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Tuesday, 19 February 2013 14:53

Mumbai’s Secret Weapon: Bollywood

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Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, is the fastest moving, most affluent and industrialized city in India. As part of India's beautiful west coast, that runs down from Gujarat, through Mumbai to Goa, Karnataka and Kerala, Mumbai was blessed with a natural harbor that was developed by the British and remains one of the busiest ports of India, handling about 40% of India's maritime trade.
Mumbai (till recently known as 'Bombay'), derives its name from the local deity Mumba Devi, whose temple is still there. The Portuguese predecessors of the British preferred to think of the name as Bom Baim, the Good Bay. Mumbai is a group of seven islands, which today are known as Colaba, Mahim, Mazgaon, Parel, Worli, Girgaun and Dongri. Large expanses of open sea have been filled in, and tidal swamps have been reclaimed as the areas known as Churchgate and Nariman Point today.


Young and Trendy
While Mumbai has its classic sights, what has brought this city to new relevance and to the attention of new young travelers is its Bollywood.
Located in Mumbai, it is home to the world’s largest film industry, producing an average of 900 feature films per year (over 450 movies more than Hollywood). Almost a century after the Lumière Brothers (inventors of the cinématographe) unveiled six silent short films in Mumbai in 1896, Bollywood has transformed itself into the pride of India, providing an affordable and magical escape. Movie tickets are among the cheapest in the world, costing approximately 20 cents. Despite the low cost, India’s $8 billion film industry grosses over $1 billion in sales per year accounting for over 73% of Asia Pacific’s movie tickets.
Recent trends show that Bollywood has become increasingly popular in the United States with the success of films such as the joint Bollywood/Hollywood production, “Bride & Prejudice”, the adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, “Bend It Like Beckham”, “Monsoon Wedding”, and Deepa Mehta’s controversial “Fire,” all marking the arrival of Bollywood into mainstream U.S. pop culture.
Additional evidence of Bollywood’s rise in popularity is witnessed among today’s pop culture as seen in Shakira’s Indian movie-themed performance at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards and the success of Bombay Dreams, Bollywood’s first musical to hit Broadway, produced by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber, with music by composer A.R. Rahman. Moreover, in living rooms across the U.S., Bollywood fans can enjoy the best titles via “Bollywood On Demand” provided by Comcast, the largest cable television provider, and through video rental companies like Blockbuster and Netflix. 
Why do people love Bollywood so much? Masala films (named after the Hindi word meaning “blend of spices”) are typically over three hours long and feature not only rich romance, but lavish sets, vivid costumes and dynamic music with dance performed by the industry’s greatest talent. Masala films are filmed in India’s most gorgeous settings, such as Maharashtra’s historic forts, or in the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai, providing viewers with a glimpse of the country’s wealth. In addition to awe-striking locales, dynamic performances are built into melodramatic plots with instantaneous shifts in location and even numerous costume changes between verses songs. Music from Bollywood films often times become so popular that they turn out to be as popular as the films themselves. With Bollywood stars such as filmmaker Satyajit Ray, awarded the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, to the beautiful Ashwairya Rai, former Miss World and India’s leading actress who stars along Meryl Streep in "Chaos" that was released in 2008, and with internationally-acclaimed films such as “The Namesake” and “Lagaan,” Bollywood will continue to be a household word in the heart of America in the near future.


Classical Sites in Mumbai
The classic attractions include the Gateway of India, a travel icon in Mumbai, which was once the principal port when the visitors arrived in India by ship. Its architecture takes its leads from the conventional Arch of Triumph, mixing elements from Muslim styles of 16th century Gujarat.
One of the most popular promenades of Mumbai is the Marine Drive, built on reclaimed land during 1920, and running along the shoreline of Back bay, it starts at Nariman Point, and sweeps around by Chowpatty beach up to the Malabar hills. Chowpatty Beach is among Mumbai's famous beaches and is a popular spot for people seeking nightlife. It is also a setting for the vibrant annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival.
On top of the Malabar hills are the Hanging Gardens and Kamala Nehru Park, which offer superb views over Mumbai. Some distance away from Malabar Hills is Mahalaxmi Temple, the oldest temple in Mumbai, dedicated to the Goddess of Wealth. Haji Ali tomb and mosque is located nearby, and can be reached by a long causeway, which can be crossed at low tide. Other attractions of Mumbai include the Juhu beach and the Nehru Planetarium.
Within a 30-mile radius, are excursions worth including in any itinerary. The Elephanta islands are about 16 miles northeast of Apollo Bunder, or Gateway of India, while about 25 miles from the center of the city are the Krishnagiri Upavan National Park, Kanheri caves and the Manori beach, Montepezir and Jogeshwari Caves and Bassein, which separate Mumbai city from the mainland.
Call the India Tourism at 800-953-9399; or on the West Coast 213-380-8855; or visitwww.incredibleindia.com

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