What mostly characterizes and determines the quality of a Bollywood movie, are its dancing scenes. When combined to a soundtrack of which success is due to lyrics dealing with love stories socially controversial and wounded hearts deploring the absence of the loved one, choreographies have the mission to evoke what cannot be openly shown or said in Indian cinema. Thus, dancing and everything that can be connoted through more or less daring choreographies are the ways to foil censorship. The latter is still extremely influent in the Indian film industry. Indeed, it bans every display of affection considered too explicit such as kisses, or even scenes judged ostentatious consequently to showing some cleavage. Only dancing benefits from some kind of permissiveness regarding its capping. This phenomenon hatches a very strong and visual freedom of speech, which confers all its power and influence to dancing coming from Indian film industry.
In the beginning of 1940's, the role given to choreographies becomes bigger and bigger within Indian movies. Selection criteria regarding actresses stopped being uppermost about their capacity to act, but turned into their ability to memorize and reproduce a musical sequence. Then, in the 1970's, characteristics of Bollywood movies clearly defined themselves, which allowed the Indian film industry to rise as the worldly biggest movies producer thanks to more than 800 films issuing every year.
In India, Bollywood movies are considered as a way to escape and dream, which can be explained by the huge expressiveness in movie theatres where the audience freely interacts with characters by commenting out loud what happens on screen and even getting up when they feel offended by the unfairness of a situation lived by the hero. Bollywood movies often evolve according to a similar narrative pattern: they take place in luxurious settings, and topics deal with family stories and caste problems involving impossible or controversial love stories. Dancing sequences are also sung and there is an average of 6 sung dances in each movie. These sequences are the ones which contributed to the popularity of Bollywood cinema in Europe, rather than the similitude that can be found in scenarii of characters' credibility.
After stressing the predominance of dancing in a Bollywood movie, it now appears interesting to understand how Bollywood established itself as a dancing style independent from the field in which it was born.
First of all, the designation "Bollywood dancing", a course we propose at Sita, does not refer to one specific style but may be considered as a "masala" dance (Hindi term designating the actions of "mixing" and "combining"). Indeed, countless styles, whether they are western (techno, break, latino...) or oriental and Indian (belly dance, classical, folkloric...) may be choreographically arranged in order to fully fulfill the expected role of the dancing sequence in the movie. This is the way Indian cinema develops its unifying aspect, by attracting very diverse publics thanks to emotion, action, comedy and danced and sung sequences which assimilate and appropriate heterogeneous dancing styles which are likely to emotionally reach and find an echo for all kinds of audience. Bollywood movies may be seen as a distorting mirror of Indian reality, in the way that it represents an enchanted and fantasized version of this reality. But still, Bollywood remains really focused on society themes structuring Indian identity, such as family for instance.
Today, Aishwarya Rai, Kajol and Kareena Kapoor are the most famous Bollywood actresses and dancers, both in India and abroad, while Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan are the main male names of Bollywood movies. This being said, Madhuri Dixit remains one of the greatest actresses of all times in India and her acting and dancing skills, which allowed her to win many awards, are said to be timeless.
Bollywood cinema gradually turned into a true ambassador of the country's identity, through all its wealth and contradictions. On one hand this cinema does not circulate much around the world, but on the other hand everybody knows what an Indian movie looks like: Bollywood has its own style of quoting reality. India then exported a whole brand around this cinema. And Bollywood slowly became a term used to qualify dances, meetings and festivals being more or less linked to cinema. This resulted on the fact that a very strong cultural identity was developed thanks to the film industry, since even before India turned into an emerging State, the country was already provided with a clearly defined and specific way of making movies. This status is really characteristic to India since usually, when countries develop their own film industry there are already developed countries, such as China for example.
This danced and sung style which defines Bollywood, fascinates beyond Indian borders to the extent that very different nationalities meet each other during the Bollywood classes given at Sita. Indeed, it constitutes a total show inspired from Farsi theatre (Persian) and the predominance of image within Hindi culture where visual ways to express oneself are really strong. Thus, some predispositions could be found as regards establishing dancing as one of Bollywood movies' pillars. For instance, Krishna, one of the most important deities in Hindi cosmology, dances. Thus, in India exists a form of navigation between a fantasized world composed of imagery, dancing and singing, and reality. All of the previous are a part of religion, customs, art of living and imparts dance coming from Bollywood movies with a considerable influence in Indian culture.
Of course, we can notice variations in the art of Bollywood dancing, due to geographical factors which have a tremendous influence on cinematographic production. Thus, we do not talk about "Bollywood" in the South of India, but "Kollywood". The latter stands for the southern film industry shot in Tamil language in Chennai. Just like for Bollywood, Kollywood is a term combining the names "Kodambakkam" (the area in Chennai in which are located the cinema studios), and "Hollywood". Unlike what can be believed, Bollywood film industry is not the one that produces the bigger number of movies in India: this is Kollywood. Means are lesser and the communication related to the issue of movies may suffer of that in terms of notoriety, but the production is more regular, even uninterrupted. The actresses Asin, GeneliaDsouza, Shriya Saran, TrishaKrishnan and Sada, are currently the more reputed actresses from Kollywood cinema and are able to switch from a production shot in Tamil to a Bollywood movie shot in Hindi, or even to a Mollywood film whose language is Malayalam. Being polyglot illustrates the versatility and adaptability of Indian actors who are able to act and sing in several languages added to their mother tongue. And among the great Kollywood actors: Shivaji Rao Gaekwad said « Rajinikanth », holds the status of superstar. Since the beginning of 1990's, almost all the movies in which he acted turned out to be tremendous commercial successes. This makes him the best paid Asian actor after Jackie Chan.
The principles of Kollywood cinema are basically the same as Bollywood's ones, since movies also integrate important danced and sung sequences. This being said, even though the approached topics are globally the same and the narrative pattern follows the same steps, some dances, whether they were traditionally born in the areas where the movies are produced or simply culturally more settled and practiced, will be more strenuously used in Bollywood, Kollywood, Lollywood or Mollywood movies. Indeed, BarataNatyam which is the classical traditional dance from Tamil Nadu will have more chance to be called up in Kollywood choreographies than in Bollywood's. Just like Odissi, a dance coming from the area of Orissa. Furthermore, topics and choreographies evoking army and battles will be differently approached and directed in Bollywood and Kollywood cinema. Indeed, battle scenes will be much more violent and explicit in Kollywood movies where characters beat each other up using weapons, whereas confrontations will occur with bare hands and will be more suggestive while the choreographies will be orchestrated in a way to softly hurt the opponent.
As regards Mollywood film industry, it is associated to the cinematographic production coming from the area of Kochi and distinguishes itself because movies are shot in Malayalam language. Hence the name Mollywood. And as for Lollywood, this is a cinema related to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This term first appeared during summer 1989 when local newspapers started to contract the first letter of the city of Lahore with the usual Hollywood. Eventually, Tollywood film industry may also be found. It turns out to be the movie production located in western Bengal and its name results once more from the language in which movies are shot : Tollygunge. This industry is known to be more modest, but this retirement does not prevent it to provide numerous talents to both Bollywood and Kollywood.
Thanks to this panorama of Indian cinematographic industry, you are now able to understand the importance of dancing within a movie, just like the strength of the messages Bollywood dancing may convey by combining different choreographic styles. The latters are also the reason why all kinds of public find what they are looking for when practicing this dance. So if you never tried yet to sway your hips on Bollywood sounds, do not hesitate to come through Sita's doors, we can assure you, you will not be disappointed!