The triumph of Slumdog Millionaire this week at the Academy Awards as well as its enormous success at the domestic and the global box office has directed the world's attention to India, its talent - such as composer and music star AR Rahman - energy, locations and the narrowing gap with the west as witnessed in the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' format.

Many commentators, certainly in the US, have bandied around the word 'Bollywood' in reference to Danny Boyle's crowd-pleaser: 'A taste of Bollywood in Hollywood', for example, or 'Bollywood hits the red carpet'. But Slumdog Millionaire, for all its affectionate nods to Bollywood, most notably in its Oscar-winning dance finale Jai Ho, is anything but a Bollywood movie.

Developed in the UK and written by a long-established UK screenwriter, the film is tightly plotted, often gritty and violent, and directed in Boyle's dynamic, Trainspotting-inflected style. It is a western movie set in a foreign culture, financed by UK and US companies, not too dissimilar in concept from Letters From Iwo Jima or The Kite Runner.

Bollywood, on the other hand, has an altogether different style of making films. Sure, there's a tradition of verite or arthouse film-making in India - Satyajit Ray is one of the greats, and there is a healthy school of young Indian auteurs - but the Mumbai film-making machine focuses on the production of lengthy star-driven entertainments which contain elements that can often appear incongruous, camp and even laughable to western audiences. Extreme melodrama sits next to broad comedy; lavish musical numbers see the actors leading elaborate dance sequences; songs are lip-synced by the stars, many of whom have the same playback singers on each film; the camera sweeps into close-up to emphasise emotion. In fact, most of the emotions in these films are over-emphasised by western standards.

Baz Luhrmann made no secret that his recent epic Australia aped Bollywood conventions, deliberately aiming for an uneven tone and smorgasbord of styles. And although the movie has now made almost $150m overseas thanks to the western star power involved, many were baffled by it. It was a big disappointment in North America, and, because of that very Bollywood influence, Australia was essentially dismissed by critics and awards voters.

As India and the west inch closer in so many other businesses and industries, the two film industries still remain a world apart. Attempts to blend Indian stories with western characters - Bride & Prejudice, Marigold - have been largely unsuccessful, and Indian movie megastars such as Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan remain principally - and contentedly - stars in India and the diaspora.

Once in a while, a Bollywood movie such as Lagaan will find an appreciative arthouse audience in the west and a beauty such as Aishwarya Rai will score some supporting roles in US movies, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Some aggressive Indian players are trying to reach a wider international audience outside the diaspora and inject some of the Bollywood staples into western tastes. Reliance Big Pictures showcased footage to buyers in Berlin of a $30m film called Kites which stars the hunky Roshan in a Las Vegas setting.

Part in Hindi, part in English, the film looked as polished as any Hollywood action movie, but most buyers were waiting to see the finished product before taking a punt on a film whose style still risks a hostile response from western audiences.

Likewise Hollywood studios, whose own films occupy a minority market share in India, are trying to infiltrate the Bollywood market, although the first two large-scale attempts - Sony's Saawariya and Warner's Chandni Chowk To China - have been resounding flops.

As the two sides flirt with each other's markets and each other's film-making customs, each needs to appreciate the other's specific storytelling conventions and audience appetites.

Although FoxStar is enjoying enormous success with Slumdog Millionaire in India, it should be remembered that no distributor, studio or independent was originally interested in Indian rights to Slumdog because it was considered an arthouse film in a country where a three-hour Aamir Khan musical thriller called Ghajini - with songs by AR Rahman, no less - is the latest record-breaking blockbuster. But then try telling an Indian film fan that they would be interested in this year's biggest North America hit - Paul Blart: Mall Cop. As the French say, chacun a son gout.