100 years Of Indian Cinema
When Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian Cinema, released his epochal feature film Raja Harishchandra on 3rd May 1913, it is unlikely that either the exhibitors or the pioneer film maker realized they were unleashing a mass entertainment medium that would hold millions in sway for the next hundred years. The French might have introduced the concept of moving images, but little did anyone know that India would one day become the largest film industry in the world. It’s a miracle that Indian cinema has withstood the test of time despite the vast cultural differences in the past 100 years.
Indian cinema has an identity that is very unique and unmatched. We have moved from the black and white silent films to 3D, but our cinema continues to retain its basic essence – to thrill. Even as internet downloads and television continue to cannibalize the theatrical revenues of Indian films, the lure of the 35 mm is something else altogether. It was Phalke who introduced India to world cinema at a time when working in films was taboo. After the success of his film ‘Raja Harishchandra’, several filmmakers in Bombay and Madras began making silent films. By the mid 1920s, Madras had become the epicentre for all film related activities. Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu, SS Vasan, AV Meiyappan set up production houses in Madras to shoot Telugu and Tamil films.
The silent era came to an end when Ardeshir Irani produced his first talkie, ‘Alam Ara’ in 1931. If Phalke was the father of Indian cinema, Irani was the father of the talkie. The talkies changed the face of Indian cinema. Apart from looks, the actors not only needed a commanding voice but also singing skills, as music became a defining element in Indian cinema. The year also marked the beginning of the Talkie era in South Indian films. The first talkie films in Bengali (Jumai Shasthi), Telugu (Bhakta Prahlad) and Tamil (Kalidass) were released in the same year.
The 70s completely changed the way films were made, especially in Hindi film industry. Changing social norms and changing economies influenced movies and the companies that made them. The narrative style changed. The story structure changed. Characters changed. Content changed. Masala films were the demand of the time. The genre promised instant attraction and had great entertainment value. It was the age of the angry young man and Amitabh Bachchan rose to prominence thanks to the success of Sholay, Zanjeer and Deewar. While Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Jitendra and Dharmendra continued to bask in the glory of back to back hits, the actresses were not far behind. Right from the time of Savitri, Vyjayanthi Mala, Nargis, Waheeda Rahman and Sharmila Tagore to Sridevi, Rekha, Smita Patil, Hema Malini, several actresses became heartthrobs of the nation.
As the world has become a global village, the Indian film industry has reached out further to international audiences. Apart from regular screenings at major international film festivals, the overseas market contributes a sizeable chunk to Bollywood’s box office collections. Regular foreign Investments made by major global studios such as 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros put a stamp of confirmation that Bollywood has etched itself on the global podium.
To celebrate 100 years of cinema in India, the Government of India, in cooperation with the film industry, has proposed to line up a host of activities between May 3, 2012 and May 3, 2013. It has also proposed to present a tableau of 100 years of Indian Cinema at the Republic Day parade next year. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has also instituted a centenary award which will be given to a path- breaking film every year at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. The first centenary award would be given at the IFFI 2012 which will be held in Goa in November this year.
Indian cinema, despite all its peculiarities, has been a reflection of the socio-economic, political and cultural changes that took place in the country. Here’s hoping that Indian movies continue to entertain us the way they’ve been doing since 10 decades.