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Most Indians and foreigners know what the word means, but most people do not know where the word came from. Bollywood is or refers to the exclusively of the Hindi language movie industry from India. The Indian movie industry is massive and it includes several languages located within different parts of India. The Hindi movie industry is based in Mumbai or Bombay, the name given by the British.  Synonymous to Hollywood the Bombay Hindi film industry became Bollywood. Now that’s the common perception of the term Bollywood. The word Bollywood was never used in any publication before 1975 as far as records show.  So the word is less than 35 years old, also the word is more popular in the digital media than the print media, Most Hindi magazines or newspapers still refer to it as “Filmi Dunya” translated in English as movie world.

 

So here are some of the stories behind the name and how it came to represent the movie industry of India and to a certain extent the country.

Myth 1 

Bevinda Collaco , a gossip columnist who used to write under ghost names in Cineblitz magazine, self confessed  in a newsletter sent out that she is the one who first used the word Bollywood in 1976.

Cineblitz started as a scandalous magazine when it published the nude picture of then model and later one of the most renowned classical dancers Protima Bedi in their first issue. They wanted to be different from the other Film magazines like Filmfare and took the Hollywood style gossip approach. So it could be possible they are the ones who termed the word Bollywood. 

Note – I sent an email to Bevinda Collaco and requested if she could elaborate a bit on this topic but she declined.

“Hello Dev, I'd prefer not to actually. I am not proud of the word. It was a stupid word that seemed a good idea in 1976”

Myth 2

Bollywood is not named after Hollywood but synonymous to Tollywood the Bengali film industry based on Tullyganj. In the Late 80s Anandalok, the most popular Bengali Cinematic magazine often used the word Tollywood to describe the Bengali movie industry, so some journalist may have used the word Bollywood to describe the Hindi cinema industry as Bollywood.

Myth 3

In 1976 H R F Keating wrote another delicious exotic novel Filmi Filmi Inspector Ghote, with the usual Mr Ghote as a central character.  

"Soon after she had given up the role of Rani Maqbet... she left Ravi Kumar to go to Dhartiraj. My revelation she had done that was the greatest sensation ever to come out of  Bollywood." 

This is probably the earliest example of the word Bollywood we can track back to.

 Myth 4

Stardust magazine another Indian gossip magazine with a sense of humour has a column called Neeta’s Natter. They might have used the word as a funny way to project Indian movie personalities to Hollywood personalities.

Myth 5

In 1987 Issue 171 New Internationalist magazine published some facts about the Hindi movie industry in their culture section. 

Bollywood facts
No, not a misprint, 'Bollywood' is Bombay's Hindi language movie industry. Pertinent facts: - …..........................

Presumably it’s almost 10 years after it was first used in print media, this is probably the era when Western media started to use the word loosely to explain the Indian film industry.

 

Now some facts

Bollywood refers exclusively to the Hindi movie industry not the Indian film industry.

Only 30 – 35 percent of Indian movies are actually made in the Hindi language.

The word Bollywood is more popular with youngsters who are savvy with electronic media.

Most Bollywood movies are musical or semi musical. While the art house movies are referred as parallel Cinema in India.

Conclusion

I went through a few dozen interviews of Indian movie stars before 1980 and I could not find the word Bollywood used to describe the Hindi movie industry. So assuming the word was already being used by magazines before 1980 but the actors or directors never used the term. Which I find very interesting, so it is possible that either they ignored it completely because it was meant to be a funny word or no such word existed before 1980.

In my opinion Bollywood is a modern word most probably tossed around by some journalists in the early 80s, the intension was purely to describe the lifestyle of movie actors and not the industry but ultimately it became the word to define Hindi Cinema, specifically adopted by the modern Indian generation and Western media in the late 80s.

I would like to see if any evidence of the word exists before 1976. Please send any information or questions that you have regarding this article also it would be very helpful if you have already done research on this topic and want to share your expertise. 

Written by Dev A. Dev 4 January 2014