John Abraham would not like us to refer to him as a Bollywood star anymore. That's not because he has given up acting. What bugs Abraham is the term "Bollywood".
"The only thing I want to change about Bollywood is the name," he said recently. "I think we need to call it the Indian film industry."
He's not the first star to say that the Bollywood moniker is misleading. In 2011, the actor Salman Khan suggested that Mumbai's Hindi film industry be called HiFi. "Bollywood got its name from Hollywood. This is not the name of our industry. I don't know where this ridiculous name has come from and stuck. One of the first film productions was called Bombay Talkies, so call it that, or Mumbai Talkies or Indian cinema. Call it anything but not Bollywood."
Film festivals have sided with Abraham and Khan, being careful to mark the "100th anniversary of Indian cinema" and avoiding the term Bollywood. The Cannes film festival's artistic director Thierry Frémaux was careful to separate the art-house traditions and films of Satyajit Ray from the song-and-dance movies that make up what might be considered Bollywood. Frémaux even argued that a new type of film is emerging: a social film that is found in the space between Bollywood and art-house cinema.
The term Bollywood is resented partly because it makes the Indian film industry sound like a poor relation to Hollywood. It's a view reinforced by the fact that Hollywood is a geographical location while Bollywood is a fictional one. There are stories as to why Hollywood is called Hollywood, the most popular being that it's named after the California holly plant. Bollywood has no origin story. The term is simply a knock-off from Hollywood and the name stuck, even after Bombay became Mumbai.
There is even debate over what the term Bollywood describes. The Ship of Theseus director Anand Gandhi says it applies only to the populist song-and-dance films made in Mumbai. But a more common and accepted meaning is that Bollywood refers to the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai.
Dr Rajinder Dudrah, the author of Bollywood Travels, argues: "Is Bollywood singing and dancing cinema? No. That's only one genre. The singing and dancing is kind of generic to most films, but not all films. We are seeing the emergence of films with one or two songs or even no songs. Bollywood isn't just film. It's actually a cinematic industry, and it's also a wider entertainment and cultural industry with its own popular culture and I think that's a more complex but also an interesting way of looking at it."
It's easy to see why stars such as Abraham hate the term Bollywood, when no one can even agree what the term means. Worse, the term is often misapplied. It was never meant to be an all-encompassing moniker for every production made in India, and it definitely never applied to non Hindi-language films. Yet that's how it's often deployed, especially internationally, where the term is often used as a derogative dismissal of all Indian films as cheesy musical romances.
Such broad usage of the term shows an ignorance of the increasingly clear fact that movies from India are varied and contain as many, if not more, influences than those made in the US.
Centenary celebrations around the world
Centenary Film Festival: New Delhi A week-long festival on Indian film with a special retrospective and exhibition on Satyajit Ray. The filmmakers behind Bombay Talkies will appear on a panel to discuss their movie made to celebrate the centenary. The festival also hosts the 60th National Film Awards on Friday.
Cannes film festival Special presentations of Indian films will take place throughout the world's most famous film festival.
Bradford National Media Museum Bollywood Icons: 100 Years of Indian Cinema, curated by the Bollywood commentator Irna Qureshi, forms part of a wider celebration of the anniversary within the museum and throughout Bradford. The exhibition runs until June 16.
Indian Film Festival of Melbourne Firday, exactly 100 years since its release in India, the silent classic Raja Harishchandra will be screened to open the festival, which will also have a Bollywood dance contest before closing with a screening of Deewar in the presence of the star Amitabh Bachchan.
Cinema du Parc, Montreal, Canada Thirty-five films will be screened as part of the month-long celebration of Indian film. Classic films to screen include Pakeezah, Andaaz and Delhi-6.
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