This year sees celebrations abound to mark 100 Years of Bollywood. A century ago, on 3 May 1913, audiences in India were introduced to Dadasaheb Phalke’s ground-breaking Raja Harishchandra. The 40-minute long black and white silent film, based on the legend of King Harishchandra, is widely considered to mark the official start of what is today one of the world’s best loved and most successful film industries.
In fact, celebrations to mark 100 Years of Bollywood started as early as last year. This is due to the fact that some contend the short film Shree Pundalik by Dadasaheb Torne, released on 18 May 1912, is in fact the first Bollywood film. However, critics cite several factors, including its short length of 22 minutes, the fact that it was a recording of a popular play, and that it had a British cameraman and was processed in London, as reasons it is superseded by Raj Harishchandra.
While the industry currently produces a staggering average of 1000+ feature films a year (twice the annual production of Hollywood), annual revenues of Bollywood films are still only a fraction at 10% of the $30 billion (£19 billion) generated by Hollywood. Yet, the stars of the Indian silver screen, such as the inimitable Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Shan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan are arguably just as famous as their Hollywood counterparts in homes all around the world.
Bollywood acting legend and industry insider Kajol, has, along with contemporaries such as Aishwarya Rai, become one of the industry’s biggest icons.
Comments Kajol: “The fact that our industry has not only survived, but has, in fact, thrived over the last century speaks volumes. I am grateful for the fact that I am here, at this time, and able to be even a small part of its fantastic accomplishments. From the first black and white film to modern-day 3D cinema, we have certainly come a long way. Whether Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan or even myself, we are known the world over due to the profession we are in – there is no corner of the world that Bollywood has not touched! And we have a 100 glorious years behind us to prove it.”
Adds Suhel Seth, India’s leading marketing guru and managing partner of Counselage India: “Bollywood has cast an indelible impression on the social mores, from our very psyche to its influence on consumerism in India and across the Indian Diaspora. This anniversary is not just 100 years of celebrating Indian Cinema… it is indeed a century of soft-power and the unabashed influence for the good that Indian cinema has had on audiences around the world”
“Bollywood has played a vital role in promoting the country brand of India,” adds UK-based soft power and communications expert, Farzana Baduel. “With China and India rising on the world stage due to their increasing economic prowess, India stands apart due to the rich cultural offerings it shares with international audiences, not least through the emotional connections the global audience has forged with legends of Indian cinema.”