Bollywood Music, the popular music of Indian films, is written and performed for Indian cinema. It was in 1931, that Ardeshir M. Irani's Alam Ara, was the first Bollywood film to be released with a proper soundtrack. However, during those days, Bollywood music was only confined to Indian (classical and folk) in inspiration, with some Western elements. But over the years, the Western elements have increased significantly and there have been a lot of changes in the pattern of the Bollywood music. Most of the Bollywood films are musicals. The actors generally do not sing, but lip-synch to songs sung by accomplished playback singers such as Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Mukesh.
Such movie soundtracks are released as tapes and CDs, before the movie is released and account for the bulk of popular music sales in India. They are also played as promos and in programs on various cable & satellite television channels and radio stations, with different popularity ratings claiming different songs as being on the top. Thus, when the music of any movie is released, it generally adds up the sales of the music composer. Thus, a composer makes more money as music director, due to up-front payments by filmmakers, and also gets free publicity. In fact, most Indian people go to a movie not for the plot, but for the songs. This is also true of singers and musicians. Bollywood music thus attracts some of the most talented Indian artistes.
There were many noteworthy music directors of the 1940s, who had written scores redolent of the elegance of Northern India's Moghul and Rajput courts. The 1950s and 1960s, considered the 'Golden Era of Indian Cinema', was fortunate to have music composers like Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad, S. D. Burman, O. P. Nayyar, Madan Mohan, Rajesh Roshan, Vasant Desai, Kalyanji Anandji and Khaiyyam. As Indian cinema segued into the go-go years of the 1960s and 1970s, pop artists like R.D. Burman and duos like Nadeem-Shravan and Jatin-Lalit gave Bollywood music, a stronger western flavour.
Even the legendary Ilayaraja became phenomenally successful during the 1980s and 1990s especially in southern India. In the 1990s and 2000s, the dominant force in Bollywood Music has been the phenomenally successful A.R.Rahman, who vaulted from fame in the Tamil film industry to success in Bollywood and finally to hit musicals in London and New York. Apart from being famous in India, the Bollywood music is also making converts and exerting influence beyond the usual Desi audiences. Western music stores carry Bollywood compilations. Baz Luhrman showcases the song "Chamma Chamma" from China Gate in his 2002 movie Moulin Rouge!