Filmi is the music of films in the Indian subcontinent, representing the shared musical styles of the linguistically segregated film industries in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The largest, most popular and most influential is the Bollywood film industry centered in Mumbai (previously Bombay) in which Hindi-Urdu is the primary language. The four main Dravidian languages in South India also have their own film industries that are sometimes referred to with playful nicknames in the manner of "Bollywood": Kollywood is the Tamil-language film industry centered in Chennai, Tamil Nadu; Tollywood is the Telugu-language film industry centered in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh; Sandalwood is the Kannada-language film industry centered in Bangalore, Karnataka; Mollywood is the Malayalam-language film industry centered in Trivandrum and Kochi, Kerala. The term "Tollywood" is also used for the Bengali-language film industry centered in Kolkata. Many other languages have their own small film industries, often just referred to by the name of the language, e.g. Assamese cinema, Bhojpuri cinema, Gujarati cinema, Konkani cinema, Marathi cinema, Oriya cinema, Punjabi cinema, Sindhi cinema. The Pakistani film industry is dominated by Lahore-based Lollywood, using Pakistani dialects of Hindi-Urdu, but smaller, regional film industries in Pakistan cover languages like Pashto, Balochi and Sindhi.
The music is usually composed and arranged by a small clique of music directors. Songs are prerecorded by playback singers and then lip-synced by the actors who picturise the song with elaborate choreography, often featuring dramatic changes in scenery and costumes. Filmi songs are often recorded in multiple languages by the same singer for different markets. Lyrics typically comment on the action taking place in the movie.
In the early years of South Asian cinema, filmi was typically composed of South Asian Music folk and classical with some European orchestral flourishes. Additional foreign elements, e.g. Rock & Roll, Mariachi, Funk, Disco, Techno, Hip Hop, etc, have became deeply interwoven in filmi, with a tremendous diversity of genres fused together according to the archetypes established by the most famous music directors. Despite the diversity of sources and languages, filmi music has an immediately identifiable sound, whether it's the soft and tender songs of the early days or the frenzied songs of recent decades infused with rock, techno, etc. Part of the distinctive sound derives from the singing style, which has always reflected a characteristically South Asian aesthetic with a level of refinement similar to classical music, quite different than the popular singing styles in other cultures.
Often the soundtrack is more popular than the movie, and in fact for the last few decades the film soundtracks have often been released before the movie release, in the hope that the music will pull audiences into the cinema. Oftentimes people only watch the song and dance scenes instead of the whole film, a South Asian counterpart to the global music video culture that developed in the 1980s under the MTV banner. The music directors and invisible playback singers of filmi are often household names. Filmi music and dance is also popular around the world, including many fans who don't understand the language of the singing.