Having grown up in India, I’ve heard the word “Bollywood” a million times. On TV, in newspapers, tabloids, and even journals so much that when I hear the word, my mind makes a reflexive reference to the Hindi film industry. Unfortunately, this popular epithet given to the Hindi film industry has made itself quite pronounced internationally too. A simple google search on “Bollywood” will point you to some hundreds of articles published on popular online platforms that reference to the Indian film industry as Bollywood. But we all know this is incorrect. Bollywood refers to the Hindi film industry and not the Indian film industry in entirety.
Wikipedia explains that Bollywood is a portmanteau of Bombay and Hollywood. Somehow, it made sense to associate “Bolly” to Bombay (now Mumbai) to the one who coined the term. But, this makes little to no sense. Hollywood is an actual neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles unlike Bollywood, an illogical name given to the industry that produces some thousand odd films each year.
This brave attempt to ape the sexy-sounding Hollywood has only made the Indian film industry (aka Bollywood) name sound like a classic attempt to ape the west but has also inspired the many regional film industries to follow suit and procure their own version of the “wood”. The Telugu film industry is referred popularly as Tollywood(I hear Bengali films are referred to by the same name), there is Mollywood, Kollywood, and a slew of ‘woods’ such as Pollywood (Punjab cinema), Lollywood, Chhollywood. My personal favorite is Sandalwood. The name refers to the Kannada film industry and the term is intelligent enough as Karnataka is home to the Sandalwood trees. I read somewhere that the great king khan, Salman
Coming back to Bollywood, I read somewhere that the great king khan, Salman khan was equally frustrated with the term and recommended that it be replaced with Hi-Fi (Hindi Film industry). Lol!
The Indian film industry boasts of several hundred exceptionally well-made movies that have gained international applaud and respect. Neecha Nagar (1946), Do Beegha Zameen (1953), Pather Panchali (1956), Kahrij(1982), Lagaan(2011), Udaan(2010), The Lunchbox (2013), Masaan(2015) have won awards at Cannes. Movies such as Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay (1988), Lagaan(2001) have found themselves in the academy awards nominations list.
Regional films have also made their mark on international cinema. Movies such as Pather Panchali(1956), the Satyajit Ray directed Bengali film won the best human document award at Cannes. Oka Oori Katha (English: The Story of a Village)(1977) won awards at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival(Czech Republic), and Carthage Film Festival(Tunis). Maa Ooru(English: Our Village) (1987), another template for parallel cinema won the Media Wave Award at the Hungary International festival of visual arts. The Marathi courtroom drama “Court” excelled in showcasing the weaknesses of the Indian judicial system. Seetha Kalyanam, a Telugu film that came out in 1976 was screened at the BFI London Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, San Reno, and Denver International Film Festivals in 1978 and is studied at the British Film Institute as part of film related coursework.
India has also produced numerous directors and actors that have helped propel India’s name on the international forefront. From N.Night Shyamalan, the director of the sixth sense to Shekhar Kapoor, Mira Nair, Gurinder Chadha, Deepa Mehta. We are also seeing actors such as Irfan Khan, Anupam Kher excel in international roles and represent India
The Indian film industry is unique in many ways. Unlike Hollywood, that represents movies made in one language-English, the Indian film industry churns out movies in thousands in several dozen languages each year. These movies make us laugh, cry, leave us happy, or sometimes in extreme agony belong to a unique industry that is as unique as the country it belongs to. Isn’t it time, we start calling it by its original name and leave the unoriginal trappings behind?