History of Bollywood – Evolution & Criticism

History of Bollywood - Evolution & Criticism

Have you ever wondered why everyone aspires to act in Bollywood films? Why are Bollywood films releasing across the world? Bollywood is recognized by its contemporary story plots, glamourous actors, and foot-tapping songs. The actors in Bollywood are also transitioning into the Hollywood industry. So let us go down the lanes of the history of Bollywood cinema and reminisce a little.

Indian cinema is touted to be one of the largest and oldest film industries in the world. It ranks 5th in the world’s top 10 biggest film industries.

Evolution of Bollywood

Bollywood is a mishmash of two words – Bombay ( the former name of Mumbai) and Hollywood. It originated during the year 1970’s when Indian cinema overtook Hollywood in film production. According to a 2004 article in The Hindu, it was reported that Amit Khanna coined this term.

Evolution of Bollywood

Hiralal Sen, one of India’s first filmmakers and noted photographer made a film of scenes from a stage show at Calcutta’s Star Theatre. After that India’s first silent feature film was released ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913 made by Dadasaheb Phalke, who was known as the Father of India cinema. By 1930, the Indian cinema industry started to produce 200 films per year. The first Indian sound film was released in 1931 ‘Alam Ara’, by Ardeshir Irani, who remains one of the greatest legends of Indian cinema. This film was commercially successful and was in great demand which made the entire Indian cinema industries switch to sound films.

From 1930 to 1940, Indian filmmakers faced tough struggles because of the great depression of World War Ⅱ. After this Irani made the first Hindi color film, ‘Kisan Kanya’ in 1937, and the same year he made the color version of ‘Mother India’. Until 1950, color films didn’t become very successful among the people who showed an inclination to romantic music and melodramas.

In 1947, the partition of India separated the Republic of India and Pakistan. The Bombay film industry was closely linked with the Lahore film industry and the Bengali film industry. Many of the actors, musicians, and filmmakers from the Lahore and Calcutta migrated to Bombay, thus making Bombay the center of the Indian film industry.

Kisan Kanya

Classic Bollywood

The modern Indian film was born after 1947. The historical and mythological stories of the past were replaced by the social-reformist films and started to show social practices such as the dowry system, polygamy, and prostitution. In the 1950s filmmakers such as Bimal Roy and Satyajit Ray started to focus on the life of lower classes. After that, the film industry was inspired by the social and political changes which lead to the birth of India’s new wave founded by Ray, Mrinal Sen, and Ritwik Ghatak in the 1960s. These were the periods where the films showed a greater sense of realism and the understanding of a common man.

Over the years several classic genres emerged from Bollywood such as ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ in 1960, ‘Sholay’ in 1975, ‘Pakeezah’ in 1972, and ‘Santoshi Maa’ in 1975 highlighted the stunning cinematography and sensual dance choreography. The Bollywood filmed versions of episodes from Indian classics and mythological literature such as ‘The Ramayana’ and ‘The Mahabharatha’ dominated throughout the decade.

Classic Bollywood

Modern Bollywood

Later the industry found the template for masala films which includes genres such as action, comedy, and melodrama, punctuated by minimal six songs and dance numbers. This template is still followed to date. Manmohan Desai was one of the more successful Bollywood directors and is considered the Father of Masala films. The mixture of action, comedy, romance, and music is still dominating the Bollywood industry. These days the industry shows greater attention to the plot, character development, and dramatic tension for a film’s success.


We have a plethora of mentors in the Bollywood industry, who have introduced umpteen new artists into Bollywood. Some of them sparkled as gems in the industry and left an indelible impression on the minds and hearts of cinemagoers. So here are the top 7 mentors who discovered and polished new talent in the Bollywood world.

  1. Dev Anand

Dev Anand is not only known for his idiosyncratic style of speaking but he also acted as a guide to many upcoming actors, notably young and good-looking girls. Two outstanding talents he discovered are Zeenat Aman (who was launched in ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’) and Tina Munim in ‘Des Pardes’. Jackie Shroff also began his career under the able guidance of Dev Anand.

Other actors and directors launched by Dev Anand are Guru Dutt (Director), Kalpana Kartik, Sahir Ludhianvi (Lyricist), Raj Khosla, Jai Dev, Vijaya Anand, Tabu, and Neeru Bajwa.

Dev Anand
Guru Dutt

 2. Guru Dutt

Actor, Director, and Producer Guru Dutt was a noted multi-faceted genius. He was a rare spotter of talent. He is credited for bringing in the best talents to Bollywood.  He introduced one of the best screenwriters and cinematographers, Abrar Alvi and VK Murthy. He also introduced Waheeda Rehman to Bollywood.

3. Raj Kapoor

The first showman of Hindi films and a versatile person who become the first man in Indian cinema to have his heroines showcase their bodies in sensuous frames was Raj Kapoor. Kapoor not only managed to convince everyone to show skin but also appreciated the aesthetic portrayal of his leading women.

He launched Yasmeen Joseph, whom he later named Mandakini. He cast her in the leading role in the movie called ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’ in 1985. He was also a father-figure to lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri and musician duo Shankar-Jaikishan.

He also launched heroines like Dimple Kapadia, Vyajantimala, Madhubala, Simi Grewal, Nargis, Nimmi, and Padmini Kolhapure.

Raj Kapoor
Mahesh Bhatt

4.Mahesh Bhatt

Mahesh Bhatt is known for his exclusive work in Hindi cinema. He is notable for launching the careers of Anupam Kher in ‘Saaransh’, Rahul Roy, Anu Agarwal, and Deepak Tijori, his own daughter Pooja Bhatt, Atul Agnihotri, and Sonali Bendre. Bhatt also offered to ease Sunny Leone’s entry into Bollywood.

He also introduced some other famous faces including Emran Hashmi, Mallika Sherawat, Kangana Ranaut, Veena Malik, and Bipasha Basu.

5. Subhash Ghai

Subhash Ghai started his career as an actor and was regarded as the male lead in the ’70s. He turned himself into a film writer in 1973 and directed many blockbuster films. He introduced Manish Koirala, who had no filmy connections, to the glamour world of Bollywood. He also introduced Madhuri and Mahima Choudhary.

Subhash Ghai
Ram Gopal Verma

6. Ram Gopal Varma

Ram Gopal Varma is a popular Indian filmmaker known for his cult favorite and controversial films. He used to search for talents in equal measure. He launched Urmila Matondkar and gave her a flourishing career and also gave a big break to Antara Mali. JD Chakravarthy, Manoj Bajpai, Anurag Kashyap, and Madhur Bhandarkar have all been Varma’s proteges.

7. Salman Khan

Salman Khan is the godfather of many Bollywood celebrities.  He has launched not only actors but also singers and directors. He launched Sneha Ullal in the film ‘Lucky: No time for love’ in 2004. Salman Khan motivated Sonakshi Sinha to reduce weight and offered her the super hit ‘Dabangg’ in 2010. He also motivated Arjun Kapoor to reduce weight so that he could act in films.

He launched Bhumika Chawla in Bollywood, but she had acted in South Indian films before Salman Khan launched her in Hindi films. He also offered a leading role to Daisy Shah, his co-dancer.

He also launched other actors and singers including Zarine Khan, Pranutan Bahl, Zaheer Iqbal, Warina Hussain, Aayush Sharma (his brother-in-law), Himesh Reshammiya, Sajid-Wajid, Sooraj Pancholi, and Athiya Shetty.

Salman Khan

Salman Khan was called the Mentor of Bollywood but now he has got competition. Actors like Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan, and John Abraham are helping the star kids and also outsiders who are keen aspirants of the film industry.

Hrithik Roshan has mentored Varun Dhawan and Siddharth Malhotra. Aamir is training Tiger Shroff while John is guiding Siddhanth Kapoor (Shakti Kapoor’s son).

Superstars of Bollywood

Superstars of the Industry

Filmstars are the driving force behind films, and the Indian public has an insatiable appetite for these superheroes. Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani emerged as the first major star pair. People showered their love on the actors and some became public favorites. In the 1950s and 1960’s Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, and Dev Anand were larger than life stars; in the 1970’s Rajesh Khanna; in the 1980’s Amitabh Bachchan; and in the 1990’s Shah Rukh Khan. Female stars also made a place in people’s hearts including Madhubala, Mumtaz, Zeenat Aman, Hema Malini, Madhuri Dixit, Kajol, and so on.

Superstars of Industry

Bollywood Vs Hollywood

Hollywood is the global leader in the world’s film industry, as it is the largest and oldest motion picture industry in the world. It also stands tall in box-office revenue. Hollywood films are known for their creativity, cutting-edge technology, and pioneers of diverse themes.

Bollywood is also known for its name and work. They introduced many new techniques like bringing color to the film, introducing music and songs to attract the audiences, and improved their choreography. It is the largest film producing industry in the world, producing more than 1000 movies annually. The movies in Bollywood are mostly made on the local context, culture, and stories.

With the international success of a film like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, Bollywood has now reached a new chapter in its history and is the cynosure of the eyes of the world. A question remains though – can Bollywood surpass the success of Hollywood?

Hollywood contributes 10 to 15% of the box office revenues having 70-80 releases per year. Films like ‘Avengers Endgame’ and ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ is being screened on more than 1000 screens and crossed more than Rs.100 Crores at the box office. On the other hand, even films released by popular stars Ayushman Khurana and Aamir Khan never get that hype and fanfare.

There are so many factors that make Hollywood stand better worldwide that includes the plot, characters, story, screenplay, direction, or actors. The key differences between the two major film industries of the world are:

  • Technology

In terms of technology and the quality of filmmaking, Hollywood stands miles ahead of Bollywood. They use special effects like VFX and CGI in most of their stunt and action sequences, thereby consolidating their superiority over Bollywood.

Hollywood has the access to the majority of the resources and they have a team of best technicians who are working in the movies making it technically better. The quality of Bollywood is also getting there but it is still awhile when they can equal Hollywood’s global appeal and world market domination.

  • Box office

 Bollywood makes a large number of movies as compared to Hollywood, but we are lagging behind in the revenue generated. The Aamir Khan’s starrer ‘Dangal’ was released worldwide and grossed a box office value of $310 million only. Hollywood movies such as ‘Gone with the wind’ and ‘Avatar’ were also released worldwide. But the films grossed more than $3.3 billion and Avatar $2.78 billion which are the highest-grossing Hollywood movies. No Bollywood movie has to date inched closer to $1 billion.

  • Production cost

Bollywood spends so much money on making films and songs but when compared to Hollywood, the production cost is lesser than that of Hollywood. ‘Bahubali 2: The Conclusion’ is the most expensive Bollywood movie released to date with a total production cost of $36 million.

But Hollywood is known for spending big on movies. In Hollywood, ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ is the most expensive Hollywood movie with a total budget of $378 million.

  • Duration of the movie

The movie duration should not exceed more than 2 hours 30 minutes as it will bore the audience even though the film has so many twists and turns. The movie duration in Bollywood is between 2 to 3 hours. On the other hand, Hollywood movies are shorter ranging between 1.5 to 2 hours. The lengthening of the movie duration in Bollywood is due to its song and dance.

The Bollywood movie also has deeper and complex subplots, sometimes action and romance clubbed together, and sometimes everything comes together as a package.

  • The income of the leading actors

The highest-paid actors in Bollywood are the three Khans: Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Aamir Khan. Among the three Khans, Shah Rukh Khan is the highest-paid actor with an average annual income of approximately $33 million. The highest-paid actress in Bollywood is Deepika Padukone who has an annual income of about $10 million. When compared to the earnings of the Bollywood actors, Hollywood actors earn much better. 

Dwayne Johnson and Jackie Chan earn an average of $64.50 million and $61 million. Dwayne Johnson is the highest-paid actor in the world. Matt Damon receives payment of about $55 million. Jenifer Lawrence is the highest-paid actress with an annual income of $46 million.

Criticism faced by Bollywood

Bollywood is criticized by some journalists and critics, who believe that the industry is the poor cousin of Hollywood. And also the Bollywood industry instead of improving the contents of the film the entire film industry is now asking the film critics to go soft or rather slow when reviewing their films.

The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) has written a request letter to the film critics mentioning not to publish any reviews until three days after the film releases. The letter also mentions that the critic reviews are influencing the audiences and also affecting the box office collections of their films.

But the letter made many of the critics and journalist to raise questions against Bollywood. How can the opinion of 15-20 people lead to influencing other people to not watch their films?

They also mentioned that we are living in a technology-based world and it is a digital age. So people who watch the movie on Friday morning share their feedbacks and critics offline and online. They also criticized the Bollywood industry by saying the film reviews are published not to affect the box office revenue but to publish to guide the audiences about the content of the film. It is the audience’s rights what to watch and what to not. There are so many films in the Bollywood industry which got bad critics but still, people liked it and made that film into a super hit.

Also, there is another truth that the Bollywood industry is dominated by the stars; they follow a rule where actors come first, and then the writers and directors. Bollywood is still dominated by the masala films and epic stories of Indian culture but the 21st century has made room for intimate stories.

The reason behind the success of Bollywood:

Bollywood movies are famous around the world. The dialogues, acting, dancing, and stories everything will make Bollywood proud. Here are the most important reasons why the Bollywood industry is very much popular.

  • The important key factor of the movie is music. Music and movie are interlinked and it is impossible to separate. Likewise, Bollywood is so colorful and consists of a large team that includes singers, dancer, and costume designers which makes the Bollywood attract everyone and stands tall in the entertainment
  • Bollywood has all kinds of genres like comedy, action, emotions, singing, and dancing. When compared to the other film industries all over the world Bollywood is maintaining uniqueness in their storyline, concept, and the production.
  • Another important thing for Bollywood’s success is using a variety of themes. They aim for all kinds of viewers from kids to elders. The themes include dance, romance, and sometimes current issues too so that it can reach a larger audience.
  • Bollywood actors have always made the trend in society because of their unique stylish fashion quotient. Many of the fans take inspiration from Bollywood celebrities, whether is ethnic wear or western wear. You can always slay the look by taking inspiration from Bollywood celebrities
  • Bollywood movies have great storylines. Films like ‘Highway’, ‘A Wednesday’, and ‘Swades’ had amazing storylines. Bollywood offers stories that face challenges and help them to grow as an individual without any fancy special effects. Movies like these have become super hits around the world.

Apart from the storyline, the performances of the actors also matter. Bollywood has famous and unique actors who gave genuine emotions and memorable performances to touch the hearts and minds of the moviegoers.

Criticism faced by Bollywood

Growth of Bollywood in the Future Era

In 2018, the Bollywood industry released 180 films and earned a revenue of Rs.3300 Crores. And in 2019, their revenue raised to Rs.4000 Crores by releasing 170 films. So Bollywood industry growth is increasing steadily year by year.

Bollywood is clearly in the midst of an industry change. More films have been released which address social themes such as feminism and wealth inequality. These films have taken the Bollywood industry to another level.

The Bollywood industry is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 11% by 2020. Bollywood is already the largest film industry in terms of producing films but lags behind in revenue. Bollywood contributes 43% of the revenue of the Indian film industry and it is sure to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years.

Growth of Bollywood in the future era