History of Indian Cinema
In 1886 the Lumiere Brothers Cinematographe unveiled six soundless short films at Bombay’s Watson’s Hotel. Soon after, Hiralal Sen and H.S. Bhatavdekar started making films in Calcutta and Bombay, respectively. Like Lumiere Brothers Bhatavdekar made India’s first actuality films in 1899. Tough there were efforts at filming stage plays earlier India’s first feature film Raja Harishchandra was made in 1913 by Dadasaheb Phalke who is known as the Father of Indian Cinema. By 1920 there was a regular industry bringing out films starting with 27 per year and reaching 207 films in 1931. Today India makes about 800 feature films every year.
Alam Ara (1931) was the genesis of the talkie feature films. The film’s popular Hindustani dialogues and seven songs made it a big hit which resulted in other filmmakers to raise the number of songs in their films till it reached a whooping 71 in “Indrasabha”. Film songs became a Pan-Indian phenomenon.
The most remarkable things about the birth of the sound film in India is that it came with a bang and quickly displaced the silent movies. The first Indian talkie Alam Ara produced by the Imperial film company and directed by Ardershir Irani was released on March 14, 1931 at the Majestic Cinema in Bombay; The talkie had brought revolutionary changes in the whole set up of the industry. The year 1931 marked the beginning of the talking ear in Bengal and South India. The first talkie films in Bengali (Jumai Shasthi), Telugu (Bhakta Prahlad) and Tamil (Kalidass) were released in the same year.
Regional culture and craving to see-hear a film in one’s own language caused the mushrooming of the regional film industries beginning with Bengali, Tamil & Telugu followed by Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Assamese, English and several other dialects.
The Golden Era
The post independence period saw the golden era of Indian cinema with melodious socials & melodramas. International recognition came with Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali in 1955. Satyajit Ray is considered as one of the greatest directors of all times. He was awarded an Oscar for life time achievement short before his death in 1995.
The 70′s saw the birth of the parallel cinema which promoted realistic cinema. At around the same time was born the long lasting trend on the angry young man pitted against the Establishment as represented by Amitabh Bachchan, the superstar of the Indian Film Industry. Amitabh Bachchan was virtually a one man industry and this trend lasted till the late eighties.
The thirties is recognised as the decade of social protests in the history of Indian Cinema. Three big banners-Prabhat, Bombay Talkies and New Theatres gave the lead in making serious but gripping sand entertaining films for all classes of the wide audience. A number of films making a strong plea against social injustice were also made in this period like V.Santharam’s Duniya Na Mane, Aadmi and Padosi, Franz Osten’s Achut Kanya, Damle & Fatehlal’s Sant Thukaram, Mehboob’s Watan, Ek hi Raasta and Aurat. For the first time Ardeshir Irani attempted a colour picture in 1937 with Kisan Kanya.
The decade also witnessed the release of the first talkie films in Marathi (Ayodhiyecha Raja 1932), Gujarathi (Narasinh Mehta-32), Kannada (Dhurvkumar-34); Oriya (Sita Bibaha-34); Assamese (Joymati-35); Punjabi (Sheila-35) and Malayalam(Balan-38).
The decade during which the second world was fought and Indian independence won, was a momentous one for cinematography all over India. Some memorable films were produced during the forties such as Shantharam’s Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, Mehboob’s Roti, Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar, Uday Shanker’s Kalpana, Abbas’s Dharti Ke Lal, Sohrab Modi’s Sikander, Pukar and Prithvi Vallabh, J.B.H. Wadia’s Court Dancer, S.S. Vasan’s Chandralekha, Vijay Bhatt’s Bharat Milap and Ram Rajya, Rajkapoor’s Barsaat and Aag.
The first International Film Festival of India held in early 1952 at Bombay had great impact of Indian Cinema. The big turning point camp in 1955 with the arrival of Satyajit Ray and his classic Pather Panchali which opened up a new path leading the Indian film to the World Film Scene. International recognition came to it with the Cannes award for best human document followed by an unprecedented crop of foreign and national awards. In Hindi Cinema too, the impact of neorealism was evident in some distinguished films like Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin, Devadas and Madhumati, Rajkapoor’s Boot Polish, Shri-420 and Jagte Raho, V. Shantharam’s Do Aankhen Barah Haath and Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, Mehbood’s Mother India.
Gurudutt’s Pyaasa, and Kagaz Ke Phool and B.R. Chopra’s Kanoon; The first Indo-Soviet co-production Pardesi by K.A.Abbas was also made during the fifties. The transition to colour and the consequent preference for escapist entertainment and greater reliance on stars brought about a complete change in the film industry. The sixties was a decade of mediocre films made mostly to please the distributors and to some extent, meet the demands of the box office. The sixties began with a bang with the release of K. Asif’s Mughal-E-Azam which set a record at the box-office. It was followed by notable productions which include romantic musical and melodramas of a better quality. Rajkapoor’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Sangam, Dilip Kumar’s Gunga Jamna, Gurudutt’s Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam, Dev Anand’s Guide; Bimal Roy’s Bandini, S.Mukherji’s Junglee, Sunil Dutt’s Mujhe Jeene Do and the experimental Yaadein, Basu Bhatacharya’s Teesri Kasam, Pramod Chakravorthy’s Love in Tokyo, Ramanand Sagar’s Arzoo, Sakhti Samantha’s Aradhana, Hrishikesh Mukherji’s Aashirwad and Anand, B.R. Chopra’s Waqt, Manoj Kumar’s Upkar, and Prasad Productions Milan were the significant Hindi films of the decade.
Among the regional languages, Malayalam cinema derived much of its strength from literature during the sixties. Malayalam cinema hit the head lines for the first time when Ramu Kariat’s Chemmeen (1965) won the President’s Gold Medal. Towards the end of the decade, Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome, signalled the beginnings of the new wave in Indian Cinema.
The New Indian Cinema emerged as a reaction to the popular cinema’s Other Worldiness. It is a cinema of social significance and artistic sincerity, presenting a modern, humanist perspective more durable than the fantasy world of the popular cinema.
Ritwik Ghatak swooped on the Indian scene with new dynamism. His films constitute a record of the traumas of change form the desperation of the rootless and deprived refugees from East Bengal .(Meghe Dhaka Tara, Ajantrik, Komal Ghandhar, Subarnarekha). Mrinal Sen is the ebullient one-experimenting with neorealism as well as new wave and fantasy. His notable films are Bhuvan Shome, Chorus, Mrigaya, Ek Din Pratidin, Akaler Sandhane, Kharij & Khandahar. He has also won several national an international awards.
In Bombay, a new group of film makers emerged on the Hindi cinema. Notable amongst them are Basu Chatterji (Sara Akash), Rajinder Singh Bedi (Dastak), Mani Kaul (Uski Roti, Duvidha), Kumar Shahani (Maya Darpan), Avtar Kaul (27-Down), Basu Bhattacharya (Anubhav), M.S. Sathyu (Garam Hawa), Shyam Benegal (Ankur), and Kanthilal Rathod (Kanku). In Calcutta, following the trend set by Ray, Ghatak and Sen, Tapan Sinha and Tarun Majumdar also made some note worthy films. (Kabuliwala, Hatey Bazarey, Harmonium, Safed Haathi; Balika Bodhu, Nimantran, Ganadevta, Dadar Kirti).
The seventies has further-widened the gap between multistar big budgeted off beat films. The popular Hindi hits of the decade include Kamal Amrohis Pakeeza, Rajkapoor’s Bobby , Devar’s Haathi Mere Saathi, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay, Zanjeer, Deewar, Khoon Pasina, Yaadon Ki Baarat, Kabhi Kabhi, Dharamveer, Amar Akbar Anthony, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, and Muqaddar ka Sikandar. Of these majority of the films were action oriented with revenge as the dominating theme.
Down in the South, the new wave cinema originated in Karnataka and Kerala. Pattabhi Rama Reddy’s Damskara (70) and Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Swayamvaram (72) were the trend setters in Kannada and Malayalam respectively. This continued with a series of socially conspicuous films like M.T. Vasidevan Nair’s Nirmalyam, B.V.Karanth’s Chomana Dudi, Girish Karnad’s Kaadu, Girish Kasara Valli’s Ghatasradha, G. Aravindan’s Uttarayanam and Thamp, K. Balachander’s Arangetram, Avargal and Apoorva Ragangal, Adoor’s Kodyettam, K.G. George’s Swapnadanam and P.A. Backer’s Chuvanna Vithukal and G.V.Iyer’s Hamsageethe.
The Hindi avante garde or new wave seems to have reached its bloom period towards the end of the seventies with the coming of film makers like Govind Nihalani (Aakrosh), Saeed Mirza (Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai, Aravind Desai ki Ajeeb Daastan), Rabindra Dharmaraj (Chakra), Sai Paranjpe (Sparsh), Muzafar Ali (Gaman) and Biplab Roy Chowdhari (Shodh). The movement spread to the other regional cinemas such as Marathi, Gujarathi, Assamese, Oriya and Telugu. Directors like Jabbar Patel (Samna, Simhasan), Ramdas Phuttane (Sarvasakshi), Ketan Mehta (Bhavni Bhavai). Babendranath Saikia(Sandhya Rag), Jahanu Barua (Aparoopa, Papori), Manmohan Mohapatra (Klanta Aparanha, Majhi Pahacha), Nirad Mohapatra (Maya Miriga) and Gautam Ghose (Ma Bhoomi) came to the scene with their films.
The first half of nineties witnessed the release of some better films in Hindi as well as in other regional languages. Drishti and Drohkal (Nihalani), Lekin (Gulzar), Disha (Sai Paranjpe), Prahar (Nana Patekar), Parinda (Vinod Chopra), Diskha (Arun Kaul), Kasba (Kumar Shahani), Rudaali (Kalpana Lajmi), Maya Memsaab (Ketan Mehta), Mujhse Dosti Karoge (Gopi Desai), Suraj Ka Satwan Ghoda & Mammo (Benegal), Who Chokri (Subhankar Ghosh)&Ek Doctor Ki Maut (Tapan Sinha), were some of the notable Hindi films from Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Manipur came films like Tahader Katha, Bagh Bahadur, Charachar (Buddhadeb Dasgupta), Uttoran (Sandip Ray), Wheel Chair (Tapan Sinha), Unishe April (Rituparno Ghosh), Adi Mimansa, Lalvanya Preethi (A.K. Bir), Nirbachana (Biplab Roy Chowdhari), Halodhia Choraya Baodhan Khai, Firingoti (Jahau Barua), Haladhar (Sanjeev Hazarika), and Ishanou (Aribam Shayam Sharma). In the South Malayalam Cinema presented some notable films. They include Vasthuhara (Aravindan).