2013 marks the 100th anniversary of Bollywood, Mumbai’s film industry and source of India’s world-renowned, vibrant movies. Though the first full-length Indian film, ‘Raja Harishchandra,’ was a silent, black-and-white spectacle, these days Bollywood productions are known for their multi-hour-long plots, colourful scenes, and, above all, their musical interludes. It’s a successful format: Bollywood is the world’s biggest film industry, producing more movies per year than Hollywood and hosting no fewer than six annual awards ceremonies. Industry stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor have icon-like status, and behind-the-scenes film studio tours are a popular Mumbai pastime.

Bollywood Music

A mural depicting classic Bollywood stars Amitabh Buchchan and Rekha © Meena Kadri

For Western audiences, the dynamic choreography and multiple plot twists make Bollywood films distinct, but it’s the energetic tunes that are especially engaging. With both modern and classical musical influences, Bollywood songs can be upbeat or quiet and emotive, and their lyrics, which bridge Hindi, English, and regional dialects, are often written by renowned poets. Professional singers record the songs in advance, while actors typically lip-sync along to the lyrics: don’t expect to see Aishwarya Rai breaking into song anytime soon.

To mark Bollywood’s centennial, we’ve put together a playlist of 15 of our favourite songs, from the beloved ‘Tere Mere Beech Mein,’ sung by the famous eighties icon Lata Mangeshkar, to ‘Main Rang Sharbaton Ka,’ a popular track from the newly released film ‘Phata Poster Nikhla Hero.’ Plug in for a dose of Mumbai-inflected escapism.

Words by Isabella Noble

Feature Image © Meena Kadri

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