Azam (1960) are magnum opus even today. Bimal Roy's Madhumati (1958) brought the reincarnation theme into Bollywood films. Producer-directors Kamal Amrohi and Vijay Bhatt gave the mainstream Hindi movies new direction. Such brilliant filmmakers nourished new talents over this period.
Actors Dev Anand; Dilip Kumar; Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt ruled over Bollywood for several decades. Equally these decades witnessed the emergence of many talented actresses like Nargis, Vyjayanthimala; Meena Kumari; Nutan; Madhubala; Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha et al. They showcased exemplary talents of the 1950s when commercial Hindi cinema was thriving. The emergence of the Parallel Cinema movement, especially Bengali cinema, left an irrefutable impact during that era. Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar (1946) and Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin (1953) were early examples as Parallel Cinema movement's brainchild. Guru Dutt and Satyajit Ray emerged as greatest of the Asian filmmakers of all time with an indomitable contribution to Indian cinema. They produced several exemplary Bollywood movies.
Bollywood had a big transformation in the late 1960s and early 1970s with romance and action themed movies gaining momentum. Actors Rajesh Khanna; Dharmendra; Sanjeev Kumar; Shashi Kapoor and actresses Sharmila Tagore; Mumtaz and Asha Parekh dominated those decades. Mid-1970s Bollywood peaked with the themes of romance, violence, gangster and banditry. It welcomed Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty, Anil Kapoor and Sunny Deol et al to rule over Bollywood actively till early 1990s. Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha remained the dominant actresses of that period. Filmmaker Shyam Benegal produced realistic Parallel Cinema films during 1970s. By then commercial cinema had become equally popular.
Successful commercial movies of that decade were Sholay (1975) and Deewar (1975) and brought Amitabh Bachchan into the limelight. Family centric and love themed musicals Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988); Maine Pyar Kiya (1989); Dil (1990), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) projected new generation cinema in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Actors Aamir Khan, Salman Khan & Shahrukh Khan to actresses Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi and Juhi Chawla achieved remarkable success during that period. The decade was an entry point for the new actors and directors to experiment with a distinct genre of Hindi films. Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai, Manisha Koirala, Tabu and Urmila Matondkar gave excellent performances and were recognized as critically acclaimed actors.
Bollywood's popularity overseas increased further at the beginning of 2000.There was a manifold revolution in filmmaking cinematography with innovative story lines and the implementation of technical advancements like animation and special effects which were projected through the movies Koi... Mil Gaya (2003); Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003); Veer-Zaara (2004); Dhoom (2004); Hum Tum (2004); Dhoom 2 (2006); Krrish (2006) and Jab We Met (2007) etc. They changed Bollywood's filmmaking perspective.
Popular actors of today Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan et al and actresses Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta, Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra achieved stardom in Hindi cinema in the mid-2000s. From 2010, the rise of a new generation of actors Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor to actresses Vidya Balan, Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma and Parineeti Chopra reflected Bollywood's new talent pool.
Bollywood attained popularity in Canada and the US in the last decade due to the presence there and admiration of large South Asian communities. Several Indian movies do more business in the US today than those from other non-English speaking countries. Fiji; Sri Lanka; Australia and New Zealand are the countries where Bollywood movies are immensely popular. Salaam Namaste (2005) was the first Bollywood film shot entirely in Australia and which was a huge successthat year. Likewise, Heyy Babyy (2007); Chak De! India (2007) and Singh Is Kinng (2008) were the other box office successes abroad.
The book Encyclopedia of Bollywood—Film Actors is a compendium of Bollywood actors. Ironically it doesn't cover the niche areas of Bollywood's vastness but still interests cinema lovers to the maximum extent with alphabetically listed biographies of famous actors. Unfortunately, not a single actress has been included in this book.
This book has many old and new names, from Amitabh Bachchan to Dilip Kumar to Mukri to Jeetendra to Dharmendra and Amjad Khan to name a few out of 172 film actors included. Contemporary actors John Abraham, Arbaz Khan, Sunil Shetty, Abhishek Bachchan and Aamir Khan have been highlighted for their contributions to put Bollywood on the global map. Non-inclusion of actresses is the biggest setback and therefore disappoints many readers.
A revised edition of this book should have mandatory inclusion of actresses to increase reader interest. Its reprint with the updates from Bollywood's evaluation since silent movies era to todays' technologically empowered films would prove a valuable contribution for the future generations.
[Asif Anwar Alig ([email protected]) is an assistant professor and media relations specialist at the Saudi Ministry of Education. He was earlier executive producer in ETV; editorial coordinator at MDI, Gurgaon (India) and media specialist at PMU (Saudi Arabia). He blogs at http://seocontentindia.com/ and www.asifanwaralig.com.]
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