Hollywood vs. “Bollywood”

“East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet”.

When Rudyard Kipling wrote this, the “East” was still undiscovered, alien territory. Not like today, when you can find a Sushi parlor, Karate or Tai Chi school in Europe and America, a McDonald’s in every major city in Asia and attend a Heavy Metal concert in Tokyo as well. Baseball and “Soccer” are now international sports in both the East and West.

But, there is one Eastern cultural phenomenon that has, so far, kept its distance from the West, and thriving on its own. Most of us have heard about “Bollywood”, a euphemism for a movie industry that is the Eastern equivalent of “Hollywood”, and gaining more international recognition and popularity every year.

“Hollywood”, of course, is the label for motion pictures produced and viewed anywhere in the world, not just films produced in the Los Angeles suburb called “Hollywood”. Bollywood films are films produced primarily in India that has established its own “brand”, capturing a increasingly large, primarily Asian audience; an audience large enough to challenge, or even surpass Hollywood’s supremacy as the “most produced and watched film maker in the world”. In fact, “Bollywood” is now one of the largest film industries in the world, and growing.

Bollywood is an acronym combining Bombay and Hollywood, and refers to the Indian Hindi language film industry based in Mumbai, or Bombay. It now produces about 800 feature films and more than a thousand short films annually. There are literally millions of movie enthusiasts in India and the Far East, and Bollywood films serve their cultural and aesthetic tastes in the same way that “Hollywood” does in the West.

There are differences, of course. Unlike Western/Hollywood movies, Bollywood movies tend to meld action, suspense, thrillers with spectacle, music and dance. That means that if a Western Action Star like Tom Cruise, Bruce Lee or Arnold Schwarzenegger were starring in a Bollywood action film, they would not only be chasing bad guys, shooting criminals and saving humanity from various alien life forms, but also singing and dancing like Fred Astaire in a production number.  We’re not quite sure Western audiences are ready for that.    Arnold