Art is the essence of life. Each art form invigorates a feeling of unity with our conscience and the world. The best way to do this is through cinema. A dynamic cinematic experience takes us on a journey of emotions. Strangely enough, without any prior knowledge about the characters or their story, we can instantly connect to them through the screenplay. That’s the magic of this visual art form.
A message, when delivered in the form of a film or theatre, stays with us for a lifetime. We cherish the songs, we relate those stories to our life, and unexpectedly, we become a part of that enchanting play.
When the question is about cinema, theatre play, or short film, India never takes the back seat. Indian cinema creates history time and again with phenomenal filmography, theatre plays. If we take a trip down the cinematic bylanes, we see that the scenario of Indian cinema poles apart from today’s “Netflix and chill”. The Indian film industry stood the test of time despite the circumstances in the country. The credit goes entirely to the cinematic maestros whose undying zeal and determination laid a strong foundation for the succeeding generation.
This article is a deep dive into the yesteryear’s of cinema, enjoy the journey!
Beginning of cinematography
It all began in the year 1896 when the Lumiere brothers showed their first film in Mumbai. Till that time cinematography already created excitement and curiosity among the people. The screening of the first-ever shot film had already taken place in London.
Lumiere’s father had a small photographic portrait studio and a factory where photographic plates were produced. He worked hard in his early life, and gradually things got better. Lumiere screened 10 short films of 50 seconds each. He presented 6 of his films in Mumbai.
All these events inspired the artists of our country to a great extent. Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar shot a clipping and named it “The Wrestlers”. The clipping was telecasted at the Hanging Garden in Mumbai. That new beginning opened the door to a new era in the history of Indian cinema, i.e. the era of silent films.
But before going into the details of silent films. Let us tell you about the father of Indian cinema.
The father of Indian cinema
Dadasaheb Phalke or we can say the father of Indian cinema, made India’s first full-length feature film in the year 1913. He named his debut film “Raja Harishchnadra” and based the whole story on this legendary Indian king. You will be amazed to know that Dadasaheb Phalke was the script-writer, casting director, director, producer, cameraman, makeup artist, film processor, and editor of this film. This made the film unique and was a commercial hit of that time.
We cannot imagine juggling a plethora of tasks. However, he made the impossible possible. Dadasaheb left his job at the print agency and devoted all his time to the research of cinema and films. Despite going through a financial crisis, he managed to visit London. Dadasaheb saw the Walton Studios there and met with Cecil Hepworth. On his return from London, he set up “Phalke Films Company” and that was the beginning of his era in the industry.
For his debut film, he cast male actors, even for female roles due to the restrictions on women during those times. In his total career, he created 25 feature-length films and 27 short films. Mohini Bhasmasur, Satyavan Savitri, Lanka Dahan, Kaliya Mardan, and Shri Krishna Janma are some of his most appreciated works.
The era of silent films
This era established the base of Indian cinema. It created awareness about films and cinematography, and gradually the popularity for this grew. Dadasaheb Torne created a silent film named “Shree Pundalik” in Marathi in the year 1912. Due to the argument about its recording and British film processor, it was not considered the first Indian film.
Silent films flourished in different regions. In Tamil, R.Nataraja Mudaliar shot the first Tamil silent film named “Keechaka Vadham”. Madan Theatre founded by Jamshedji Framji Madan witnessed the production of 10 films. Later on, this man established Elphinstone Bioscope Company in Calcutta which eventually got merged with Madan Theatres Limited.
Gradually people started visiting the theatres and many more artists came up with new ideas.
But the sad part about this era is that a large number of silent films are absent from the pages of history. Few survived, but not in their original length and form.
During the 1930s-mid-1940s, Talkies ruled the industry of cinematography. After the era of silent films, people were elated to hear the synchronized sound along with the picture. Talkies or sound films gave new life to the film industry. The idea of this kind of cinematography was as old as the idea of films. But the implementation and commercial success took time for this one.
Ardeshir Irani was the first one who introduced us to talkies. His production “Alam Ara” was the first-ever Indian talkie. “Alam Ara” was released in 1931. He even created “Kalidas”, the first south Indian talkie film. At this time, the first Bengali talkie was also released, named “Jumai Shasthi”. This led to the formation of “Tollywood” which eventually became the heart of this industry until Bollywood took over.
The period of talkies saw a huge improvement in Indian cinema. Swamikannu Vincent introduced the concept of “Tent Cinema”, Bombay Talkies and Prabhat Studios were inaugurated.
The Second World War affected the industry a lot. Production of cinema declined and people were not allowed to make movies on certain topics. During this hardship, the golden age started, which gifted us a bag full of outstanding creations.
The Golden Age
Between the period of the late 1940s to early 1960s, huge changes happened in terms of story, film processing, and many other things. There was a zeal in every Indian, especially the Bengalis to create cinema that is different from mainstream Indian cinema. And they accomplished it successfully!!
Bengalis took the front seat and drove the car of Indian cinema to the highest peak. Satyajit Ray, the pioneer of bengali cinema, created “The Apu Trilogy” which won the hearts of everyone. “Pather Panchali” is the first part of the trilogy that gave Ray recognition. The trilogy got several prizes in different international film festivals.
Along with the major trilogy, “Dharti Ke Lal”, “Nagarik”, “Do Bigha Zamin” are some of the films that were released before and were commercial hits. The films started taking up the social issues, the hardships of rural India. It started taking up the common issues to connect with people easily. We relate to emotions, and cinematography brought that emotion in front of us.
This era witnessed some of the greatest films of this industry. Starting from The Apu Trilogy, Jalsaghar, Charulata, and Aranyer Din Ratri. And not just filmmakers, that time had the greatest actors of all times. From Dilip Kumar, Guru Dutta to Raj Kapoor, and Meena Kumari, all of them rose to their highest peak of success in this era.
Finally the Bollywood
In the 1970s Bollywood came into the game to rule the industry of Indian cinema. The need for musical films and love stories was fulfilled in this era. Filmmaker Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar showed strong emotions like violence, crime, greed through their films “Zanjeer”, and “Deewar”. By mid-1970 they released the all-time blockbuster “Sholay”.
With time talented filmmakers released different blockbusters and introduced us to so many fabulous artists. The industry never fails to fill our hearts with emotions. Starting from Jai Santoshi Ma, Amar Akbar Anthony, to Mr. India, Dil To Pagal Hai, and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Indian cinema cast its magic on us every time. Also, the artists, be it “Three Khans”, Amitabh Bachchan or Sridevi, Kajol, Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, and Hrithik Roshan, everyone made their place in the hearts of 136 crores people. The list of artists will go on and on if we start now.
If we have a look at our current artists and films, there’s are also not ready to disappoint their fans. The charm and magic are still strong and will be strong for many more generations. Article 15, Mardaani 2, Tribhanga are some of my recent favorites.