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The Story Behind Bollywood

With a world population of 182 million speakers of Hindi and a thriving cultural industry, we investigate the story behind Bollywood in translation - the focal point of traditional India cinema enjoyed the world over. However, there are lots of misconceptions about this worldwide phenomenon. Although it is commonly interpreted as a wide spanning term for Indian cinema, it is actually a smaller part of it. Bollywood is only part of the Indian film industry, which produces films in regional language. Known formally as Hindi cinema, it also has an increasingly common feature of incorporating Indian English in songs and dialogue (Hinglish in translation).

So where did the word come from? It's a portmanteau of Bombay (former name of Mumbai) and the multimillion-dollar film industry of Hollywood. However, the similarity ends here as it's not an actual physical place, although it does reside in pride of place in the Oxford English Dictionary. The name has also been contested over its original coinage - from the scholar Amit Kannar to journalist Bevinda Collaco.

The story behind Indian cinema began with the screening of six silent films at the Watson Hotel in Bombay from the Lumiere Brothers. Having watched a screening in 1910, Dadasaheb Phalke decided to make his own screening, with the silent film Raja Harishchanda in 1913.

To reflect the times socially, culturally and historically, Indian cinema and Bollywood cinema underwent many trends in subject matter. During the 30s and 40s alongside social upheavals and the partitioning of India, more lighthearted subjects came from a wave of directors who used this political backdrop and freedom movement to flavour their scripts, dissecting many various issues and bringing them to life.

Following the 1940s and 50s, the independence of India heralded the Golden Age of Hindi cinema. These covered a wide range of issues, including social themes dealing with urban life in the famous films of critical acclaim such as the Raj Kapoor films Awaara and Shree 420. Black and white films were still prevalent until the 1960s, although the 1950s heralded in the new age of colour films. The plots now gravitated to romance and dramatic themes with famous actors such as Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari and then eventually action.

So here is a snapshot of the famous industry, with now such famous stars as Rani Mukeraji and Aishwarya Rai. Hopefully we've helped to shed some more light in translation of Bollywood and the influence it has had over history!

Read up on Hindi interpreting services for more information on the relationship between English and Hindi.

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