Tell me about Bollywood

I live in an area where I have access to Indian movies but I don’t know that much about them.

I watched a few (and a few parodies). How universal are the stereotypical musical numbers? Do they virtually all have them or is it something that people focus attention on?

What are some of the classics I shouldn’t miss?

I said Bollywood in the title but I know there’s actually several film centers in India besides Mumbai. What should I be looking for in Bengali and Malayalam and Telugu and Tamil movies?

Yeah, the musical numbers do seem to be ubiquitous in Indian films. Perhaps Anaamika will stop in and shed some light.

I go to see them for the musical numbers, but there are a lot of Indian movies that are not musicals, as well as ones that try to limit the musical numbers to more naturalistic situations, like Delhi-6. If you enjoy musicals, Bollywood is pretty much the only producers of them anymore - and even the worst Bollywood movie has better music than Rock of Ages.

Bollywood movies without songs have become more common in the last few years, but one could probably count on two hands the number of big studio Bollywood productions from before 2000 without songs. Songs are an integral part of the Bollywood idiom.

As for the classics, Westerners, understandably more exposed to recent films, may recommend Lagaan or Rang de Basanti but for Indians, the classical period is about 1950s to late 70s. You can get a good idea of the canon by looking up the Wiki entries of major actors and seeing their most famous works. The primary names are Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Shammi Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan. These are the major ones from the ‘classical period’. A couple of big names from the last 20 years are Aamir Khan (of Lagaan fame) and Shah Rukh Khan.

Guy in towel.

As a straight guy, I have to mention that Bollywood films also feature some of the most stunningly beautiful women on the planet.

Two things I don’t like about Bollywood? Much of the humor is, to my taste, sophomoric - lots of 1950s-style mugging. The other is the young female lead character being an insufferable brat.

some very good ones off the top of my head :

Udaan, tare zameen par, hera pheri, Munna Bhai MBBS, 3 idiots, Dil Chahta Hai, Swades, khosla ka ghosla, rang de basanti, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Chak De India, Lakshya , andaaz apna apna, Ishq, DDLJ, Johnny Gaddaar, Paan singh Tomar

If you can get any of these with english subtitles, I recommend you watch them.
Or you can ask reviews for any other specific movie, would be happy to provide reviews.

Not as much of a fan as the heightened melodrama and male-female relationships always strike me as crazy, but I’ve been trying to watch lately because I am trying to learn Hindi for my future in-laws.

I watched one called Three Idiots that my boyf really likes and other than a couple of descents into stupidity it was pretty good. Amir Khan seems to choose better projects.