A century ago, on 3rd May 1913, the legendary Dhundiraj Govind Phalke lovingly known as Dadasaheb Phalke, released India’s first and foremost epochal film Raja Harishchandra. Back then, neither the pioneer movie maker who later was sobriqueted as the father of Indian cinema nor the exhibitors realized that this film would be the beginning of a revolutionary mass media entertainment which would embrace lakhs in sway for the subsequent 100 years.
The French may have pioneered the theory of moving images, the British might be the forerunners in the process, but no one ever envisioned that the so called Indians would master the art one day and go on to develop the largest and biggest movie industry in the world. Despite the huge cultural, social, political and economical differences, the Indian Cinema (now Bollywood) withstood all the test of time to create a history in the past 10 decades. If you witness it in a chronic order, you’ll see it is nothing less then a miracle unleashed!
Aesthetics of Indian Cinema
While the West presented exceptional movies in expressionist form, Indians were never influenced by expressionist cinema. In the silent era (up till 1931), Indians continued making film restricted mainly to mythology and history. In fact, Indian films were the replicas of well-liked stage shows of that era. Therefore, Indian cinema from the very beginning sustained its own distinctiveness.
After Raja Harishchandra, several film makers in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Madras (now Chennai) began making silent films. By mid 1920s several production houses were set up in these two places.
Soon, the soundless epoch came to its final/closing stage when Ardeshir Irani created his and India’s first and foremost talkie film, ‘Alam Ara’ in 1931. The film was a huge hit. The movie not only had dialogues in it but also songs. People who have watched the movie in its original form back then, say that it had more songs than dialogues. From 1931 to 40s many prominent singers like Kundanlal Saigal, Kurshid, Punkaj Mullick, Kannan Devi, Uma Devi, Anil Biswas, Saraswathi Devi and Parul Ghosh enriched movies with their melodious voices. What really made Indian movies stand out from the west or diverse other cinemas was mainly this unique practice of including songs in movies, a practice which has endured till date and perhaps will go on forever.
The 40s was a turbulent phase; the initial half was despoiled by the Second World War while the later half saw extreme political and radical changes all across the globe. Amidst the war released ‘Kismet‘ in 1945 starring the legendary star, Ashok Kumar which again went on to become one of the major hit. It is one of biggest success in the history of Indian movies. The movie had some bold themes which the Indian audiences had not witnessed before – The 1st villain and a pregnancy prior to marriage. It visibly illustrated that the Indian filmmakers were bold enough than the epoch in which they were breathing. During this time, a close affiliation between art of films and blockbuster consciousness was time-honored. It was primarily against this milieu that moviemakers like Bimal Roy, V.Shantaram, Mehboob Khan and Raj Kapoor crafted their movies. In the meanwhile, the industry made swift strides down in the Deccan as well, where Telugu, Tamil and Kannada movies were captivating South by its snowstorm. By the end of forties, movies were being released in diverse Indian dialects with religious conviction being the prevailing theme.
40s to late 50s also witnessed the golden era of song composition. S.D. Burman, Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad, C. Ramchandra, O.P. Nayyar, Madan Mohan and Salil Chaudhury – everyone had their own idiosyncratic style. Each of them contributed to create treasured pieces of music which India is prominent for.
Next, came the golden era of Indian Cinema – the 50s and the 60s. Filmmakers like Guru Dutt, Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, Mehboob Khan, Raj Kapoor, K Asif who went on to compose classic movies like Do Bheega Zameen, Pather Panchali, Shree 420, Mother India, Awaara, Madhumati, Pyasa and Mughal-E-Azam, along with several others.
The 70s were totally different. This phase saw a big change in the stories, narrative style. Shifting communal norms, economies and most significantly, technology changed the Indian film industry too. This was the time of Deewar, Anand, Zanjeer and Sholay where Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Waheeda Rahman, Hema Malini, Smita Patil and Rekha went on to become the nation’s heartthrob. Yes, the first superstar of the nation, Rajesh Khanna was from this era.
During this phase when Indian commercial cinema was gaining all its attention from the audiences at home, several art films made by Satyajit Ray, Shaji Karun, Shyam Benegal, Aravindan, Ritwik Ghatge and Adoor Gopalkrishnan were making movies that gave Indian Cinema a face at the international level. Indian cinema was also taken to rural India through LED projectors.
80s witnessed the arrival of women filmmakers such as Aparna Sen (Parama, 36- Chouwringhee Lane), Meera Nair (Salaam Bombay) and Vijaya Mehta (RAO Saheb). It was the same decade when sultry dancer, Rekha enticed the spectators with her spectacular performance in ‘Umrao Jaan’.
The Advent Of Technology
Welcome to the modern phase of the Indian Film Industry, the 1990s. Advanced special effects, Dolby digital sound, changes in choreography-cinematography, screenplay and of course International appeal. It was the time of shifting the focus on aesthetic appeal altogether. Yes, this was the start of the career of many of our primate actors now – Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, ShahRukh Khan (SRK), Madhuri Dixit, Akshay Kumar and Juhi Chawla. The year 2000 started with a bang with Hrithik Roshan along with many other talented people.
The Indian film industry has witnessed a colossal change in scripts and film making in recent years. Credits to the talented directors like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, David Dhawan, Vishal Bharadwaj, Dibakar Banerjee, Rajkumar Hirani, Anurag Kashyap, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali who are coming forward with their own niche to woo the taste of the advanced Indian audiences – both in the rural and urban sectors.
Indian cinema, in spite all its fetishes, has always been a mirror image of the cultural, socioeconomic and the political transform that emerged in the nation. Here’s wishing the Indian Film industry a great 100th birthday and hoping that they carry on their glorious past by entertaining us exactly the way they have been doing it successfully for the past ten decades.
Image Source: Copyright Expired Images From Wikipedia