An experiment that grew from a photographer’s obsession is now the world’s largest film industry, producing over 1500 films a year. Here’s a quick recap of the films that shaped Indian industry over the past 100 years.
India’s first feature film, Raja Harishchandra was released in 1913. A silent film, made with the help of 40-odd crew members (including Producer’s son and wife), male actors essaying female roles, a bankrupt producer, shoe-string budget, primitive equipment and a lot of hope, struck chords with the masses.
A slew of films followed based on similar mythological characters.
Dadasaaheb Phalke, the man behind Raja Harishchandra and often considered as the ‘Father of Indian Cinema’, continued to make films based on ancient epics and Puranas. Savitri Satyavaan, Mohini Bhasmasur, Lanka Dahan, Shri Krishna Janma, Kaliya Mardan marked the progress of the nascent film industry in the country.
The first talkie
Released in 1931, ‘Alam Ara’ was India’s first talkie. Made by another maverick filmmaker Ardeshir Irani, the film was screened in Bombay.
Apart from charming looks the actors were needed to have excellence skills with voice. Dialogues, sprinkled with songs became a norm and gradually music started forming integral part of the films.
The year also marked the beginning of talkies in regional cinema – Jumai Shashti (Bengali), Bhakta Prahlada (Telugu) and Kalidass (Tamil) all released in the same year.
As sound technology advanced, came the era of classic musicals. Song and dance dramas started to capture the attention of masses and enthralled them for years. While films like Indra Sabha and Devi Devyani marked the beginning, Devdas became the biggest hit of that time.
The post-independence period inspired a new wave in the Indian film industry. What followed was as many film historians refer to, as the ‘Golden Era’ in Indian films – late 1940s to 1950s. Some of the most popular and critically acclaimed films were made in this era.
Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1946), Ritwik Ghatak’s Naagrik (1952), Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen (1953), Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955) set the benchmark for story, construct, form and craft.
Filmmakers like Gurudutt and Raj Kapoor followed up with brilliant masterpieces like Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Awaara and Shree 420 respectively.
1960’s were era of intense drama. Filmmakers focused on complex plots revolving around social issues. Noted films at this time include Anuradha (1960), Deedar (1961) Bluff Master (1963), Gauri (1968), Ittefaq 1969, Junglee (1961), Dosti (1964), Waqt (1965) and Neel Kamal (1968).
Sholay, released in 1975, changed the Indian movie landscape forever. Bollywood masaala entertainment became a genre. It was the first movie to corss Rs. 10 crore mark in earnings.
Sensing the changing tastes of the market, filmmakers banked on the tried and tested formulae. A pattern was seen taking shape in the way songs; dance, action and dialogues were conceptualized for the films. Kalicharan (1976), Kasme Vaade (1978), Don (1978) and Kaala Patthar (1979) highlight the newfound enthusiasm of the late 1970’s.
Formulaic films ruled Box Office in the 1980s. Still some films managed to carve their own niche and became eternal favourites. Karz (1980), Silsila (1981), Namak Halal (1982) and Disco Dancer (1982) were blockbusters of this era and always get mentioned among the all time hits.
The nineties brought new optimism into the film industry. The producers were ready to take chance, directors hungry to experiment; fresh, promising talent coming in… the industry was on an upswing.
Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) set the cash registers ringing like never before by crossing the Rs. 50 crore mark.
Bollywood finally became a market with corporates, investors and Banks foraying into filmmaking.
While parallel cinema kept on growing, the major thrust was on commercial films that mirrored the changing tastes and preferences of Indian audiences.
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, released after a year, in 1995, broke all previous records of successful films. Swept the Filmfare awards and went to become the longest running film in the history of Indian cinema.
Another landmark achievement of the film was cracking the code for overseas market – the NRI audience.
Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions cashed on this trend; of love stories set in the countries abroad, and released one hit after another.
Dil Toh Paagal Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna redefined the rules of the game, positioning both YRF and Dharma as frontline production houses.
With 100-crore benchmark being beaten many a times, film marketing and promotion gained prominence.
Large-scale efforts were made to bring maximum audiences to the theatres within the first 7 days of release.
The very recent Salman Khan starrer, Ek Tha Tiger (2012) crossed 175 Crore in the first week itself.
Today, as we celebrate the glossy side of Bollywood, let’s pay our respects to those who laid the foundation of this now multi-billion dollar industry.