What is Bollywood?

Bollywood is the (informal) name for Hindi cinema, one of the many Indian (and regional) cinema industry in India. The name is inspired by the very famous industry "Hollywood" and derives from the B of Bombay (today Mumbai), in Maharastra. Contrary to the popular belief, Bollywood do not refer to the whole of Indian cinema, but only to the movies made in Hindi. It is today the most productive cinema industry in the world, even before Hollywood, with hundreds of released movies a year.

Picture from Raja Harishchandra (1913) - First Indian (silent) movie

Hindi cinema has a long story behind the name, behind the cliché love-stories and the typical songs. From the first silent movie, in 1913, Raja Harishchandra inspired by Hindu Mythology to legendary love-stories like Mughal-E-Azam (1960), the Hindi cinema industry finds its inspiration into their own country's History and legendary stories. And of course, it has found its own stars and gem, be it movies, actors or actresses, directors, singers or even composers.
Legendary actress Madhubala
Amitabh Bachchan - considered the greatest actor of Bollywood
Hindi cinema is characterized by lengthy movies (most last around three hours) including songs and dance-numbers (which might be important to the film success and which holds a dear place in Indian culture) and of course by love-stories, but also action movies (the most famous of the genre being Sholay) But the most popular one is without doubt the Masala film genre, which as the name itself explains, is a "mixture", of romance, action and comedy ("spiced up" by family story factor), the goal being to attain the broadest range of viewers.

Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan in Sholay (1975)
Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) - the perfect family movie!

From Mother India (1956), passing by Sholay (1975) to Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Bollywood has been the place of great modifications and changes through the years which reflected India to the utmost. No other cinema industry in the world can pretend so.