Celebrating 100 yrs of Indian Cinema

Karanvir Gupta
3rd May 1913 was the day when the first indigenous Indian film ‘Raja Harishchandra’ was shown publicly in Coronation Cinema, Mumbai (Bombay then). It is believed that Pundalik was released the preceding year but couldn’t make it to the title of first because it had British cinematographers. Now this is what you call patriotism! Well the man behind the dawn of Indian Cinema is DhundiRaj Govind Phalke aka Dadsaheb Phalke after whom is instituted Dadsaheb Phalke Award given to the outstanding film personalities in each calendar year with the recent one been given to Pran, the famous villain and the first one given to Devika Rani in the year 1969.
Cinema in Decades:
Come, let’s take a dip into this glorious past and see how the tale of Indian Cinema was penned down. Though it started with Raja Harsihchandra(1913) and while Alam Ara, the first talkie was released in 1931, there were in total 209 silent films made in the span. Lanka Dahan(1917) and Kalia Mardan(1919) were the biggest hits of the time. 1935 was the year which witnessed mega blasters like Devdas-the story of wasted love and Achhut Kanya-the story of a Brahmin boy falling in love with untouchable girl. It kick started the love and romance stories. Coming to the 50’s; Dilip Saheb, Dev Saheb, and Raj Kapoor had stolen the show. The Silver screen was buzzing with their super skilled acting, impeccable dialogue delivery and above all their off screen good image. Mother India (1957), Naya Daur(1957) and Mughal-e-Azam (1960) were blockbusters. Then came the times of elicit love of “Ya-hoo”. Yes, Shammi Kapoor dawned the screen. Along with, Rajendra Kumar and Rajesh Khanna became the names of household. Ganga Jamuna (1961), Sangam (1964), Araadhna and Do Raaste (1969) and Mera Naam Joker (1970) were all the movies of 70’s. And then Bollywood dumped romance for action with the angry young man(Amitabh Bachchan) making an entry into the industry. Bobby(1973), Sholay(1975) and Muqaddar ka sikandar (1978) were the biggest hits of this time. 80’s was the time when industry was precarious because of the video piracy. And there were many flops during this time. Still, our actors made it and we had Kranti(1981), Ram Teri Ganga Maili(1985) and Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989) which won the hearts of Indian audience. Now started the family drama in the 90’s which was actually applauded by many. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayegne (1995) were chartbusters. And after that came the decade of Khans, which needs no mentioning and is still ruling on!
Spiced Up:
Spanning over the times Bollywood generated lot of spice inside the industry with the alleged affairs some of which include Dev Anand-Suraiya; Randhir-Babita; Dharmendra-Hema; Amitabh-Rekha; Rishi Kapoor-Neetu and there were many which died their own death or found solace in real life too. One such esteemed pair is that of Dilip Saheb and Saira Bano (the lead actress of “Yahooo” song). They are happily married till now. Hats-Off!! But then it became too common for the industry to witness such link-ups and move on.
It would be unfair on my part if I do not take you across the baddies without whom I guess our industry would have been so incomplete. Pran, Prem Chopra, Amjad Khan, Ranjit, Amrish Puri, Kader Khan, Shakti Kapoor with their peculiar style of oratory and screen presence added salt and pepper to the whole story. Women were no less; Bindu, Aruna Irani were all time favourite. And one who can’t be forgotten ever is the ‘golden girl’-Helen. She danced, she was quixotic, She would love the actor more than the actress and die at the end for two of them to lead a happy life. She was charismatic. She despite the fact doing so sensuous numbers gained respect from nook and cranny of India. She is the one who devised the formula called ‘item-number’ which our modern girls have not been able to catch, not even a bit either of her oomph or style.
Dialogue Baazi:
We absolutely have no doubt about their surpassed and unmatched dialogues. If songs were the catch of the movie, dialogues were the punch lines. Dialogues are what made the movies so distinct and remembered for their uniqueness.
Here are some the evergreen dialogues:
* Devdas (Dilip Kumar): Kaun kambakht bardasht karne ke liye peeta hai, main toh peeta hoon ke bas saans le sakoon.
* Waqt (Raj Kumar): Chenoy Seth…jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hote hain, woh doosron ke ghar pe pathar nahi fenka karte.
* Sholay (Gabbar Singh alias Amjad Khan): kitne aadmi they….??
* Deewar (Shashi Kapoor): Mere paas maa hai.
* Kalicharan (Ajit): Saara shahar mujhe loin ke naam se jaanta hai.
* Mr. India (Amrish Puri): Mogambo khush hua
*I shqiya (Arshad Warsi): Tumhara pyaar pyaar, humara pyaar s*x.
It was a fashion in our industry to tag the actors and actresses such as Asha Parekh was the tragic queen, Hema Malini- The Dream Girl, Helen-The Golden Girl, Madhuri Dixit-The Dancing Queen, Amitabh Bachchan-The Angry Young Man, etc. Such epithets would make them even more special and class apart. The names conferred to them by the local masses and their fans have been etched in the history of industry for ever.
Did You Know?
Do you know that Madhubala started acting at the age of 9 due to financial constraints at family and to support her huge family. Out of 70 films she worked in, only 15 were successful but yet her demand by producers and directors were exorbitant and Jwala is the only coloured movie she has worked in except for Technicolor sequences in Mughal-e-Azam. Also, can you imagine that quite a part of the movie was shot when Dilip Kumar and Madhubala had split-apart in real life? Well till date Mughal-e-Azam ranks second in all time box-office hits in Indian cinema after Sholay. Do you know real name of Meena Kumari was Mahajabeen Bano and she wanted to study rather than to act? It took sixteen years to complete filming movie Pakeezah due to differences between her and the director who was her husband too, Kamal Amrohi. Dev Anand fell in deep love with Suraiya after an incident where boat was capsized while shooting for a song in movie Vidya and he saved her life but due to objections at Suraiya’s family, they decided not to marry and Suraiya spent the whole life as spinster. It is fun to know that Dev Anand and Guru Dutt became friends when they wore each other shirts exchanged by common dhobi and met at Prabhat Film studios at Pune. Guru Dutt is the person who first used the song to further the narrative of the story and used 100mm lens for close up shots. This was first used in the movie Baazi in the year 1951. There are many such stories which astonish you in bewilderment and even increase the craze for the film world. (It is a deliberate attempt to narrate incidents from earlier era as post 70’s media became more active and today’s populace would be aware of quite a few anecdotes.)
But what made them different?
What amazes me most is what was so special about stars of that day that made them so distinct, unique and likeable. What is that our stars of today are not able to get hold of. No doubts that the industry has corporatized and it has become more of business rather than an art form and we have lot of fan clubs but there was a mystique and class attached to the actors of yester years. Why the stars have not been able to secure a place so secured as the stars of those times were able to do. The prime reason I feel is the habit of stars then to be themselves. Be it Raj Kumar with his peculiar voice and tone, be it Ajit, Reena Roy, Shabaana Aazmi, Rekha, Nutan, Keshtu Mukherjee, Mehmood, Israni. They were all just themselves. This made them all unique. It can be said that if same script was given to different actors of that time, each movie would have been a different view altogether.
Cinema World Today?
The Indian cinema has undergone major changes. Now it is not just about On-Screen people but also about the people back stage, technical staff, lyricist, singers, choreographers, etc. All have their share of fame and applaud. This is one good thing which has happened in the industry over the years of its evolution. There is a scope for off-beat movies like I Am by Onir, Dev D by Anurag Kashyap, Vicky Donor by Shoojit Sircar, Gangs of Wasseypur, etc. With each passing year we are adding new things to the kitty. Contrary to this, there are changes which are not much appreciable like doing away with the songs which have become impositions rather than part of narrative. Songs is what makes Indian cinema separate from the rest of the world. So it is better not let them go. Then there is so much of sequel and remake going on which somehow reflects dearth of ideas. The originality is somehow missing. The movies have less impressive dialogues, less of original playback singing, less of content and more of money minting techniques. You mint and enter “the club” but let’s not hurt the sanctity of the industry which has come so far treading a path for itself which people still want to enjoy and cherish.
The Standing Ovation:
Completing 100yrs of Indian Cinema; Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Karan Johar have come up with a movie called Bombay Talkies released on 3rd May, the date of release and name of the movie very well chosen! All said and done, Ladies and Gentlemen, now is the time to give a STANDING ovation to all our actors, producers, directors, musicians, technical staff without whom it would have been incomplete and a little less of a saga. Let us give a thundering applause to the industry that has entertained us over the span of 100years with its heart touching stories, fabulous narratives, finest playback singing, and overwhelming hard work. They have been indefatigable in delivering to their fans the best of what they had in store. And we are all pleased to have them here. With all respect, adulations and love, we request you to keep entertaining us in the years to come. We wish that industry keeps its originality and sanctity and may there never be dearth of ideas. We are already visible at the global platform be it Grammys or Cannes. We are known worldwide. Let’s hope that we are known for The Best and the finesse. And this caravan goes on and on…..!!