Written By: Allie Eliza




 Shakti Mohan

Dance India Dance Winner 2010

I’m not Indian (I think), but I love Bollywood!
While I’ve had no formal dance training, I loved to dance …and was damn good at it.

I try not to let the comments I received when I was younger, haunt my already fully occupied thoughts of what could have been. Thw quote below explains it all.

“The accident of birth is the greatest source of inequality.”  - Heckmann

Nevertheless, I started my own Bollywood Dance Team in 2009. Having one Sri Lankan girl in our class, gave me the idea to look into the arts of other cultures. From there, I have no recollection of the timeline of events or why I settled on Bollywood, but I did.

It’s been five years since we started and I’m still choreographing today. Admittedly, we don’t perform traditional Bollywood as there are so many styles and it is a truly difficult, yet beautiful dance form.

Bollywood is happy, colorful, rich, energetic, precise, diverse, expression, intricate, and any other positive describing words.


The history               The dance forms                 The music                The people

            The celebrities                     The costumes               The Colors

classical Bollywood dance costume

Bollywood Goldbollywood traditionalBharathanatyam costBollyblue costumSYTYCD Canada Top 18 Group Bollywood6



Bollywood is the name given to the Mumbai-based Hindi-language film industry in India. When combined with other Indian film industries (Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada), it is considered to be the largest in the world in terms of number of films produced, and maybe also the number of tickets sold.

The term “Bollywood” itself has origins in the 1970s, when India overtook America as the world’s largest film producer.

It was created by conflating Bombay (the city now called Mumbai) and Hollywood (the famous center of the United States film industry).

The term is often incorrectly used to refer to the whole of Indian cinema; however, it is only a part of the large Indian film industry, which includes other production centres producing films in multiple languages. 

Bollywood is one of the largest film producers in India and one of the largest centres of film production in the world.

Bollywood is also formally referred to as Hindi cinema. There has been a growing presence of Indian English in dialogue and songs as well. It is common to see films that feature dialogue with English words (also known as Hinglish), phrases, or even whole sentences.


Hinglish (the name is a combination of the words “Hindi” and “English“) is a hybrid of English and South Asian languages – it is a code-switching variety of these languages whereby they are freely interchanged within a sentence or between sentences. While the name is based on the Hindi language, it does not refer exclusively to Hindi, but “is used in India, with English words blending with Punjabi, and Hindi, and also within British Asian families to enliven standard English.”  Some examples of Hinglish vocabulary are:

  • airdash: going somewhere in a hurry
  • stadium: a bald man with a fringe of hair
  • pre-pone: the opposite of postpone, to bring something forward in time
  • co-brother: brother-in-law – Co-brother, to be very precise, is the sister-in-law’s husband
  • Eve teasing: street sexual harassment
  • glassy: wanting a drink
  • timepass: a distraction to pass the time
  • badmash: hooligan

This is more commonly seen in urban and semi-urban centers of the Hindi-speaking states of India, but is slowly spreading into rural and remote areas of these states via television, mobile phones and word of mouth, slowly achieving vernacular status.


Bollywood films are usually musicals. Few movies are made without at least one song-and-dance number. Indian audiences expect full value for their money; they want songs and dances, love interest, comedy and dare-devil thrills, all mixed up in a three hour long extravaganzawith intermission! Such movies are called masala movies, after the spice mixture masala. Like masala, these movies have everything.


Raja Harishchandra (1913), by Dadasaheb Phalke, is known as the first silent feature film made in India. By the 1930s, the industry was producing over 200 films per year.

raja Harishchandra_first film)silent StampScene-from-film--quot-Raja-Harishchandra-quot-   FM-raja_harishchandra1

The first Indian sound film, Ardeshir Irani’s Alam Ara (1931), was a major commercial success.

Devta-Pld Bollywood-movie-poster

There was clearly a huge market for talkies and musicals; Bollywood and all the regional film industries quickly switched to sound filming.

 The plots are often melodramatic. They frequently employ formulaic ingredients such as star-crossed lovers, corrupt politicians, twins separated at birth, conniving villains, angry parents, courtesans with hearts of gold, dramatic reversals of fortune, and convenient coincidences. The 1930s and 1940s were tumultuous times: India was buffeted by the Great Depression, World War II, the Indian independence movement, and the violence of the Partition. As a result there were also a number of filmmakers who tackled tough social issues, or used the struggle for Indian independence as a backdrop for their plots.




A Sari type costume provides the basis for a host of options.

A sari or shari, is an Indian female garment that consists of drape varying from two to nine yards in length and two to four feet in breadth that is typically wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder, baring the midriff.

The sari is usually worn over a petticoat (called lahaṅgā or lehenga in the north; langa in Kannada, pavada, or pavadai Tamil, langa in Telugu; chaniyo, parkar, ghaghra, or ghagaro in the west; and shaya in eastern India), with a fitted upper garment commonly called a blouse or a choli or ravika. The blouse has short sleeves and is usually cropped at the midriff. The sari is associated with grace and is widely regarded as a symbol of Indian culture and Bangladeshi culture.

Bolly costumeSreepadham6


Bollywood song and dance

While most actors, especially today, are excellent dancers, few are also singers. Songs are generally pre-recorded by professional playback singers with actors lip-synching the words, often while dancing.

Below are some favorite playback singers.

Our Bollywood dance team has performed five of the six songs below.

Cumulatively, I’ve choreographed 14 or 15 Bollywood performances for my dancers.

Shreya Ghoshal

Ramji 24 X 7

Shreya Goshal_playback

   with Debojit Saha 

Debojit Saha




Alka Yagnik & Sonu Nigam

Ishq Kameena

Alka Yadnik1Sonu Nigam1

Sunidhi Chauhan  

Aaja Nachle with Sukhwinder Singh & Pritam

Sunidhi Chauhan 2  Sukhwinder Singh  Pritam


Mallaika Arora Khan & Arbaaz Khan



Malaika Arora Khan




Mika Singh

Mauja Hi Mauja



Sukhvinder Singh, Mahalaxmi Iyer and Vijay Prakash

Jai Ho


Sukhwinder Singh

Mahalaxmi Iyer

Vijay Prakash

Playback singers are prominently featured in the opening credits and have their own fans who will go to an otherwise lackluster movie just to hear their favorites. The composers of film music, known as music directors, are also well-known. Their songs can make or break a film and usually do.

Bollywood-Title_DancingWhat is Bollywood dancing?

Bollywood dancing is a commercial name for modern Indian dancing. It’s a combination of classical Indian dance (which is the base), folk dancing such as Bhangra and sometimes has a Latino and Arabic influence. It’s fun and very expressive and there’s a lot of deep meaning behind music in the films. You can actually express what the music means, through the graceful movements of the body.

The dancing in Bollywood films, especially older ones, is primarily modeled on Indian dance: classical dance styles, dances of historic northern Indian courtesans (tawaif), or folk dances. In modern films, Indian dance elements often blend with Western dance styles (as seen on MTV or in Broadway musicals), though it is not unusual to see Western pop and pure classical dance numbers side by side in the same film.

Why is dancing so crucial to Bollywood films? 
People in India have been brought up on musicals and if the music in a film isn’t very good, sometimes the movie doesn’t sell. Specific producers, such as Yash Chopra, Karan Johar generally produce movies with phenomenal and very emotional songs; hence the dancing comes into play.





Choreographers are now starting to take the industry by storm because Farah Khan a famous choreographer recently directed her first movie called Main Hoon Na. This goes to show that people want to see elaborate and funky dance sequences, they don’t want pure acting, hence dancing is a crucial.

choreographer farah-khan_Marigold

Nakul Dev Mahajan is heavily influenced by classical indian dances while bringing to them Western styles like hip-hopLatin and jazz.Due to his enormous activities in promoting Bollywood dance, Nakul is widely known as “Hollywood’s Favorite Bollywood Choreographer”.



Michelle Obama joins students for a Bollywood Dance Clinic with Nakul Dev Mahajan, in White House, November 5, 2013

Nakul Dev Mahajan is the first choreographer who brings Bollywood to the So You Think You Can Dance stage. His routine for Season 4 by Katee Shean and Joshua Allen spent a week atopYouTube’s “Most Viewed” list.


Stardom in the entertainment industry is very fickle, and Bollywood is no exception. Popularity of the stars can rise and fall rapidly, based on single movies. Very few people become national icons, who are unaffected by success or failure of their movies, like Amitabh Bachchan. Directors compete to hire the most popular stars of the day, who are believed to guarantee the success of a movie (though this belief is not always supported by box-office results). Hence stars make the most of their fame, once they become popular, by making several movies simultaneously. Aamir Khan is one of the few actors who is notable for his insistence on doing only one movie at a time.

Cast and crew

Bollywood employs people from all parts of India. It attracts thousands of aspiring actors and actresses, all hoping for a break in the industry. Models and beauty contestants, television actors, theatre actors and even common people come to Mumbai with the hope and dream of becoming a star. Just as in Hollywood very few succeed.

Bollywood can be clannish, and the relatives of film-industry insiders have an edge in getting coveted roles.

There will be a subsequent post on this issue of nepotism in the Hindi film industry.

It is common occurrence that some confuse Bollywood with Belly Dance. They are very different.

Bellydance costume 2


bellydance costume3

Bellydnce 1

tribal bellydance4

tribal Bellydance1





-Belly dance or bellydance is a Western-coined name for “solo, improvised dances based on torso articulation”. Other names which are sometimes used for the dance in English speaking countries include Oriental dance, Egyptian dance, Arabic dance or Middle Eastern dance.

The term “belly dance” is a translation of the French term “danse du ventre”, which was applied to the dance in the Victorian era, and originally referred to the Ouled Nail dancers of Algeria, whose dance used more abdominal movements than the dances described today as “belly dance”. It is something of a misnomer, as every part of the body is involved in the dance; the most featured body part is usually the hips.

Belly dance is primarily a torso-driven dance, with an emphasis on articulations of the hips. Unlike many Western dance forms, the focus of the dance is on relaxed, natural isolations of the torso muscles, rather than on movements of the limbs through space. Although some of these isolations appear superficially similar to the isolations used in jazz ballet, they are often driven differently and have a different feeling or emphasis, which is usually more subtle and contained.

What’s the future for Bollywood? 
The future looks even brighter for Bollywood. Big US film companies such as Warner Bros and Twentieth Century Fox are setting up offices in India. Where Indian film makers have found it difficult to compete with Hollywood’s special effects, this is seen as the next big area for Bollywood to develop.

Source/Credits: Wikimedia/BBC/Other Internet Sites

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