To say that Bombay (I won’t say Mumbai) is a world class film town would be a considerable understatement. In fact, the largely Hindi-centric film industry in this spirited, vibrant, bustling metropolis of India is a good deal larger and more productive than its Tinseltown counterpart.
Obviously, a trip to Bombay necessitates an exploration of the movie business. A good place to start is the aptly named Film City, which was constructed in the late 1970s to assist the growth and health of the film industry. Suffice it to say, it worked. Today, the complex is closed to the public except by organized tours. The price of admission is a bit steep (roughly $75), but the tours generally include a sumptuous lunch, and a look behind the curtains (or in this case, cameras) around the sprawling, 350-acre complex. Most tours also include a drive through various neighborhoods that are home to the stars and moguls that drive the medium’s success.
The size and scope of Bollywood may appeal more to Western visitors than the actual films in question. The typical picture produced here makes the formulaic approach to movie-making in Los Angeles look positively anarchic. The blueprint is effectively cast in stone and the name of the game is melodrama, or rather, musical melodrama. Think elaborately staged soap operas with extravagant, choreographed song and dance numbers interspersed throughout. However, as bombastic and clichéd as much of Indian cinema is, it is nonetheless advisable to take a short course in the genre before you travel, as English subtitles in Bombay cinemas are a rarity.