Indian cinema completed 100 years of its existence on May 3.
The first feature film, produced by Dadasaheb Phalke was ‘Raja Harishchandra,’ a silent movie based on the mythological character of King Harishchandra.
Pre-Independent India saw films generally made by studios like Bombay Talkies and Prabhat Films. The biggest star of that period was Ashok Kumar.
Independent India accelerated moviemaking business.. The country then produced a troika of superstars who ruled the business for many decades.
Showman Raj Kapoor acquired on screen persona of Charlie Chaplin, projecting ills facing the county in a light-hearted manner.
Dilip Kumar, one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema, debuted during this period. Nicknamed ‘Tragedy King’ for his portrayal of characters left with unfulfilled dreams, he gave superlative performances in many films. Completing this trinity was suave and handsome Dev Anand, India’s answer to the Hollywood heartthrob Gregory Peck. He was one of the first actors to set up his own production house (Navketan Films) International). Madhubala and Nargis were popular actresses of this period.
1960s saw a bounty of romantic and social films. Cinema reflects society, and this was the time when religious discrimination and dowry, plaguing the society were highlighted on the screen.
The advent of India’s first superstar Rajesh Khanna heralded a new era in the Hindi film industry. Riding on a string of successful musical romantic films, he was the undisputed king of the silver screen for about ten years.
1970s were a period of tremendous uncertainty and anxiety. Indians were beginning to question if the dreams promised by freedom could be realised.
This was also the period when emergency was imposed. The troubled times produced Amitabh Bachchan, India’s biggest star ever, who stormed out of cinema screens as an angry hero. His performances were backed by some of the best scripts written by duo Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar.
Amitabh represented common man’s plight and angst against the prevalent political, social and commercial systems.
The worst phase
The 1980s can possibly be termed the worst phase for Indian cinema. This was the time when the quality of films reached its nadir. Video cassettes had made their debut, and cinema-going audiences dwindled. Weak scripts with mindless action and soulless music became the bane of Hindi films. The only bright spot was the emergence of stars like Sunny Deol, Sridevi, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan.
‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ turned the tide for Hindi cinema in 1994. A big screen family extravaganza with melodious music, it brought the audiences back to cinema halls. Hindi cinema discovered new horizons with the release of ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in 1996, starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. A love story filmed extensively outside India, it lapped box office hits at home and abroad, opening a vast and untapped Indian Diaspora market.
The new millennium has been a productive phase for Indian cinema.
With India acquiring the status of a global economic powerhouse, its moviemaking business, now designated as an industry, is registering rapid strides.
Indian cinema now appears more comfortable in its skin; not shying away from depicting and celebrating stories from hinterlands to its metros. A technically savvy generation of filmmakers, well exposed to world cinema, now wants to conquer new vistas. With corporate houses setting up studios, easier access to capital is on hand for the business, and hence more professionalism has seeped into the movie world.
Millions of viewers all over the world follow Indian cinema. It has metamorphosed into a common passion, a unifying factor for people of Indian origin throughout the world. We hope that Indian cinema will continue its glorious innings, grow manifold and carry on entertaining us for another 100 years.