The Significant History and Evolution of Bollywood Cinema

Anjali Pandey
8 min readMay 27, 2021


Kitne aadmi the?

-Ek Sardar

Rings a bell in your mind? Of course yes!

There is hardly a single day in our life when we don’t listen to music in any form. We have different songs for different occasions be it party, travel or breakup. But from where these songs come? -Movies, of course? There is no person on earth who doesn’t like to watch movies. We dedicate special time with our family and friends to discuss the genres we like and dislike.

Movies have captured a special place in our hearts and have evolved as an irreplaceable part of our lives. It wraps us with emotions and entertains us to the fullest. But do you know? Bollywood which releases the greatest number of movies per year was unknown earlier.

Even cinema came from other nation and has evolved gradually since its inception. It has a long beautiful history from silent to talkies, from black and white to colour and from multiple reels to single reel. Let’s play the reel, and dig into the wonderful journey of cinema:

A one-person acted as the harbinger of bringing the big screen between us.

The films you watch today while sitting on comfy couches or multiplexes have struggled to gain this momentum. Cinema, truly justifies the Darwin theory of evolution, as it has changed over time to adapt to the fast-moving world. Imagine a movie without dialogues and songs, sounds boring?

Once there was a time when movies were silent and people enjoy them as they don’t end up with any other option. Since movies were silent, to make it interesting, people behind the camera sit and play music or even did live narration. It was not easy for the directors to make a place in the public’s heart.

How Bollywood cinema evolved?

In 1896, when Lumiere Brothers first showed moving images in Bombay, people bit their fingers. Unaware of the fact, that he was kindling a fire that will lighten the whole world. From there the dawn of cinema came and many enthusiasts started recording live events. Even a train coming into a station when ‘live’ recorded on a camera, it was unbelievable for the people when they saw it for the first time.

However, the credit for making the first Indian full-length motion movie goes to Dadasahab Phalke in the year 1913. The movie was Raja Harishchandra which was highly praised by the people, from there an incredible journey of cinema begins. This movie grabbed the eyeballs of the filmmakers and was screened in some foreign places also. Phalke was so dedicated towards his passion that he along with his family made various films throughout his life. His money shorted and he witnessed a lot of obstacles, despite that poverty he continued making films.

Still image from Raja Harishchandra movie

At present where the female character plays a crucial role in movies, there was a time when they were not allowed to act in it. Rather, it was seen as a disgrace for the female to act in movies, therefore the female part was also played by the male actors.

The Talkies Era

Most of the movies were mythological based on epics like Mahabharat and Ramayan. It was until 1913 when those silent movies were replaced by sound. After that, a historical thing happened and movies with sound came forward popularly termed as the Talkies era.

In 1913 India’s first talkie Alam Ara made a sensation among the masses creating a new benchmark. This was a head-turning incredible invention and the filmmakers proceed without looking back. Hardly there was any movie without song, you will be amazed to know that film Indra Sabha came up with 70 songs in it.

Many filmmakers came forward and gave us wonderful mythological and social issues movies. The seed of colour movies was sown by the director B Gidwani with Kisan Kanya in 1937.

Poster of movie Kisan Kanya

The brightest moment in Bollywood Cinema — The Golden era

During the 1950s -1960s, people witnessed world-class movies, the era termed as the Golden Era. The veteran directors like Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak and many more came into the limelight by making exceptionally great movies. These pioneers came up with parallel cinema which deals with real-life issues. These movies were appreciated by the people and were globally acclaimed. One of the greatest gems was Guru Dutt’s Mother India which rolled in theatres for several months.

This era gave us stars like Meena Kumari, Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor. The storyline of Bollywood was shifting from mythological to more serious issues of social practices giving birth to New Wave Cinema that gives the sense of realism.

Poster of movie Mother India

Along with Northern India, Cinema started burgeoning in the South as well with many hits. Also, commercial movies which we now call mainstream cinema were strengthening their roots in this era. An amalgamation of dance, action, romance, tragedy, and family drama defines a commercial movie.

The Bollywood cinema was blooming with Modern Indian cinema, during the 1960s that offers complete entertainment to its viewers, covering two genres of action and romance. Ramesh Shippy’s famous movie Sholay was one such movie whose dialogues and songs are engraved in our heart.

The angry young man came as a catchphrase for Amitabh Bachhan, and till now he is ruling the world of cinemas. He made enormous movies that are highly praised by the audience.

Poster of a movie Sholay

The Masala Bollywood Cinema

During the 1970s Manmohan Desai came up with Masala Bollywood cinema which we know today, many consider him as a father of Masala movies. He believes a movie should have action, romance, dance and music which take the audience to the other world of entertainment.

The dawn of Mumbai Noir

Another genre came into the limelight in the 1990s that focused on the dark side of the city, Mumbai which we popularly called the ‘city of dreams’. These Bollywood movies cater for the urban social problems and explored the struggles of the people in the city.

Ram Gopal Verma’s Satya (1998) kick-started the genre with many such movies like Vastav, Black Friday and Traffic Signal in the queue. It ushered in a completely different genre of the underworld as well.

The present silver screen

Bollywood cinema has turned the corner gradually by serving its audience with very rich content from time to time. Movies like Hum aapke hai kaun and Dilwale Dulhania le jayenge have made a cut edge entry in Indian theatres.

Similar to earlier time pop culture has forced the market to come up with the dresses and the ornaments which actors like Kajol and Sharukh Khan were wearing in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. With the coming of the movies like Pardes and Dil To Pagal Hai, the shooting in foreign location spread the Indian diaspora to foreign countries significantly.

Although many Bollywood cinemas have won numerous international awards starting from Sant Tukaram in 1937, however, few internationally acclaimed movies have taken our cinemas to the next level. After Mother India and Salaam Bombay, Lagaan is the only movie that got nominated for the finals in Academy awards winning hearts of the people around the globe.

Bollywood is now offering breathtaking movies in our platter from the past few years be it a social issue or a movie with a patriotic approach. The nationalism movie like Bhagat Singh, Airlift and Kesari bestow a feeling of pride taking Bollywood to another level of respect.

Andhadhun is an off-beat movie that beautifully served the crime thriller genre which seems normal yet a twisted plot. The directors with a knack for presenting an artistically weaved story have earned a reputation for these movies.

Historical epic movies are gaining fame as people get to know about the rich heritage and culture but at the same time collect a lot of criticism. Padmavat, Bajirao Mastani, Laxmi Bai, Thanaji and many more are stealing the show of fancy movies.

Let’s sneak a look at the ‘dark side’ of Bollywood Cinema

If we peep into the other side of Bollywood, we will see the dark reality! The struggle for survival of the fittest is a long run marathon that every celebrity is running. There are numerous wonderfully plotted movies that are still overlooked and go into oblivion. Whereas, there are some which because of some celebrity earned a great name and fame, no matter what the story is.

Bollywood is a home of nepotism, celebrity culture and couch potato that is the hindrance in the path of newbie showcasing their talents. Amidst this cacophony, Bollywood strives hard to come up with something new and appreciable every time.

Despite these ‘accusations’, Bollywood has many great stories in its bag to serve and maintain an imperative position in the globe. They should never forget the long and traumatic history of cinema, the struggles faced by the people who brought ‘film’ to India.

As I grew up watching Bollywood movies, it is synonymous with the flamboyant screen, evolving as great stories day by day. Interwoven marvellously the cinemas take us to the other world which has a pinch of romance, action, comedy, grief and family drama. No matter what the situation prevails the story must go on!



Anjali Pandey

Avid writer and vivacious reader. Learning and exploring new things never goes out of fashion 😊