29 JUL 2016 नवीन पालघर जिल्हा मुख्यालय विकसित




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29 JUL 2016 नवीन पालघर जिल्हा मुख्यालय विकसित


The Dream Factory : 100 Years of Cinema in India by HK Verma – Chapter – 10

Nationalism has always been important to Indian film makera of that era. More so those assoiated with the IPTA – Indian People’s Theatre Movement. K. A. Abbas, who had earlier made an impressive debut with Dharti Ke Lal, followed by Munna, made a few more films like Shehar Aur Sapna starring Dilip Raj and Surekha-both new faces on the screen. This film got Abbas the President’s Gold Medal for being the best film of the year. It was about the housing problem in the city of Bombay; Hamara Ghar, a children’s film; Char Dil Char Rahen starring Meena Kumari on National Integration; Aasman Mahal starring Prithviraj Kapoor (best performance award at the Karlovy vary festival), about the Maharajas and Princes; Bambai Raat Ke Bahon Mein about smuggling racket, starring Miss India, the exquisite Persis Khambatta; and his last Saat Hindustani again on National Integration. His films showed his political leanings, and somehow, none of his later works came up to the standard of his earlier Dharti Ke Lal and Munna.

Raj Kapoor, (most of whose films were written and scripted by K A Abbas in collaboration with Inder Raj Anand) on the other hand continued to make commercial successes one after the other, except for his Ab Dilli Dur Nahin, which was just a moderate grosser. Jagte Raho (Grand‑Prix at the Karlovy vary in 1957), Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (the Raj Kapoor pattern of film making continued-one wonders how he would have brought about the conversion of those blood thirsty dacoits without the active help and sex‑appeal of co‑star Padmini). And then came his magnum opus Sangam, starring himself with Rajendra Kumar and Vijayantimala. It was the usual boy meets girl and the eternal triangle story in which the two friends consume over twenty three thousand feet of Eastmancolour stock to find out that they are in love with the same girl.

With the decision to make it in Colour (all his earlier films were in Black and white), he decided to shoot a part of it in Europe. With the result, the foreign locales were forced in it showing the honeymooning couple dancing and singing all over the continent, thus canning the portion between the two intermissions a sort of travelogue. This film was an out and out success, breaking all previous box‑office records. One will never know the actual reasons for its success. Was it the travelogue or the emotional impact of the story which made the film such a success? One is inclined to believe that it was the travelogue-since films on the same subject, minus the foreign locales were made earlier as well-Mehboob Khan’s Andaaz starring Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Raj Kapoor, and Guru Dutt’s Chaudhvin Ka Chand, starring Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman and Rehman-though these films were also commercially very successful, they certainly were not super success like Sangam.

Sangam actually set the trend for big‑budget films (an earlier attempt but after Chandralekha-was K. Asif’s Mughal‑E‑Azam, starring Dilip Kumar, Prithviraj Kapoor and the Venus of the Indian screen, Madhubala. It was the costliest film released in India till the time of Sangam. Mughal‑E‑Azam was released in 1960 and had taken nine years in the making). Raj Kapoor’s-Mera Naam Joker, which he had made in two parts, had besides Soviet artistes and circus, about half the Indian film industry in its cast. It was the costliest Indian film at the time. It bombed at the box‑office. Raj Kapoor, just to prove that he had not his cinematique genius, made a light romantic film Bobby starring his young son Rishi Kapoor and cast opposite another brand new comer Dimple Kapadia. As was expected from Raj Kapoor, who was out to prove his meattle again, the film was a stupendous success the kind of success. . Indian Cinema had never seen earlier. Ofcourse it adhered to the Raj Kapoor pattern of film making with lots and lots of glamour and female anatomy on display.

J Omprakash came out with a daringly different film Aandhi with Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen, directed by Gulzar. it was semi‑biographical of mrs Indira Gandhi. As expected it ran into a lot of censor trouble.

Suchitra Sen was easily the most popular actress that Bengali Cinema has ever seen. Her ethereal beauty coupled with her phenomenon acting talent and immense box office popularity, particularly her on‑screen pairing with the late Uttam Kumar, gave her a legendary cult status in Bengal. She in fact created a new image in Bengali Cinema of the articulate if tragic heroine carving out an independence space outside that of family and tradition.

She was born Roma Sen in Patna, Bihar. Her debut was in the unreleased Shesh Kothai made in 1952. The following year saw her act opposite Uttam Kumar for the first time in Sharey Chuattar. The film, an effervescent comedy was also the breakthrough film of director Nirmal Dey and was a huge hit at the box‑office. However it is remembered more for launching the pair of Kumar and Sen. They went on to become icons of Bengali romantic melodramas for more than twenty years becoming almost a genre into themselves. Their films were famous for the soft‑focus close ups of the stars particularly Sen and lavishly mounted scenes of romance against windswept expanses and richly decorated interiors with fluttering curtains and such mnemonic objects as bunches of tube roses etc. Some popular films of the pair include Shap Mochan (1955), Sagarika (1956), Harano Sur (1957), Saptapadi (1961), Bipasha (1962) and Grihadah (1967).

One of Suchitra’s best known performances was in Deep Jweley Jai (1959). She played Radha, a hospital nurse employed by a progressive psychiatrist, Pahadi Sanyal and is expected to develop a personal relationship with male patients as part of their therapy. Sanyal diagnoses the hero, Basanta Choudhury, as having an unresolved Oedipal dilemma ‑the inevitable consequence for men denied a nurturing woman. He orders Radha to play the role though she is hesitant as earlier in a similar case she had fallen in love with the patient. She finally agrees and bears up to Choudhury’s violence, impersonates his mother, sings his poetic compositions and in the process falls in love yet again. In the end even as she brings about his cure, she suffers a nervous breakdown. The film is full of beautiful often partly lit close ups of Sen which set the tone of the film and is aided by a mesmerizing performance by her. Asit Sen remade the film in Hindi as Khamoshi with Waheeda Rehman in the Suchitra Sen role. But perhaps Suchitra’s biggest histrionic triumph was Saat Pake Bandha (1963). She played Archana who tries to overcome her domineering and snobbish mother (powerfully played by veteran Chhaya Devi) by marrying Sukhendu a serious University Lecturer played by Soumitra Chatterjee. However the mother continues to interfere reminding her son‑in‑law of his poverty. Suffering from divided loyalties, Archana’s problems are aggravated when Sukhendu insists she sever all ties with her parents. Archana separates from Sukhendu and stays independently completing her studies. When she finally accepts her wifely duties and returns home it is too late as Sukhendu has resigned and gone abroad. Suchitra Sens’s sensitively etched and finely nuanced performance won her the Best Actress Award at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1963 and the film itself was the basis for Kora Kaagaz (1974) starring Jaya Bhadhuri in the Suchitra Sen role.

While her supremacy in Bengal was unquestioned, Suchitra’s forays into Hindi Cinema were far too infrequent and comparatively less successful. It is hard to fathom the reason for this. While her screen presence in her Hindi films was as stunning as ever, perhaps because of language problems her performances look a trifle stilted and reined in. Her first Hindi film was Bimal Roy’s Devdas (1955) where she played Parvati to Dilip Kumar’s Devdas. It was her finely honed performance that gave the film its necessary tone of lofty virtue, noble sacrifice and loyal devotion. Musafir (1957), Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s episodic film of marriage, birth and death and Champakali (1957) failed to set the box‑office alight and even her most uninhibited Hindi film performance in Bombay ka Babu (1960) opposite Dev Anand was plagued by troubles between her and the director, Raj Khosla.

Mamta (1966) based on Uttar Falguni by the director Asit Sen, saw her carry the film on her shoulder with a strong performance as both the mother, a courtesan and the daughter, a lawyer. She made a huge impact with Gulzar’s Aandhi (1975) playing a powerful woman politician whose marriage had broken up since her husband, Sanjeev Kumar, opposed her having a career after marriage. Aandhi however ran into controversy due to her role which was based on Indira Gandhi and was even banned for a while.

She retired from the screen in 1978 and has since gone into almost Greta Garbo like seclusion. A devotee of Ramakrishna Mission, Suchitra now immerses herself in meditation and prayer. Her outdoor visits are confined to Belur Math, the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission. Her daughter Moon Moon Sen and grand daughters Riya and Raima are all actresses as well. Her co‑star in Aandhi was Sanjeev kumar, one of the most versatile actors Hindi Cinema has ever seen.

Sanjeev Kumar was one of those few actor‑stars to whom the role meant more than anything in the world. He was willing to play any character of any age in a film, even if it wasn’t the lead role, provided the role challenged his acting abilities which of course were considerable. In that sense he chose to tread the path set down by other actor‑stars such as Motilal and Balraj Sahni and rewrote many of the conventions of The Hindi Cinema rather than follow the conventional star system. He was born Harihar Jariwala into a traditional Gujarati family living in a tenement in Mumbai. After dabbling in theatre, he joined the FilmalayaActingSchool and did his first role, a bit role in Filmalaya’s Hum Hindustani (1960). The Rajshris auditioned him for Aarti (1962) opposite Meena Kumari but he flopped in the audition and was rejected. Sanjeev Kumar’s first film as hero, Nishana (1965), was a B‑grade swashbuckler and many of his earlier films were of the same ilk opposite starlets like Kum Kum. But they were popular nevertheless and Sanjeev more than made his mark in them. He was first noticed in a big way in Sanghash (1968) where he was pitted against Dilip Kumar and more than held his own in the scenes they did together. (In fact many thought he scored over Dilip Kumar in the scenes they did together) Slowly he began getting leading roles opposite top actresses like Nutan, Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha. Khilona (1970) made Sanjeev Kumar into a star. But again what stood out in the film was was his outstanding acting. He was absolutely spot‑on as a mentally imbalanced man who is helped back to sanity by a prostitute hired to nurse him. The same year also saw him deliver a fine performance in Dastak, matching Rehana Sultan’s National Award winning performance scene for scene and winning his first National Award as Best Actor.

In spite of being a star, Sanjeev Kumar still opted for roles that were off the beaten track in films like Anubhav (1971) though it must be mentioned here that good as he was in the film, it was Tanuja who walked off with the film. He also consolidated his position meanwhile in the mainstream with hits like Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) and Manchali (1973). Parichay (1972) and Koshish (1972), which won him a second National Award, brought him into contact with their director, Gulzar. Thus started a mutually beneficial partnership that saw some of Sanjeev Kumar’s finest work as an actor. He played a deaf and dumb man in the latter and it is amazing to watch him emote having internalized his feelings without the help of dialogue and his performance is screen acting at its very best. The scene where he thinks his child is also deaf since he is not responding to a faulty rattle or the scene where he castigates his son for refusing to marry a handicapped girl show a supreme actor at the peak of his histionic talent. The Gulzar-Sanjeev Kumar partnership resulted in such fine films as Aandhi (1975), Mausam (1975), Angoor (1981) and Namkeen (1982) with strong Sanjeev Kumar performances in each of them. Sanjeev Kumar was one actor who improved his performance tremendously at the dubbing stage with his marvelous voice control. The quiver in his emotionally saturated voice was as important an element of his acting as small casual getsures like running his hand down his neck. He never minded dyeing his hair if the role required it and even played much older men in films like Aandhi, Mausam, Sholay (1975) and Trishul (1978). In fact in Sholay he played Jaya Bhaduri’s father‑in‑law. This after playing her lover in Koshish and Anamika (1973) and her father in Parichay! And despite making his reputation as a serious actor, he showed a great flair for the light‑hearted in films like Manchali, Manoranjan (1974), Pati Patni Aur Woh (1978) and Angoor. Films like Naya Din Nayi Raat (1974) wherein he played multiple roles further showcased his acting talent and versatility.

In 1977 Sanjeev Kumar had an opportunity to work with the great Satyajit Ray when the latter made his first film outside Bengal, Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977). The film features delightful performances by Saeed Jaffrrey and Sanjeev Kumar as Mir and Mirza respectively, so utterly absorbed in their game of chess that Mirza neglects his wife while Mir’s wife has an affair right under his unsuspecting nose! When Lucknow falls to the British, they leave for an abandoned mosque on the outskirts of the city to play in peace! It is a delightfully nuanced performance under a great director. Unfortunately by the 1980s, Sanjeev Kumar had grown extremely careless with his looks and had let himself bloat up. Among his later lot of films the only two that really stand out are Vidhaata (1982), which again brought him face to face with Dilip Kumar (Again he scored over the thespian in the one major confrontation scene they had in the film) and Hero(1983), both directed by Subhash Ghai. A bachelor, Sanjeev Kumar died of an acute heart ailment in 1985. It is ironic that someone who had played so many elderly roles, himself didn’t even live to be fifty. . .

B. R. Chopra, a journalist turned film‑maker, who had shown immense talent earlier, started making films under the banner of B. R. Films and started promisingly with Ek Hi Raasta, starring Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari and Sunil Dutt-a film on widow remarriage. Though in between he did make some significant films films, namely Naya Daur starring Dilip Kumar and Vyjantimala.

Dilip Kumar is regarded as arguably the greatest actor ever to grace the Indian silver screen. His performances have been regarded as the epitome of emoting in Indian Cinema. Though he has done all kinds of films-he balanced a lightweight Shabnam (1949) with the intense Andaaz (1949), the ultra‑serious Daag (1952) with the swashbuckling Aan (1952), the heavy Devdas (1955) with the entertainer Azaad (1955), he is mainly remembered as the King of Tragedy. He was born in Peshawar (now Pakistan) as Yusuf Khan in a Pathan Family of 12 children who later moved to Maharashtra as fruit merchants. From being the assistant manager in an army canteen, he set up his own fruit stall. In Bombay, he was given his first break by Devika Rani, who cast him as the hero of Bombay Talkies Jwar Bhatta (1944). He attained stardom with Jugnu (1947) opposite singing diva Noorjehan.

The success of Mela (1948), a Devdas type of film set Dilip Kumar off in a chain of films were he played a doomed lover-Andaaz (1949), which made him a superstar, Babul (1950), Jogan (1950), Deedar (1951), Udan Khatola (1955) and of course Devdas. But at times his heavy mannerisms acquired in his tragedy roles gave his characters a heavy‑handedness that could be quite difficult to take-like in Devdas and particularly in the adaptation of Wuthering Heights-Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966).

Playing mostly serious roles however began to take its toll on him and on psychiatric advice he switched over to do more light‑hearted musical films and what’s more actually appeared quite at home in them. (Azaad, and Kohinoor (1960). Mughal‑e‑Azam (1960) and Ganga Jamuna (1961) marked the peak of Dilip Kumar’s career. But though his performance as Salim in the former has often been rated as among his best ever, he actually looks strangely uncomfortable in the film. Ganga Jamuna however was a flawless performance and perhaps the greatest of his career. His Bhojpuri dialect in the film was perfect and it was shocking he lost the Filmfare Award that year to Raj Kapoor for Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960). He married actress Saira Bano in 1966 and was absolutely brilliant in the comedy Ram Aur Shyam (1967) essaying a double role and displaying razor sharp comic timing but his career ran out of steam in the 1970s.

Taking a break from acting, he made a grand comeback in character roles with Manoj Kumar’s Kranti (1981) and Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti (1982) where his larger than life author‑backed role confirmed his legendary status. It was yet another brilliant performance.

Shakti was agood film. But unfortunately the film failed at the box‑office. It won Dilip Kumar yet another Filmfare Award for Best Actor though. Dilip Kumar has continued to do strong central character roles in films though his first official directorial venture Kalinga is yet to be released. Interestingly, Dilip Kumar refused Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957) feeling that the character of the poet Vijay in the film was just an extension of his role in Devdas. And turned down 20th Century Fox’s offer of The Rains Came and David Lean’s offer of the role which ultimately went to Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Dilip Kumar’s acting has inspired many Indian actors to try and copy his style but none have even remotely been able to match him. .

And then came Sadhana about rehabilitation of the fallen women also starred Vyjantimala. Vyjayantimala was the first South Indian actress who made it as a national star and was one of the biggest ever Hindi Film female stars in a career lasting almost two decades. Besides her ability as an actress, which was considerable, her greatest legacy to Indian Cinema perhaps is that it has become a must for any aspiring actress in Indian Cinema to be an accomplished dancer. Vyjayantimala has always had the mandatory dance sequence in practically every film of hers evoking ‘classical art’ associations. This pseudo‑classical style is perhaps a filmic equivalent of calendar art’s version of Ajanta murals and Tanjore glass paintings. She started in Tamil films under M. V. Raman’s direction at AVM with Vazkai/ Jeevitham (1949) a bilingual and later adapted as Bahar (1951), which was AVM and Vyjayantimala’s initial foray into Hindi Films.

She became a major star with Filmistan’s Nagin (1954). Crowd’s thronged to see her snaky gyrations to that evergreen Lata Mangeshkar hit-Man Dole, Mera Man Dole. With Devdas (1955), Vyjayantimala, playing the dancing girl Chandramukhi, proved herself to be an actress of considerable merit. There was a till now unexplored depth in her characterization. Her silent expression in the scene where Devdas offers her money for her services was award worthy and indeed she did win the Filmfare Award for Devdas as Supporting Actress. She however refused the award on the grounds of her role being equally important as the other heroine, Suchitra Sen who played Paro and that both were leading roles.

She replaced Madhubala in Naya Daur (1957) and shot to the highest echelons of stardom with Bimal Roy’s Madhumati (1958) and her role of a prostitute in Sadhana (1958) fetched her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress. Ganga Jamuna (1961) saw another flawless performance from her. It is to her credit that in spite of her South‑Indian upbringing, her bhojpuri dialect in the film is near perfect and fetched her another Filmfare Award for Best Actress. She got her third Best Actress Award for Raj Kapoor’s Sangam (1964), one of the best triangles in Indian Cinema. But while doing Sangam she got involved in an ill‑fated romance with Raj Kapoor.

When they broke off, Vyjayantimala was a changed person having turned bitter and even arrogant. The flopping of the dancing magnum opus Amrapali (1966) with her in the title role didn’t help. Having fought with Dilip Kumar, she left Ram aur Shyam (1967) and was replaced by Waheeda Rehman. (though she completed Sangharsh (1968) with Dilip Kumar, the two hardly spoke to one another throughout the making of the film!) Also after Sangam, barring Amrapali, her later films were pretty lightweight and made no challenges on her as an actress. She has her moments in Jewel Thief (1967) though. Her dancing in the cult song Hoton Pe Aisi Baat was brilliant; it was a song with long and complex shot takings with both character movement and character movement but Vyjayantimala effortlessly sailed through the song. But it was clear she was losing interest in films. Her costar of Pyar hi Pyar (1969), Dharmendra, remembers he completed the whole film with her without even being introduced to her!

She got married to Raj Kapoor’s personal physician Dr. Bali and left the Film Industry. She has since had a son Suchindra, dabbled in various businesses like shrimp farming and even stood for elections and was a Member of Parliament in the 1980s, besides concentrating on her first love-dancing.

Kanoon about abolition of capital punishment, and Dharamputra on Hindu‑Muslim unity. Waqt, Ittefaq. Admi Aur Insaan, Talaaq, Burning Train etc. most his films remain half‑hearted attempts at experimentation. His films were commercially successful, but somehow, he could bring himself to make pure cinema.

Yash Chopra, who started his career in the shadows of elder brother BR Chopra, is the only director of the older brigade of filmmakers who has successfully moved with the times right from his first film Dhool ka Phool (1959) to his latest film Dil to Paagal Hai (1997). He is even today regarded as one of the hippest and trendiest directors of Indian cinema. Though Yash Chopra has done films of various sorts, it is when he is tackling love and its various elements that he has been at his best. His picturesque, poetic images often shot in Switzerland with melodious music (He has perhaps the best musical sense of all filmmakers in the Hindi Film Industry today) are charged with rich feeling, and in spite of all the gloss on screen, his films are more about life than lifestyle. To quote him. . . “I’m the sentimental sort. I cry easily. I cry when I see poignant films made by other directors. “

Born in Jullunder, Punjab Yash Chopra began as an assistant director to I. S. Johar before moving on to assisting big brother B. R. Chopra.

His directorial debut was the socially significant Dhool ka Phool, an epic melodrama about unwed motherhood, illegitimacy and a plea for communal harmony. (Wherein the old Muslim man bringing up the boy tells him not to adhere to any religion in the song Na Hindu Banega, Na Musalman Banega, Insaan ki Aulad Hai, Insaan Banega. ) The film was a major success and took Mala Sinha to dramatic star status. Dharamputra (1961) addressing communal harmony was not too successful despite having its moments but the multi‑starrer Waqt (1965) based on the lost and found genre was his major commercial breakthrough and even went on to win for him his first Filmfare Award for Best Director. He followed this up with a taut bold little thriller Ittefaq (1969). Ittefaq was an extremely bold film for its time. Not only was it songless, but the hero (Rajesh Khanna) and heroine (Nanda) were not even paired with one another. (He just happens to be on the run and takes shelter in her house) And, she is having an adulterous affair and has killed her husband with the help of her lover! The film is mainly shot in one house with taut editing that keeps up the suspense in the film.

Breaking away from B. R. Films, Yash Chopra launched his own production banner (with active support by Rajesh Khanna) Yashraj Films with Daag (1973). He then entered one of his best phases with Amitabh Bachchan-Deewaar (1975), Kabhi Kabhie (1976), a love story across two generations, and Trishul (1978) among others. Deewaar is probably one of the most memorable Hindi films of all time. The film is a perfect amalgamation of two older classics-Ganga Jamuma (1961) that looks at the good brother v/s the bad brother and Mother India (1957) in which the mother undergoes all sorts of hardships to bring up her sons on her own. The film contains all the stock‑in‑trade elements of the Indian melodrama-The good and bad brother, the long suffering mother as the central moral force, divine intervention and religious symbols but what sets it apart is the taut script (perhaps the best ever Salim-Javed Script), the powerful dialogues and above all a powerhouse performance by Amitabh Bachchan as the son driven to crime-perhaps his best ever! The film is one of a series in which he plays the ‘angry young man’‑ the lone rebel, the man seeking personal vengeance and social justice, operating outside and more efficiently than the law‑ A far cry from the sensitive poet of Kabhie Kabhie.

Trishul had as its main ingredient a father-son conflict with an illegitimate son destroying his father for abandoning him and his mother. Once again the mother is the crucial emotional force of the film. The 1980s saw Yash Chopra go through a rough patch as one after another-Silsila (1981) (trying to capitalize on the real life Amitabh‑Jaya Bhaduri‑Rekha triangle), Mashaal (1984), Faasle (1985), Vijay (1988) all flopped. However Chandni (1989), a love triangle with memorable music and a great central performance by Sridevi, brought him back in the reckoning.

Lamhe (1991) a beautiful and sensitive film of cross‑generational love however did not go down with audiences who found it incestuous though there are many who regard it to be Yash Chopra’s best film. Parampara (1993) done for an outside producer was a misfire, but Darr (1993), a sympathetic look at obsessive love and an emotion often overlooked in love-fear, was a trendsetter leading to several other films of the same type (Anjaam (1994), Daraar (1996) etc. )

His last film till date Dil to Paagal Hai (1997), a love triangle with the musical theatre as the backdrop is refreshingly young and hip as it plays off against the traditional beliefs of an ordinary girl (Madhuri Dixit) that she would find true love someday. Though a huge success at the box office it was met with lukewarm critical response. Today his son Aditya too has become a filmmaker and has kept the Yashraj Films Banner flying high first with Dilwaale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (1995), the Banner’s biggest success and perhaps the best mainstream Hindi Film of the Mohabbatein.

Yash Chopra has been honoured for his sensitive and poetic contribution to Indian Cinema with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award and numerous other awards – nationally and internationally.

In 1960, Subodh Mukherjee (from S. Mukherjee Filmistan Studios / Filmayalya school) made Junglee in Eastmancolour. It had the so‑called rebel star, Shammi Kapoor, and introduced to the screen a new girl, Saira Banoo. It was shot on picturesque locales in Kashmir, had lilting music and a story for which the audience did not have to strain their mind. It was a tremendous success-setting the colour trend in India and popularising Kashmir locales. Today in Bombay, about sixty percent film makers go to Kashmir or some other Hill station for outdoor shootings. In fact the decision to make Sangam in colour was taken after the success of Junglee, and foreign locales were to score better on this feat.

After Sangam, there was a spate of foreign shootings, just to mention a few, An Evening In Paris, Night In London, Prem Pujari and Around The World-the last named being nothing better than a travelogue, the hero (Raj Kapoor again), chasing the heroinen right from Far East to Paris, through Rome and the Swiss Alps. The story element in all these films was unimportant. Visual excitement was the prime factor. For example, Around The World had sexy continental girls in abundance. By the way, none of them could match the Oriental figure and beauty of its heroine Rajashree, daughter of V. Shantaram and Jayshree.

Fortunately for the Indian Film Makers, the Indian audiences have never been very demanding. With a few exceptions, most of the producers even today are satisfied with the contents in their films, and the audience laps‑up and relishes whatever is dished to them. There is no attempt on their part either to raise the standard of production or employ talented story writers. The smug complacency of many of our producers in this matter is hard to imagine, of which the story writers take maximum advantage.

Talking of stories and writers taking advantage, reminds me of an incident proving how much interest our producers take in the stories. Reading a short story in a foreign journal, a story writer of Bengal considered it good enough material for a feature film, and sold it to a Bengali producer as his original work. The film when made, proved to be a success, A Madras producer, who happened to see the film in Calcutta liked the subject, and made a Tamil film on the same. To his dismay, the film was a miserable flop. However, the Tamil version of the story was seen by a Bombay producer, who found the story fascinating. With minor changes, he made the film in Hindi (without bothering to check‑up on who is the writer, or who holds the copyrights of the story this kind of frivolous things are too mundane for the Hindi film industry producers. who are a law onto themselves), which proved to be a tremendous success. The Bombay producer was surprised, when his south Indian counterpart (from whom the Hindi film maker had lifted the story) approached him for permission to produce a Tamil version of the film. “My dear sir, “ asked the Bombay producer, “how many times do you want to film this story?” The morale of this anecdote is sometimes even the writers or the producers cannot recognise their own stories after the film is completed.

The character was that of a local Christian of Bombay and it became immensely popular because of his language and mannerisms and was a rage through out the country. In fact it made the Bambaiya Hindi popular all over the country. An interesting fact to know was that Anthony Gonsalves was actually inspired from a man of the same name who used to live in Khetwadi, an area in Mumbai where Manmohan Desai also lived. His unique mannerisms had always impressed Manmohan Desai, who decided to incorporate this in his film. According to Desai, the film was inspired by a news item about an alcoholoic who regularly beat up his wife. One day, the disraught woman, abandoning her three small children on the kerbside disappeared. This gave Desai the idea to show each one growing up in three religious households, Hindu, Muslim and Christian. From this germ of an idea, the film grew into an incredibly implausible yet highly absorbing tale. Escapism is part of experience when viewing a Manmohan Desai film, and this film is filled with it.

There is many a moment that makes this film so memorable. The scene where Amitabh is drunk and is applying the medicine on the mirror to his reflection is by far is the best potrayal of a scene of this kind and continues to inspire many actors till today. The action sequence between Amitabh and Vinod Khanna with both of them in their vests, resulting in Amitabh getting thrashed are some of the few nostalgic moments. The wearing of vests by the two of them was largely merchandised through press and hoarding form of advertising and was visible all over the country. Apart from this, the scene where Amar Akbar and Anthony are introduced as they simultaneously donate blood to their mother, highlights the vision of the director and his ability to successfully carry off even the most illogical situation convincingly. One also can’t forget the scene where Amar re‑unites with his father while digging out his toy, a pistol given to him by his father when he was a kid.

The dialogue of Anthony are however the icing on the cake. The language had become an integral part of every home then and continues to be widely spoken and remembered even today.

The film also has Vinod Khanna, an honest police officer and Rishi Kapoor, a qawwali singer in the other lead roles of Amar and Akbar respectively; both of whose characters lent able support to the script. The film does bring out a sense of communal harmony with the brothers being brought up as followers of different religions. What’s more the brothers constantly keep running into each other every second scene but are unaware of the fact that they are blood brothers.

The actresses in the female lead are however placed as mandatory requirements to the film, Parveen Babi, Shabana Azmi and Neetu Singh basically fulfil the requirements of glamour and romance. Among the supporting artists, Mukri playing Neetu Singh’s father stands out. It won the first Filmfare award for the best actor for Amitabh Bachcchan.

Amar Akbar Anthony remains a cult for fans. The film also marked the beginning of the successful team of Manmohan Desai and Amitabh who went onto do films like Parvarish (1977), Suhaag (1979), Naseeb (1981), Desh Premee (1982), Coolie (1983), Mard (1985) and Ganga Jamuna Sarawati (1988).

And then there were and are those, who do not have to look out for stories, as they make films on historical and mythological themes only, for example, Ram Rajya, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Jahanara, Noorjehan, Sikandar, Taj Mahal, etc and famous love legends like Laila Majnu, Shirin Farhad, Soni Mahiwal and Heer Ranjha.

Not that everyone ignored the story element. Dilip Kumar, the super‑star of the country at the time, made Ganga Jamuna in 1962. It was the story of two brothers, one a dacoit and the other a police officer. Dilip shared the stellar roles with his younger brother Nasir Khan. The female lead was played by Vijayantimala. It was directed by Nitin Bose. Exquisitely pghotographed by V Babasaheb, Ganga Jamuna is perhaps one of the finest examples of Indian Cinematography. It gave a new language to the Indian Cinema, and what this film achieved has not been paralleled by any other Hindi film so far.

Sunil Dutt (husband of Nargis and father of Sunjay Dutt), another actor, entered film production with a bang with his Yeh Raste Hain Pyar Ke-the first adult film to complete a successful twenty‑five week run at one theatre. It starred Sunil Dutt himself with Leela Naidu and was directed by R. K. Nayar (who had earlier directed Sadhana s debut film Love in Simla. He later married Sadhana). Yeh Raste Hain Pyar Ke, which again was about the eternal triangle, but a true life story this time, was followed by Muje Jine Do, a spetacular action‑filled melodrama on an outlaw’s life and death, and then made Yaadein, a one set one actor experimental film about the tormented sub‑concious of a lonely man. An appreciable thing about Sunil Dutt’s films had something new to say, something out of the ordinary, and he had always succeeded and then he made Rocky to launch son Sunjay Dutt.

Talking of Sadhana-Colour, Kashmir, Bouffants-No heroine defined the 60s glamour better than Sadhana. Her fringe‑cut, tight churidar kurtas set fashion trends of their time. But to be fair to Sadhana she was more than just a glamour doll and was a talented actress as well with a fine gift of understatement.

Named after the legendary dancer Sadhana Bose, she made her debut playing Sheila Ramani’s sister in the first ever Sindhi film Abana (1958). S. Mukherjee cast her opposite son Joy in Love in Simla (1960) and with its success, Sadhana became a star, a youth icon.

Bimal Roy’s Parakh (1960) was her next film where she was cast as a simple girl without her trademark fringe. Sadhana responded with perhaps the best performance of her career. She followed this with Hum Dono (1961) and Asli Naqli (1962) both opposite Dev Anand, Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962) again opposite Joy Mukherjee, Man Mauji (1962) with Kishore Kumar and then perhaps her most remembered film Mere Mehboob (1963) opposite Rajendra Kumar. It was her first film in colour and she never looked better!

Sadhana was then seen in a series of films that set the box office on fire-Rajkumar (1964), Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Waqt (1965), Mera Saaya (1966), Arzoo (1966) making her the most saleable heroine of the 60s. She married her Love in Simla Director R. K. Nayyar the same year (1966).

But during the making of Arzoo, her thyroid problems worsened and her eyes, perhaps the most beautiful feature of her face, got affected and began bulging. She was unceremoniously removed from major films like Around the World (1967) and Sangharsh (1968) starring Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar respectively.

Undergoing treatment in Boston, she came back to films and some of them even were big successes-Inteqam (1969) and Ek Phool Do Maali (1969) both with Sanjay Khan but the earlier magic was missing. Ishq par Zor Nahin (1970), Aap Aaye Bahar Aayi (1971), Dil Daulat Duniya (1972) all sank without a trace and though Geeta Mera Naam (1974) somewhat succeeded, she realized it was time to gracefully withdraw.

Chetan Anand, who had earlier distinguished himself by winning the Grand‑Prix at Cannes for his Neecha Nagar continues making films, and in 1963, inspired by the Indo‑Chinese conflict, made Haqeeqat-India’s first war film. Though the film was a commercial success, it did not have any outstanding cinematic value. It failed to rise above the standard of an ordinary feature‑length documentary and a propaganda film. His Heer Ranjha starring girl‑friend Priya Rajvansh and Raajkumar, was his first colour film was and till today remain s country’s first and perhaps only Opera film. It was based on the famous Indian love legend of the same name. Priya Rajvansh, had been introduced in Haqeeqat. She was cast as the lovely Heer. Incidentally, Priya, whose real name was Vera Singh, was a first class graduate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London and as reports have it, she had been murdered sometime back by Chetan Anand s sons in a joint property dispute.

Shantaram, a pillar of the Indian film trade, somehow during this era, lost his Midas touch, and had not been able to make mark lately. All his films during the era had an overdose of melodrama, and were outdated in technique. Perhaps that is the reason his Geet Gaya Patharon Ne, Ladki Sahyadri Ki And Boond Jo Ban Gaye Moti, have all been commercial as well as artistic flops. Another reason for his downfall, could be attributed to, the fact that, he had not changed his style, and people are tired of seeing the same things presented in the familiar way, film after film.

The Popular Cinema

During the 1960s, popular cinema had shifted its social concerns towards more romantic genres, showcasing such new stars as Shammi Kapoor-a kind of Indian Elvis-and later, Rajesh Khanna, a soft, romantic hero. The period is also notable for a more assertive Indian nationalism. Following the Indo‑Pakistan wars of 1962 and 1965, the Indian officer came to be a rallying point for the national imagination in films such as Sangam/Meeting of Hearts (Raj Kapoor, 1964) and Aradhana/Adoration (Shakti Samanta; 1969).

Very few even within the filmdom are aware of the fact that the now famous Rajshri bneer, was launched on 15th of August 1947 by Tarachand Barjatya as a distribution house. Gradually in the early sixtees it ventured slowly into production. And when Sethji’s children Raj Babu, Kamal Babu, Raj babu grew up, they Rajshri’s ventured into all aspects of film making – including exhibition. Rajshri, the sister, on whose name the the banner was floated and their palatial residential bunglow on worli sea face was named, was married off at a very young age and lived in Rajasthan – away from the glitter of the film world.

Today it is the one of the largest congolomerates in the show-biz. One of the younger of the lot, and creatively perhaps one of the most successful of Barjatya’s Sooraj shifted to suburbs at Andheri and has made three or films…all super successes.

Rajshri as producers have produced 49 films so far, and are considered to be a banner providing wholesome and musical family entertainment.

No rise or fall of a star has been as been quite as dramatic or spectacular as that of Rajesh Khanna. From 1969 to 1972, the Rajesh Khanna phenomenon swept The Hindi Cinema off its feet and the hysteria he generated was unlike anything seen before and after. As hit followed hit and women all over the country swooned over him, Rajesh Khanna admitted feeling ‘next to God. ‘ In fact, Rajesh Khanna could perhaps be called Hindi Cinema’s first superstar. And yet in one of life’s greatest ironies just 5 years later by 1977, his career was in shambles as film after film began failing at the box office. As he fell to the ‘angry young man’ onslaught of Amitabh Bachchan and found himself totally rejected by filmgoers it is said he went to his terrace in heavy rain asking God not to test his patience. . .

Born Jatin Khanna, he was the adopted son of his parents. After a stint in theatre, he was selected by the United Producers’ Talent Contest. He made his film debut in Chetan Anand’s Aakhri Khat (1966). His earlier films however did nothing for him till Aradhana (1969) came along. Released in November 1969, Aradhana made Rajesh Khanna a star. In the double role of a father and son, both air force pilots, Khanna cut a most dashing figure in uniform. His mannerisms-the crinkling of his eyes and shake of the head asking the heroine to come to him found instant favour with the audience and aided by such S. D. Burman ditties as Mere Sapnon ki Rani, Kora Kaagaz Tha Yeh Man Mera, Roop Tera Mastana, Gun Guna Rahe Hain Bhawarein and Baaghon Mein Bahar Hai, Aradhana was a golden jubilee hit. Barely a short while later in December the same year, Raj Khosla’s Do Raaste opened to full houses and also went on to be a golden jubilee hit. What’s more in Bombay, the two films had their main theatres right across the road from one another, Aradhana at Opera House and Do Raaste at Roxy!

Thereafter till 1972, it looked like Rajesh Khanna could do no wrong. Film after film swept the box‑office. But there was more to him than just his mannerisms as he built the image of a vulnerable, gentle romantic. In films like Khamoshi (1969), Safar (1970) and Anand (1970), he came up with sensitive performances straight from the heart. Anand saw perhaps his greatest ever performance as a man stricken with cancer but wanting to live life to the fullest before he dies. In Anand, Rajesh Khanna more than justified Frank Capra’s immortal observation, “Tragedy is not when actors cry. Tragedy is when audiences cry. “

Indeed at the end of Anand as Amitabh sits by Khanna’s dead body and as the tape recorder plays Khanna’s voice, you cannot help but cry along with Amitabh. As Khanna went from strength to strength, even a guest appearance in Andaaz (1971) generated more hysteria than the hero of the film Shammi Kapoor. In fact symbolically this represented the end of the Shammi Kapoor era and the peak of the Rajesh Khanna era. Though Khanna worked with top heroines of the day like Waheeda Rehman, Nanda, Mala Sinha, Tanuja and Hema Malini, his most popular pairings were with Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz. The BBC made a film on him, Bombay Superstar, and a textbook prescribed by the BombayUniversity contained an essay, ‘The Charisma of Rajesh Khanna!’ Rajesh Khanna formed a brilliant combination with director Shakti Samanta, Music Director R. D. Burman and ‘his voice’, singer Kishore Kumar resulting in such films like Kati Patang (1970) and Amar Prem (1971). With Hrishikesh Mukherjee, he gave fine performances in Bawarchi (1972) and Namak Haram (1973) ably carrying both films on his shoulders. The same year (1973) also saw him score with a strong performance in Aavishkaar, Basu Bhattacharya’s realistic study of a marriage gone sour.

Let us interrupt Rajesh Khanna’s story to know more about a genius called Basu Bhattacharya.

Basu Bhattacharya was one of the most well-known exponents of good cinema in Bombay. Whatever the quality of his films might have been critically his own individuality was reflected in his films. He tried to connect the mainstream Bombay films to the more artistic and socially aware cinema.

Basu Bhattacharya (1934-1997) was born into a Brahmin family in Murshidabad in West Bengal. From his family came the priests to the royal family of Cossimbazar and that would have been his future as well. After being educated in Berhampur and Calcutta, his interest in films took him to Bombay. In 1958, he started his movie career as an assistant to Bimal Roy in Madhumati and Sujata. Soon in a typical filmy style- he fell in love with Bimalda’s daughter Rinki-and they got married against dada’s wishes.

His first independent directorial venture was Teesri Kasam (1966) produced by the poet-lyricist Shailendra. Shailendra had a highly successful career in Bombay teaming up with the composer duo Shankar-Jaikishen and together they provided evergreen hits for most of Raj Kapoor’s musicals. But the creative artist and sensitive poet remained artistically dissatisfied he chose a very beautiful subject, a story Teesri Kasam by the Hindi author Phaniswarnath Renu.

Together with Basu Bhattacharya he wanted to present a refined and a redefined entertainment.

Hiraman, a simpleton bullock-cart-driver after two misadventures and the two initial vows is forced to transport a nautanki dancer to a remote destination. In the course of the journey, he gets acquainted with the dancer Hirabai, forming a relationship as Mita; or namesakes. Simple and uncomplicated Hiraman sees her as a pure and virtuous woman and she in turn is charmed by his innocence and lack of guiles. Their relation, their world is short lived like the journey.

Waheeda Rehman was perfectly cast as Hirabai but it was difficult to imagine the fair- complexioned Raj Kapoor as the rural Bihari cart-driver. But he insisted on playing the role and to conceal his complexion the film had to be made in black and white and shot by Satyajit Ray’s early cameraman Subroto Mitra. Inspite of the critical acclaim in garnered and memorable music by Shankar Jaikishen the film was a box office disaster. A financially ruined Shailendra died very soon.

Though Basu said he was influenced by Ray’s Pather Panchali, the influence of his mentor Bimal Roy was more than evident. Bimal started as a cameraman in the New Theatres, Calcutta. Later he moved to Bombay and successfully adapted literary themes like Parinita, Kabuliwala, Sujata and Bandini. He took stars and made them act effectively. He also understood music well and blended many beautiful songs composed by Sachin Dev Burman and Salil Chowdhury into his

films. The soft tone and lighting of his films were matched by his delicate story-telling and refined sensibilities. Along with Guru Dutt he made lyrical and poetic films and were the major icons of the sixties. Directors and writers like Gulzar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Nabendu Ghosh and Basu Bhattacharya learnt their ropes under him.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Gulzar at the vanguard of the movement. films like Anand, Guddi, Abhiman, Parichay and Koshish were liked both by the critics and the masses. Basu was now to explore the world of man-woman relationship with Amar and Manasi, the eternal man and woman at its epicentre. Basu was now to venture on the Amar-Manasi trilogy which would take a look at modern, urban marriages and its fragile nature and its inherent contradictions.

Anubhav (1971) was the first one of the trilogy with the lead pair Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja. In between moments of love and understanding, there is a conflict which arises out of ego- clashes between two assertive individuals. The husband expects his wife to play a subservient role in the marriage while the wife opposes the egoistical male dominance. The haunting songs were rendered by Geeta Dutt and Anubhav was her swan-song. The next film Avishkaar (1975) had in lead the then successful star-pair Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore who played a couple very much in love and marry against all odds. After the initial happy years, they are discounted and disillusionment sets in as they have a wider view of each other’s shortcomings and flaws. The husband tries to befriend another woman but then returns to his wife. They realise they had not understood each other in totality and fully and they accept each other with their short comings.

Rajesh Khanna won the Best Actor trophy at the Filmfare awards. The third film was about an extramarital relationship. Uttam Kumar was to play Amar in Grihapravesh (1977) but he left the project after a difference of opinion with the director and was replaced by Sanjeev Kumar. Sharmila Tagore was to play the wife (Manasi) and Sarika the other woman (Sapna). The wife remains content with her humdrum middle class life and penny pinches to save in order to buy a new house and move out of the rented one. The husband is pursued by his attractive and younger colleague and finally gets seduced by her after his initial aloofness. After the painful realisation, wife gets the act together by painting the peeled off walls and dolls up glamorously. She invites the girl over to her home and assuredly presents a picture of a happy and a working marriage. The girl is confronted by this facade and becomes unsure whether this awkward and domesticated man is the person she loved and turns back.

This trilogy is about claustrophobia in a marriage and reconciliation emerging from growth and maturity and a sense of responsibility. The trilogy would be remembered inspite of its inherent superficiality as it explored urban middle class marriages against the changing nature of consumerist society. All the three films were made under his banner of Aarohi films.

In 1975 Basu wanted to make Asampt Kavita based on the life of the Bengali poet Sukanta Bhattacharya. He cast Sharmila Tagore with Gulzar as Sukanta. But the project had to be abandoned. He then made a breezy comedy Tumahara Kallo (1975) set in the rural milieu with a fresh pair in the lead. Most of his later films like Panchavati did not get a theatre-release or he himself did not release the final product as in Anand Mahal starring Vijay Arora-Sarika. He produced Sparsh, a film directed by Sai Paranjape with sensitive performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi. He made a TV serial Anweshan and a documentary on the Jnanpith award winning Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam, sponsored by the Sahitya Akademi-Astha (1997) followed by a a film called Daku starring Kabir bedi-Bindu (which was specially written for him by Amrita pritam) and a documentary earlir on indira Gandhi.

After a long gap Basu returned to films, but had to conform to declining audience tastes and made Aastha. It is about an acquisite housewife played by Rekha who is sexually repressed and dissatisfied in her relationship with husband Om Puri. She take to part time prostitution to buy trifles. The film lacked depth, substance or any convincing psychological probe. It became an instant hit due to its explicit and voyeuristic love making scenes. Basuda passed away at Lilavati hospital in Bombay following a heart-stroke. It is reported, by the end of his life, he was a lonely and disillusioned man.

Coming back to Rajesh Khanna, by this time however, Rajesh Khanna’s films had started flopping but he failed to see the writing on the wall as the success of films like Daag (1973), Namak Haram, Aap ki Kasam (1974), Prem Nagar (1974) and Roti (1974) still kept him afloat. Also Amitabh Bachchan had stormed the Industry with his intense ‘angry young man’ performance in Zanjeer (1973). With his tall and lean looks, Amitabh became emblematic of the new kind of action hero. Every hero fell to the Amitabh onslaught and Rajesh Khanna was no exception. He tried to stay in the news however with a sensational marriage to the ‘Bobby Girl’, Dimple Kapadia who at 16 was 15 years younger than him! With Amitabh’s success, different kind of movies began to be made with a stronger accent on action. Rajesh Khanna’s romantic mannerisms now appeared jaded and out of synchronization with the times. Even films with old regulars Shakti Samanta (Ajnabi (1974), Mehbooba (1976), Anurodh (1977) and Hrishida (Naukri (1978) came unstuck at the box‑office. What’s more both Shakti Samanta and Hrishida went on do a series of films with the new superstar, Amitabh Bachchan! And to top it all, even his marriage to Dimple was on the rocks and subsequently she left him and resumed her acting career with much success.

Though Amardeep (1979) and Thodisi Bewafayi (1980) brought Rajesh Khanna some reprieve, it was the triple success of Agar Tum Na Hote (1983), Avtaar (1983) and Souten (1983) that proved to be the last strong flickers in a dying flame. Avtaar particularly saw a good performance from him in the role of a self‑respecting garage mechanic. In the 1990s with his film career all but over, Rajesh Khanna entered politics and even served a stint as Member of Parliament with the Congress-I Party. He made an undistinguished comeback of sorts in Rishi Kapoor’s Aa Ab Laut Chalein (1999) and is now all set to make his debut on Television with the serial Batwara.

The political and economic upheaval of the following decade saw a return to social questions across the board, in both the art and popular cinemas. The accepted turning point in the popular film was the angry, violent Zanjeer/The Chain (Prakash Mehra; 1973), which fed into the anxieties and frustrations generated by the quickening but lopsided pace of industrialization and urbanization. Establishing Amitabh Bachchan as the biggest star of the next decade, its policeman hero is ousted from service through a conspiracy, and takes the law into his own hands to render justice and to avenge his deceased parents.

The considerable political turmoil of the next few years, including the railway strike of 1974 and the Nav Nirman movement led by JP Narayan in Bihar and Gujarat, ultimately led to the declaration of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency in 1975. It was as if the state and the people had split apart. As the cities grew, so did the audiences. The popular cinema generated an ambiguous figure to express this alienation. At the level of images, there was a greater investment in the stresses of everyday life and, unlike the 1950s, in location shooting. In Zanjeer, the casual killing of a witness on Bombay’s commuter trains conjures up the perils of life in the metropolis. This is echoed in images of the dockyard, taxi‑rank, railtrack and construction site in Deewarl (Yash Chopra; 1975), also starring Amitabh Bachchan.

Deewaar is probably one of the most memorable Hindi films of all time. The film is a perfect amalgamation of two older classics-Ganga Jamuma (1961) that looks at the good brother v/s the bad brother and Mother India (1957) in which the mother undergoes all sorts of hardships to bring up her sons on her own. The film contains all the stock‑in‑trade elements of the Indian melodrama-The good and bad brother, the long suffering mother as the central moral force, divine intervention and religious symbols but what sets it apart is the taut script (perhaps the best ever Salim‑Javed Script), the powerful dialogues and above all a powerhouse performance by Amitabh Bachchan as the son driven to crime-perhaps his best ever! The film is one of a series in which he plays the ‘angry young man’‑ the lone rebel, the man seeking personal vengeance and social justice, operating outside and more efficiently than the law. His character was said to have been based on the famous under-world personality  Haji Mastan Mirza and it is to Bachchan’s credit that he succeeds in humanizing the Mastan, instead of portraying him as a gangster and has the audience rooting for him rather than his law abiding younger brother.

The film also exploits popular religious sentiment. Bachchan is an atheist but he has blind faith in the miraculous power of the number 786, the number of his badge as a dockworker. (The number is as sacred to Muslims as Om is to Hindus) As long as he carries it on person, he remains invincible. While fleeing from the police his badge falls and slips out of reach and a bullet fired by his brother hits him. However he reaches his mother in the temple and collapses in her arms symbolizing his return to innocence.

Deewaar is a prime example of the importance of the mother syndrome in Indian Cinema. The mother had grown from a minor character in early Indian Cinema to occupy centre stage as epitomised in Mother India. The highlight of the film is an exchange between the two estranged brothers who live separately. Bachchan tells Sashi Kapoor that what has Kapoor got in life being an honest cop-a job, a uniform a Government quarter and look at him (Bachchan). He has amassed much wealth, property. He has everything. What does Kapoor have? Kapoor retorts he has their mother! Bachchan has no answer to this; Till today the mother figure is an extremely crucial factor to mainstream Indian Cinema. She is still deified and what is most interesting is that she always has an obsessive relationship with her son(s) but hardly ever with her daughter(s)! Nirupa Roy lives her role as the long‑suffering mother, which established her as the leading screen mother of Hindi Cinema of the 1970s and 1980s. The other characters mainly work as foils to these two main ones and are competently handled. Mention however must be made of Parveen Babi who scores as Bachchan’s girlfriend-the whore with the Heart of gold.

The film has several impressive moments and is layered with irony and symbolism. When the mother and her two sons are forced to live on the streets in the background on the soundtrack we hear Sare Jahaan Se Achcha! Despite all the plusses for the film,  techniques of the 70s and presentation with over use of the zoom actually make the film look dated. But the life of the film is its script by Salim-Javed and Bachchan  are the ones that come through powerfully making Deewaar a Yash Chopra classic.

The recurrent narrative of these films, of protagonists uprooted from small town and rural families to the perils of the city, is shared by the street children researched by professional sociologists in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay (1988).

The Bombay films’ very excesses, their grand gestures, and the priority given to emotion and excitement may more truly reflect the dominant rhythms of urban life in India. At the level of plot and character, however, the Bombay films simultaneously simplify and collapse our sense of India, reducing the enormous variety of identity-social, regional, ethnic and religious-that makes up Indian society. Where these identities appear, they do so as caricatures and objects of fun.

The Dream Factory : 100 Years of Cinema in India by HK Verma – Chapter – 8

Independence of The Country

In 1947, India became independent. A direct gift of the independence to the Indian film industry was the First International Film Festival of India held in New Delhi in 1952.

Films like Carne’s Less Enfants Dux Paradis; Vittorio De Sicca’s Bicycle Thief and Miracle Of Milan and Rosselini’s Open City proved eye openers for our audience as well as the film makers. It was responsible for the birth of a new kind of Cinema in India.

Immediately after the partition of the country in 1947, few enterprising young people like Satyajit Ray, Nimai Ghosh, Chidanda Dasgupta (father of now famous director Aparna Sen), Bansi Chandragupta started the Calcutta Film Society. They managed to import a print of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (the payment of which was done by collecting the meagre savings of the Society’s founder members) and saw it again and again. Later, when Pudovkin visited India, the society invited him to give talks on films.

Satyajit Ray, who at the time was working as a commercial artist in Clarion Advertising agency as an art director, was toying with the idea of filming Pather Panchali, a story which had intrigued him for long. It was about the fortunes of a Bengali family. The father, though talented artistically, is compelled to make a living to support his wife and two children, working as a priest. For a long time he struggles to bring up his son Apu and daughter Durga in their ancestral village, but is forced to abandon it and settle down in Benares.

So, in 1949, when Jean Renoir was in Bengal to shoot The River, Satyajit went to interview him on behalf of a magazine called ‘Sequence’ (being edited by Lindsey Anderson at the time), and during the conversation told Renoir about his idea of filming Pather Panchali. Renoir, who had been a stickler for new ideas, liked it immensely and encouraged the young man to go ahead with his plans.

Satyajit saw De Sicca s Bicylce Thief and other continental films in London, and was so much impressed by the film, that he decided to start work on his proposed film as soon as possible. He was surprised that one could work exclusively in the exterior settings, with non professional actors. He thought, what one can do in Italy, one can do in India as well.

He approached many producers with the script of Pather Panchali, which had several pen and ink sketches to illustrate the shots. Everyone liked the script, but no one was prepared to finance it. So, he began working on his own, with two of his close friends-Subroto Mitra and Bansi Chandragupta as cameraman and set designer respectively. At that time, making the film in 16 mm would have cost about twenty thousand rupees. As none of them had any financial backing, the project had to be postponed.

In 1952, Satyajit got impatient (not discouraged by the failure of another such attempt Chinnamool by Nimai Ghosh (not to be mistaken by Satyajit Ray’s still photographer of the same name), and decided to make the film at any cost. Like Phalke, he also mortgaged his insurance policy and worked every Saturday Sunday with amateur artistes without make up. Later on he sold off his library, Art books and even his mother’s and wife’s jewellery to get some money.

By this time the trio had prepared the rough cut, which ran for forty minutes. Even this, when shown to financiers, could not get them a producer or even a financier. So, for almost one year there was practically no work on the film. He was about to give up the idea of completing the film, when, through a mutual friend, he met the then Chief Minister of Bengal, BCRoy, who gave him a government grant to complete the film. Incidentally, since the government had no policy to finance motion pictures at the time, the grant for Pather Panchali came from Ministry of Road & Transport, because roughly translated, Pather Panchali means Song of the Roads.

During the production of Pather Panchali, one of Satyajit’s employer saw few sequences of the film. He liked them so much, that he gave Satyajit a long leave with salary to work on the film.

At last in 1955, when the film was complete, it proved Satyajit Ray to be a master at interpreting the mysteries and emotions of childhood, with the result that the film even today is one of the finest products about a boy’s world the cinema has produced. But, the government, his producer(remember he was financed by the government), found the film too denouncing and pessimistic, and asked him to add another sequence in the film showing latest developments in the rural areas. But Satyajit stuck to the point that the original novel, on which the film was based, did not have any such sequence. The government at last agreed to release the film without any changes.

Pather Panchali was shown in Calcutta for six weeks in one of the leading theatres. Initial box office returns were rather poor, but later the sales jumped sharply. Although the film was doing very good business, it had to be withdrawn from the cinema-for the reason that, the theatre was pre booked for another film.

The next day Satyajit had a visitor early in the morning. It was SS Vasan (of Chandralekha fame). The film which has replaced Pather Panchali at the Cinema was made by him. Vasan, who had seen Pather Panchali the previous night was so touched that tears flowed from his eyes. He told Satyajit that he would have postponed the release of his spectacular film, had he known about Pather Panchali before.

Pather Panchali was then taken up by a suburban cinema, where it ran for several weeks. With this film, Satyajit Ray stepped in the international arena. Penelope Houstan in her book, The Contemporary Cinema, writes, “Francois Trauffaut is said to have walked out of Pather Panchali, announcing with surprising asperity that he wasn’t interested in a movie about Indian peasants. One London critic ingloriously described the film as case of ‘pad, pad, pad through the paddy fields’. But the suggestion that the film hardly rated sophisticated artist. Like Renoir, he looks and looks and looks again, and makes his films with painstaking observation; artists, his players act with that suggestion of naturalism which look spontaneous and means hours of most concentrated patience. Ray is no peasant, and the limpid clarity of his style is not achieved by luck or chance. “ Penelope Houston along with Marie Seton and The Guardian s Derek Malcolm were initial Ray fans.

Meanwhile in Bombay, the main production centre of Hindi films, most of the producers were following a success formula. If one type of film was a success, there would follow a series of films with similar themes. Characters were ‘types’ rather than human beings. There was always the all good hero, heroine and the bad villian. Boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy gets girl themes were interspersed with several songs and dance number were popular. But there were a few who swam against the current and strived to make significantly different films.

One was Bimal Roy, whose Do Bigha Zameen, centering around the struggles of a Bengali peasant, won the Prix Internationale at the Cannes Film Festival. Do Bigha Zameen was strongly influenced by Italian neorealism, and was a direct result of the awakening by the First International Film Festival of India. K. A. Abbas, who had earlier distinguished himself with Dharti Ke Lal, came up with yet another purposeful (though cinematically it was average), film Munna-the story of an orphan boy. The film was screened at the Edinburough Film Festival in 1955, and was praised for its content. ‘The Scotsman’ described it as, “the worthiest film of this year’s festival”.

Raj Kapoor, comparatively a new comer on the film scene, after having made routine films like Aah, Aag and Barsaat, came up with Boot Polish, a film about the shoe shine boys. Although it did not attract recognisation form any quarter, it did beat a new path hitherto unknown to the Indian audience.

Raj Kapoor is many things to many people: producer, director, actor, editor, musician, story  teller, a man of many moods, an acknowledged patriarch of India’s film making industry. There will be endless debates about his exact contribution to the art of cinema, but few can deny that he was the greatest entertainer known to Indian films-the great showman. Ranbir Raj Kapoor was the son of Prithviraj Kapoor the head of India’s greatest and largest film family. He started work as general factotum for Bombay Talkies before moving on to assist Kidar Sharma. Here he was made to sweep floors and be the clapper boy but Sharma noticed the young man’s determination to make it. Sharma gave him his break a lead actor in 1947 with Neel Kamal opposite Madhubala.

The following year at the age of 23, Raj Kapoor made his directorial debut with Aag, the first film under the RK banner. Aag was an interesting film in that it challenged traditionally established conventions of sympathetic characters and straightforward storytelling. It was also the first of his many films with Nargis, the two of them going on to become the leading pair of Hindi Films. Aag was also the first of many of Raj’s films to explore duality-Aag looked at Physical beauty v/s Inner beauty (a theme revisited in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), Barsaat (1949) looked at Love v/s Lust, Mera Naam Joker (1970) at Public life v/s Private life etc.

Mehboob’s Andaaz (1949) made Raj a top star and in the same year it was the passionate romance Barsaat which really reckoned Raj Kapoor as a director of much merit. Barsaat, a runaway hit, also brought to the limelight new music directors Shankar-Jaikishen, lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri and the actress Nimmi. The raw passion between Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Barsaat shot with a beautiful almost poetic use of light and shade drove audiences wild. The music of the film was hummed across the nation and along with Andaaz and Mahal that year, the songs were instrumental in Lata Mangeshkar’s climb to the top as a playback singer. In fact Raj Kapoor’s musical sense and feel for rhythm and involvement in music sittings have ensured the highest quality of music in his films.

The fifties saw Raj Kapoor’s greatest work as a Producer Director besides establishing himself as one of India’s biggest ever film stars along with Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar-the Trimurthi! Awaara (1951), the tale of a vagabond was perhaps his greatest triumph and was released in Russia as Bradyaga to unprecedented success. It’s dream sequence with huge statues set amongst the clouds to the strains of Nargis dancing to Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi is a cine-east’s delight even today! With Awaara, Raj Kapoor created the Chaplinisque tramp, an allegory for the innocent state of mind of the post Independent Indian. This image was used once again in Shree 420 (1955) tracing the corruption of an innocent soul who comes to the city to make his living. In fact. many of Raj’s other films look at the naove simple hero used by a cruel and corrupt society like Anadi (1959).

After his break up with Nargis (their last film together was AVM’s Chori Chori (1956) though she did do a in Jaagte Raho (1956). Chori Chori was directed by Anant Thakur and produced by AVM Film company from Madras. This could explain why the film was based in the South as the hero and heroine travel all over the countryside from Madras to Bangalore. Chori Chori was inspired by Frank Capra’s 1934 comedy-It Happened One Night starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. This kind of comedy was a genre that was extremely popular in the 1930s till the grim realities of World War II made their presence felt. Comedies generally worked on the battle of the sexes as the hero and heroine gave it to each other before finally falling in love. Their bickering and fighting with each other as they exchanged barbs and double entendres is what constituted the fun element of the film.

The key character in this battle of the sexes would be the heiress. She was often dizzy, saucy, flighty who fled from homes, jilted bridegroom at the altar and generally carried on with total disregard for the existence of breadlines and unemployment. Thus she was used humorously in such films as an object of contempt and ridicule. Of course by the end of the film not only does the hero snag the heiress but through him she is also humanized to see normal life and normal people quite unlike herself. And when she has to escape with the hero when her father’s detectives land up there is by behaving normal, as the normal wife of the normal hero. And during the film the hero takes on the weight of becoming the very image of the people revealing them in the process of revealing himself to the haughty, upper class heroine.

Chori Chori is a typical example of what constitutes a road film. While a popular genre in Hollywood, India has never really embraced this format and the efforts have been few-Bombay to Goa (1972) or Dil Hai ki Maanta Nahin (1992) which incidentally was also a remake of It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday combined.

Perhaps this is so because the road is an enduring theme in American culture. The road movie I in this regard like the musical or the Western, a Hollywood genre that catches peculiarly American dreams, tensions and anxieties.

Nargis is a revelation in the film as the dizzy heiress. She proves she can play screwball comedy as effectively as she could her intense dramatic roles. It is a fine perfomance with her sense of comic timing spot on. See her as the puppet in the Jahaan Main Jaati Hoon song. It is Nargis’s sense of razor sharp timing that offsets her inability. She carries off the song sequence excellently by her expressions. Raj Kapoor of course had born comic talent. He is absolutely perfect in the role of the impoverished journalist Sagar. Chori Chori marks yet another land-mark in Raj Kapoor’s illustrious acting career.  Pran does his familiar bad man turn with relative ease. They are more than strongly supported by the comic element of the film-Gope, Johnny Walker and Bhagwan.

Chori Chori represents some of the finest work of Shankar-Jaikishen in their entire career. The evergreen musical score with lyrics by Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri ensured Shankar-Jaikishen their first ever Filmfare Award for Best Music. The film has brilliant songs with each song better than the other. First and foremost are the two all time great Lata Mangeshkar-Manna Dey romantic duets Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi and Aaja Sanam Madhur Chandni Mein Hum. With Mukesh trying his hand to be an actor this was the phase when Manna Dey briefly sang as the voice of Raj Kapoor in films like Shree 420 and Chori Chori.

As one hears Manna Dey one cannot but think sadly that the film industry never really gave this great singer his due. He was always regarded a poor second to Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore, Talat or Hemant Kumar which is a pity because Manna Dey was such a fine singer with an extremely strong classical base himself. Lata Mangeshkar of course leaves her stamp on the film with perhaps her greatest sad song ever-Rasik Balma. It is perhaps technically the best composition of the film and the emotion and pathos with which Lata renders this song is unbelievable. Only such a gifted singer could give such expression to words like Lata could

While Raj Kapoor continued to explore social issues-Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (with Padmini & Pran) (1960) or complex human relationships-Sangam (Raj-Rajendra Kumar-Vyjayantimala) (1964) there is a marked difference in his treatment of the heroine who became a sex object with a high accent on her physical attributes! Reverting back to the Chaplinisque image, Kapoor made his magnum opus Mera Naam Joker (Raj-Kapoor, Dharmendra, Rajednra Kumar, Dara Singh, Manoj Kumar, Padmini, Simmi, Sonia Sahni, Pran, Rishi Kapoor) (1970) about the circus-joker who laughs on the outside and cries within and though absolutely brilliant in parts (particularly the first chapter of the adolescent hero discovering love and sex) the film, a highly self indulgent exercise flopped miserably at the box office shattering him.

Raj Kapoor bounced back with Bobby (Rishi Kapoor-Dimple Kapadia) (1973) a teenage romance of young lovers fighting parental opposition that is aped by Hindi cinema till today. Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Shashi Kapoor-Zeenat Aman) (1978) examining Physical Beauty v/s Inner Beauty was a misfire but Prem Rog (Rishi Kapoor-Padmini Kolhapure) (1982) based on widow re marriage and his swan song Ram Teri Ganga Maili (Rajeev Kapoor-Mandakini) (1985) about innocence being sullied were critical and commercial successes. In the latter the female protagonist is a metaphor for India-once pure but now sullied by dirt and corruption.

At the time of his death Raj Kapoor was making Heena (Rishi Kapoor and a Pakinstani actress Zeba Bakhtair), a love story breaking the barriers of the Indo Pak border, which was subsequently completed by his eldest son Randhir. His sons, all primarily actors, have tried to keep the RK Banner alive albeit with mixed results. Which just goes on to prove-Raj Kapoor was one and one of a kind. Raj Kapoor was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema in 1988.

Raj Kapoor’s co star Madhubala in Neel Kamal, also created waves on her own. Madhubala was without doubt the most beautiful Hindi Film heroine ever. And also perhaps the most underrated actress ever with her beauty attracting more attention than her performances. She was brilliant in comedy with her sense of comic timing spot on and she came up with performances of high dramatic calibre in Amar (1954) and the unforgettable Mughal e Azam (1960).

Born in abject poverty, the 5th of 11 children, Madhubala began life in the film world as a child star, Baby Mumtaz, in films like Bombay Talkies Basant (1942). It was Kidar Sharma who gave her a break as heroine opposite Raj Kapoor in Neel Kamal (1947).

However it was with the Bombay Talkies suspense thriller Mahal (1949) that Madhubala became a star. Aaega aanewala from the film remains her signature song till today! A spate of films followed opposite the top leading men of the day-Ashok Kumar, Rehman, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand but by the mid 1950s when some of her major films like Mehboob Khan’s Amar flopped, Madhubala, the most beautiful actress in the country was declared ‘box office poison!’ Further, she had gotten involved with Dilip Kumar and this took its toll on her health and career, as she could not face her father’s opposition of him and ultimately had to bow out of BR Chopra’s Naya Daur (1957) opposite Dilip Kumar following a scandalous court case with the producers.

She however bounced back with a string of hits in the 1958 60 period-Phagun (1958), Howrah Bridge (1958), Kala Pani (1958), Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958)-all among her more memorable films and of course Mughal e Azam (1960). As the club dancer in Howrah Bridge Madhubala never looked more beautiful or alluring as she swayed to the seductive notes of Aaiye Mehrbaan. And she matched Kishore Kumar step by step in his madcap antics in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. However it was Mughal e Azam that saw perhaps her greatest performance as the doomed courtesan Anarkali. The film showed off the finely modulated depth she could bring to her performances if given the opportunity. It is an outstanding performance in an outstanding film.

Tragically by now she was diagnosed as having a hole in her heart and her illness forced her to abbreviate her career. She also plunged into a loveless marriage with Kishore Kumar and lingered on for nine years till her death in 1969. She did have the odd release in this period like Passport (1961), Half Ticket (1962) and Sharabi (1964) but they were mostly old films that managed to limp towards release. In fact Jwala released almost two years after her death in 1971! She did try making a comeback opposite Raj Kapoor in Chaalaak (1964) but collapsed on the sets on the very first day of shooting and the film was shelved. Even today the very mention of the name Madhubala conjures up the image of those dancing eyes, that smile. . .

Shantaram made another good film in Do Ankhen Barah Haath, based on a true incident, about an idealist jailor establishing a non punitive farming settlement for six condemned criminals. The story of the jailor’s struggles and of criminals regeneration is related in an odd, formal and authentically oriented style. The deep criminality of the prisoners is translated into a comic convention, so that they appear as a kind of crazy gang. The inevitable songs are used very ingeniously to forward the action, and the characterisation, particularly of an itinerant woman toy seller, is often both comic and perspetive. It was highly acclaimed at the Berlin Film Festival in 1958.

These film ushered in a New Era in Indian Cinema, specially in Hindi films.

Till this time, although the South was producing films in four languages-Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, and having flourishing film industry of its own, had hardly come out with any significant film. It had attained a professional overall gloss, but nothing of aesthetic or artistic value. Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and even Hindi films made in South could be compared to a bad book printed on fine art paper, using excellent typography.

The stock hero usually had no family ties, and was either a orphan or lived separately because of differences with the family. To mention a few films of this kind, Kalaik Koi, Ayiramrubaim, Nataeathri (all in Tamil). This perhaps reflected the feeling of loneliness and insecurity that was growing in the modern man.

Bengal, which already had some dedicated film makers by now came up with other people like Ritwik Ghatak Ajantrik; Mrinal Sen-Akash Kusum and Baishe Sharavan (incidentally, Madhabi Mukerjee later to be Internationally acclaimed as Satyajit Ray’s heroine was given her first major screen assignment by Mrinal Sen in Baishe Sharavan, and rechristened her Madhabi from Madhuri) Others also of a genuine feeling for a new cinema quickly followed. Tapan Sinha made the box office film more honest and cinematic that it ever was. And old veterans like Debaki Bose, tried to give a new approach to film making in his Sagar Sangame, depicting conflict between the society and the religion.

It is not that the First International Film Festival of India had changed the entire pattern of film making in the country-it changed the approach of only a handful of people. The rest of them, in Bombay and elsewhere, continued to make films as before. The genuine urge to experiment, explore and interpret life and its reality was not everyone’s. Only a handful of dedicated people were trying to do something new.

In Bombay, Raj Kapoor, who had earlier won laurels for his Boot Polish, reverted back to making his socialist pattern of cinema and made Aawara-a tremendous commercial success in India as well as abroad, specially in the Middle East and Soviet Russia. Aawara, popularised Raj Kapoor’s image as the Tramp (a character most probably inspired from Jaquest Tati’s Houlot’s Holiday though Charlie Chaplin gets the credit for Kapoor s make over). In Raj Kapoor’s films Shree 420 and Jagte Raho-the hero was invariably a victim of society, as such proletarian. He was always unemployed. And in case he happened to be working, his job was always threatened. He always had a blood sucking boss, and inevitably always fell in love with his boss’s pretty daughter. To end the film, the girl always abandoned her father or uncle (or whatever relationship was convenient), and joined her prince charming. With slight or major variations, Raj Kapoor’s themes were, and almost till the end, remained the same. The struggle between the Burgouis Society and the Proletariat.

At this time here were a few directors who wanted to say something, preach something, but did not have enough courage to come out in the open and say whatever they wanted to. Thus the films made by such people became a sort of pseudo realist type, for example, Humlog, Footpath and Humsafar. This type of film always had an overdose of songs and dances to compensate for the lack of other significant ingredients, such as romance etc. This particular genre would include quite a few other films besides the ones mentioned.

By and by producers in Bombay-the biggest production centre-also started developing Hollywood characteristics, technical polish, rich production values, formula themes with mass appeal. The pictures with the biggest budget (sometime as high as ten million rupees), costly sets, and the most popular and expensive stars are all made in Bombay. The average product of the Bombay film industry, as well as that in the south, could not be called Cinema at all; it is some totally indescribeable entity which by sheer accident uses celluloid to propagate itself. The wonder is that even in this overpowering commercial atmosphere of box office productions, men of vision and integrity, not infrequently, come up with films of social significance and artistic distinction.

Actually, the division and conflict exists everywhere, not only in Cinema, but in all other arts as well. In music, there is the battle between pop and classical; in painting, impressionsists and surealists always differ; in literature, the serious novels and the comic strip definitely are two different things, and in dancing, even a novice would not call a ballet and a cabaret the same, even though, essentially both are dance forms. Similarly, there always is a difference between a ‘class’ film and ‘mass’ film.

Unkind critics of Indian cinema very often said and even now say that, the Indian cinema was born and baptised in Hollywood. As has been written earlier, Hollywood is the eternal fountain from which most our film makers draw their inspiration, but the fact can not be denied that India has produced some highly original and world class film makers as well.

Actually the late fiftees and the entire sixtees, eightees and ninetees is a chapter which the historian of Hindi Cinema would like to forget, and forgive-as barring a few producers and directors, the rest of them were turning out the same old stuff-boy meets girl, mythologicals, historicals and stunts, and to this day, an average Bombay film has made but little progress, thematically.

The other type of films which were popular those days, and were very well received, were the Humphary Bogart type-with Dev Anand as the leading man. Films of this genre include Baazi (directed by Guru Dutt) Jaal, Taxi Driver (directed by Dev s elder brother Chetan Anand). All of these films starred handsome Dev Anand, who even today is active in the film trade as a leading man, producer and director (Taxi Driver, Baazi and all his subsequent films have been produced by him, under his banner Navketan).

Dev Anand is one of the greatest star’s the Hindi Film Industry has seen. Handsome and debonair, he was the epitome of the suave, urban gentleman. He was born Devdutt Pishorimal Anand in Gurdaspur, Punjab, the middle son of a well to do advocate. He graduated in English Literature from the GovernmentCollege, Lahore and left for Bombay to join elder brother Chetan Anand in the IPTA. The initial years were full of struggle as among other things he even had to sell some of his possessions and even worked in the Military Censor’s office reading soldiers’ letters to their families.

His first acting assignment came with Prabhat’s Hum Ek Hain (1946) but the film didn’t do anything at all for his career. However at Prabhat, he met the young choreographer of the film, Guru Dutt. A friendship blossomed between the two of them. They promised each other that if Guru Dutt were to turn filmmaker he would take Dev as his hero and if Dev were to produce a film then he would take Guru Dutt as its Director! Ziddi (1948) at Bombay Talkies was Dev’s first success. The following year he turned producer and launched his own banner, Navketan. Navketan’s first offering was Afsar (1950) starring Dev and lady love Suraiya and was directed by elder brother Chetan. The film however flopped at the box office. Dev, remembering his promise to Guru Dutt invited him to make a film for Navketan.

Thus 1951 saw the release of Baazi, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut. The film, written by actor Balraj Sahni, was a trendsetter of sorts leading to the spate of urban crime thrillers The Hindi Cinema churned out in the 1950s. The film took Dev Anand to dramatic star status. It was also the beginning of seeing Dev play mostly hard bitten characters living in the urban underbelly.

Baazi was Guru Dutt’s first film as director. The film, clearly influenced by the film noir movement of Hollywood in the 1940s, does admittedly appear stilted and dated today. It’s various elements represent the classic clich’s we have come to see in Indian films. The hero being lead to a life of crime since he cannot afford keeping his sick sister in a sanatorium, the goody two shoes heroine bent on reforming him, the moll who loves him and takes the bullet meant for him, asking him to acknowledge that she’s not such a bad woman after all and dying before he can say so in his arms, and the villain is. . . no surprises. . . the heroine’s father, on the surface a decent and well respected man! But while viewing Baazi we have to remember it was among the first of its type.

In fact Baazi set the tone for the spate of urban crime films that were to come out of The Hindi Cinema in the 1950s and early 1960s. Baazi also showed a criminal hero with a tough as nails exterior but of course with a heart of gold inside. The film took actor Dev Anand to dramatic star status. He was the ideal actor for the crime wave films and played in a number of them-Jaal (1952), Pocketmaar (1955), C. I. D. (1956), Nau Do Gyarah (1957), Kaala Bazaar (1960), Jaali Note (1960) to name some.

But in spite of the now much imitated plot, there are some moments of inventiveness and experimentation, which give a glimpse of the genius of Guru Dutt, which were to be seen in later films. Songs were integrated into the story line rather  than standard items or appendages to the plot. The entire scene where the moll warns the hero he is going to be killed is done through a club dance-Suno Gajar Kya Gaaye. A ghazal, Tadbir se Bigdi Hui Taqdeer was set to a hep western beat as  the moll tries to seduce the hero. The experiment worked and how! In fact the entire music score of the film had a lively and zingy beat to it, all in all a most jazzy score by S. D. Burman. The songs also saw an untapped side of singer and wife to be Geeta Roy. Known only for sad songs and bhajans till then, the ease with which she went western was marvelous to behold. The sex appeal in her voice was brought to the fore and helped her build an identity of her own, a style no singer could copy.

Baazi promoted a lot of new talent, several of whom went on to make quite a name for themselves-Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, choreographer Zohra Sehgal, comedian Johnny Walker, actress Kalpana Kartik. The screenplay was written by well known actor Balraj Sahni.

The film though being a trendsetter interestingly also shows Guru Dutt’s traditional attitude to women. The moll is mostly dressed in western clothes, while the goody two shoes heroine is always in traditional Indian attire. The moll is immoral and she has to pay for it with her life, her redemption being taking the bullet meant for the hero. (This attitude to women was further noticed even in the posters of Mr. and Mrs 55 where the poster on one half showed the heroine Madhubala dressed in western attire making the hero, Guru Dutt, buckle her shoe while the right half showed the heroine in a traditional sari touching the hero’s feet!)

But even as Dev started to get successful in films, his relationship with Suraiya ended as she could not take a stand against her strict grandmother. Ironically, her career went on the downslide thereafter even as his ascended-a total reversal of the days when they went around and she was the bigger star. The next pairing of Dev Anand and Guru Dutt was Jaal (1952). Dev played a heartless smuggler who only repents right at the end of the film. It was a finely shaded performance but the film didn’t do too well at the box office. The partnership came to an end when Guru Dutt decided to act in his own films.

Dev meanwhile went from strength to strength and along with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor ruled the Hindi Film Industry in the 1950s-they were known as the Trimurthi of The Hindi Cinema. With deliberately awkward pastiches (Owing their origins to Gregory Peck and Cary Grant), Dev reveled in playing the mischievous lover boy chasing the heroine. “Dev Anand’s forte was the boy next door. Part lover, part clown, part do gooder. “ However in between his lover boy roles like Munimjee (1955) and Paying Guest (1957), Dev repeatedly played shaded roles such as the pickpocket in Pocketmaar (1955), the absconding gang member in Dushman (1957), the black marketeer in Kala Bazaar (1960) or the murderer in Bombay ka Babu (1960) though by now his starry mannerisms-his sing song dialogue delivery, his puff in his hair, his total nonchalance were part of every character he played. Consequently he was never rated too high as a performer but to be fair to him, he did give a fine performance under Raj Khosla as the anguished son trying to prove his father’s innocence in Kala Pani (1958) winning a Filmfare Award for the same. Hum Dono (1961) saw him excel in a double role and Guide (1965) saw a perfectly nuanced performance from him, perhaps the best of his career.

The character of Raju Guide was yet another shaded character he played. Dev played him with just the right shade of grey-humanizing him with all his faults yet getting the audience to sympathize with him. It was a wonderful performance fetching him his second Filmfare Best Actor Award. Dev Anand entered the 1970s on a high with Johnny Mera Naam (1970) and also took to direction with Prem Pujari (1970). His best efforts in this field were Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971) and Desh Pardes (1978). The former, set amongst Hare Krishna cultists (presented as dope smoking hippies) was Dev Anand’s call to nationalist Indian values and by far the best film he ever directed. The film launched the career of Zeenat Aman who made a tremendous impact as his sister in the middle of the cultists.

Other heroines he has launched include Tina Munim (now Ambani), Natasha Sinha and Ekta. He also tried to launch his son Suneil with Anand Aur Anand (1984) but was unsuccessful. Dev Anand continues to make films today and though his last few films haven’t been successful he just keeps going with amazing energy-His philosophy being to think positive. To quote him,

Dev Anand, it is interesting to note that the thespian, had his elder brother Chetan Anand and younger brother Vijay (Goldie) Anand as his directors. Chetan Anand’s son Ketan was a director in his own right (he made Toote Khilone starring Shekhar Kapoor and Shabana Azmi(. Dev Anand One sister’s three sons, Yash, Vishal and Bhisham Kohli became producers in their own right. Shekhar Kapoor, son of the other sister attained international acclaim as a director by directing Masoom, Mr India, Bandit Queen and thereafter much acclaimed Elizabeth. Shekhar sister’s Neelu was once married to Navin Nischal, once loked upon as a most promising find of Indian Cinema after Rajesh Khanna. Gogi Anand – son of Dev Anand’s Uncle was a producer and director in his own right.  Gogi’s brother, Siddharth (Kaka) is still active in and out of film industry and closely associated with Anil Ambani.

When we talk of Dev anand, Guru dutt cannot be far behind. Guru Dutt, an ardent and sincere film maker belonging to the Prabhat tradition of film making, stepped in with his first, directorial venture Baazi. Though this film was aimed at the box office, it showed promise, and gave an idea of what was to follow from this man.

The story of Guru Dutt Padukone and Dev Anand (Dharambir Pishorilal Anand) is again an anecdote fit for the annals of Indian Cine history their meeting was made possible by a Dhobhi (washerman) who had interchanged their shirts, and both recognised their shirts on the sets of Prabhat s Hum Ek Hain, which Dev Anand was doing as a leading man at rs 400/  per month and Guru Dutt was an assistant director and Mohan Sehgal an assistat dance director. Even though Dev Anand and Guru Dutt did not work together professionally after Baazi, few are aware within the filmdom too, that the duo were very close friends, and in fact were planning another film together in 1964, just before Guru dutt s suicide.

Guru Dutt: Sensitive, Poetic, Magical. These and more words have described the genius of Guru Dutt. Guru Dutt Padukone was born in Mysore in South India on July 9, 1925. He had his early education in Calcutta before doing basic training with dance maestro Uday Shankar after which he joined Prabhat Studios. It was here that he got a break as a choreographer with the film Hum Ek Hain (1946), the launching pad of friend and actor Dev Anand.

From Prabhat Guru Dutt moved on to Famous Studios and then on to Bombay Talkies. Meanwhile in 1949, his close friend from Prabhat, Dev Anand (now a star) had launched his own banner, Navketan. Their first film Afsar (1950) was not a success. Dev Anand invited Guru Dutt to direct a film for him. Thus 1951 saw the release of Baazi, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut. The film starring Dev Anand, Geeta Bali and Kalpana Kartik was a trendsetter regarded as the forerunner of the spate of urban crime films that followed in The Hindi Cinema in the 1950s. In fact, Guru Dutt and singer Geeta Roy met during the song recording of Baazi and fell in love, marrying on the 26th of May, 1953.

Baaz in 1953 saw Guru Dutt make his debut as leading man and he went on to act as well as direct. Aar Paar released in 1954 established Guru Dutt as a director to reckon with. The film was a crime thriller in the genre of Baazi but by now with Jaal (1952) and Baaz also behind him, Guru Dutt had polished his filmmaking skills and Aar Paar stands out as among the best of the genre. The plot of the film may now seem formulaic but scores in its treatment. It’s great strength lies in the way even the minor characters are fleshed out-be it the barman, the street urchin or the newspaper vendor. And for once characters spoke with a language that reflected their background.

Followed some of his best work Mr. and Mrs 55 (1955), Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz ke Phool (1959). Pyaasa was Guru Dutt’s real masterpiece. It tells of the thirst for love, for recognition, for spiritual fulfilment. There is a strong parallel between the hero, a poet, the outsider trying to make a place for himself in the society he inhabits and the director, the outsider trying to leave his independent stamp in a world of formulaic cinema. It is in Pyaasa where we really see Guru Dutt transcend way above the ordinary and succeed in totality. Kaagaz ke Phool was a dismal failure at the box office and a dejected Guru Dutt never directed a film again. But for all its flaws, like any Guru Dutt film, the highs far outweigh the lows. Technically the film is perhaps his best film. The camerawork with its use of light and shadow is magical. The frames have been beautifully composed keeping in mind the cinemascope format (It is India’s first ever film in cinemascope). The relationship between the director and his protigi is delicately handled on a very human plane. The film making scenes are shot with meticulous attention to detail and the ambience of the film studios is most effectively created. And above all, song picturizations are taken to new heights. Lyrical and poetic, it represents some of the finest work that Guru Dutt has ever done. The screenplay however is weak and the film at its worst moments appears to be morbid and totally narcissistic.

Guru Dutt continued to produce films and act in both home and outside productions. But never did he ever give his name in the credits as Director again. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) though credited to writer Abrar Alvi bears his unmistakable stamp. The film won the President’s Silver Medal as well as the Film of the year award from the Bengal Film Journalists Association besides going to the Berlin Film Festival and being India’s official entry for the Oscars.

However Guru Dutt’s personal life was a shambles. He had separated from his wife allegedly due to his involvement with his discovery and leading actress Waheeda Rehman and on Oct. 10, 1964 he took an overdose of sleeping pills and committed suicide though doubts still linger as to whether his death was accidental.

Themes of his films aside, Guru Dutt has also brought in some major technical revolutions in the grammar of the mainstream Hindi film. Guru Dutt had a unique knack of being able to integrate the film song into the story and make the story move forward even through the song. This is because Guru Dutt stuck to the vocabulary of his characters even in the songs and picturized them in the locations the characters would normally inhabit. Also he began a lot of songs without the introductory music thus using it as an extension of the dialogue. Hence the songs never appear out of place. His strength lay in his sense of music as well as in the picturization of songs, particularly his shot takings.

Guru Dutt used the effect of light and shade to poetic in fact magical effect to create romance. There is no better use of light and shade in Indian cinema than the songs Saaqiya Aaj Mujhe Neend Nahin Aayegi from Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, and Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen Situm from Kaagaz ke Phool. Guru Dutt also revolutionalized the close up shot. He went in for closer magnifications of characters than those seen till then almost as if probing for their internal feelings. He went beyond the standard 50mm lens used then, using lenses with higher focal length to get tighter close ups. He strongly felt that 80% of acting was done in the eyes and 20% the rest of the body. For the eyes are the most expressive part. And being an actor-director made it easy for Guru Dutt to get good performances from his artistes. And if he wasn’t completely satisfied with the results, he scrapped the film he was making irrespective of the amount of money and time gone into the project. This explains the large number of incomplete films that he left.

His ambition was not just to make a good film or be one of the top filmmakers. He aspired to make a great film, a different film and he wanted to be the best filmmaker. He always wanted things in absolute terms. Be it acclaim or success. He would settle for nothing less. Filmmaking was an obsession with him. He was a very ambitious man. But ambition is a passion that can destroy. It ultimately drove him to the point of no return. “

None of his films satisfied him as a director. He always felt that something was missing from his films. “ Raj Khosla further felt that Guru Dutt had achieved too much too soon as far as his professional life was concerned. After Pyaasa and Kaagaz ke Phool, there was nothing better to be achieved. This created a vacuum in his life. Perhaps this emptiness caused him to take his own life. His death was an irreplaceable loss for Indian Cinema.

A hackneyed story now-but at the time, it was made it was considered extremely progressive. An impoverished and struggling cartoonist, Preetam (Guru Dutt) encounters Anita (Madhubala) at a tennis match. Anita is controlled by her aunt Sita Devi (Lalita Pawar), a crusader for Women’s Rights who ‘protects’ Anita from men. However Anita’s father stipulates his will that Anita will inherit his fortune only if she marries within a month of turning 21. Sita Devi decides to contrive a marriage which would be followed by divorce so that Anita gets both her wealth and her independence. She hires Preetam to marry Anita unaware he is in love with her. When Anita finds out he is her hired husband, he falls in her eyes. Preetam, frustrated at not being able to see Anita after the marriage, carries her off to his brother’s house in a nearby village. Anita is deeply influenced by Preetam’s sister-in-law, a perfect traditional Indian housewife. However she has already asked Sita Devi to rescue her. Feeling that Anita doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, Preetam fabricates evidence against himself so that his divorce with Anita will come about easily and decides to leave Bombay. Preetam is much maligned in court but by now Anita realizes she loves him. She defies her aunt and rushes to the airport to stop Preetam from leaving. Anita nd Preetam are reunited.

Mr. and Mrs. 55 is a sophisticated romantic comedy which along with Aar Paar (1954) sees the beginnings of the lyrical and poetic style identified with Guru Dutt’s later work. And though the film is primarily a satirical comedy in nature, it is also perhaps Guru Dutt’s first film, more than any of his previous films, which shows a strong concern for social realities. The film opposes the corrupting influence of Westernization on India’s urban rich by reaffirming traditional Indian values. (In fact the poster of the film was divided into two parts. The first part showed the hero buckling the heroine’s shoe who is in western attire and the second part shows her in a sari touching the hero’s feet. )

The film, based loosely on a play written by Abrar Alvi called Modern Marriage, sparkles with wit and imagination. It’s greatest strength lies in its use of intelligence repartee rather than the usual slapstick and buffoonery that was prevalent in other Hindi comedies. And unlike most Hindi films where dialogues repetitively stress the same emotions again and again, each dialogue exchange in the film skillfully develops the plot while the dialogue as a whole invokes a range of feelings. Also Abrar Alvi’s dialogues diffuse highly charged situations with down-to-earth and matter-of-fact repartee. A splendid example of this was the scene where Preetam draws a cartoon of Sita Devi wearing a Roman toga, standing in a Roman chariot with a whip in hand. Anita and Preetam are the horses that pull the chariot. (Incidentally the cartoons was drawn by India’s top most cartoonist, R. K. Laxman. )

On seeing the cartoon Sita Devi is furious and confronts Preetam. He answers every question with ‘Ji Haan’ (Yes) but the scene is brilliantly constructed in a manner such that each reply gives it a different shade, a different meaning. And of course not forgetting the unforgettable exchange between Sita Devi and Preetam when they first meet and after listening to his views, she asks him if he is a communist. No, a cartoonist he replies!

The film is full of fluid camera movements, long tracking shots, brilliant use of light and shade and close-ups, fine performances and outstanding music. In fact, in pace, mood and feel, Mr. and Mrs. 55 is more like an American film and is perhaps Guru Dutt’s most ‘Hollywood’ influenced film. While Guru Dutt is fine in the role of Preetam, it is Madhubala who lifts the film several notches with her natural and spontaneous flair for comedy. Johnny Walker as Preetam’s friend who supports him in days of struggle, Yasmin who plays Johhny’s girlfriend and Lalita Pawar as Sita Devi lend able support even though the last named is seriously handicapped by a strictly two-dimensional role that borders on absolute caricature. In fact this is one of the weaknesses of the film if any-its highly reactionary and simplistic view of women wanting to be independent and treating Sita Devi as a villain rather than as a serious crusader for Women’s Rights.

The music score by O. P. Nayyar is outstanding particularly Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata, Udhar Tum Haseen Ho, Chal Diye Banda Navaaz, Jaane Kahaan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji and Preetam Aan Milo. The last was originally sung by C. H. Atma for an HMV recording unconnected to any film but is used to splendid effect in the film. Anita is listening to the song in her room. Her aunt switches off the song. The next shot cuts to the same song playing simultaneously on the radio in Preetam’s room as he is packing his bags. It is to Geeta Dutt’s credit that she is able to give her own touch to the song rather than be limited by Atma’s wonderful rendering earlier. And like any Guru Dutt film special mention must be made of the song picturizations particularly Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata shot at the Mahatma Gandhi swimming pool in Bombay’s Shivaji Park performed with a smiling chorus of girls twirling umbrellas led by Madhubala. . . or Jaane Kahaan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji as Johhny Walker and Yasmin romance under office desks during lunch break. . . or the argumentative duet Chal Diye Banda Navaaz imaginatively picturized among women drying and shaking out saris. And last but not least, the qawali Karavaan Dil ka Loota after Preetam walks away from Sita Devi’s house having provided false evidence of his debauchery. He stands in half-light and smiles in ironic complicity as the qawal sings on the roadside. The scene has a new intensity not seen earlier in the film and brings a significant shift of mood to the film, looking ahead to the dark and sombre mood of Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz ke Phool (1959). aar paar (1954).

Mr. and Mrs. 55. opened to most favourable reviews. To quote Filmfare in its issue of May 27, 1955. . . “A thoroughly delightful, honey and cream social comedy. Mr. and Mrs. 55 is a model of film craft and has gripping interest for every class of cinegoer. Its satire of characters we know and its incidents taken from life are spiced with humour. . . the dialogue, well-written, tense and witty, enhances the appeal of this true-to-life and thought-provoking entertainer. “

It was with Aar Paar that Guru Dutt really arrived as a filmmaker to be reckoned with. The film was a crime thriller in the genre of Baazi (1951) but by now with Jaal (1952) and Baaz (1953) also behind him, Guru Dutt had polished his skills and Aar Paar stands out as among the best of the genre. The plot of the film may now seem formulaic but scores in its treatment. It’s great strength lies in the way even the minor characters are fleshed out-be it the barman, the street urchin or the newspaper vendor. (This was one of the strong points of Guru Dutt’s films. And since he repeated artistes he worked with, the minor roles done in his films standout for their individual wit and integrity) And for once characters spoke with a language that reflected their background. The hero is from Madhya Pradesh in central India so he speaks in a particular style. The garage owner, a Punjabi, spoke with a punjabi slang. (Actually a glimpse of this was seen in Baazi

itself when the hero is asked for his last wish before hanging and in true and typical Bambaiya street language says “ Ek special chai.” ie one special tea!)

Taking a further cue out of film, the city is very much a character in Aar Paar. Much shooting was done on actual outdoor locations of Bombay rather than confining oneself to the studios. In fact even the garage where the hero worked was  shot on location at the South Indian Garage in Parel, a locality of Bombay. In Aar Paar Guru Dutt took his talent for song picturisations to several notches above the commonplace. Many directors choose to enhance the fantasy elements by setting it in unreal and glamorous locations but in Guru Dutt’s films, the songs are rarely separate from the personalities who enacted them.

Songs in his films often take place in locations inhabited by the characters in his films. A fine example here is the romantic duet Sun Sun Sun Sun Zaalima. The song is set in the stark and unromantic atmosphere of a garage with a car providing the centre-piece but the way the two lovers circle around each other within this restricted space is a brilliant piece of choreography. Further, Guru Dutt was very particular in sticking to the vocabulary of his characters even in the songs. And often started songs without any introductory music using it as an extension of the dialogue. Thus beyond considerations of language and space, the songs in his films appear better integrated than in most Indian films. Aar Paar was a major turning point in the life of composer O. P. Nayyar who went on to become an extremely successful music director.

Among Guru Dutt s later films worth mention are Pyaasa-a story of a disallusioned poet; Kagaz Ke Phool (India’s first Cinemascope film)-story of a successful but unhappy film director; Chaudhavi Ka Chaand and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. His heroine in all the films was Waheeda Rehman, whom he introduced in his very first production, C. I. D.-under his own banner of

Guru Dutt Films. A surprising ingredients in all Guru Dutt films was the element of frustration and desperation of the hero. That is perhaps, because Guru Dutt himself had to struggle hard to come up, and because of that frustration only committed suicide in 1963, creating a vacuum in the Bombay film world, which has not yet been filled in adequately.

It is said about Guru Dutt that, he used to hurt himself whenever he was annoyed with his artistes on the sets. Once during shooting, his heroine could not give the expression he wanted. He was furious. Instead of telling her anything, he went into a rage and banged his head on the floor.

He was found dead on his bed with his eyes open, in a trance, as if thinking something. His right hand with the index finger was on his cheek, and in the other hand he held a cigarette. A book, lay on his bed. A thinker first and last, even in his death he must have been thinking about nothing else but his film.

Pyaasa is Guru Dutt’s real masterpiece. It tells of the thirst for love, for recognition, for spiritual fulfilment. There is a strong parallel between the hero, a poet, the outsider trying to make a place for himself in the society he inhabits and the director, the outsider, trying to leave his independent stamp in a world of formulaic cinema. It is in Pyaasa where we really see Guru Dutt transcend way above the ordinary and succeed in totality. Many individual shots and scenes become impressionistic images telling of his lyricism. An example which immediately comes to mind is the song Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Lagalo. It is a kirtan-a Bengali devotional song telling of longing and desire. Though we see baul singers perform the song, it in fact voices the prostitute’s passion for the poet. She follows the poet up the stairs to the terrace where he stands his back to her. She moves towards him but cannot bring herself to touch him and she runs away. The earthly love she feels is uplifted and given a spiritual dimension through the words. And this is further reinforced by the amazing rendering of the song by Geeta Dutt. In the last scene of the film, an instrumental version of the song is played as the prostitute overcome with joy at seeing the poet at her doorway runs down the steps of her house into his arms.

They are one. What is most interesting to note in their relationship is that the prostitute shares with the poet a greater attraction for spiritual fulfilment rather than materialistic fulfilment.

In many of Guru Dutt’s films we see him caught between two women-Aar Paar (1954), Kaagaz ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962). In Pyaasa too there is another woman, his ex girlfriend from college who leaves him and marries for security. Her priority is clearly materialistic fulfilment. In fact though having negative shades to it, this is actually the more difficult and challenging role in the film as against the standard prostitute with a heart of gold. The role has its shades of grey and counts as one of actress Mala Sinha’s better performances, otherwise a rather mechanical and melodramatic performer. Talking of the acting, Waheeda Rehman is outstanding in the role of the prostitute and Guru Dutt himself is fine in the role of the poet. Perhaps the parallels between him and the character help him in coming out with his best ever screen performance.

Interestingly, Pyaasa has that rare element in a Guru Dutt film. A song treated like a fantasy. An idyllic daydream of the hero. The song Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein is picturised amongst clouds as the heroine descends from the moon. It sticks out when viewed against the whole film. Perhaps Guru Dutt picturised it in such a manner just to get back at the distributors who felt that an ‘item’ was needed! So he provided them with one! The music by S. D. Burman is extraordinary as is the rendering of the songs. The background music helps to create the necessary atmosphere for a number of individual scenes. The Mala Sinha character has her own signature tune-a simple yet haunting melody played on the harmonica. Whenever the poet sees her, the tune is repeated representing for him the love he has lost. But if one person is the soul of Pyaasa it is lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi on whose poems the lyrics were based. Sahir’s words seem to articulate Guru Dutt’s own view of the world and experience of tragedy. Pyaasa sees some of Sahir’s best work. Yeh Mehlon Yeh Thakhton, Jaane Woh Kaise Log The Jinke and Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par Woh Kahaan Hai-the last looking at the disillusionment that had set in a decade after the giddy euphoria of Indian Independence. It was taken from his poem Chakle (Brothels). A fine example of political comment combined with humanitarian compassion.

To sum it up simply, a classic! Need one say more!

A special highlight of all Guru Dutt Films was his consistently brilliant photography. The Man behind Guru’Dutt’s Camera was V. K. Murthy…. he is another Indian cameraman, who has received systematic and regular training in the field of motion pictures. After his Matriculation in 1941-he unsuccessfully tried to get job in any of the Bombay Studios for six months and frustrated he went back to his home in Mysore.

In 1946, he obtained his diploma from the Bangalore Institute in Motion Picture Photography. Even after having the diploma in his hand, he found it difficult to find a job-and his first job in films was not as a cameraman out a musician (he happens to be very good musician-music being one of his subjects during school). Luckily he found a break in Bombay, and joined Cinematographer Dronacharya as his assistant, and later impressed by work of Fali later impressed by work of Fali Mistry in ‘Amarpali’ he joined him as an assistant. Later along with Fali, he joined Famous Cine, where Late Guru Dutt noticed him.

He has been associated with Guru Dutt throughout his career, and has photographed most of his films including the first Indian Cinemascope film, ‘Kagaz ke Phool’ also produced by Guru Dutt. Other films he has done for Guru Dutt Productions are-‘Baazi’, ‘Piyassa’, ‘Mr. & Mrs. 55’, ‘Aar Paar’, Sahib Bibi our Gulam and Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi. His other noted films are Milap and Venus Pictures, Rajendra Kumar-Vyjayntimala starrer ‘Suraj’-the later being his first attempt at colour Photography. His work has always been appreciated by the audiences and critics alike.

Another person who made Guru dutt films the distinctive stamp and made thPyassa – The Payasa, would not have been what it is without the excellent lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi. Sahir Ludhianvi at heart was a romanticist, but he was different. Unable to sing hymns to Khuda (God), Husn (beauty) and Jaam (wine), his pen would rather pour out his anguish and bitterness over social inequities, political cynicism, the artificial barriers that divide mankind, the senselessness of war, the domination of materialism over love.

Born Abdul Hayee on March 8, 1921, Sahir was the only son of a Ludhiana zamindar. His parents’ estrangement and the Partition made him shuttle between India and Pakistan. It also brought him face to face with a struggle called life. A member of the Progressive Writers’ Association, he edited Adab e Latif, Pritlari, Savera and Shahrab. An arrest warrant issued by the Pakistani government of the day made him flee to Bombay in 1949. By now, he had managed to publish his anthology Talkhiyaan (Bitternesses). Besides Talkhiyaan and the hundreds of film songs he penned in a career spanning three decades, Sahir also authored the anthologies Parchaiyaan, Ao Ki Koi Khwab Buney and Gaata Jaaye Banjara.

Sahir debuted in films with his lyrics for Naujawan (1951). Even today, the film’s lilting song Thandi Hawayen Lehrake Aaye makes hearts flutter. His first major success came the same year with Guru Dutt’s directorial debut, Baazi, again pairing him with composer S. D. Burman. Together, S. D. Burman and Sahir created some of the most popular songs ever: Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahaan-Jaal (1952); Jaaye to Jaaye Kahaan-Taxi Driver (1954); Teri Duniya Mein Jeene se Behtar Ho Ki Mar Jaayen-House Number 44 (1955); and Jeevan ke Safar Mein Rahi-Munimji (1955). The duo reached their creative zenith with Pyaasa (1957).

All good things, as they say, come to an end. S. D. Burman and Sahir parted ways after Pyaasa and never worked together again. Sahir, already a stalwart as the sixties approached, wrote gems for films like Hum Dono Dev Anand-Sadhana-Nanda (1961), Gumraah Ashok Kumar-Mala Sinha-Sunil Dutt (1963), Taj Mahal Pradeep Kumar-Bina Rai (1963), Waqt Balraj Sahni-Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore (1965), Humraaz Sunil Dutt-Raj Kumar-Vimmi (1967) and Neel Kamal Raaj Kumar-Waheeda Rehman (1968), teaming up with composers Ravi, Jaidev, N. Datta, Roshan, Khayyam, R. D. Burman and Laxmikant Pyarelal. Sahir’s work in the 1970s was mainly restricted to films directed by Yash Chopra. Though his output in terms of number of films had thinned out, the quality of his writings commanded immense respect. Kabhi Kabhie (1976) saw him return to sparkling form. These songs won him his second Filmfare award, the first one being for Taj Mahal.

Sahir’s poetry had a Faizian quality. Like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir too gave Hindustani/Urdu poetry an intellectual element that caught the imagination of the youth of the forties and fifties and sixties. He helped them to discover their spine. Sahir asked questions, was not afraid of calling a spade a bloody spade, and roused people from an independence induced smugness. He would pick on the self appointed custodian of religion, the self serving politician, the exploitative capitalist, the war mongering big powers. Aren’t they familiar? Close to Sahir’s heart were the farmer crushed by debt, the young man sent to the border to fight somebody’s dirty war, the lass forced to sell her body, the youth frustrated by unemployment, families living in dire poverty. . . The underdog remains; his bard is gone. Whether it was the arrest of progressive writers in Pakistan, the launch of the satellite Sputnik, or the discovery of Ghalib by a government lusting minority votes, Sahir reacted with a verve not seen in many writers’ work. Kahat e Bangal (The Famine of Bengal), written by a 25 year old Sahir, bespeaks maturity that came early. His Subah e Navroz (Dawn of a New Day), mocks the concept of celebration when the poor exist in squalor.

Writing for films occupied much of Sahir’s time and energy in and after the fifties. Never one to compromise while writing for a “lesser” medium, Sahir wrote such gems like Aurat ne Janam Diya Mardon ko Mardon ne ue bzaar dya for Sadhana (1958) and Tu hndu bnega na msalmaan bnega isaan ki alaad ai, isaan bnega for Dhool Ka Phool (1959). Then who can ever forget Yeh dniya aar ml bi jaye to kya hai or Jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahaan hain from Pyaasa? Pyaasa, a movie that many suspect was his biography, was the high point of Sahir’s genius. By now, Sahir was disillusioned over the state of the nation. His dissatisfaction with policies found voice in songs like Chino Arab humara-Phir Subah Hogi (1958).

This combination of political awareness and humanitarian compassion is found all through in Sahir’s poetry, whether written for films or not. Ever a sensitive soul, Sahir reacted to the world around him, pouring his sentiments into the songs he penned for films. Coming from his pen, even the most mundane would have a message. Ingrained in this spirituality was a quest for a greater humanity, better people, a livable world. Paradoxically, it always involved, and was about, the material rather than the metaphysical.

A colossus among song writers, Sahir fought for, and became the first film lyricist to get, royalty from music companies. He would deeply involve himself in the setting of tunes for his songs. Any wonder why they are extra melodious? There was a negative trait too: Sahir would insist he be paid a rupee more for each song than Lata Mangeshkar was. Call it a left over of his feudal background, or an example of success gone to the head, this egotism of Sahir has been heard of and written about.

A bachelor to the end, Sahir fell in love with a Punjabi and thereafter an extremely beautiful singer, relationships that never fructified in the conventional sense and left him sad.

The young Punjabi writer, a no small name herself, was madly in love with Sahir, wrote his name hundreds of times on a sheet of paper while addressing a press conference. They would meet without exchanging a word, Sahir would puff away; after Sahir’s departure, she would smoke the cigarette butts left behind by him. After his death, she said she hoped the air mixed with the smoke of the butts would travel to the other world and meet Sahir! Such was their obsession and intensity.

Decades after his death, Sahir’s songs remain immensely popular. His poetry continues to inspire radical groups and individuals and strikes a chord in sensitive people.

Coming bacck to Guru Dutt and his legend, though his younger brother Atma Ram, took over the reigns of Guru Dutt films, and two of his films under the banner Shikari and Chanda Aur Bijli, had been tremendous successes but audiences wanted something different from the Guru Dutt banner. Besides, being a competent director, Guru Dutt was an extremely fine artiste as well. He acted in almost all his films and some outside films like Bahu Rani and Sautela Bhai-his best performance as an actor.

As a producer, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, his last completed film remains his best film. This film when screened at the Berlin Film Festival, where it was the official Indian entry, was booed, as the Western audience couldn’t get used to and accept the idea of a woman taking to drinking just please her husband. One thing the audience in Berlin didn’t realise was the fact that the Indian culture and way of living is entirely different from theirs. In India, a wife will go out of her way to please her husband, whether she like doing it or not, and not resort to divorce, the way they do in Western countries. Now, I am not defending this system, but just stating how things are. Anyway inspite of the brick bats it got at the Berlin Film Festival, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam remain a brilliant film, as far as the Indian Cinema is concerned.

Incidentally, popular play back singer of the time, Geeta Dutt (Roy) was his wife, Atma Ram and Dei Dutt his brothers, Lalita Lazmi the famous painter is his sister and her daughter Kalpana lazmi is a director in her own right. Shyam Benegal is a nephew and so is Prakash Padukone (famous Indian Badminton player) are also related to Guru Dutt.

Almost permanent featue of all Guru Dutt Films, besides close friend Johnny Walker was Waheeda Rehman. Waheeda Rehman was the embodiment of classic Muslim beauty with a truly transcendental appeal. Born into a traditional Muslim family in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, she was trained in Bharatnatyam. Her first film was the Telegu film Jaisimha (1955) followed by Rojulu Marayi (1955), which was a huge success. She was spotted by Guru Dutt in a song in the latter film and was brought to Bombay and cast as the vamp in his production C. I. D. (1956) directed by his protigi, Raj Khosla. The song Kahin Pe Nigahein Kahin Pe Nishana as she tries to seduce the villain and allow the hero to escape reveal her extraordinary facial mobility and dancer’s grace.

She broke through the following year with Guru Dutt’s masterpiece Pyaasa in the role of the prostitute with the heart of gold. The way she blended nuances of love, desire and despair as she follows Guru Dutt up the stairs to the terrace to the strains music is amazing. But by now she had also got involved with Guru Dutt. And it was ironic that his wife Geeta Dutt’s voice was used on Waheeda Rehman the actress as she ‘sang’ sweet nothings to Guru Dutt. Kaagaz ke Phool (1959) proved prohesical. Guru Dutt’s marital status and her success in films outside tore the couple apart personally and professionally.

Waheeda Rehman worked with Satyajit Ray in Abhijaan (1962), which unfortunately for her was one of the great director’s weakest films and consolidated her position as a top star in the The Hindi Cinema Film Industry with Bees Saal Baad (1962), a huge hit based on The Hound of the Baskervilles. Strong performances in Mujhe Jeene Do (1963), a dacoit drama and Kohra (1964), a re make of Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) followed.

With Guide (1965), she reached the peak of her career. Though the novelist R. K. Narayan on whose book it was based, disowned the film, he had no complaints with Waheeda’s performance as Rosie. It was a daring role to play, of a woman who leaves her stifling impotent husband and lives with her lover, a guide who helps her in her ambitions to become a famous dancer. It is to Waheeda’s credit that she was able to humanize Rosie to get the viewer’s sympathy with her. Whether breaking the metamorphic pot of social constraints or dancing precariously over a ledge in keeping with her dangerous new desires, Waheeda was outstanding in the film.

After Guide, she had a number of commercial successes Ram Aur Shyam (1967) and Pathar ke Sanam (1967) hardly challenged her histrionic ability and the films that did so-Teesri Kasam (1966), Khamoshi (1969) and Reshma Aur Shera (1971) bombed at the box office in spite of some of her best work as an actress. In 1974 Waheeda married Kamaljeet, a businessman, who had tried his luck in films in the 1960s and failed, and moved to Bangalore.

She turned to character roles, often playing Amitabh Bachchan’s mother (Bachchan has always cited her to be his favourite actress) but in the 1980s and 90s, she gradually cut down on film work, busying herself with marketing her brand of breakfast cereal while leading a contented life on her farmhouse in Bangalore. Her last film was Lamhe (1991). In Lamhe, director Yash Chopra paid her the ultimate tribute by getting her to dance to her Guide hit Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamanna Hai! She does act off and on – even now.

Another youngster making waves at this time was Guru Dutt’s assistant, a young man named Raj Khosla. He inherited lot of Guru dutt traits, including Guru Dutt style of song picturisation.

Raj Khosla initially entered the Film Industry with hopes of making it as a playback singer. He however went on to become one of the great directors of Hindi Cinema. He assisted Guru Dutt and in 1954 got a break with Milap, starring Dev Anand and Geeta Bali. The film failed to create waves but Khosla’s second film produced for him by mentor Guru Dutt, C. I. D. (1956) propelled him into the big league. C. I. D. was a slick crime thriller that highlighted Khosla’s stylish shot taking and innovative song picturisations, something passed down from Guru Dutt.

From here onwards even as he continued to make films, Khosla ricocheted from style to style while adding his own touch to each genre. Never wanting to play safe Khosla made some films, which were startlingly different in those times. Solva Saal (1958) with Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, was a story of a single night wherein a girl elopes with her lover who dupes her and is helped back home by a journalist before her father wakes up and realizes what the girl has done. Bombay ka Babu (1960) with Dev Anand-Suchitra Sen had the hero, a killer, entering the family of the man he has killed as their long lost son and falling in love with his ‘sister.’ Khosla explored a variety of styles be it crime thrillers (C. I. D. , Kala Pani (1958), musicals Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962) Joy Mukherjee-Sadhana-whose starting point was seven songs composed by O. P. Nayyar, suspense thrillers Woh Kaun Thi (1964) Manoj Kumar-Sadhana, Mera Saaya (1966) SunilDutt-Sadhana, Anita (1967) Manoj Kumar-Sadhana  his mystery trilogy), melodramas Do Badan (1966) Manoj Kumar-Asha Parekh-Simmi Garewal, Do Raaste (1969) Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz, dacoit dramas the legendry Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) Dharmendra-Vinod Khanna-Asha Parekh-which inspired Ramesh Sippy to make Sholay (1975) etc. Though he made films after Mera Gaon Mera Desh and had hits like Nehle Pe Dehla (1976), the mid 70s was not too good a period for Khosla. Films like Prem Kahani (1975) starring the then hottest pair of the day Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz sank and it was with Main Tulsi Tere Aangan ki (1978) with Rajendra Kumar-Nutan that Khosla was right back on track.

In Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, he evoked sympathy for the mistress even as he told the story from the wife’s point of view. Khosla was a director who understood women and was known as a women’s director much like George Cukor in Hollywood. However Khosla ran into rough weather as most of his films after Main Tulsi Tere Aangan ki barring Dostana (1982) with Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Shatrughan Sinha started flopping. A dispirited Khosla took refuge in drink and passed away in 1991, totally disillusioned with the Film industry. As he said. . . “ It’s a losing game. There are no winners here. “

As mentioned earlier, aother person who was doing something out of the ordinary rut was Bimal Roy. His much acclaimed Do Bigha Zameen was followed by a few more good films, , such as Sujata, in which he deftly handled the story of an untouchable girl, with simplicity and understanding; Benazir-was about a dancing girl and her woes; Bandhini-about a woman convict during Indian freedom struggle. He made another film which was a commercial hit, and an extremely well made film, technically (a local fan magazine awards, the most popular awards in the country, gave it seven). The film was Madhumati. It was scripted by Ritwik Ghatak. It had Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala in the main leads. Since his later films did not do well at the box office, he experienced trouble in finding finance and distribution channels for his last films Do Dooni Chaar, based on Shakespear’s Comedy of Errors. Among Bimal Roy s successful films are Devdas (remake) and Parakh.

Bimal Roy was a perfectionist. He used to address his artistes by their film names, and not their real names, so that each of them would think of the character he or she was playing in the film, rather than of his or her real self. Bimalda’s last production before he died was Benazir (1964) directed by S. Khalil. Bimalda passed away in 1966 after a long illness.

Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen, the major highlight was Balraj Sahni. Balraj Sahni is perhaps the best known film actor in India to emerge from the post World War II Left Cultural Movements. Born in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan), he studied at the Government College of Lahore, graduating in Literature.

Absorbing the then prevalent desire for both Nationalism and Westernization, he started writing English poetry and got involved with ‘realist’ theatre. He taught Hindi and English at Shantiniketan wrote his first compilation of Hindi fiction, Shahzadon ka Drink in 1936. He also worked as a journalist and briefly as a radio announcer for the BBC’s Hindi service also setting up the Monday Morning journal in Delhi.

He came to Bombay in 1947 and became a key figure in Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA) plays. After a walk on part in Phani Majumdar’s Insaaf (1946), he starred in KA Abbas’s first film, Dharti ke Lal (1946), the only film produced by IPTA. The film is set during World War II and the 1943 Bengal famine and a growing ‘Nation Building’ ideology.

It’s symbol laden realism realism proved extremely influential and set the pattern for many films moving from depictions of deprivation in the country to suffering in the city. IPTA had also become a political hotbed for communists and in 1951 as part of a Government Campaign against communists, Balraj Sahni was arrested and put in jail. He was given special permission to shoot for Hulchul (1951) and would come to the sets escorted by policemen in a police van!

He was released from the jail soon after, and more than made his presence felt in Zia Sarhadi’s film, Hum Log (1951). Do Bigha Zameen (1953) directed by Bimal Roy was perhaps Balraj’s Sahni’s greatest and most well known film. The story of the dispossessed peasant and the moneylender/ landlord had been told many times before but with Do Bigha Zameen, Bimal Roy gives us a film that is very human and has great emotional depth. In the film, Balraj Sahni plays the peasant Shambhu who becomes a rickshaw puller in Calcutta in order to earn money and save his land in the village. It is a performance of extraordinary dimensions as Sahni literally becomes Shambhu.

In the unforgettable ending of the film, the wretchedness of human defeat is writ large on Sahni’s face as he sees the factory built on his land. It is said he actually rehearsed for the role by pushing a rickshaw on the streets of Calcutta and interacting with other rickshaw pullers who were convinced he was one of them! Ironically Bimal Roy was not sure of taking Sahni for the film because as mentioned in real life he was well educated and westernized, the total antithesis of Shambhu.

While sticking to his realist imperatives in films like Garam Coat (1955), Anuradha (1960) and Kabuliwallah (1961) (where he lived with kabuliwallahs in a Bombay suburb for a month to prepare for the role!), Sahni went on to play leading roles in commercial films opposite actresses like Nargis (Lajwanti (1958), Ghar Sansar (1958), Meena Kumari (Satta Bazaar (1959), Bhabhi ki Chudiyan (1961), Vyjayantimala (Kathputli (1957) and Nutan (Seema (1955), Sone ki Chidiya (1958) and more than adept bringing much depth, grace and dignity to his characters. In the 1960s he shifted to character roles and left his mark with strong performances in films like Haqeeqat (1964), Waqt (1965), Do Raaste (1969), Ek Phool Do Mali (1969) Neend Hamari Khawab Tumahre (1965) and Mere Humsafar (1970). He also directed a film Lal Batti (1957), a film set in a train and on a lonely railway platform where passengers are forced to spend a night at the time of India’s Independence.

Garam Hawa (1973) was Balraj Sahni’s last major film before his death. The film, directed by M. S. Sathyu, chronicles the plight of the minority Muslims in North India and is set in Agra after the first major partition exodus. Sahni plays the central role of an elderly Muslim shoe manufacturer who must decide whether to continue living in India or to migrate to the newly formed state of Pakistan. He responded with an absolutely brilliant performance, perhaps his greatest ever, Do Bhiga Zameen, notwithstanding.

Balraj Sahni also wrote the story and screenplay for Baazi (1951) starring Dev Anand and directed by Guru Dutt. He wrote extensively on many issues including novels and an autobiography. He remained a Left Activist all his life and was part of cultural delegates to the Soviet Union and China. His writings and speeches were compiled by Communist Leader P. C. Joshi in the book Balraj Sahni: An Intimate Portrait (1974).

Among the heroines of the era…Meena Kumari-the droop of her kiss curl, the anguish laden voice never more than a sob from abject despair, the unblemished beauty made Meena Kumari the ultimate tragedy queen in Indian Cinema. This is an image to which she remained shackled for the rest of her life-the lonely sorrowful woman whose desires remain unfulfilled in a cruel world.

She was born Mahjabeen Ali Bux, daughter of the Parsee theatre actor and music teacher Ali Bux and the dancer Iqbal Begum. Having hit upon hard times and living near Rooptara Studios, Ali Bux sought to get his daughter into films. Mahjabeen was renamed Baby Meena and cast in Vijay Bhatt’s Leatherface (1939).

Her early adult work consisted of mainly mythologicals like Veer Ghatotkach (1949), Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950) and fantasies like Alladin and The Wonderful Lamp (1952). She hit the big time with Vijay Bhatt’s Baiju Bawra (1952). With Baiju Bawra, the suffering Indian Woman found a new face in Meena Kumari. The heroine in the film is ever ready to negate herself for the material and spiritual advancement of the man she loves and is even willing to annihilate herself to provide him the experience of pain so that his music would be enriched! It was a strong performance and fetched her the inaugural Filmfare Award for Best Actress.

She became Film Director Kamal Amrohi’s second wife and with Daera (1953), Ek Hi Rasta (1956), Sharda (1957) and Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960), Meena went from strength to strength playing the suffering woman, the martyr to perfection. In Daera, her barren life and subsequent disintegration underscores the Indian Woman’s lack of selfhood and remains one of the great moments of screen acting. In Sharda she gave a tour de force performance as Raj Kapoor’s lover who becomes his stepmother. Unfortunately coming in the same year as Mother India, Nargis swept all the awards but the Bombay Film Journalists Association named Meena as their best actress of the year for Sharda.

It is a pity that Meena was known for her tragic roles and she too chose more such roles to cultivate her image of being the great tragedienne because in the few light hearted films she did in between like Azaad (1955), Miss Mary (1957), Shararat (1959) and Kohinoor (1960), she displayed an uninhibitedness that was refreshing to say the least. In these films, her physical movements are free and unrestrained and her dialogue delivery absolutely normal-a stark contrast to the studied mannerisms and passive postures of her tragic roles.

It was tragedy however which saw Meena Kumari’s greatest ever performance and immortalized her. The film was Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). Produced by Guru Dutt, the film tells the story of Choti Bahu, the youngest bride in an aristocratic zamindar family who strives to make her errant husband return to her even at the risk of self destruction. It is perhaps the greatest performance ever on the Indian Screen. The sequence where Choti Bahu dresses for her husband singing Piya Aiso Jiya Main is a poignant exploration of a woman’s expectations and sexual desire. You cannot help but cry with her in the sequence where she pleads with her husband to stay with her and then angrily turns on him to tell him how she has prostituted her basic values and morals to please him. That year Meena made history as she garnered all the three Best Actress nominations for the Filmfare Award-For Aarti (1962), Main Chup Rahoongi (1962) and of course Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam for which she won the award. However the common factors between the actress’s life and Choti Bahu are too dramatic to be merely coincidental-The estranged marital relationship, the taking of alcohol, turning towards younger male company, the craving to be understood and loved-all elements evident in Meena Kumari’s own life. Elements which were mythicized in the film world in the 1960s.

While on the professional front, the emphatic success of Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Kajal (1965) and Phoor Aur Pathar (1966) kept her a top star, her marriage with Kamal Amrohi ended in 1964. Meena increasingly relied on the intimate kindness offered by friends Gulzaar and Dharmendra and often dulled her senses with liquor. Her image grew in dimension as she was now widely seen as the eternal martyr.

Meena spent the last years of her life playing the doomed diva. With heavy drinking she had lost her looks and she began playing character roles albeit strong ones in potboilers like Jawab (1970) and Dushman (1971).

A talented poetess in her own right, she recorded a disc of her Urdu poems-I write, I recite. Thankfully her exquisite speaking voice remained intact. She came up with a strong portrayal of an old woman caught between two street gangs of frustrated, unemployed youth, whose killing finally makes them realize the futility of violence in Gulzar’s directorial debut Mere Apne (1971) and realizing she had limited time left went out of her way to complete what has now become a cult classic-Pakeezah (1972).

The film is a stylized, larger than life mythicization of the familiar tale of the prostitute with the heart of gold. Jointly planned by Meena and husband Amrohi in 1958, the film took 14 years to finally reach the silver screen. When the two separated in 1964, filming came to a halt. Initially Dharmendra was to have played the male lead but Raaj Kumar replaced him. Some well wishers intervened and the film was completed.

Kamal Amrohi handles the feudal culture, love, poetry the lives of tawaifs. The needless to say, the decadence is not without a touch of class and has sometimes resulted in much creative upsurge. Pakeezah inherits that legacy. There is grandeur in Amrohi’s filmmaking-an epic magnitude of treatment. The evocative songs and the background music create the right period mood and Amrohi’s eye for details brings great depth to the lavish sets. In fact, the film’s main merit in spite of its flaws, at times disjointed flow, its stock situations and an over stretched plot lies in its over-romanticism.

Though the suffering courtesan occupies central stage, she is defined by male values and shaped by patriarchal parameters with the courtesan having to lead a life of emotional repression are symboliccally portrayed -. The caged bird whose feathers are trimmed and the torn kite hanging in her courtyard operate as visual symbols for her imprisonment and curtailment of desire.

Joseph Wirshing’s (a German Cameraman who had stayed back in India from Himanshu Rai days) exquiste camerawork is a major highlight of the film. Ghulam Mohammed’s music is one of the all time great scores in Indian Cinema. Pakeezah reaffirms his great talent. Sadly, he did not live to enjoy the efforts of his labour in Pakeezah and Naushad finally completed the music score. The other factor of course which lifts Pakeezah way above the ordinary is Meena Kumari’s performance in the dual role of Nargis and Sahibjaan in the film.

Pakeezah finally released in February 1972 and opened to just a lukewarm response but after the death of Meena Kumari on 31st March, 1972, the film went on to become a huge success at the box-office and has since acquired major cult status as well.

Meena Kumari’s last film was Sawan Kumar Tak’s Gomti ke Kinare (1972). Tanha Chand, a collection of her poems under the pseudonym Naaz was compiled by Gulzar and published after her death. She also published a record…I Write. . I recite for HMV in her own voice…. That is a masterpiece and remains a collector’s item even today.

Among others who showed proof of personalised talent was Hrishikesh Mukerjee, an Editor with Bimal Roy, who made Musafir based on the famour Shakerpearen quotation ‘The world is a stage, on which actors performs. And having done their part depart’, and Mem Didi about the westernization of Indian woman; and then came up with Anari starring Raj Kapoor (in his popular but stereotyped role of a simpleton) and Nutan. He then made Anuradha, with Balraj Sahni and Leela Naidu in the main roles. The story centered around the husband’s pre occupation with his work. Though not an exceptionally good film, it won the President’s Gold Medal for the Best film of the year. He then made Anupama with Sharmila Tagore and Dharmendra in the romantic leads with Tarun Bose playing the father who thinks his daughter is responsible for his wife’s death, who died at the time of child birth. He doesn’t speak to his daughter at all. Anupama was followed by Aashirwad, about an aristocrat who after having spent a life time in prison hasn’t the courage to meet his daughter who is getting married. It had Ashok Kumar and Sumita Sanyal in the leads. His Satyakam, about an honest young man who wouldn’t tell a lie, even to save his job, again had Dharmendra and Sharmila Tagore in the lead. He followed his success with Abhimaan, Chupke Chupke, Gol Maal and many more. Most of Hrishikesh films were moderate successes.

Hrishida’s career started first in the film laboratory and later in the editing room with New Theatres Pvt. Ltd, Calcutta. He came as a part of Bimal Roy’s team to Mumbai in 1951 and worked with him till he became an independent director himself.

His debut film as a director was Musafir (1957), which had a pretty unusual structure. Episodic in structure, it looked at three totally unrelated stories symbolizing marriage, birth and death in which the common link is the house where the stories occur each time with new tenants. However commercial and critical success came with Anari (1959) starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan.

His following film Anuradha (1960) dealing with a lively, vivacious woman who becomes frustrated and lonely due to her husband (an idealistic doctor working amidst the rural poor) neglecting her in favour of his work, won the President’s Medal.

Ironicaly just when it looked like Hrishida had it made, in came the mediocre period from Anuradha to Satyakam (1969) barring Asli Naqli (1962), Anupama (1966), Ashirwad (1968) and of course Satyakam (1969), though he made films regularly, nothing was particularly too distinguished.

And then came Anand (1970), a masterpiece. It looked at a man dying of cancer who is determined to make every moment of his remaining life happy. It is a film with great compassion, a delicate balance between hope and fear, between life and death and is probably Rajesh Khanna’s greatest ever performance. The 1970s saw Hrishida do some of his best work with Guddi (1971), Bawarchi (1972), Abhimaan (1973), Namak Haram (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Mili (1975), Golmaal (1979) and Khubsoorat(1980). These films show that Hrishada understood middle class mentality as very few others do. His subtle sense of humour to the fore, compelled the audiences and prodded them to think.

However the 1980s with the rise of Amitabh Bachchan and larger than life films saw Hrishida’s brand of filmmaking die out. In 1999 he tried to recreate his magic with Jhoot Bhole Kawa Kaate, but to no success.

The Dream Factory : 100 Years of Cinema in India by HK Verma – Chapter – 7

The Story So Far

I have been going forward and backward so far…. And will continue. Pardon me, a subject like this, it is difficult to maintain a chronology and dates. I am just recalling incidents and people as they flash through my cinematic mind. So, please bear the flash forwards and flashbacks.

The 1930s have been called the “heyday of the studios” in India. Before proceeding further, I would like to explore what precisely this means; and why it has become the orthodox view of the development of Indian cinema in this period. By so doing I want to suggest three things:

Firstly the rise to dominance of the studios can be partially explained in terms of a struggle between competing forms of capitalism in a volatile and changing market place. In this the Indian film industry reflected many of the political, social and economic changes India itself was then undergoing.

Secondly, the studios’ demise can be explained in terms of one form of capital gaining an ascendancy over others at a particular juncture in the development of modern India. This coincided with a decline in the creative and financial power of a particular group of filmmakers who had entered the film industry in the 1920s.

Finally, I want to suggest that the privilege of the studios as a creative force in Indian film history is the product of a discursive formation which emerged from the activities of a group of Indian filmmakers, centred mostly on Bombay. They sought to organize the film industry along particular lines, through the formation of professional, commercial and industrial organizations designed to regulate film practice in India with the studios as their centre piece.

The studios’ apparent dominance of filmmaking in the decade of the thirties has been attributed to a number of factors. In the first place the introduction of sound in 1931 created conditions that favoured an integrated, securely capitalized film industry. In addition the filmmakers who sought to establish an industry along rational economic lines were well aware of Hollywood and took it as their model for future development.

At the same time as these events occurred within the industry India was undergoing major changes in its social and political composition. The international depression had had a devestating effect on the rural economy of India with the consequence of creating a massive pool of unemployed who drifted to the burgeoning urban areas and in many respects constituted a new audience for Indian‑produced films which required a more systematic mode of production if the demand was to be met. In the political sphere Gandhi’s campaign to achieve independence from the British had entered a new phase. The British resolve to maintain control of India had also changed, and while they always retained a strong repressive set of apparatuses, their strategy revolved around the establishment of an number of alignments with key communal and political groups.

All of these factors impinged upon the development of the Indian film industry, in particular the development of the studios. It could be said that the studio system in India arose out of a particular conjunction of events that reflect a particular stage in the development of capital formation in India.

Major accounts of the development of the studios in India have emphasised three different but related reasons for their emergence and then domination of the Indian film industry.

Firstly, the studios were a response to the introduction of sound insofar as the introduction of sound technology required substantial injections of capital to re‑equip the industry which brought about a change in the industrial practices associated with film production so that the full benefits of the new equipment could be obtained.

A second account argues that the studios emerged because the filmmakers themselves sought to emulate Hollywood in their production methods. The filmmakers sought to institute a particular economic model that would permit them to control all aspects of the film industry in the same manner as Paramount or one of the other big American production houses. This meant that production, distribution and exhibition would all operate from the same base. The third explanation suggests that the move towards a studio‑based system of film production reflects the changing forces in the Indian social formation.

Each of these accounts has two features in common. Firstly, they all circle around the role of capital in a changing economic, social and political situation that obtained in India in the inter‑war period, but without ever really investigating what type of capital was involved. Secondly, they have all focussed on three studios as exemplary organisations to make their analyses. These are B. N. Sircar’s New Theatres Ltd. in Calcutta (established in 1930), Himansu Rai’s Bombay Talkies (1934) in Bombay, and Prabhat (1929) in Poona.

The problem with this sort of analysis is that we do not know what criteria have been used to determine their status. For example, Devaki Rani, Rai’s wife assumed control of Bombay Talkies upon his death in 1941. She has claimed that Bombay Talkies concentrated on making three good movies a year rather than turning out a series of pot‑boilers.

In contrast Ranjit Film Company, Chandulal Shah’s unit, was producing up to twelve films a year. Moreover Prabhat, which was in reality a regional producer, turned out films that had a direct appeal to a specific fragment of a vast audience, the Marathi speaking intellectuals of Poona who had a tradition of appropriating popular forms for political purposes in the struggle against the British.

Consequently when looking at the reasons given for the rise and fall of the studios in the Indian film industry we are never too sure what it is we are discussing.

It has been suggested by many that, any era is composed of an ensemble of histories. By this I take him to mean that at any given moment one can find feudalism co‑existing alongside capitalism and so on, and at that moment one form is the dominant form. By extension I also take him to mean that any given historical moment is comprised of an ensemble of forms of economic modes of production; that although captialism is the dominant mode at this moment we can without too much difficulty find thriving examples of other economic modes. I also would like to suggest that within one economic model one can find an ensemble of types existing in relationship with one another. That is, there is a variety of types of capitalism. This becomes abundantly clear when we have a look at the growth and development of the Indian film industry.

The Indian film industry has gone through Six distinct stages in its growth.

  • The first, from its inception around 1913 to around 1924 can be characterized as the cottage industry period.
  • The second, from the mid‑1920s to the mid‑1940, is the studio era.
  • The third from the late 1940s to the mid fiftees saw film makers making socially relevant subjects.
  • The Fourth from Mid‑fitees to late sixtees of escapism and entertainment
  • And from sextees Eightees to the present, is the era of the star as commodity.
  • And from late eightees, nothing was important – it lost the tag of show-biz and became just a business venture for some people with money, to make more money. The passion and love for art is even today non-existent.

Each period has a set of easily identifiable characteristics. For example, the cottage industry period is marked by a lack of capital for investment in the necessary infrastructure, an absence of recognisable stars, problems with technique, an unstable production mode and its relations, but at the same time an enthusiasm for the medium, a desire to entertain Indians through their own culture, and a tendency to innovate when necessary.

The star‑as‑commodity phase is marked by its absolute reliance upon the star at the box office, its mastery of technique, its cultural synthesis and vitality, its abundance of talent and finance which is reflected in its profligate use of location and narrative, but at the same time it remains unstable, its methods of financing any individuaul film little different to those that emerged in the earliest period.

It is clear that there are similar elements shared by each period. However, the studio era does represent a diffferent approach to filmmaking in India that requires further elaboration. In one sense it can be claimed that the studio system had its genesis in the activities of the first major figure to emerge in the Indian film industry. D. G. Phalke (1870‑1944). Phalke established his Hindustani Film Company at Nasik, a small city to the north‑east of Bombay. It had all of the trappings of a proto‑studio. All pre‑ and post‑production activity was conducted at the one location.

Furthermore, Phalke established an ensemble of actors and technicians who worked on most of his productions. However, this did not represent a stake in the development of the studio era in India. What Phalke developed was a variation of the Hindu joint family with himself as the patriarch.

Phalke was responsible for all aspects of the filmmaking process and there is little evidence of him developing any sense of continuity or of any of the people who worked for him going on to develop their own companies or products.

Because of its indigeous roots Phalke’s solution to filmmaking tends to be much admired in India although it contributed little to the eventual directions the industry took. In the studio era a certain amount of rhetoric was employed to suggest that the studios operated as families but in fact they were commercial concerns with salaried employees, including the actors, with a clear demarcation of labour within the workforce. What is significant about Phalke’s operations was his method of financing his project.

After some initial attempts to fund his activities through personal funds that did not succeed, including the pawning of his wife’s jewellry, Phalke was forced to turn to the market place for finance. He turned to the Bombay commercial classes who had made their fortune in cotton brokerage and who had both economic and political ambition. The relationship between Phalke and his backers was not smooth. Eventually they withdrew their support from him because they judged that film making was not going to be profitable during World War 1 because of a predicted shortage of materials which had been almost exclusively imported from Germany.

The significant point here is that Phalke initiated a set of financial practices for film production that dominated the industry in its first decade. These were the seeking of funds from traditional Indian money markets using the film as collateral coupled with a lack of attention to the distribution and exhibition side of the film industry. In many respects the emergence of the studios was a deliberate reaction among a number of young filmmakers to this situation. In short they wished to be in control of their own destiny.

It is important to remember that the Indian film industry developed against a mosaic of events which on the surface appeared to have little bearing upon it at all. These included the political struggle for independence from the British, a changing economy that was being pulled more and more into a world economy and a changing demography. Other factors more directly related to the industry also began to emerge in the early 1920s. These included the fact that Hollywood dominated the Indian screen up to and including the 1930s.

Thus the Indian filmmaker found himself competing against an international product that was supported by resources quite beyond his reach. The Indian response was to seek government protection for their product. Despite the recommendations of the 1927‑28 Indian Cinematograph Committee of Inquiry this was not forthcoming. The British did not classify filmmaking as a “nation building” industry and thus it did not qualify for government support. At the same time the British continued to recognise the ideological power of the cinema through the administration of an extensive censorship apparatus. The relationship between the British and the Indian film industry was always ambiguous. Privately the British did not trust the medium of film. It had no cultural weight, a factor compounded by the dominance of Hollywood which provided an outlet for incipient anti‑Americanism. Moreover they did not approve of the social class of the majority of the Bombay film producers.

To govern India the British had had to classify the Indians according to their degree of usefulness to the imperial design or their degreee of complicity with British rule. The film industry originally drew its personnel from two principal sources. The entrepreneurial and management sectors came from either the Gujarati commercial classes or the Parsis, and the technical staff and actors came from the so‑called lower classes. Neither group appeared high in the British pantheon of Indian castes. It took the appearance of the Brahmin actress Durga Khote, an actress in V. Shantaram’s Ayodhyecha Raja (1932) to effect some change in attitudes towards the cinema. This was regarded as a major step in conferring a degree of social and cultural legitimacy on the cinema that had hitherto been lacking.

Two other significant factors in the emergence of the studios in the early 1930s are the lack of theatres for exhibition and the primitive distribution network. In 1918 J. F. Madan, the Parsi pioneer of cinema in Calcutta, claimed to control over one third of the 300 cinemas in India. Madan had contracts for the supply of films with both British and American companies which guaranteed his supply, which was something no Indian producer could do at this stage.

Madan had located most of his cinemas in either the cantonments, or military areas, and the civil lines (areas set aside for British and senior Indian civilian administrators) of the major British dominated urban centres. His audience was generally comprised of British officials, British troops and Anglophile Indian elites. However, when it became apparent that Indian films could be profitable Madan also turned to production and imported Italian talent to establish this aspect of his enterprises.

In other words Madan foreshadowed the drive towards the formation of studios as the dominant force in Indian film production. His success led to complaints of monopoly practice especially from the Bombay producers who claimed their films were excluded from an all India distribution because of Madan’s domination of exhibition, his links with the overseas companies and his move into production itself.

The British took these complaints seriously enough to have the 1927‑28 Committee of inquiry to investigate their validity in camera. The claims were dismissed as unfounded. However, the Committee assisted the Bombay producers in an informal way. The Universal Picture Company representative for South Asia, George Mooser gave extensive evidence to the Committee. He pointed out that in fact India accounted around 2% of Hollywood’s overseas earnings and was not regarded as a major or even significant market.

Moreover, he analysed the condition of the local industry for the committee. He made the usual observations about the primitive techniques employed, the poor standards of acting and scenarios, and the general poor standards found in Indian films. His major advice, however, was institutional. He strongly recommended that an infrastructure similar to that found in Hollywood be established. Furthermore he stressed the need for strong, well organised distribution networks.

It is clear that his advice was listened to closely by the members of the Bombay production community such as Ardeshir M. Irani, Chunilal Munim, Nanabhai Desai and RCN Barucha, all of whom attended the Committee’s proceedings and gave evidence, but more significantly went on to assume powerful positions within the Bombay industry in the “heyday of the studios”.

The move to establish studios on a secure footing in both Bombay and Calcutta represents an attempt to overcome the problems outlined above. At the heart of this drive was the desire to link the film industry to modern capital. Like most areas in British India indigenous capitalist forms existed alongside introduced forms. Since the days of Phalke filmmkers had had to resort to the indigenous money markets to raise capital where money was readily avialable but at very high interest rates.

Furthermore the joint stock banks had persistently ignored the industry’s requests for loans because of a perceived lack of collateral and security on the part of the industry. The banks tended to support the “national building” industries rather than entertainment. The reliance of the industry upon traditional capital which tended to charge higher interest rates, led to a situation of serious undercapitalisation in the industry. The establishment of the studios represented a desire to remedy this situation through a process of modernity which at the same time conferred a degree of social and cultural legitimation upon the industry and its major figures.

It was the major actors in the unfolding drama of studio formation who ultimately gave the studios their shape and direction. The studios were very much the creations of individuals or small group related by blood, caste, or communal ties. The rise and fall of the individual studios were closely tied to the fortunes of the individuals in charge of the studio. Men like Ardeshir Irani controlled the business side of a studio (Imperial Studios) but, although clear divisions of labour were beginning to appear within the industry, he was not a figurehead. He actually took charge of the recording of the soundtrack of Alam Ara (Beauty of the World) the first Indian‑produced talkie.

The closeness of the studio boss to the process of filmmaking is reflected in the activities of other major figures in the Bombay scene of the 1930s. Chandulal Shah entered the Bombay industry as a young man with the specific purpose of producing films for Miss Gohar a major star at the time. Their combination was successful and Shah developed a studio (Ranjit Film Company) from this base which he translated into a position of some power within the Bombay film industry.

Shah produced films of two kinds that were successful at the box‑office; a genre that explored modern social themes in films such as Telephone Girl which starred Miss Gohar and appealed to the sophisticated urban audience, and a genre of quasi‑mythological films that appealed to a broader audience and foreshadowed the modern masala film. Shah not only ran the studio but was also actively engaged in all aspects of the filmmaking process: scenario writing, direction, production and publicity. At the same time he was very active in industry politics.

The Wadia brothers followed a similar path to Shah. Their studio underwent a number of transformations from its inception in 1927 until it became Wadia Movietone in 1933. Their success stemmed from their ability to cater for more than one segment of the market and their own involvement in the filmmaking process. Wadia Movietone made the “modern” film that explored social issues and at the same time they made a series of stunt films which borrowed heavily from the Hollywood B‑movie and starred an Australian actress known as Nadia. The Wadias were also heavily involved in industry politics during the 1930s.

As the studios established themselves in Bombay in response to the growing demand for Indian films in the mofussil (or countryside) there developed a desire on the part of the filmmakers to consolidate their position with the formation of a number of industrially based organisations. A similar pattern developed in Calcutta but the Bengali based organisations never achieved the same degree of prominence as the Bombay ones.

A hastily convened Bombay Cinema and Theatre Trade Association was formed so that unified evidence could be given to the 1927‑28 Committee of Inquiry. Out of this emerged other industrially based organisations such as the Motion Picture Society of India (MPSI formed in 1932), the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association of India (IMPPA 1939). The producers were clearly the frontrunners in this development which represents a multi‑faceted attempt to secure their position at the centre of the Indian film industry. Moreover this proliferation of associations in the 1930s was viewed in Calcutta as an attempt by the Bombay producers to secure their position at the expense of the other regional film producing centres.

The principal aims of the MPSI were both economic and ideological. It was meant to represent the interests of the industry to the government which it did on at least two occasions in the 1930s. Its other functions were less clearly articulated. In one sense it set out to achieve the industry’s commercial and social acceptance by recruiting established figures to its cause. The first president had to be of an impeccable background. Sir Phiroze Sethna, who was the inaugral President, had had a long and honourable career in both Bombay municipal politics and Indian national politics; he was a director of over thirty industrial and commercial concerns in India including the giant Tata Corporation; Chairman of the Sun Insurance Company of India, a major institutional lender and investor; and he was acceptable to the British because of his background. He had been their first choice of candidate to lead the 1927‑28 Committee of Inquiry.

However in the industrial politics of the 1930s Sethna proved to be the exception rather than the rule. All subsequent chairmen of the MPSI came from within the industry, and there is no evidence of any other figure of equivalent status to that of Sethna having served the industry.

Other organisations such as the IMPPA were linked to the MPSI through common membership and ideology, and formally through constitutional ties. The MPSI in conjunction with the IMPPA became the voice of the industry. It became responsible for the collection of the industrial data. It organised the conferences designed to bring all aspects of the industry together for a common purpose. Its members were responsible for the publications that emerged in the 1930s and which have formed the basis of all subsequent interpretations of the role of the studios in that period. No wonder, that the majority of accounts of the Indian film industry privilege the studios and decry their demise.

An additional area where the studios exercised considerable political influence was in the organisation of the all‑India Motion Picture Congress. The most important was held in Bombay in 1939. The Congress was opened by S. Satyamurthy, a powerful Member of the Indian National Congress who had some sympathy for the film industry, and chaired by Chandulal Shah. The ostensible purpose of the Congress was two‑fold. Firstly, it was designed as a means whereby the arrival of the cinema as an important social force could be signified. Secondly, it was designed as a forum whereby the various sectors of the industry could explore their individual problems within the context of the larger problems perceived as confronting the industry. As outlined by Shah in his opening address to the Congress these problems were a continuing lack of finance, and internal dissension within the industry.

The problems were defined from the point‑of‑view of the studios. Dissension was not caused by labour problems but by the studios seeking to protect their position through the exclusion of new‑comers to the field. In many respects the 1939 Congress represents the pinnacle of the studio’s dominance.

Nearly all accounts of the demise of the studios attribute their downfall to their inability to counter the activities of freelancers whose entry to the industry around the period of the Second World War is frequently characterised in terms of an assault. The cinema was, it is argued, perceived as conduit for the laundering of black money earned by war‑time profiteers. To gain access to the industry it is alleged that they offered huge sums of money to actors to entice them away from the established studios and thus capture the audience.

There is more than an element of truth in this. A similar thing also occurred at the end of World War 1 when the industry was in its formative stages. But, it should be pointed out that Shah was not above offering stars from other studios large increases in their salaries if they joined Ranjit.

The major studios dragged on into the 1950s well after Indian independence. Their longevity can be attributed to the individual talents of their founders and proprietors. Herein lies the most significant cause for the decline of the studios after the 1930s. They represent a specific example of a type of capital formation that was superceded by the development of the Indian economy in the post‑World War 2 era. The studios were created as, and remained as, monuments to the skill and drive of individuals. In many respects the studios represent a romantic moment in capital formation in contemporary India. They were certainly not geared up to accommodate the changes that occurred in the post‑British economy. This arose from a failure on the part of the industry to secure its position properly through the attraction of modern capital investment despite the activities of the MPSI.

This lack was diagnosed frequently by members of the industry and various solutions were sought. Government intervention, along the lines recommended by the 1927‑28 Committee, was an attractive proposition but the industry was divided upon such issues as to how a film bank should be established, on how a quota system should operate, and about the responsibility for producing newsreels. The other strategy of attracting modern capital to the industry via the recruitment of establishment figures like Sethna was only partially successful. In reality neither the governments nor the banks were too keen to invest in the film industry.

Governments perceived the film industry as being successful enough without their assistance. Indeed they quickly saw the industry as a source of revenue through the imposition of entertainment taxes. Moreover, the British government in India was reluctant to enter into the market place, the exception being the “nation building” industries. Film as an entertainment form could, in the bureaucratic eye, hardly be classified thus. On the other hand the banks’ reluctance to invest in the Indian film industry stemmed from contrary perceptions. Investment in the “nation building” industries was more secure whereas investment in the film industry was perceived as precarious at best and in the long run unprofitable.

An interesting anecdote about the film industry as well as the government giving to this highly creative medium is provided by Phalke s grandson. According to him, Phalke himself experienced this kind of indifference during this declining years as an ailing old man, forgotten but he very industry he had given birth to. In 1939, during the 25th anniversary celebrations of the film industry, he was part of the crowd while the dias was occupied by the film industry glitterati. “Every speaker was singing paens to his pioneering greatness, yet nobody had the courtesy to call him on stage, “ says his grandson. “Finally, Prithiviraj Kapoor, who had noticed him, said, ‘Look, we’re all talking about Dadasaheb Phalke, can we at least invite him up here?”

When a shabbily dressed Phalke went up on stage, his poverty in stark contrast to the opulent ambience, he was able to utter only a few words before breaking down. “Using the Shakuntala metaphor, he spoke of the film industry as his Shakuntala, his daughter who had been raised in austerity but was now leading a luxurious life, “ says his grandson. ‘I am happy for her but there is also the pain that she has forgotten her father, ‘ he told the vast gathering, before extorting them to looks after my Shakuntala’. Overcome by emotion at this point, he began weeping and had to be led away. Gajanan Jagirdar read out the rest of his speech. “

The Pusalkar family has a store‑house of memories on Phalke. They talk about how he poured money into his quest for perfectionism, a trait which invariably led to clashes between him and his financiers. “When he was making his last film Gangavataran for Kolhapur Cinetone, he had to shoot a scene set in the Himalayas. Instead of opting for a studio set‑up. Dadasaheb, believe it or not, had an entire hill manually coloured with chuna to give the snow effect. The next day it rained, and all the labour (and the financier’s money) went down the drain. When the film was released at Mumbai’s Royal Opera House, there were crowds outside-and on the pavement was Dadasaheb Phalke whose own pockets were empty. Kolhapur Cinetone, after the rift, hadn’t paid him a single paisa.

The pioneer of Indian cinema was a very creative advertising man too, reveals his son‑in‑law. “In the early days, people were reluctant to shell out money for a one‑hour film when they could see a six‑hour play for the same amount. So Dadasaheb used to put out these innovative ads-like ‘For one anna, watch a quarter‑inch‑wide and one‑mile‑long strip of 57, 000 photographs! To get the ladies into the theatres, he’d actually use baits like Come to see the film and get one kilo of atta grounds as a bonus.

Phalke would constantly experiment with the cinema medium-apart from the pathbreaking Chitrapat Kase Taiyar Kartat (How Films Are Made) in 1917, he also shot a home movie documenting the growth of the newly born Vrinda. And though he ceased to make films after Gangavataran in 1937 till his death in 1944, cinema obsessed him till the very end. When he was suffering from Alzheimer’s in the last two years of his life, he one day noticed that his son was about to discard an old handkerchief he’d found while cleaning up the house. He immediately stopped him, saying, ‘Appa don’t throw it away, it’ll come in handy for wiping the lens.

The stories of Phalke’s last days are heartrending-how he wrote to V. Shantaram requesting him for Rs 5 to tide over his financial crisis; how he went from studio to studio trying to sell a short story called Japani Pankha, which was eventually bought by V. Damle, director of Sant Tukaram; how on remembering that he had a bill of Rs 3 pending towards his stay in film producer Nanasaheb Sarpotdar’s guest house in Pune he pawned a print of his film for Rs 4, paid the bill and used the remaining one rupee to take an ST bus back to Nashik.

The last blow came on February 14, 1944. One month earlier, Phalke had applied for a license to the then British administration to make cartoon films (the second world war was on and raw stock was being licensed). On February 14 came the reply, refusing him permission. “The shock was too much for him to take, “ says his son‑in‑law. “That he the pioneer of Indian cinema, was being refused permission to make films was traumatic for him. Two days later, he passed away. “

Ironocically again, Phalke’s funeral was attended only by a handful of family members. No one from the film industry bothered to turn up. He was a great man in every sense but his family suffered because of this, His children weren’t adequately educated and had to face poverty eventually. Little wonder, therefore, that Dadasaheb died praying to God to liberate him from cinema in his next life.

That is, on the one hand the film industry was seen as too successful to warrant any form of assistance, and on the other, as not successful enough. Given such a double bind it is not surprising that alternatives were actively sought within the industry. The studios, despite their assertions to the contrary, did not treat their workforce well. Consequently it is not surprising that some grasped the opportunity to dent the emerging dominance of the Indian film industry by the Bombay studios through the application of different forms of capital. Paradoxically this new capital was better suited to the new post‑independence economy as it by‑passed the major problems that had confronted the studio era.

The film industry in India in the 1930s was characterized by a strong move to establish studios as the dominant mode of production. This was a particular feature of the Bombay scene. Ultimately these studios were to fail but only after fifteen years of production which saw them establish a presence that has informed all subsequent considerations of the Indian film industry.

This presence was deliberately created by the studios as part of their drive to secure their dominance of the productive side of cinema in India through the establishment of industry and professional organisations which in turn have produced the major source material that relates to the period. Despite such efforts the studios could not resist the influx of new capital created by changes in the Indian economy generally. Although they survived in some form or the other in the 1950s the “heyday of the studios” was the 1930s. In this period they created the beginnings of truly Indian film form: the masala film which combined drama, song, dance and action. The eternal pav‑bhaaji, ragda‑pattice film.

The Dream Factory : 100 Years of Cinema in India by HK Verma – Chapter – 6

Post War Scenerio

The outbreak of the World War II in 1939, acted as a damper on the growth of the Indian Film Industry.

Owing to shortage of raw film and equipment, the length of an average film was restricted to 11000 feet. The Government tightened up security measures, new restrictions were imposed. A licensing system was introduced to control production of all films, Exhibition was restricted to three shows a day in bigger cities and two shows a day in the smaller ones, with the result that production of motion pictures in the country registered a sharp decline.

While production and exhibition were thus restricted, the demand for entertainment increased tremendously, as the people were fed‑up of the war. They wanted some recreation, with the result that box‑office collection registered an increase. The commercial film companies, always content to take the line of least resistance, continued to feed the public with the same old stuff of sentimentality, mythology, romanticism and historicals. The result was films like Khandan, Khazanchi, Manorama, Bansari, Sharda, Hamari Baat, Bharat Milap, Ram Rajya, Kadambari, Shankar Parbati, Shakuntala, Bahar, Akbar, Shahjahan and Tansen. The general shortage and controls came in the way of improvement quality.

Towards the closing period of the war, the industry suddenly found itself in a state of prosperity. Regular as well as illicit profits made by traders during the war year became available to the film trade as finance. Cinema exercised a strange fascination over the cupidity of gamblers and financiers.

Finding the popular artistes to be the key to box‑office success, the new financiers lured the more popular artistes on lucrative free lance contracts. This gave freedom to the artistes to appear in several films at a time. In a fantastic bidding for the artistes, the established producers found themselves outbidden by producers of mushroom growth.

The consequences were inevitable and obvious. Some names continued to be there to conjure with, but some of the great names in the trade became shadows of their former self. The pre‑war standards of quality and virtues gradually gave place to cheaper devices. The new rule was-A star, six songs and three dances. Conditions in the industry placed art and merit at a disadvantageous position. The percentage of failures rocketed sky high. The changing fortunes of established producers, the bargaining position of many distributors and exhibitors, the struggle for existence that developed among the many competing claimants for the fruits of industry, gave rise to the star system, and the deterioration in the standards of films and tastes of the audience.

Despite the fact that such atrocious wastage of raw stock was done at such a critical time, a few honest attempts at improving the general quality of films were made both within and outside the film trade. In 1944, Bimal Roy the Cameraman of Devdas turned director with his Hamrahi, a bold step in film making, both thematically technically. The film gave an indication of the indelible mark its maker was to leave on Indian Cinema.

Bimal Roy: Bimal Roy was one of the greatest ever directors of Indian cinema. In his films we see a romantic idealist to whom any form of exploitation-social, religious or economic was unacceptable.

He came from a well to do Bengali family and entered films as a cameraman with New Theatres where he photographed films like Devdas (1935) and Mukti (1937). His first film as Director was Udayer Pathey (1944) in Bengali, which was remade as Humrahi (1945) in Hindi. The film was a success. Right from his first film, Bimalda was able to introduce a realism and subtlety suited to the cinema. Bimalda migrated to Bombay after the collapse of New Theatres.

His first film there was Maa (1952) for Bombay Talkies, a typical melodrama that was redeemed by Roy’s deft directorial handling. He then made Parineeta (1953) based on a Sarath Chandra story. He then started his own company and making his breakthrough film-Do Bigha Zameen (1953).

The film heavily inspired from the neo‑realistic films of Italy and de Sica’s Bicycle Thief (1949) in particular was a moving tale, which Bimalda projects with sympathy and simplicity. The film followed the travails of a poor farmer who migrates to the city and works as a rickshaw puller to make ends meet and earn money to get his land back from the moneylender. After a series of misfortunes, he returns to his village to find his farm taken over by a city developer. The film, a moderate commercial success, was a huge critical success and won Bimalda awards at Cannes and at the Karlovy Vary Film Festivals.

Bimalda adapted another Sarath Chandra story Biraj Bahu (1954) before embarking on Devdas (1955). Devdas in spite of having its moments however was not too successful commercially and so Bimalda turned to two films that were more in tune with mainstream Hindi potboilers-Madhumati (1958), a reincarnation drama and Yahudi (1958) with Sohrab Modi-Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari. The famous Parsee Theatre style dialogue which is popular to this day – Tumhara Khoon Khoon Hai, Hamara khoon Paani… was spoken by Sohrab Modi in this film.

Madhumati and Yahudi, both were critical as well as commercial successes. Very few are aware that Madhumati was written by Ritwik Ghatak was brilliantly photographed with much of it outdoors unlike most Ghost stories. Salil Choudhury came up with perhaps his best ever musical score and the haunting melody Aaja re Pardesi was ranked by Lata Mangeshkar among her ten best songs ever! Bimal Roy’s two much acclaimed films with Nutan, Sujata (1959) and Bandini (1963), saw him returning to realistic imperatives. Sujata, dealing with caste prejudice is more human than most films made on this subject while Bandini is considered to be by many his finest work. The film tells the story of a woman prisoner charged with murder. The story, told in flashback from the woman’s point of view is unraveled in a manner such that by and large she is always there or from where she can overhear the goings on in the past rather than the general practice of telling the whole story. In the film Bimalda beautifully used imagery and sound to convey the various moods of Nutan. As she is seated in the corner of her gray, grim cell facing the prison’s high wall, she can hear the hoofs of the horse pulling the carriage taking away her lover, or that masterful scene in which Nutan murders her lover’s wife with the hammering of a welder in the background thus heightening the drama!

With Sujata, Bimal Roy showed himself to be one of the first Indian directors capable of simplicity and understatement. Sujata is a sensitively directed film with the romantic scenes between Adhir and Sujata almost lyrical. The story is told in a series of deft, restrained episodes never ever lapsing into self-pity that could have easily marred the film. And unlike a PC Barua, whose classic Devdas Bimalda had photographed before remaking the film himself, where a death or two would have seen the story out of its tangled web, Bimalda asserts that such a marriage is possible. Adhir takes a firm hand with his family and has his way.

Sujata sees yet another tour de force performance from Nutan in the central role. It is perhaps surpassed only by her performance in the other Bimal Roy film she did, Bandini. Nutan enacts the role of the untouchable girl with stunning grace and is able to convey her hurt, her trauma with just a glance or a gesture. She proves once again what a thinking actress she was. One who tried to fathom the inchoate motivations of the characters she played. She could convey much more with just a look or a fleeting glance than most actresses could with expansive dialogue. In fact Lata Mangeshkar, no less, singled her out as the heroine whose expressions came closest to suggest that she was actually singing the song herself.

Though he is burdened with being the only representative of the progressive forces ranged against oppressive tradition and despite the role not being fleshed out totally Sunil Dutt shines as he plays the earnest Adhir as a perfect foil to

A minor little controversy surrounded the birthday party number Tum Jiyo Hazaron Saal. For years this song was credited to Geeta Dutt and even made it to a LP that HMV came out with as a tribute to Geeta Dutt when she died-In Memorium Geeta Dutt, when in fact it was sung by Asha Bhosle. R. D. Burman who was S. D. Burman’s assistant at the time confirmed that the song was first rendered by Geeta Dutt but later on S. D. Burman rerecorded the song with Asha Bhosle and Asha’s version used in the film. Neither singer knew the other had sung the song. HMV, which credited the song to Geeta Dutt, claims that they followed the information that Bimal Roy Productions gave them. But how is it that all the parties-Bimal Roy, Asha Bhosle. SD Burman and Geeta Dutt kept silent over this? Finally Asha Bhosle acknowledged after 27 years that she did sing the song.

But never knew of the mix up as she never listened to the radio or heard any of her recordings. Once a song was recorded and done with she moved on to the next. But what about everyone else involved? And what about the millions of music lovers or the experts. Couldn’t they distinguish Asha’s voice from Geeta’s? HMV finally clarified that the song was indeed sung by Asha Bhosle and the song was immediately included in the next collection of Asha Bhosle they came out with. While the controversy is not of any earth-shaking importance, of any great political, historical or sociological significance, after all it is just a song. But there is the issue of artistic integrity and due credit. Imagine a painting by one master being attributed to another or a literary wok being erroneously published under a contemporary’s name and this while both individuals were alive! Anyway Asha finally laid the controversy to rest as she said. “If this song has been credited to Geeta, it makes no difference to her reputation or mine, her repertoire or mine. “

All in all Sujata endures as one of Bimal Roy’s masterpieces and one of Nutan’s best ever performances.

It is one of life’s greatest ironies that Ritwik Ghatak who is today something of a cult figure in Bengal was so little understood and appreciated during his lifetime. Today his films have won much critical acclaim but the fact remains that in their time they ran to mainly empty houses in Bengal. Ghatak’s films project a unique sensibility. They are often brilliant, but almost always flawed. Ghatak was born in Dhaka now in Bangladesh. The partition of Bengal, the division of a culture was something that haunted Ghatak forever. Ghatak joined the left‑wing Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) where he worked for a few years as a playwright, actor and director. When IPTA split into factions, Ghatak turned to filmmaking.

By and large Ghatak’s films revolve around two central themes: the experience of being uprooted from the idyllic rural milieu of East Bengal and the cultural trauma of the partition of 1947.

Ghatak’s first film was Nagrik (1952) about a young man’s search for a job and the erosion of his optimism and idealism as his family sinks into abject poverty and his love affair too turns sour. Ghatak then accepted a job with Filmistan Studio in Bombay but his ‘different’ ideas did not go down well there. He did however write the scripts of Musafir (1957) and Madhumati (1958) for Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Bimal Roy respectively, the latter becoming an all time evergreen hit. Ghatak returned to Calcutta and made Ajantrik (1958) about a taxi driver in a small town in Bihar and his vehicle an old Chevrolet jalopy.

But perhaps his best work was Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), the first film in a trilogy examining the socio‑economic implications of partition. The protagonist Nita (played by Supriya Chowdhury) is the breadwinner in a refugee family of five. Everyone exploits her and the strain proves too much. She succumbs to tuberculosis. In an unforgettable moment, as the dying Nita cries out “I want to live…”, the camera pans across the mountains accentuating the indifference and eternity of nature even as the echo reverberates over the shot.

Ghatak also had a brief stint as Vice‑Principal of the Film Institute of India (now Film and Television Institute of India) at Pune, a time he recalled as a happy experience. The students who had passed out during that era are till today considered the Best of The Lot from FTII. A very interesting anecdote is narrated by some ex-students of Ghatak, who used to meet him regularly in Calcutta, while they were shooting for mrinal Sen films. At one of the rendevouz at The Olympia on Park street, the young earnest film-makers met their Guru, who claimed that he had given yp drinking and was just on beer now. The young lot were happy.

Sitting comfortably, everybody ordered his poison, and Ghatakda ordered for beer. After a couple of rounds, as is the practice, trips to the rest room commenced. The assistant cameraman found himself with the great film maker, a beer bottle in hand, stumbling in. Ritwikda went to the commode, and poured out the beer bottle and went out. When questioned later. Dada said: Boka (an endearing term for foolish in Bengali), I thought why make my stomach the via media for the beer, why not let it go in the commode directly. After about a fortnight of this instance, Ritwik dada breathed his last.

Ultimately the intensity of his passion, which gave his films their power and emotion, took their toll on him, as did tuberculosis and alcoholism. However he has left behind a limited but rich body of work that no serious scholar of Indian Cinema can ignore.

Going back in filmic time and space …. . another film which impressed everyone at the time was Prabhat Film Company’s Ram Shastri, based on the life of the legendary figure of Maratha dynasty. It was directed by Gajanan Jagirdar. Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, starring Shantaram-Jayshree about the Indian relief mission in China during the Sino‑Japanese war, directed by V. Shantaram, also left its impact on the audience. Though this film was brilliant in parts, the overall impact was marred by introduction of too much romance.

In 1945, a mission comprising film makers and exhibitors, visited the United States to study the working conditions there. But somehow, they were not welcome in Hollywood. Commenting on this visit, Hollywood Reporter in its issue of the 29th August wrote, “Producers, directors and technicians from other countries feel that by making a pilgrimage to Hollywood they can overcome their lack of knowledge and that when they return home, they will have a magic wand to help them make motion pictures that will look like the product of our best producers, director and technicians.“

“How little these delegations actually learn has long been a secret to all out the hundreds in Hollywood, who steer the groups around the studios-and to the delegations themselves who return home knowing little more, but impressed with the necessity of making their associates think they have suddenly become wise”, continued Hollywood Reporter.

Baburao Patel, at the time was editing a monthly magazine, Film India, and was considered a sort of authority on such affairs, reacted saying, “a mere waste of time and money. For the Indian film industry has not been able to put on screen all that it already knows about film production, for some reason or the other. Moreover, in such missions, the delegates never really learn anything. The secret of the commercial success of Hollywood films is not divulged to visitors, who are just entertained, taken on guided tours and given publicity. “

V. Shantaram, who at the time wanted to visit Hollywood on his own, however, was not discouraged by such disparaging reports and comments. In November 1946, he went to the United States on a study tour with his actress wife Jayashree and friend, screenplay writer Dewan Sherar.

As a result of his visit, Arthur Mayer and Joseph Barstyn Inc. of New York, distributors of foreign films, agreed to take up, three of Shantaram’s films, Shakuntala, Parbat Pe Apna Dera and the English version of Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani titled Story Of Doctor Kotnis, all made under the banner of Rajkamal Kalamandir, Shantaram’s own production concern, which he started in Bombay after the Prabhat Film Company in Poona had closed down after the war.

Arthur Mayer and Joseph Bustyn had taken these films for the American and Canadian market. The films were re‑edited, shortened and subtitled. These films when released in America were very well received, in fact Shakuntala was a box‑office success and won critical acclaim too.

By this time the Government of India had recognised the potency inherent in the film media, and decided to participate in various International film festivals. Chetan Anand, a new comer to the field of motion pictures, at this time made his first film Neecha Nagar with an entirely new cast (Kamini Kaushal). This film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in October 1947, and was awarded the Grand‑Prix, the first time an Indian film got such recognition. Among the films screened that year at the Cannes Festival were Maria Candelaria (Mexica), Brief Encounter (England), and L’epreuve (Sweden). Neecha Nagar received the Best Film Award in competition to these films was no mean achievement Brief Encounter by David Lean is till today considered a master‑piece of cinematic art.

Immediately after the war, a young journalist‑dramatist, Khawaja. Ahmed. Abbas, made his debut on the film scene with his highly original film Dharti Ke Lal, starring Anwar Mirza and Tripti Bhaduri. It was based on the Bengal famine of 1943. An extremely powerful film, thematically, it was a joint effort of various members of the Indian People Theatre Association. It was prevented from being a box‑office success because of the communal flare‑up in Bombay in 1946. It was sent to the Soviet Russia for the Soviet Ministry of Cinematography in March, 1949. This was the first time that an Indian film was screened in the then USSR.

A little later-in February 1948-Uday Shankar (elder borther of sitar mastreo ravi Shankar. It was in Uday Shankar’s dance troupe itself that Ravi Shankar started his career as a musician), a leading dancer, came‑up with his Kalpana, starring himself and his wife Amla Shankar, who also is a dancer. Kalpana had about eighty dance sequences to portray Indian culture. The dances as presented by Uday Shankar, to this day remain uncomparable in their rythm, grace and grandeur. It won laurels abroad, and shared the prize for ‘exceptional qualities’ at the Second International Film Festival in Brussels in June 1949. It is the only ballet film made in India so far.

Among other films which won laurels for India during that era was T Sadasivam’s Meera, based on the life of a devotee of Lord Krishna, who drank poison to please her lord, featuring Internationally renowned Indian classical singer M. S. Subbalakshmi. It was screened at the International Film Festival at Prague, Czechoslovakia in August, 1949; at the tenth International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art at Venice in September, 1949, and at the Canadian National Exhibition, the same year. New Theatres’ Chota Bhai was also screened at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Another important event of the year 1949 was that after a lapse of twelve years, the third colour film of India, Ajit was made by Mohan Bhavani. Photographed on 16 mm Kodachrome and blown‑up to 35 mm by Ansco. Based on a popular novel, Asir of Asirgarh, it had Monica Desai, Premnath and Nympally in main roles. Unlike its predecessors, it was a commercial success.

As everywhere else, there were stirrings in the south too, of a different kind though. Though the South’s contribution to the Hindi Cinema had so far been insignificant (except for Meera) it suddenly jumped in the commerical market with Chandralekha.

In Hollywood, Cecil Be Demile more than any other director, made the films production conscious. SS Vasan, the man who made Chandralekha, did the same in India. A journalist turned producer, Vasan’s thesis was that an average cine goer loved nothing better than sex, sensation and sentimentality-a trend which to this day, Hindi films made in South, are following. Chandralekha, Vasan’s first Hindi film was a pace‑setter, which had a surfeit of all these. It had spectacular sets, shimmering costumes, elephant rides, trapeze acts and tribal dances. The hokum paid! It had an investment of three million rupees and within India it grossed ten million and another one million from foreign territories-a box‑office record. It was screened at the Fourth International Film Festival at Prague, Czechoslovakia, and as expected, did not bag any award. It had the Best Award of all The Audience appreciation.

SS Vasan, under his banner of Gemini Pictures which later became a household name-repeated his success with Nishan, a fantasy, and Mangla, a social subject. Though these films were not as successful at the box‑office as the earlier film, even then, they were commercially profitable propositions for the producer.

With these film, the spectacular films era set‑in, and so came S Mukherjee’s Shabnam, about Burmese refugees during the second world war. It was also a great box‑office success. Mehboob Khan made Aan (shot on 16 mm Kodachrome and blown‑up to 35 mm Technicolour, photographed by Faredoon Irani); Sohrab Modi made Rani Of Jhansi, a biographical film on the queen who fought the British forces in 1857 for country’s independence, and set the pace for India’s freedom struggle. Rani of Jhansi starring Sohrab Modi s wife Mehtaab, is the only Indian film shot on original three strip Technicolour camera by noted Hollywood cameraman, Ernest Heller, who had earlier distinguished himself by winning the Academy award for his camerawork in that masterpiece Gone With The Wind. It was later completed by noted cameraman M N Malhotra. Not to be left behind in the race for magnum opuses, Shantaram made Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje, also in Colour.

A film made during the late fiftees, which deserves a special mention in the annals of Indian film, is Mehboob Khan’s (he started his career as a production boy, mopping the studio floors, in the silent era. From a production boy to the maker of Aurat and Roti, his earlier ventures, was a credit indeed), Mother India. It was one film from Bombay which stirred the entire country and the people wherever it was released. It was a great document on Indian peasantry. At Karlovy vary, Athens and Lima, this film was rated high, and won its heroine Nargis the coveted best actress award at the Karlovy vary film festival. Till Aamir Khan s Lagaan and Bhansali s Devdas, Mother India, is the only Indian film to have won an Oscar nomination in the foreign film category.

Mehboob Khan: A man of humble beginnings and little formal education, Mehboob Khan became one of India’s greatest Filmmakers. Like many other filmmakers of his time, Mehboob’s craft was learnt in the Film Theatre, the common motif in his films usually being the oppressed poor pitted against the oppressive rich be it the poor tribal against the money‑grabbing capitalist in Roti (1942), the commoner against the prince in Aan (1952) or the poor peasant woman against the slimy zamindar in Aurat (1940) and Mother India (1957).

Born Ramjan Khan in Bilimoria, Gujarat, he ran away from home to Bombay and spent his earlier youth scrounging work in the studios. He started his career with the Imperial Film Company as a bit player in Alibaba and the Forty Thieves (1927). As one of the thieves he was hidden inside a wooden vat! He then joined Sagar Movietone and played supporting characters in several films before getting his first break as a director there with Judgement of Allah (1935). Inspired by Cecil B. DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross (1932). Judgement of Allah showed the Roman-Arab confrontation. Packed with action, battle scenes and natural catastrophes culminating in the Arab victory, the film was extremely popular. More importantly it formed a lasting team with the cameraman of the film Faredoon Irani who photographed every film Mehboob made.

Manmohan (1936), inspired by Barua’s Devdas (1935) and Jagirdar (1937) consolidated his position but with Ek hi Raasta (1939), Mehboob gave his first inclination of his social concerns and political leanings. The film is about a war veteran who having seen much death and destruction goes through a period of uneasy adjustment. Charged with killing a rapist, he is brought to trial. He mocks the system that made him a war hero yet condemns him for killing a criminal. The beginning of World War II witnessed the collapse of Sagar. RCA with financial backing from the Tatas took it over and renamed it National Studios. Mehboob with his entire production unit joined the newly formed company for whom he directed three of his most important films-Aurat (1940), Bahen (1941) and Roti (1942).

Aurat highlights a peasant’s love for his land. The story of a resolute young woman who starts life full of hope and dreams but ends up old and careworn having survived flood, famine, starvation and a wayward son whom she shoots to protect the honour of the village was the predecessor of its more famous re‑make Mother India and many critics are of the opinion that this stark epic was much more realistic and has an earthiness the latter lacks.

Bahen was about a brother’s obsessive love for his little sister but Roti was unlike anything Mehboob had done earlier. A blistering attack on capitalism and the lust for money, the film is set in an imaginary country where the economy functions without currency and barter is the rule. Mehboob contrasts the life of the city people and their value system based on money with those of the supposedly uncivilized tribals who have no currency and live by barter. Towards the end the rich protagonist (Chandramohan) dies of thirst in the desert, his car full of gold ingots, the desert symbolic of the aridity of monetary greed.

Mehboob then left National to set up his own Mehboob Productions. (A hammer and sickle was chosen for the company’s emblem even though he was formally unassociated with the Communist Party). Mehboob Productions came out with a regular output of films but which after Aurat and Roti were surprisingly lightweight. Anmol Ghadi (1946) did create a stir because of its casting coup of three singing stars together-Surendra, Noorjehan and Suraiya, besides a great musical track by Naushad. (He gave music for every film that Mehboob made after Anmol Ghadi) Mehboob’s next masterpiece was perhaps Andaaz (1949).

The triangle to beat all triangles, Andaaz remains startlingly modern even by today’s standards even though it propagates traditionalism. A film whose cult status was established right from the casting-Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor battling for Nargis who became India’s top female star with the success of the film. She claims that she was just friends with Dilip Kumar and loves Raj Kapoor whom she has married. But Mehboob questions friendship between two members of the opposite sex as Raj suspects her of being unfaithful and Mehboob makes his heroine pay for it as she has to shoot Dilip Kumar to prove her fidelity. She consequently goes to jail where she tells her husband that she has had to pay for her modern lifestyle and may her daughter not make the same mistakes she did.

However the film unintentionally actually goes deeper than that and as played by Nargis, looks at a woman who is genuinely torn between the two men. She has responded to both their love and is not just friends with Dilip Kumar. In fact when Dilip Kumar declares his love for her on her wedding day, her reaction is not one of shock but one that only confirms her worst fears. Consequently what comes out is a highly charged and volatile love triangle. Mehboob followed Andaaz with the spectacle Aan (1952), his first film in colour. Aan even had a release in London and was much appreciated even though a critic quipped-it goes aan and aan and aan!

Amar (1954) was an interesting film in that the hero (Dilip Kumar) rapes a woman (Nimmi) who fleeing from the villain has taken shelter with him. The cowardly hero now refuses to come forward and sees the woman suffer the consequences of the rape. When his fianci (Madhubala) finds out what has happened she stands up for the girl and the hero eventually marries her. Though regarded by Mehboob as his favourite film, the film flopped, as audiences could not accept a weak and negative hero.

Mehboob returned to familiar territory remaking his earlier hit Aurat as Mother India (1957). Mother India was his magnum opus and is the ultimate tribute to Indian Womanhood! This epic saga of the sufferings of an Indian peasant woman has an inherent and perennial appeal, being typical of the Indian situation. So tremendous was its success that the film is in fact a reference point in the long‑suffering mother genre and is like an Indian Gone With the Wind (1939). Raised in a village himself, Mehboob himself was familiar with rural life, its customs and manners, its soil, seasons, sufferings and joys and he creates a totally Indian experience in milieu, detail, characters and dramatic incidents. Further, Mehboob raises all these elements to make a highly charged film that is larger than life and one that admittedly takes a totally romanticized look at rural India. The film makes heavy use of psychoanalytic and other kinds of symbolism and nationalist allegory. (The peasants forming a chorus outlining a map of India)

In fact everything about the film is highly charged right down to the strong, earthy central performance of Nargis. The film represents the pinnacle of her career and won her the Best Actress Award at the prestigious Karlovy Vary festival. The Film became the first Indian Film to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film Category and at the 1958 Academy Awards lost out to another masterpiece Federico Fellini’s Nights of Caberia by a solitary vote at the third poll. Its influence continues to be seen in Hindi Films till today in films like Ganga Jamuna (1961), Deewaar (1975) and Waaris (1988).

After the high of Mother India, Mehboob aimed to fly even higher with Son of India (1962) but the film was a total misfire and in fact his weakest film. He died in 1964 harboring ambitions to make a film on the life of Habba Khatoon, the 16th century poetess‑queen of Kashmir.

The Dream Factory : 100 Years of Cinema in India by HK Verma – Chapter – 5

The Talking Films

Importance of the visual medium had been recognised right from the beginning. Now, having moved for a while, the movies were trying to talk.

In June 1927, at the Royal Opera House, a phonofilm-in which the sounds were synchronised with the scenes on the screen-was exhibited. The people thronged the theatre to witness this talking film. The first regular talkie however, to be shown in India, was Universal International’s Melody of Love. This was 1929, and the place, ElphinstonePicturePalace in Calcutta. With this, Indian filmgoers and film makers woke up alike to another marvel after about three decades of Cinema.

With the advent of the talkie, Indian film producers began thinking in terms of ‘Talking Motion Pictures’. The Imperial Film Company released at the Chitra Cinema in Calcutta, a short reel of speech by IA Hafizee in Bengali. This was in early 1931. Later the Madan Theatres came up with two short films which were shown in Bombay at the Empire Cinema on February 4, 1931. One of these was a song by Munnibai, a popular singer of that time, and the other featured Bengali songs and dances.

The credit for making the first full length talkie, however, goes to Ardeshir Irani for his Alam Ara, a love story, which was screened in Bombay at the Majestic Cinema on March 14, 1931. The film featured Miss Zubeida, Master Vithal, Zillobai, Prithviraj. Ehizar and Jagdish Sethi. It was photographed by Adi Irani and written and directed by Ardheshir Irani himself, who drew inspiration from Phalke’s early films like Kaliya Mardan and Krishna Janam. He acquired the technical know how of film making as best as was possible those days, and made Alam Ara one of the greatest events in the history of Indian Cinema.

Zubeida (1911‑90): The princess who became a star-Zubeida was the daughter of the Nawab of Sachin and Fatma Begum, actress and India’s first lady director! One of Zubeida’s sisters, Sultana, was a star while the other, Shahzadi, appeared in films as a teenager.

Princess of Sachein, Miss Zubeida, a beauty in the classical oriental mould, was however an exception. Zubeida, who made her screen debut in National Film Company’s Bulbul E Parastan at the age of twelve enchanted everyone with her innocent and beautifully oblong face. Bulbul E Parastan was followed by Bahadur E Sulemani. That was in Silent era. She was nineteen, when she starred in Alam Ara, and was the only popular female star who survived the advent of sound.

She commenced her acting career at Kohinoor Studios, at the age of 12. Her finest work was for Kohinoor and Laxmi studios, although she did freelance with other studios. She honed the role of the ‘pure’ courtesan to perfection. Her limpid posture and soft uncertain voice were traditions continued by Meena Kumari in Pakeezah (1971). Veer Abhimanyu (1922), Gul‑e‑Bakavali (1924), Indrasabha (1925) and the films directed by her mother-Bulbul‑e‑Paristan (1926), Heer Ranjha (1928) and Milan Dinar-are her finest performances.  Zubeida played the lead in India’s first sound film Alam Ara (1931).

In 1934 Zubeida, together with Nanubhai Vakil, launched Mahalakshmi Cinetone. By the late 30s, at the height of her stardom, she had retired, appearing in the rare film thereafter.

Recalling the release of Alam Ara, Abdulaly Eusafally, who exhibited the film said, “Imagine our suprises when we found that on the day of the release, people started gathering near the Majestic Cinema (the Cinema still exists on Lamington Road area of Bombay) since early morning. It was almost impossible for us to reach the theatre, which with great difficulty and police help, we did manage to do.

In those days, the queue system was unknown, with the result that the filmgoers stormed and mobbed the booking window to get a ticket to see a talking picture in a language which they understood. There was chaos all around. Terrible traffic jam. The police had to be called out to protect the theatre and control the enthusiastic crowd. For weeks together tickets were sold in advance. Black marketeers had a field day. Four annas tickets were sold at Rupees four to Rupees five each, and those for higher classes were sold in localities as far as Colaba, about five miles away from the theatre. “

It is a pity that the film is not available in India for the filmologists. One private collector in Paris, has just one reel in his collection, which he refuses to part with, or allow to make a dupe out of it.

The talkie had almost an instant effect on curbing the import of foreign films. A few years before, 88% of the total footage screened in the country had been imported, but by 1937, 95% of the Cinemas in the country were screening Indian films almost exclusively.

Though talkie films in Hindi did curb the English language films, it had an effect on the export of Indian films as well. Hitherto, films made anywhere in India had a market throughout the country (Pakistan did not exist then and Lahore was an important film production centre), and in Burma and Ceylon etc. The introduction of sound meant shrinkage of this market. It was doubtful whether even large areas speaking Bengali, Tamil, Telugu or Marathi languages could support film industries of their own.

Production of sound films meant securing of new kind of technical hands, investment in expensive studio equipment and the wiring of theatres for sound. Several film establishments had to be wound up for want of finance. At the same time, affected by the world wide economic depression, even the largest organisation of those days, Madan Theatres, owning a chain of 120 cinemas began to close down.

Another problem that the sound film created was that of artists. Most of the artistes of the silent era had to leave films as their voices were found unsuitable for the microphone. A few however, did survive the change.

During the silent era, artistes were seldom given the importance they get these days. But even then, the filmgoers had their favourites. Miss Ruby Meyers, with the advent of Kohinoor Film Company’s Veer Bala ushered in the ‘star era’. After a brief career as a telephone operator, Miss Meyers joined films and was soon causing a million hearts to flutter. She was on the permanent staff of the Kohinoor-drawing Rupees two thousand per month, the highest paid artiste in the country at the time-and appeared in the Company’s Telephone Girl and Mumtaz Mahal.

Sulochana – Ruby Myers (1907‑83): Sulochana or Ruby Myers (her real name) was a former telephone operator who went on to become the highest paid actor of her day. Her finest period was with Imperial Studios where her on‑screen pairing with Dinshaw Billimoria was especially popular. They were among the few stars to successfully transit to talkies.

The most famous of her films-Wild Cat of Bombay-saw her in eight guises/characters including a gardener and a street brat! Her virtuosity knew no limits and she could have had no better vehicle for her talent. The sound films at Imperial were mainly remakes of her films-Wild Cat of Bombay (1927) was remade as Bambai Ki Billi (1936), Madhuri (1928) reappeared in sound in 1932, Anarkali (1928) was remade in 1935, and the hit film Indira BA (1929) became Indira MA (1934). Sulochana launched Rubi Pics in the mid‑30s-this marked her retirement from acting! Ismail Merchant’s Mahatma and the Mad Boy (1974) included a tribute to this greatest of the silent screen era.

Abandoning Kohinoor in favour of Ardeshir Irani’s Imperial Film Company, she changed her name to Miss Sulochana and became Iimperial’s major asset. While with imperial, she was always paired with the dark and handsome D. Billimoria and directed by R. S. Chowdhri. Among her popular films of the time are the Wild Cat of Bombay, Anarkali, Heer Ranjha, Madhuri and Indira. With such popularity and fan following, she could not stand and sound‑test and was ousted with the invent of the talkie. With the advent of the talking motion pictures, others who had to bow out were Miss Gohar and Miss Patience Cooper, both well‑known artistes, though no match for Miss Sulochana in looks. Both were recognised and applauded for their accomplished acting. Miss Gohar created a sensation with her appearance in Krishna Film Company’s Fortune and Fools in 1925. Her subsequent appearance in Jagdish Film Company’s Gun Sundari and Vishwamohini, both written and directed by Chandulal Shah, confirmed her status as an artiste of considerable dramatic power.

Dinshaw Billimoria (1904): D. Billimoria as he was referred to was introduced in ction films-both historical and mythological. One of the stars at Imperial Studios, he and Sulochana ere the star leads, with many extremely successful films to their credit, notably Wild Cat of Bombay and Anarkali. In 1942, he acted in and directed Jawani Ki Pukar. In the later years of his life he worked as a technician in the film processing laboratory Film Centre.

On the other hand, Miss Patience Cooper was already well known to the theatre audience much before she made screen debut in Madan Theatres Nala Damayanti in 1920. After that, for over a decade, Miss Cooper appeared in almost every prestige Madan Theatre movie including Dhruv Charita, Mohini, Bilvamangal, Ratnavali, Pati Bhakta Etc. Inspite of the esteem both, Miss Gohar and Miss Cooper enjoyed, they had to leave the film scene in the early thirties.

Patience Cooper who played the lead in various Madan Pictures-Nala Damayanti (1920), Ratnavali (1922) and Noorjehan (1923) to name some was perhaps the first ever Indian female film star. An Anglo‑Indian from Calcutta, she appeared in many silent films before switching to talkies with comparative ease.

She started as a dancer in Bandmann’s Musical Comedy, a Eurasian troupe before being employed by Madan’s Corinithian Stage Company. Cooper was often cast as the sexually troubled but innocent woman at the center of moral dilemmas, a forerunner to the type of roles played later by Nargis.

She also played the first ever double roles in Hindi films-Patni Pratap (1923), where she played two sisters and Kashmiri Sundari (1924), where she played mother and daughter. A major aspect of her star image was the successful achievement of the ‘Hollywood look’ in spite of different light and technical conditions. Her dark, sharp eyes and skin tone allowed technicians to experiment with the imported convention of eye‑level lighting. Cooper’s last film was Iraada (1944).

Patience Cooper is credited with the first double roles of Indian cinema-as twin sisters in Patni Pratap and as mother and daughter in Kashmiri Sundari! She was a dancer with Bandman’s Musical Comedy before her contract with Madan Theatres. Her career was a smooth one, and she remained at the top till dethroned by Sulochana. Her famous films are: Nala Damayanti (1920), Dhruva Charitra (1921), Laila Majnu and Princess Budur-both in 1922, Bilwamangal and Alibaba and the Forty Thieves-both in 1932, Zehari Saap (1933), Khyber Pass (1936), and Iraada (1944). Excelling in the role of an innocent caught up by events, usually initiated by the males, Patience Cooper anticipated the roles that would make Nargis famous. Cooper moreover had the colouring and sharp features that allowed the use of eye‑level lighting, rarely used in India.

Zebunissa: Another beauty, who began her career in the silent era but achieved stardom only after the talkies had come was Zebunissa, Indian screen’s most celebrated vamp. At the back of every man’s mind is a Cleopatra, whom, someday, he hopes to encounter and then smother her in minks and choke her with diamonds. Theda Bara, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, all continental beauties, had already provided a model to their Indian counterparts.

Zebunissa became not only Hindi screen’s most sought after bad woman, and every young man’s sweetheart. Whether in mythological, social or action films, she was always the heavy‑breathing seductress who with her large hazel eyes cast a spell over her man and succeeded in getting him, and destroying him. She played Menaka, the dancer who seduces the holy man Vishwamitra in Shakuntala, and Rani Pingla the evil queen in Bharatihari. Other popular vamps of the time were Ram Piyari, Asha Lata and Lalita Pawar-Who is going strong to this day as a character artiste. Indian vamps, those days appeared in scanty clothes, a tradition partly carried over from action films, and partly under the influence of western films.

Among the male artistes who could not survive talkies were musclemen like Raja Sandow, Master Khalil, Nandram Pahelwan, Master Bachoo and Master Vithal. Among the tall, dark and handsome variety of men were Jal Merchant, Nympally, Gul Hamid and Jai Khambatta. Among those who survived were D. Billimoria and Jairaj, who is perhaps the Indian screen’s most durable hero. He started working as early as 1929 and to this day is active in the film world.

Another legendry figure during the era was Sohrab Modi. . . the Lion of Minerva Movietone. – India’s answer to the roaring lion of MGM.

In 1950, when Sohrab Modi’s Sheesh Mahal was being screened at Minerva Theatre in Bombay (now it is owned by FC Mehra and Shammi Kapoor), the actor was present at the hall. Mr Modi noticed a man sitting in the front row with closed eyes. Upset with such a reaction, he asked an attendant to let the viewer out and return his money. The employee came back to say that the person was blind but had come just to hear Sohrab Modi’s dialogues. . .

Born in Bombay, Sohrab Modi was a stage actor of the Parsee stage, who had done some work in silent films but returned with the advent of sound as actor, director and producer. In the middle period he had earned quite a reputation as a Shakespearean actor. He travelled throughout India with his brother’s theatrical company enjoying the tremendous sense of fulfillment every time the curtain came down and the audience clapped. However since 1931 with the advent of the sound film, theatre was declining. To rescue this dying art, Modi set up the Stage Film Company in 1935. His first two films were ‘filmed versions’ of plays. Khoon ka Khoon (1935) was an adaptation of Hamlet and marked Naseem Bano’s (mother of Saira Banu) acting debut. The second, Saed‑e‑Havas (1936) was based on Shakespeare’s King John. Both Films failed.

He then launched Minerva Movietone in 1936. His early films at Minerva dealt with contemporary social issues such as alcoholism in Meetha Zaher (1938) and the right of Hindu women to divorce in Talaq (1938). Though the films did well what attracted Modi was the historic genre. Minerva Movietone was famous for it’s trilogy of historical spectaculars that were to follow-Pukar (1939), Sikander (1941) and Prithvi Vallabh (1943), wherein Modi made the most of his gift for grandiloquence to encapsule all that is grand about Indian History.

Pukar was set in the court of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir and is based on an incident , which is perhaps historically untrue, to highlight Jehangir’s fair sense of justice. Many of the key scenes were photographed at original locations in the magnificient courts and palaces of the Mughals that gave the film an authenticity that studio built sets could never achieve. The charisma of its stars Chandramohan and Naseem Bano and the oratory by Sohrab Modi of the dialogue by Kamaal Amrohi with its literary flourish and innate grace ensured the film’s popularity. Perhaps Modi’s greatest film was Sikandar which immortalized Prithviraj Kapoor playing the title role. This epic film was set in 326 BC when Alexander the Great, having conquered Persia and the KabulValley, descends to the Indian border at Jhelum and encounters Porus (Modi) who stops the advance with his troops. Sikandar’s lavish mounting, huge sets and production values equalled the Best of Hollywood then particularly for its rousing and spectacular battle scenes and was rated as high as The Birth of a Nation. “

Its dramatic, declamatory dialogues gave both Prithviraj Kapoor and Sohrab Modi free reign to their histrionic proclivities. The release of the film coincided with World War II at its peak and in India too the political atmosphere was tense, following Gandhiji’s call to Civil Disobedience. Sikander further aroused patriotic feelings and national sentiment. Thus, even though Sikandar was approved by the Bombay censor board, it was later banned from some of the theatres serving army cantonments. However its appeal to nationalism was so great and direct, it remained popular for years. It was revived in Delhi in 1961 during the Indian March into Goa. Prithvi Vallabh was based on K. M. Munshi’s novel of the same name. The films major highlights were the confrontations between Modi and Durga Khote, the haughty queen Mrinalvati who tries to humiliate him publicly but then falls in love with him.

Although Modi went beyond the Parsee theatre for his choice of themes and even tackled such themes as illicit relationships-Jailor (1938), remade in 1958-and incest in Bharosa (1940), his formal approach remained tied to it the Parsee Theatre. In 1946 Sheesh Mahal (1950) and Nausherwan‑e‑Adil (1957), he married actress Mehtab who was 20 years younger than him and whom he directed in Parakh (1944) and India’s first film in technicolour Jhansi ki Rani (1953).

For Jhansi ki Rani, Modi had technicians flown in from Hollywood – He had Ernesh Haller, legendry cameraman of Gone with the Wind, and roped in MN Malhotra (later to become a technical) to photograph trhge film in Technicolor. backbone of BR films. Mehtab starred as the young queen of Jhansi who took up arms against the British during the Mutiny of 1857 with Modi essaying the role of the Rajguru, her chief advisor. The film was notable for its authensity in creating the right period and delineating historical events, its spectacular battle scenes and Mehtab’s stirring performance even if she was far too old for the role. She achieves stirring dignity in the role as she vows to protect Jhansi from all enemies both within and outside. The ball sequence in Jhansi’s palace was superbly shot and Modi achieves great emotional appeal with his characters. Sadly the film failed to succeed at the box-office.

Modi however bounced back with Mirza Ghalib (1954). The film, based on the life of the great Indian poet who lived during the reign of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last of the Mughal Emperors, won the President’s Gold Medal for Best Feature Film of 1954 – The very first year National Awards for films were instituted. The film beautifully captured the mood of the period, its hedonistic pursuits and the fading magnificence of the court of the last Mughal where great poets like Zauq, Momin, Tishna, Shefta and Ghalib assembled to recite their verse. Mirza Ghalib also saw Suraiya’s finest dramatic performance as she made alive and vivid the role of the married Ghalib’s lover, a courtesan.

Though Kundan (1955), Nausherwan‑e‑Adil and Jailor (1958) had their high moments, particularly the latter where Modi gave a chilling portrayal of a rational man turned into a tyrant, Modi’s decline had begun. The slide proved irreversible. Sohrab Modi died of cancer at the age of 86, his signature boom muffled, but his spirit remaining indomitable till the end.

Prithviraj Kapoor: When we discuss the advent of talkies and Sohrab Modi, one cannot forget the doyen of Indian Cinema Prithvi Raj Kapoor. Who joined the motion pictures during the talkies era and successfully transited the talkie era. Prithviraj Kapoor was without a doubt the most handsome Indian actor of Pre‑Independence India and the founder of India’s first film family-the Kapoors.

He was born in Prithvinath Kapoor in a middle‑class landlord family in Samundri, a district of the industrial township of Lyallpur, Punjab, the son of a police officer. He got most of his early grounding from his grand father, Dewan Keshavmal.

After finishing schooling at Lyallpur and Lahore, he enrolled at EdwardCollege, Peshawar where he developed a taste for the theatre and earned a major reputation on the amateur stage in Lyallpur and Peshawar. He was married at 18 and did a year of law after graduation but interrupted his law studies to pursue his dreams of acting. Taking a loan from his aunt, he left Peshawar for Bombay in the winter of 1928, leaving behind his wife and three children saying he would send for them later.

In Bombay, he joined the Imperial Film company and acted in several B. P. Mishra adventure and love stories such as Cinema Girl (1930) opposite Ermeline, India’s Clara Bow. He acted in India’s first ever talkie Alam Ara (1931) though not in the lead role, which was essayed by Master Vithal. He then joined the Grant Anderson Theatre Company performing Shakespeare in English, winning special acclaim for his role of Laertes in Hamlet.

The turning point in Prithviraj’s life came when he shifted to New Theatres, Calcutta in 1933. He broke through the silver bareer with Rajrani Meera (1933) and then with Debaki Bose’s Seeta (1934). He mainly acted in their Hindi versions with Durgadas Banerjee often playing the same role in the Bengali version.

Prithviraj was associated with some of the best films of New Theatres like Manzil (1936), President (1937) and his crowning glory Vidyapathi (1937) where he played the King Shiva Singha whose wife falls in love with the poet Vidyapathi.

Chandulal Shah hired Prithviraj for Ranjit Movietone where he worked from 1938-1940. His best known film with Ranjit was Pagal (1940), where he played a psychotic doctor in an asylum. Tricked into marrying the less beautiful of two sisters, he injects the one he wanted to marry with a drug that renders her insane. He then keeps her in the asylum where he brutalises her. It was a dark role unlike anything he had played before.

The title role in Sohrab Modi’s Sikander (1941) immortalized Prithviraj Kapoor. This epic film was set in 326 BC when Alexander the Great, having conquered Persia and the KabulValley, descends to the Indian border at Jhelum and encounters Porus (Modi) who stops the advance with his troops. Prithviraj made a handsome, dashing Sikander and the film heightened his enduring reputation for playing royalty, enhanced further by his role as Akbar in Mughal‑e‑Azam (1960).

In 1944 he invested his earnings and set up Prithvi Theatre. He was the first to use the concept of modern, professional urban theatre in Hindustani. Before him there were folk and Parsi theatre companies but his was the first modern professional repertory of that scale and influence. When there were losses at the box office or if production costs went haywire, he channelled his earnings from films to bridge the fiscal gap.

In over 16 years of its existence under Prithviraj Kapoor, Prithvi Theatre did some 2, 662 shows. He played the lead in every single show, even when he was running high fever-one play every alternate day for 16 years! In fact Prithviraj Kapoor was so committed to Prithvi Theatre that when Jawaharlal Nehru wanted him to lead a cultural delegation abroad he said he couldn’t due to Prithvi’s engagements. When Nehru asked him why he didn’t have an understudy to play his roles, Prithviraj replied he knew another person who did not have any understudy amd that person’s role was far more important than his. Who? asked Nehru. You! Prithviraj replied… and he got a Rajya Sabha nomination as reward…the first film personality to be so honoured.

Some of Prithvi’s well known plays include Deewaar, Pathan (1947), Gaddar (1948) and Paisa (1954)-which he directed as a film in 1957. Prithvi Theatre also launched many new talents such as Ramanand Sagar, Shankar‑Jaikishen and Ram Ganguly. His major film work in the 1950s include V. Shantaram’s Dahej (1950) and his son, Raj Kapoor’s Awaara (1951). The latter starring Prithviraj and Raj as father and son was perhaps Raj Kapoor’s finest film. The dramatic confrontations between Prithviraj and Raj were a highlight of the film. The film and particularly the title song -Awaara Hoon-swept through not only India, but Asia breaking box office records in the Middle‑East being dubbed in Turkish, Persian, Russian, Latin and Arabic. The film also swept Russia where it was dubbed and retitled Bradyaga (Vagabond). An interesting fact here is that the villain of the film K. N. Singh did hid own dubbing in Russian! Raj Kapoor and Nargis became superstars in Russia. When they visited Russia, bands played Awaara Hoon at airports, a puppet show by a leading Russian puppeteer had in its final play puppets representing Raj Kapoor and Nargis!

While directing Paisa, he lost his voice which sadly never regained its full sonorousness. Subsequently he closed Prithvi Theatre and reduced his film work. Aasmaan Mahal (1965) saw another memorable performance from Prithviraj as an old Nawab who refuses the wealth offered by capitalists who want to turn his dilapidated mansion into a hotel. The film, which suggests that the old feudal order must be allowed to fade away with dignity while its descendants take the cue from ‘the people’ rather than from entrepreneurs, won Prithviraj laurels at International Film Festivals.

Among his later films, Teen Bahuraniyaan (1968) saw him as the loveable head of the family trying to knock sense into his giddy headed daughters‑in law enamoured by a film star staying next door and Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971) directed by grandson Randhir Kapoor (son of Raj Kapoor) saw him play the head of a family in a film dealing with the generation gap between the grandfather and grandson with the son caught in between both. Interestingly Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor enacted the main roles.

By now however his health had deteriorated and he completed the dubbing from his hospital bed. He had also played the patriachal head in the Punjabi film Nanak Naam Jahaaz Hai (1969). The film was the first really major successful Punjabi film in Post‑Independent India with a major cultural impact on Punjabi sikhs at home and abroad and is credited with the revival of the Punjabi Film Industry in India.

Around this time Prithviraj felt the need for a theatre space which would provide amateur theatre groups with professional facilities. With this in mind he leased out a plot of land in Juhu, Bombay with the hope of some day building a theatre on it. Unfortunately though, this was not to be realised in his lifetime. He succumbed to Hodgkin’s disease in 1972 leaving behind a rich cultural legacy and a vision for Indian theatre.

Prithviraj Kapoor was posthumously awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema. His son, Shashi, has revived Prithvi Theatre in his honour.

Coming back to the production side of film making, Alam Ara was closely followed by Madan Theatres Shirin Farhad, based on a famous Persian love‑legend, starring Miss Jahan Ara Kajjan and Master Nissar. This was Master Nissar’s first male role on screen or stage, having played only female roles on stage till then. The film, was recorded on RCA Photophone (Alam Ara was recorded on Tannar system), was vastly superior to its predecessor.

Alam Ara and Shirin Farhad turned the industry topsy turvy and consigned the silent film to the scrap heap. The Indian film from now onward was to be ‘all talking, singing and dancing’. Significantly, some producers still held on to their dumb shows and advertised. You can always see more than you can hear!; Silence is Golden; Film is the language of images and images do not speak Though they continued advertising, inwardly they knew it was a losing battle.

Initially the talkie in India had to pass through the same ordeal as the early sound films in other countries. The stage element reigned supreme in the studios and the early productions were more in the nature of photographed theatrical scenes than motion pictures.

In 1931 itself, twenty‑two films in Hindi, three in Bengali and one each in Tamil and Telugu were made. Soon the production increased, and films in other languages were also made. Sound studios and several new sound theatres were built. How had such a swift success been achieved in the face of the difficulties which inevitably followed the change‑over to sound? Several factors were at work. The importance that had suddenly been conferred by films on the regional languages, in a land in which foreign languages had dominated the councils and courts for centuries, was a powerful influence. Sound also gave a kind of natural protection to regional markets, in the sense that exhibitors of foreign films found it very difficult to compete.

Along with all this, an even more potent factor had been at work. All the Indian sound films had a profusion of songs; most of them also had dances. The Indian sound films, unlike those of other nations, took exclusively to music‑drama forms. In doing so, sound films tapped a rich vein, becoming heir to the silent cinema as well as drama. There was Nritya or pure dance, but there was no drama which was devoid of music and dance. Bharata, in his ‘Natyashastra’, the earliest treatise in Indian dance and drama wrote, “Instruments are foundation of a performance. “ Sanskrit dramatists used songs and dances tightly woven into the emotional texture of plays.

Due to various historical and cultural circumstances the Sanskrit theatre declined and virtually went out of existence after 100 AD. But its influence was clearly felt in the folk‑drama traditions of different parts of India; and these have survived the onslaught and ravages of time. These folk traditions of operatic forms imperceptibility crept into a new theatre which was developing in ninteenth century India and which was modelled after the West. Thus, whatever professionals theatre there was in the 1930’s, had a profusion of music and dance. It was for these reasons that the early Indian talkie so naturally became ‘all talking, singing and dancing’-formula to which most Indian film producers still adhere. Though the number of songs and dances in a film has gone down considerably since the early days, even now, they hold a dominant position.

Madan Theatres followed their initial success with Laila Majnu, Shakuntala and Indra Sabha. These films were operatic in form, Indra Sabha having as many as seventy one songs and several dance numbers. Leg shows, those days were a must, irrespective of the type of film. Indra Sabha, for instance had one of the most delicious leg‑shows in the history of Indian films. Mythological subjects were popular and gave directors the opportunity to introduce these semi‑exotic elements by way of dances etc. The censors, apparently were much more lenient those days, than they are now.

Three new organisations rose to importance in the early years of sound films. New Theatres was started in Calcutta by a qualified engineer B N Sircar. Sircar, who had studied engineering in London, on return to India, as his first assignment built a Cinema. He came in contact with film people and that was the turning point in his career. His family connections were helpful, being the only son of the Advocate general of Bengal, he raised a substantial amount and founded New Theatres. Unlike others, he had no ambition to be an actor or even a director, and so he recruited a variety of talented people for making films under his banner-one of them was Debaki Bose, an intense nationalist and a scholar in philosophy. He was a specialist in devotional lyrics and dramas. His earlier films were Flames Of Flesh for the British Dominion and Apradhi for Barua Pictures.

His first talking picture assignment under the New Theatres banner was Chandidas, in Bengali, the story of a saint‑poet of sixteenth century. In this film he proved that music could take over the functions of dialogue and intensify drama. He followed his success with Puran Bhakta in Hindi, which put New Theatres on all India map and created a sensation among devotees. It was followed by Seeta and Vidyapati, another film about a saint‑poet.

Prince Prmathesh Chandra Barua (PC Barua), was another director in New Theatres who had originality, and played most significant part in its popularity. Barua who was the son of King of Gouripur, was essentially an actor. He had observed Lubitsch and Rene Clair at work in Europe, and was particularly impressed by the latter. He was a romanticist. His best known film, Devdas, achieved a naturalness of tone in its script that was almost revolutionary at the time. The story tells of a man who, shocked by his child‑hood friend’s marriage to another man, takes to drinking. The film carried an indictment of arranged marriages and gave satisfaction to those who, consciously or otherwise hated this example orthodoxy. Yet, once this theme has set the film in motion, Devdas seems less concerned with the problem than with the suffering. This did much to make the role of the doomed hero popular in Indian films. Tragedy in Bengali and Hindi literature is a part of the Western influence, as Sanskrit dramatists never favoured a tragic end.

Kundan Lal Saigal: Devdas photographed by Bimal Roy (who later became one of the foremost Indian directors and remade this film), was just a mediocre piece of cinema but was lifted above the norm because of the singing of its hero Kundan Lal Saigal. Saigal was a real asset to the New Theatres, and was tremendously popular. His usual co‑star in New Theatre movies was Ratanbai, also a singer. She had a reputation for being the lady with the longest and loveliest tresses in the country. A vast variety of hairoils and lotions bore her name. Saigal and Ratanbai were with the New Theatres right from its first film Mohabbat Ke Ansu, which was followed by Karwan‑E‑Hayat and Yahudi Ki Ladki.

Kundan Lal Saigal was really the first male superstar of Indian Cinema who set the tone for musical melodrama acting in the 1930s and 40s. Though not conventionally good‑looking and balding (in fact he always wore a wig to cover his baldness), people responded to his everyman demeanor.

Saigal was born in Jammu and as a child occasionally played Sita in the Ramlila of Jammu. His only formal training apparently came from a little known Sufi peer, Salman Yussuf. The singing tradition he assimilated had little classical rigour but emphasized the poetic blending of syllables into musical forms like the thumri and ghazal. His renditions of Mirza Ghalib’s poetry and his identification with its tragic iconography formed the famous Saigal persona.

A school dropout, he worked first as a railway time‑keeper and then as a typewriter salesman before B. N. Sircar recruited him at New Theatres. Saigal’s style was substantially shaped at New Theatres by R. C. Boral, Pankaj Mullick and Timir Baran.

Saigal’s first film was Mohabbat ke Aansoo (1932) but it was with the success of Chandidas (1934) that he became a star. The following year saw him in his career‑defining role-the title role in Devdas (1935) directed by P. C. Barua. The film was a triumph for Saigal and took him to dizzying heights. Saigal brought alive the character of Devdas creating the archetype of the relentlessly luckless, tragic hero. His brooding looks, the vagrant lock of hair, the resonant voice filled with love and despair drove the nation into a frenzy.

His songs in the film Balam Aaye Baso Mere Man Mein and Dukh ke Din Ab Beetat Nahin became big hits. In the latter song Saigal obliterates the artificial barriers that separate prose, recitation and song as he breaks the melodic progression of the song by laughing bitterly at his own condition. In fact, Saigal remains the definitive Devdas even though the role has subsequently been played by such thespians like Dilip Kumar and A. Nageshwara Rao and even Shahrukh Khan in recent times. .

Saigal was fortunate in that he worked for an institution like New Theatres. Known for their quality filmmaking, Saigal featured in many of the studio’s masterpieces-Didi (Bengali)/ President (Hindi) (1937), Saathi (Bengali)/ Street Singer (Hindi) (1938), Zindagi (1940).

In Street Singer Saigal’s rendition of Babul Mora Naher Chhotal Jaaye was recorded live in front of the camera. Though playback had come into vogue, he convinced director Phani Majumdar he would do a better job live in front of the camera. Thus Saigal walked the streets in the studio singing Babul Mora, with the entire orchestra following him out of the camera’s reach. The result was and still is pure music!

Devdas: Devdas (1935) Devdas (Saigal) falls in love with Parbati (Jamuna) with whom he has played since childhood and who is the daughter of a poor neighboring family. Devdas goes away to Calcutta for University studies. Meanwhile Parbati’s father arranges her marriage to a much older man. Though she loves Devdas, she obeys her father to suffer in silence like a dutiful Hindi wife. Devdas as a result takes to drink. Chandramukhi (Rajkumari) a dancing girl or ‘prostitute’ he has befriended in Calcutta falls for him and gives up her profession to try and save him. Parbati hearing of his decline comes to see him to steer him away from a life of drinking. Devdas sends her back saying in the hour of final need he will come to her. She returns to her life of duty. Realising his end is near, Devdas decides to keep his promise and meet Parbati. He journeys all night, reaches her house and is found dead outside the high walls of her house. Inside Parbati hears that Devdas is dead.

Devdas, based on a popular Bengali novel by Sarat Chandra Chatterjee revolutionized the entire look of Indian social pictures. Rather than just translate one medium to another, P. C. Barua used the novel as just raw material, creating his own structure and transforming what was purely verbal into an essentially visual form. Avoiding stereotypes and melodrama, Barua raised the film to a level of noble tragedy. The film’s characters are not heroes and villains but ordinary people conditioned by a rigid and crumbling social system. Even the lead character Devdas has no heroic dimensions to his character. What we see are his weaknesses, his narcissism, his humanity as he is torn by driving passion and inner-conflict.

The film was a complete departure from the then prevalent theatricality in acting, treatment and dialogue. Barua initiated a style of acting that was natural and unaffected.

His method was to underplay, to convey emotion through the slightest tremor of the voice and use significant pauses in between the dialogue to maximum effect. This naturalness of tone spilled over to the dialogue as well. Rather than dialogue in a florid style as was prevalent then, Barua who had been exposed to European naturalistic trends ensured the dialogue in the film was the way in which one spoke in real life.

A refreshing economy of style is visible throughout the film, whether establishing the love between Devdas and Parbati or conveying his anguish through the piercing sounds of the speeding train that takes him on his final tragic tryst with Parbati. The great physical distance that separates them and Devdas anxiety to redeem a promise is skillfully conveyed through stunning use of parallel cutting. The sequence of Devdas crying out in delirium, Parbati stumbling and then Devdas falling from his berth in the train was commended for its essential ‘Indianness’ in conveying fate’s domination over individual destiny.

K. L. Saigal played Devdas in the Hindi version (Barua himself played the role in the Bengali version) and the film took him to cult star status. His songs in the film Balam Aaye Baso Mere Man Mein and Dukh ke Din Ab Beete Nahin became smash hits and set the tone for a glorious filmic career till his death in 1947. Saigal remains the prototype of Devdas till today, no mean feat considering screen giants such as Dilip Kumar and A. Nageshwara Rao repeated the role later.

Devdas established Barua as a front rank filmmaker and New Theatres as a major studio. The Bombay Chronicle hailed it as, a brilliant contribution to theIndian Film Industry. One wonders as one sees it when shall we have another. “ Barua went on to produce numerous popular films but was always referred to as the man who made Devdas right till his dying day!

Devdas has been remade a number of times, New Theatres remade it in Tamil in 1936, it was made twice in Telegu in 1953 and 1974 but the most famous version was perhaps the one by Bimal Roy who had photographed the earlier version. The film, made in 1955, starred Dilip Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Vyjayantimala as Devdas, Parbati and Chandramukhi respectively. The undercurrent of Devdas runs strong in the central character in both of Guru Dutt’s major works-Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz ke Phool (1959).

With the moving times even though the character of Devdas who drank himself to death for love became outdated and archaic, and modern heroes now did everything in their power to get their love, filmmakers kept returning to Devdas. Writer-Director Gulzar who began as a lyricist in Bimal Roy’s Bandini (1963) started his own version of the film in the 1970s with Dharmendra, Hema Malini and Sharmila Tagore in the three lead roles but was unable to complete it and today Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s version of the film with Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit in the three principle roles has just been released.

Seeing the popularity Saigal had, Sagar Movietone launched Surendra as an answer to Saigal and though he had a distinguished career of his own, Saigal was still Saigal.

In the early 40s Saigal moved to Bombay working with Ranjit Movietone. Bhakt Surdas (1942) and Tansen (1943) were big hits and consolidated his popularity. The songs of Tansen are resplendent in their royal glory. The film successfully shapes the classical and semi‑classical thumris and dadras to the need of cinema. Above all, the film is still remembered for Saigal’s astonishing rendering of Diya Jalao in raga Deepak.

Saigal returned to New Theatres to do Meri Bahen (1944). The film is technically one of Saigal’s best films at New Theatres and was known of course for its music with songs like Do Naina Matware Hum Par Joolam Kare and Ae Qatib‑e‑Taqdeer Mujhe Itna Bata De.

Besides acting and singing, alcohol was by now fast overtaking Saigal’s life. It was said he could only sing only when he had liquor. His health began failing. A last ditch effort at abstinence proved useless as he was too far‑gone and in early 1947 Saigal passed away at Jullunder. But not before giving some more evergree melodies like Mere Sapnon Ki Rani, Ae Dil‑e‑Bekaraar Jhoom, Jab Dil hi Toot Gaya-from Shah Jehan (1946).

Such was the power and mystique of Saigal’s singing that singers like Mukesh and Kishore Kumar started their careers singing in the ‘Saigal style’ before etching out their own identities.

Kanan Devi (Bala): At New Theatres, Saigal’s female counter part was Kanan Bala akka Kanan Devi. Kanan Devi was among the early singing stars and her singing style usually in rapid tempo was instrumental in some of the biggest hits of New Theatres. An untrained singer when she entered films, she studied briefly with Ustad Allah Rakha in Lucknow. She was employed as a singer at Megaphone Gramaphone Company receiving further training from Bhishmadev Chatterjee. She later learnt Rabindra Sangeet with Anadi Dastidar.

Born Kananbala in 1916, she made her debut as a child actress with Joydev (1926). She later worked with Radha Films in films mainly by Jyotish Banerjee. P. C. Barua was unable to secure her services for the role of Paro in Devdas (1935) but she played the lead in his Mukti (1937). Mukti made her a star and led to a fruitful association with New Theatres. The success of Bidyapati (Bengali)/ Vidyapati (Hindi-1937) with Prithviraj Kapoor in which she gave perhaps her finest performance, made her the studio’s top star.

Kanan Devi had the marvellous gift of smoothly carrying over to the melodic elaboration, the intimate expressiveness of speech-occasional aspiration of vowels, accented speech rhythms, sensitive manipulation of volume. Kanan Devi remained the top star of New Theatres till she resigned in 1941 and began to freelance in Hindi and Bengali films. Jawab the following year saw perhaps her biggest ever hit song Yeh Duniya Hai Toofan Mail.

But even though she was a singing sensation as she recalled music and song were secondary to the primary business of telling a story. In fact powerful narrative appeal made up for most of the technical and other deficiencies Bengal cinema may have suffered from at the time and was a key to the success of the New Theatres Films.

Kanan Devi turned producer with Shrimati Pictures in 1949 and later launched the Sabhyasachi collective with the film Ananya (1949). Her own productions were mainly based on Sarat Chandra stories and were directed by her husband Haridas Bhattacharya. Kanan Devi’s last film was Indranath Srikanta‑o‑Annadadidi (1959). She wrote an autobiography Sabare Ami Nomi (1973) and in 1977, Kanan Devi, the first lady of the Bengal screen was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award for her contribution to Indian Cinema.

When we discuss Kundan Lal Saigal, Kanan Bala-Suraiya, cannot be far behind. Suraiya was perhaps the last of the great singing-acting stars. Born in Lahore, she debuted as a child star with Taj Mahal (1941). She did playback as a 13 year old for Mehtaab in Sharda (1942) under Naushad’s music direction. The barely‑in‑her‑teens Suraiya had to stand on a stool to reach the mike!

She was effectively launched as a singing star in Bombay Talkies Humaari Baat (1943). She made her presence felt in perhaps India’s first multi‑starrer K. Asif’s Phool (1944) and played strong supporting second lead roles to the melody queen of the era-Noorjehan in Mehboob Khan’s Anmol Ghadi (1946) and Munawar Sultana in Dard (1947). Though Noorjehan had perhaps the best of Naushad’s compositions in Anmol Ghadi (Jawaan Hai Mohabbat, Aawaaz De Kahaan Hai, Aa Jaa Meri Barbad Mohabbat ke Sahare, Mere Bachpan ke Saathi, Kya Mil Gaya Bhagwan), Suraiya too had her moments with Socha Tha Kya, Main Dil Mein Dard Basa La Aayee and Man Leta Hai Angdaii.

She was soon cast opposite KL Saigal in three of his later films-Tadbir (1945), Omar Khaiyam (1946) and Parwana (1947), the last remembered for her haunting rendition of Jab Tumhi Nahin Apne.

Suraiya: The 1948‑49 phase saw her rise to her peak. With Pyar ki Jeet (1948), Badi Bahen (1949) and Dillagi (1949). She became the highest paid female star of her time. At her peak, Suraiya generated hysteria comparable only to Rajesh Khanna in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Shop owners would down their shutters to see her starrers on the first day itself, crowds would throng outside her residence at Marine Drive in Bombay just to get a glimpse of her and actor Dharmendra recalls going to see Dillagi 40 times! Her songs from the above films Tere Nainon Ne Chori Kiya, O Door Jaanewaale (Pyar ki Jeet), Woh Paas Rahe Ya Door Rahe, O Likhnewaale Ne, Bigdi Bananewaale (Badi Bahen) and Tu Mera Chand, Murliwaale Murli Bajaa (Dillagi) were and are atill hummed.

There was more to Suraiya than just her songs. Over the years she had more than picked up the finer rudiments of acting as well and she came up with more than capable performances in her films expertly integrating gesture, music and speech. However Suraiya’s reign at the top was brief. She suffered both professionally and personally. Her films started flopping one after another in the 1950s.

She made a short‑lived comeback with Waaris (1954) and Mirza Ghalib (1954). The latter saw her finest dramatic performance as she made alive and vivid the role of the married Ghalib’s lover, a courtesan. Ghalib also saw some of her finest singing-Aah ko Chaihiye Ek Umar, Nuktacheen Hai Gham‑e‑Dil, Dil‑e‑Nadaan Tujhe Hua Kya Hai, Yeh Na Thi Humari Kismet etc.

Her singing is till date regarded as the definitive Ghalib. In fact India’s then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru paid her the ultimate compliment by telling her she had brought Mirza Ghalib to life. She had got involved with Dev Anand and the two of them did six films together during 1948 to 1951, but her strict grandmother put her foot down and the affair and their partnership ended. Though Dev Anand married co-star Mona (Kalpana Kartik, Suraiya remains unmarried to this day and lives alone at her same old palatial Marine Drive Apartment. )

Unfortunately her work thereafter remained largely undistinguished. Shama (1961) was a musical hit and her last film was Rustom Sohrab (1963), which also boasts of one of her finest ever songs-Yeh Kaisi Ajab Dastaan Ho Gayi.

Noorjehan: That brings us to-Noorjehan-the biggest singing star of them all-the diva of the 1940s. Born in the Kasur area of Punjab in 1929, she was fascinated by singing since the age of six. She idolized Akhtari Begum (late became popular as Begum Akhtar) and Kajjanbai and the former advised her to first learn classical music. Thus she first perfected her classical singing under Ghulam Mohammed Khan.

She entered films as a child artiste in small roles before being seen prominently in the Punjabi film Gul‑e‑Bakavali (1939). She was Lahore based. However she was first noticed in a big way in Khandaan (1942) where her song Tu Kaunsi Badli Mein Mere Chand Hai Aajaa became a big hit. Incidentally, Pran, who was to become the undisputed Villain King of Hindi Cinema, made his debut in this film. She married the Khandaan director Shauqat Hussain and worked in many of his films. Following Khandaan’s success Noorjehan shifted to Bombay.

She soon conquered India’s film capital with her vibrant voice. She had that unusual combination of a good voice, a style that could perhaps be compared to those of good classical thumri singers and the striking stage presence of a good performer. Hit followed hit-Dhuai (1943), Naukar (1943), Nadaan (1943), Dost (1944), Badi Maa (1945), Village Girl (1945) and Noorjehan was the number one female star in India. Fortunately for her, her timing was perfect. The uninhibited culture of the heroines of the 1930s was drawing to a close and a more conservative heroine was coming to the fore. In Zeenat (1945) she popularized the qawali, which had never been tried, Aahein Na Bhari Shikwein Na Kiye sung with another famous singer of those days, Zohrabai Ambalewali. , was the result…popular till this day. Infact this can perhaps be termed as the first ever qawali of Indian Cinema.

Noorjehan reached her peak in India the following year with Mehboob Khan’s Anmol Ghadi (1946) which boasted of three singing stars cast together-Noorjehan, Surendra and Suraiya. The result was a musical feast composed by maestro Naushad and Noorjehan’s duet with Surendra Aawaaz De Kahaan Hai and her solos Jawaan Hai Mohabbat, Mere Bachpan ke Saathi, Kya Mil Gaya Bhagwan and Aaja Meri Barbad Mohabbat ke Sahare are hummed and remembered till today. In fact India’s undisputed Melody Queen of the day, Lata Mangeshkar’s early singing style was inspired by Noorjehan even though the latter’s weighty vocals were a far car from Lata’s voice.

Following Jugnu (1947) with Dilip Kumar and Mirza Sahibaan (1947) Noorjehan migrated to Pakistan following partition. Noorjehan continued as a singing star in Pakistan for quite a few years before quitting acting in 1963 to concentrate mainly on singing. A career though rich in melody was also controversial as she was married several times in Pakistan!

Noorjehan has done some of her finest singing in Pakistani Films including songs like Mujhse Pehlisi Mohabbat Mere Mehboob Na Mang, Dil ke Afsane, Le Aayee Phir Kahaan pe, Chandni Raatein to name a few. In 1982 at a function held to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Indian Talkie, the Mallika‑e‑Tarranum (Queen of Melody) came back to India and enthralled audiences as she sang Awaaz De Kahaan Hai at Shanmukhananda Hall. Noorjehan passed away in Pakistan on December 23rd , 2000.

Lata Mangeshkar: Even though we are not discussing Hindi Film Music, talking of Saigal, Suraiya and Noorjehan, no compilation on Cinema can be complete without the mention of Lata Mangeshkar. Any account of Indian playback music must start and end with Lata Mangeshkar.

Born September 28, 1929 in Indore, Lata Mangeshkar has been active in all walks of Indian popular and light classical music having sung film songs, ghazals, bhajans and pop. She is the supreme voice of popular Indian music, an Indian Institution. Until the 1991 edition, when her entry disappeared, the Guinness Book of Records listed her as the most recorded artist in the world with not less than 30, 000 solo, duet and chorus‑backed songs recorded in 20 Indian languages between 1948 and 2000. Her recordings cross the 40, 000 the highest ever by any recording artist, the world over.

Dinanath Mangeshkar, her father, owned a theatrical company and was a reputed classical singer, a disciple of the Gwalior school. He gave her singing lessons from around the age of five. She also studied with Aman Ali Khan Sahib and later Amanat Khan. Her God‑given musical gifts meant that she could master the vocal exercises effortlessly on first pass and from early on she was recognized as being highly gifted musically.

However when her father died in 1942, the onus of being the breadwinner of the family fell on Lata. Between 1942 and 1948 she acted in as many as 8 films in Hindi and Marathi to take care of the family’s economic problems. She also made her debut as a playback singer in the Marathi film Kiti Hasaal (1942) but the song was edited out! The first Hindi film in which she gave playback was Aap ke Sewa Main (1947) but her singing went unnoticed. When Lata entered the Film Industry, heavier Punjabi voices like Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum and Zohrabai Ambalewali ruled the Industry. Ironically Lata’s voice was rejected for Shaheed (1948) by producer S. Mukherjee who complained that her voice was too thin! However Ghulam Haider, the legendry music director, unable to use her in Shaheed gave Lata her breakthrough song with Dil Mera Toda from Majboor in 1948.

1949 saw the release of four films. Barsaat, Andaaz (1949) , Dulari and Mahal. The songs of all four films were runaway hits particularly Aaega Aanewaalaa from Mahal. (By the way this particular song was the first ever Indian song to be re-mixed for HK Verma’s Kadambari. The re-mixed version was sung by Kavita Krishnamurthy and music was arranged by pop singer Ajit Singh. The year was 1975. Why the necececssity of a re-mix – director Verma explained at the time: Despite best efforts, from all over, we could not get re-use rights from anybody. Even the HMV people did not know. No body was claiming the royalty for the Bombay Talkies songs. Another reason was, I wanted a certain echo effect in the second half and less of orchestra, and the thirs was…Kavita’s voice was very much like my heroine’s Shabana’s. By the way total cost of recording the remix in 1975 was just Rs 1200/-).

By 1950 the Lata wave had changed the Industry. Her high‑pitched singing rendered obsolete the heavy basy nasal voices of the day. Only Geeta Dutt and to a certain extent Shamshad Begum survived the Lata onslaught. Asha Bhosle too came up in the late 1950s and the two sisters were and still are the undisputed queens of Indian playback singing.

Lata’s initial style of singing was reminiscent of Noorjehan but she soon got over that to evolve her own distinguished style. With her search for perfection she corrected her Urdu by hiring a tutor! Her phenomenal success made Lata the most powerful woman in the Film Industry. She waged battle with Mohd. Rafi in the 1960s and stopped singing with him over the issue of royalty to playback artistes. Lata insisted that the singer should contnue getting royalties, while Rafi Saheb’s stand was, that once the produce has paid the singer, the song and music is his property. Entire royalty should go to the producer. The was the time the music fraternity got divided, with Naushad siding Lata, and Burman da and many others supporting Rafi Saheb. She also refused to sing for S. D. Burman from 1957-62 and such was her clout that she had her way and they came back to her.

Though Lata sang under the baton of all the top composers, she never sang under O. P. Nayyar. Her work for C. Ramchandra who made her sound her sweetest and Madan Mohan who challenged her voice like no other music director. The 1960s and 70s saw Lata go from strength to strength. From the 80s Lata cut down on her workload to concentrate on her shows abroad. Lata Mangeshkar sings infrequently now but even today the songs of some of the biggest hits of today Dil To Paagal Hai (1997), Maachis (1997), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) and Dil Se (1998) are sung by her. From Nargis to Kajol she’s sung for them all. Lata Mangeshkar is in fact that rare artist who has realized her search for excellence. A Bharat Ratna and a Phalke Award winner for her contribution to Indian Cinema.

Asha Bhonsle: While Lata was making waves, her younger sister Asha too join the music game. The Versatility could well be Asha Bhosle’s second name. No type of song has been beyond her vocal range be it a club dance, sad song, bhajan, ghazal, pop etc. Like her older sister Lata Mangeshkar, Asha also initially did a small stint as a child artist. But being trained in classical music by her father Dinanath Mangeshkar it was more natural she too turn to playback singing like Lata did.

Asha made her playback debut in 1948 with the film Chunariya. But it took a long, long time for Asha to make it to the top. It’s not as if singing opportunities didn’t come her way. In fact in the 1950s Asha sang more songs than any other playback singer but the bulk of these were in small films with no distinction. And if she did get a chance to sing in an A film it was probably just the song of the heroine’s friend or a female duet with bigger singers like Lata, Shamshad Begum or Geeta Dutt. But Asha had no choice. Having made an ill‑advised marriage which alienated her from her family, she had to take up all the assignments she got to fend for her children. 1957 was her breakthrough year when O. P. Nayyar used her to sing the heroine’s songs in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Naya Daur.

The same year S. D. Burman had his rift with Lata. And though Geeta Dutt could have been his next choice after Lata since she was already a mature singer while Asha was still raw, Geeta’s troubled marriage did not make her easily available for rehearsals. Consequently S. D. Burman chose to groom Asha along with O. P. Nayyar rather than wait for Geeta. The following year Asha made it right to the top with hit songs in films like HowrahBridge (1958), Chalti ka Naam Ghadi (1958) and Lajwanti (1958). Asha got involved with O. P. Nayyar and thereafter she remained his premier singer till their break‑up in the 1970s.

Initially Asha’s voice did sound influenced by Geeta Dutt’s style of singing but post 1957 she came into her own and how! By the end of the decade she was second only to Lata on the playback scene and the two sisters have ruled the playback scene well into the 90s.

The 1960s saw Asha at her best as she belted out her best songs particularly under O. P. Nayyar’s baton-Aankhon se Jo Utri hai Dil Mein from Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1964), Jayiye Aap Kahaan Jayenge from Mere Sanam (1965) and Woh Haseen Dard De Do from Humsaaya (1968) to name but a few. However In spite of her incredible emotive ability she was getting typecast in songs that were more on the sensual side.

O. P. Nayyar and Asha split in the 1970s but not before he composed the prophetic gem Chain se Humko Kabhi which won her the Filmfare Award. The 1970s also brought her close with R. D. Burman who gave her a new hip and happening sound altogether. Piya Tu Ab To Aajaa (Caravan (1971), Dum Maro Dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), offered fresh and stimulating challenges to her voice. Jaane Jaa from Jawaani Diwaani (1972) had her switching from the higher scales to the absolute lower ones within the song with ease!

But as she had been typecast in mainly sensual songs earlier so also with R. D. Burman and other composers she now got typecast in mainly Western type of songs. It was Kadambari (1975) under Ustad Vilayat Khan, which showed real new possibilities in Asha’s voice in the soulful number penned by Amrita Pritam-Ambar Ki Ik Paak Suraahi…. . , It represented the finest singing Asha has ever done. Later, Khayyam got her to sing Umrao Jaan ghazals in the film two notes lower and the result was again magical-Dil Cheez Kya Hai, In Aankhon ki Masti

In the 1990s Asha has even further widened her horizon by succesfully coming out with albums in Indipop and beating the Indian pop artists on their own turf. Though she has cut down on her singing now she still makes an Urmila Matonder or Aishwarya Rai sizzle in Rangeela (1994) or Taal (1999). Asha Bhosle is also a Dada Saheb Phalke Award winner.

Motion Pictures, during this period, Prabhat Film Company, which was started in Kolhapur shifted over to Poona. This company was founded and managed by people rooted in Marathi life and culture. The most important director of Prabhat was V. Shantaram. His spectacle Amar Jyoti was screened at the Venice Film Festival in 1936. He made great use of symbols such as the old clock suggesting passing time and the husband’s approaching old age in his Duniya Na Mane, about the crusade of a girl depriving her old husband his conjugal rights. It was the first film which portrayed the tradition bound Indian woman raising her head against the forces which condemned her to decades of suffering and subjugation. Prabhat’s other film which won international acclaim was Sant Tukaram, starring Vishnupant Pagnis and directed by Damle and Fatehlal. It was based on the life of the great saint, and was a major attraction at the Venice film festival of 1937. It was not only an artistic but an outstanding box‑office success as well.

Prabhat by now had become one of the major organisations, and made perhaps the most significant talkies during that era. Its Padosi, starring Jagirdar and. . . . . . . , about two neighbours-a Hindu and a Muslim. It was a story of their friendship, differences and their ultimate sacrifice for each other. Technically, it was a Landmark for Indian motion pictures it was way above other films of the period. Its special effects, specially the scene of the damn bursting executed by Kartar Singh, was much ahead of its time. Among other important titles of the company are King Of Ayodhya starring Durga Khote and Gobindrao Tembe, and Jalti Nishani. Both the films were directed by V. Shantaram and were made in Hindi as well as Marathi.

Himanshi Rai: The third major company which started work during the era was Bombay Talkies, organised by Himanshu Rai and his charming wife Devika Rani, in Bombay. Himanshu Rai, an alumni of Rabindranath Tagore s Shanitniketan, had gone abroad to study law. But as his interest was more towards stage, he abandoned law studies, and joined an Indian troupe in Europe, which at the time was performing Niranjan Pal’s The Goddess. Later he got interested in films and in 1925 made Light Of Asia, based on Edwin Arnold’s famous poem of the same name about Lord Buddha. Light Of Asia, starred Himanshu Rai himself as Lord Buddha and Seeta Devi as Yashodhara, Buddha’s wife. It was produced by Sir Moti Sagar and Prem Sagar in collaboration with the Emelka Film Company of Munich, and had Frank Osten as its co‑director. Light Of Asia had gala openings in various European capitals, enjoyed a Royal Command performance in London and had its Londonn premier in 1926 at the Philhamonic Hall, where it ran for ten weeks. In a poll conducted by London’s Daily Express, it was declared the third best film of the year. In India, reviews were favourable, but the public cool.

Seeta Devi (born 1912): Born Renee Smith, this unknown became a star with Himansu Rai’s Prem Sanyas (1925), receiving accolades for her performance and bearing. Seeta Devi’s roles in Shiraz (1928) and Prapancha Pash (1929) established her firmly, but many continued to believe that she and her sister Percy Smith alternately appeared as the star!

Success of Light Of Asia in the Western markets encouraged Himanshu Rai to try another film. Again with Emelka Film Company, he made Shiraz, about the man who designed and built the Taj Mahal. He then made A Throw Of Dice-A UFA co‑production. Both films did exceedingly well in the West. The British distributors were pleased, and were prepared not only to guarantee the cinema receipts, but to put in money for future productions as well. He made his fourth film Karma, which was shot at the Stroll Studios in London and also in India.

Devika Rani: It starred Himanshu Rai and his wife Devika Rani (all his earlier films had Rene Smith, re‑christened Seetha Devi, as the heroine) and broke fresh grounds by being the first English language film in India. This film was also extensively released all over Europe. The reviews were good, with a special mention of the heroine Devika Rani, who became a star overnight. Unlike its predecessors, Karma was a commercial success in India as well. (Incidentally, among the joint productions during the era can be counted Madan Theatres Savitri in 1924 with VC Italian of Rome; Eastern Films Shikari in 1932 with an Indo‑British cast; Jungle, also made in Tamil titled Kadu, with American collabortion, and Modern Theatres Saleem, also with American help. )

Some more details about Himanshu Rai are in order here.

Himansu Rai is credited with bringing technical sophistication to Indian Cinema. He was amongst the earliest Indian filmmakers to collaborate with European filmmakers and try to improve the quality of Indian filmmaking with the help of foreign technical know‑how.

Rai was born into a wealthy Bengali family which owned a private theatre. He took a Law degree from the University of Calcutta and studied with Tagore at Shantiniketan. He trained as a lawyer in London in the early 1920s and also began acting in plays there, amongst them Niranjan Pal’s The Goddess.

With Pal’s script, adapted from Edwin Arnold’s poem, The Light of Asia, and his persuasive powers, Rai went into partnership with the German producer Peter Ostermayer whose brother Franz Osten directed the film, The Light of Asia (1925) starring Rai as Gautam Buddha. The film, co‑produced by the Great Eastern Film Corporation in Delhi, was hyped as the ‘first specifically Indian Film’ by Osten and was fairly successful in Central Europe. Rai collaborated with Germany’s famous studio UFA and made Shiraz (1928) and A Throw of Dice (1929) there. The films were known for presenting ‘Indian exotica’ to the West.

In London Rai had met Devika Rani who had designed the sets for The Light of Asia and who continued to work with him. The two got married and in 1933, Rai joined forces with IBP of England and wholly produced Karma, a bilingual in English and Hindi. The film starring Devika Rani was a critical success but failed to score at the box office.

The Nazi seizure of power in Germany caused Rai to abandon co‑productions with his German friends and concentrate on the domestic film market in India. He however invited his german friends to come down to India and work here. Late in 1933, Rai and Devika Rani came to India bringing with them the as yet unseen Hindi version of Karma. The film premiered in early 1934 and was highly acclaimed.

That year Bombay Talkies Ltd. was formed and a studio built. Under the painstaking supervision of Himansu Rai, it purchased the most modern equipment from Germany. Franz Osten, director and a handful of technicians came down from England and Germany. By 1935, a stream of Hindi productions began to emerge from Bombay Talkies Ltd.

Bombay Talkies like other big companies was a self‑sufficient organized studio which had public issues, declared dividends, bonus and which had an independent financial standing in the stock exchange. In addition Devika Rani and Himansu Rai also initiated a trainee program. Each year Rai interviewed scores of job candidates, many sent by Indian Universities.

Assignment of staff workers to a variety of duties that would broaden their conception of the film medium was a policy he personally implemented. Ashok Kumar, their leading man began as a laboratory assistant! In Bombay Talkies everybody was like a student, learning. The teacher teaches and you listen. “

It was said that top actors on occasion even helped to clean floors! Bombay Talkies maintained a school for children of staff members, which also became a school for child actors. It also had its own physician and supervised the sanitary practices of the canteen.

Bombay Talkies settled down to a schedule of about three films a year. Their films were of a high technical standard and had a glossy look to them reminiscent of the films of MGM. (Devika Rani was lit up in a manner not unlike Greta Garbo!)

The outbreak of World War II meant that the German technicians and director Franz Osten were interned by the British, thus crippling the studio. Overwork and mental strain took its toll on Rai who suffered a nervous breakdown. He never recovered and died in 1940.

After Rai’s death, Devika Rani took over the reins of Bombay Talkies. But by 1945, she too left following tussles with other studio executives. Though Bombay Talkies came out with successful films like Ziddi (1948) and Mahal (1949), its days were numbered. Badbaan (1954), a last ditch effort made for the workers of Bombay Talkies proved unsuccessful and the studio ceased production.

Devika Rani is remembered as the first lady of the Indian screen. The grand niece of Rabindranath Tagore and truly a great beauty, she left for London in the 1920s to study architecture. There she met Himansu Rai and agreed to design the sets of his first production Light of Asia (1925).

They got married and after marriage they left for Germany where Rai made A Throw of Dice (1929) in collaboration with Germany’s famous UFA Studio. Rai made a bilingual Karma (1933) with Devika Rani in the lead and the two came to India. Here Rai and Devika Rani set up the famous Bombay Talkies Studio.

Under the painstaking supervision of Himansu Rai, it purchased the most modern equipment from Germany. Franz Osten, director and a handful of technicians came down from England and Germany. By 1935, stream of Hindi productions began to emerge from Bombay Talkies Ltd. beginning with Jawani ki Hawa (1935), a murder mystery. Devika Rani played the lead in most of these early productions. Their films were of a high technical standard and had a glossy look to them reminiscent of the films of MGM.

Devika Rani formed a successful team with Ashok Kumar, which ironically started due to a scandal as she eloped with her hero of Jawani ki Hawa, Najam‑ul‑Hussain. Rai found her and got her to come back and forgave her but not Hussain – he was out of the film and studio.

Now, Bombay Talkies needed a new leading man. Rai’s eyes fell on his laboratory assistant, Ashok Kumar. Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani thereafter starred in a series of films starting with Jeevan Naiya (1936. Butt it was Achut Kanya (1936), which capitulated Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar to really big league. The love story between an untouchable girl and a Brahmin boy was both a critical and commercial success with critics going in raptures over Devika’s performance. The Times of India described her acting as. . . “a performance never seen or equalled on the Indian screen. It is absolutely inspired; a real gem of pure acting which places her at the head of India’s screen stars, which Garbo herself could hardly surpass. “

Going with the trend she even sang her own songs in films with Main Ban ki Chidiya with Ashok Kumar from Achut Kanya remembered till today.

Devika Rani continued acting till 1943 and when Rai died in 1940 she took over the reins at Bombay Talkies. Among her discoveries at Bombay Talkies was Dilip Kumar. But eventually the economics of filmmaking and tussles with other studio executives led her to take voluntary retirement. She married famed Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich and stayed at their huge estate near Bangalore.

For her contribution to Indian Cinema, Devika Rani was the first ever recipient of the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1970. She remained in Bangalore till her death in 1994.

That brings us to the other Bombay Talkies protégée Ashok Kumar. The boss’s wife and leading actress of a leading Film Company runs off with her lead man. She is caught and taken back but not the lead man who is unceremoniously dismissed. So now the company needs a new hero. The boss decides his laboratory assistant would be the Film Company’s next leading man. A bizzare film plot??? Hardly. This real life story starred the Bombay Talkies Film Company, it’s boss Himansu Rai, lead actress Devika Rani and lead man Najam‑ul‑Hussain and last but not least its laboratory assistant Ashok Kumar. And thus began an extremely successful acting career that lasted six decades!

Ashok Kumar: Ashok Kumar aka Dadamoni was born Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly in Bhagalpur and grew up in Khandwa. He briefly studied law in Calcutta, then joined his future brother‑in‑law Shashadhar Mukherjee at Bombay Talkies as laboratory assistant before being made its leading man.

Ashok Kumar made his debut opposite Devika Rani in Jeevan Naiya (1936) but became a well known face with Achut Kanya (1936). Devika Rani and he did a string of films together-Izzat (1937), Savitri (1937), Nirmala (1938) among others but she was the bigger star and chief attraction in all those films. It was with his trio of hits opposite Leela Chitnis-Kangan (1939), Bandhan (1940) and Jhoola (1941) that Ashok Kumar really came into his own. Going with the trend he sang his own songs and some of them like Main Ban ki Chidiya, Chal Chal re Naujawaan and Na Jaane Kidhar Aaj Meri Nao Chali Re were extremely popular!

Ashok Kumar initiated a more natural style of acting compared to the prevaling style that followed theatrical trends. He absorbed and learnt a lot from the Hollywood films of the day and learnt that acting was not merely standing and saying one’s dialogue but reacting as well. In his early Bombay Talkies films, Ashok Kumar played the good clean‑cut hero in a series of romantic films but Kismet (1943) changed all that. His role as perhaps the Indian Screen’s first cigarette smoking anti‑hero with the heart of gold remains his most famous screen role and the film ran for over three years in a theatre in Calcutta!

That year, along with Shashadhar Mukherjee, Gyan Mukherjee and Rai Bahadur Chunilal he left Bombay talkies to set up a rival Film Company, Filmistan. He did return to Bombay Talkies as Production Chief and starred in one of their biggest ever hits, Mahal (1949), but the days of the studio were numbered.

The 1950s saw Ashok Kumar score of films-Sangram (1950), Inspector (1956), Howrah Bridge (1958), Night Club (1958); Naubahar (1952), Parineeta (1953) and Ek hi Raasta (1956) and the riotous younger brother Kishore Kumar’s Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958) ensured that he was the one actor who effortlessly withstood the popularity of the 1950s Trio-Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor. He held more than held his own in the films they did together-Badbaan (1954), Deedar (1951) and Bewafaa (1952) respectively.

His success continued with strong performances in Aarti (1962), Gumrah (1963) and a flawless in Bandini (1963), matching Nutan’s brilliant performance scene for scene. In the late 1960s after Mamta (1966) and Hatey Bazarey (1967), he effortlessly settled down to playing character roles.

As a character artiste, Ashok Kumar took on all sorts of characters-the villain in Jewel Thief (1967), a doting father in Mili (1975), the lovable old man in Aashirwad (1968) and Choti si Baat (1975), Victoria no. 203 (1972), Jawaab (1970), Khubsoorat (1980).

Besides acting, Ashok Kumar was a fine painter and also an ardent admirer and practitioner of homeopathy even solving certain complex cases that regular doctors couldn’t solve! Dadamoni passed away in Mumbai on December 10, 2001 due to cardiac arrest.

Getting away from the artistes for the time being, other notable films of the era are, Imperial Film Company’s Daulat Ka Nasha and Madhuri; Ranjit Film Company’s Devi Devyani; Sagar Movietone’s Meri Jaan and Krishna Film Company’s Ghar Ki Lakshmi.

These films overflowed with dialogues, were burdened with cumbersome language (the playwrights of the Parsee Theatre joined films with the advent of sound and wrote highly ornate and theatrical scripts), and suffered from fragmented plots, but set the pattern of the early talkie film. Mythological and historical tales, stunt and social stories carried over the silent days, were the main subjects. They relied only slightly on the plot and content, and were almost wholly vehicles for songs. Some of the early talkies of this kind are Arabian Nights, Hal‑E‑Yaman, The Wild Cat Of Bombay, Zarina, Father India and Hunter Wali.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the hybrid nature of these films so well as the fact that kissing and embracing, quite contrary to the Eastern custom-were liberally used in them. In Sagar Movietone’s Zarina starring Miss Zubeida, Nympally and Yakub, every dramatic scene was climaxed by a kiss. It was directed by Ezra Meer. According to one of the spectators, who saw the film many times, Zarina (Miss Zubeida) was kissed forty‑two times by her leading man Billimoria. Shaadi was the last Indian film to have kissing scenes during that era.

Serious film makers soon began began to realise the peril of such course, and also the possibilities of sound as a new dimension in films. Shantaram and Debaki Bose were the first to escew the indiscriminate use of sound and save their films Amrit Manthan and Puran Bhakta respectively, from turning into dully photographed stage plays.

At this stage, audience taste showed a marked upward trend. The highly melodramatic and stagey productions of Imperial, Madan Theatres, Saroj Film Company and Sagar Movietone were unacceptable to them. As a result of this, attendance in cinemas fell. Exhibitors became jittery, and in order to fill‑up the vaccant seats, reduced the admission rates. The resistance on part of the audience however continued. This led to an overall technical and thematic change in the Indian film world.

It was at this crucial juncture that Barua’s Devdas was released. The film changed the entire pattern of film making in the country and heralded a new cinematic era. So great was the audience response to this movie that Saigal, the golden voiced singer, came to be looked upon as something of a national celebrity rather than a film star.

The period that followed Devdas was one of great technical and thematic exploration, filled with excitement. From Debaki Bose, who had already distinguished himself with Puran Bhakta and Sita, Nartaki, Sapera and Vidyapati, From Shantaram Came Dharmatma, Duniya Na Mane, and Aadmi; From Nitin Bose Chandidas, President and Dushman; and from Barua himself Zindagi, Adhikar and Mukti.

Of the other film makers and films worth mention are Hemchandra’s Crorepati and Anand Math; Amar Mullick’s Bari Didi and Har Jeet; Phani Mazumdar’s Street Singer Kapal Kundala; Vinayak’s Chaya, Jwala and Brahmchari; Damle and Fatehlal’s Sant Dyaneshwar; Mehboob’s Aurat, Sohrab Modi’s Meeth Zahar and Pukar; Kardar’s Baghi Sipahi and Thokar, Himanshu Rai’s Izzat, and Kidar Sharma’s Chitralekha, a costume drama, featuring Mentao, Ram Piyari and Gyani. This film was brilliant, both in concept and execution.

By this time, themes projecting contemporary problems and carrying social protest, began to emerge from the studios. Even though mythological and stunt subjects were not altogether discarded, social subjects for taken up for filming, like Frank Osten’s Achut Kanya, Shantaram’s Padosi, Mehboob’s Roti, Vinayak’s Brandi Ki Botal and Debaki Bose’s Apna Ghar echoed the voice of society and aimed to eradicate untouchability, to promote national integration, harmony among people and Hindu‑Muslim unity. At this stage, prominent literary figures like Prem Chand, Bhagwati Charan Varma, Sarat Chandra, Ismat Chugtai and Sadhat Hasan Manto were also associated with the films in one way or the other. Films like Dharmatma, Dhoop Chaun, Navjeevan, Khoon Ka Khoon were based on works of these writers. It was during this period, that the production soared and film making gained its own identity, however it never gained the official status of an Industry.

Though the production figures had increased and people were striving to create something new, hardly anyone showed courage in the field of experimentation. One who did was Ardeshir Irani, who had earlier given India its first talkie, and now made India’s first colour film. It was Kisan Kanya in December 1937 (Though Baburao Painter’s Sairandhri was also in colour but it cannot be credited to be the first colour film of the country, since it was hand painted by Baburao himself in collaboration with the UFA studio in Germany), directed by Moti B Gidwani and photographed by Rustam M. Irani. It had Padmadevi, Zillu, Ghulam Mohammed and Master Nissar. As Kisan Kanya was not a box‑office success, very few people took to idea of making films in colour.

Later in 1938, another film Mother India, in colour, was released. This film also suffered the fate of its predecessor at the box‑office. Colour was very expensive for any further experimentation, and so these early attempts were not followed with better equipment or greater efforts. Colour was abandoned and the producers continued to make their films in black and white.

The Dream Factory : 100 Years of Cinema in India by HK Verma – Chapter – 4

Indian Cinema

The Evolution

To begin with, there was no sound – so Hindi Cinema and Indian Cinema had no separate identities. It was only after the arrival of Sound, that that Hindi Cinema aquired a separate identity.

And here we go – journey down the glorious memory lane…

In 1891 came Edison’s magic lantern. And in 1898, the Lumiere Brothers’ came up with their ‘Cinematographe’.

The first show of ‘Cinematographe-Twelve animated photographic pictures-life sized reproductinN ‘ of Louis and Auguste Lumiere, was held in Paris in December 28th in 1895. Immediately after this, the Lumiere Brothers despatched their agents to important foreign countries to hold shows of their invention.

On July 7, 1896 a special show was held in Moscow for Tsar-the same day another agent began public shows of “Twelve animated photographic pictures-life sized reproduction” at the Watson Hotel Bombay, with an audience of over two hundred people who had paid Rupees two each, a substantial amount those days. Thus, the Indian audience saw such motion pictures as Arrival of A Train, the Sea Bath, A Demolition, Parade of Guards in the same year as the British, American and Russian audiences.

Attending the Bioscope programme (as it was called those days) was one Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatvadekar of Bombay. Bhatvadekar, who was a photographer by profession, was so impressed by this new medium that he picked‑up the technical know‑how from the locally based British cameraman, and in 1898 he filmed such events as Wrestling Match in Hanging Gardens of Bombay-the first ever attempt at photographing a motion in the country by an Indian. Thereafter, he became an open‑air exhibitor of imported films. After the Wrestling Match he regularly shot newsreel material and included it in a mixed programme of imported films at his theatre. Bhatvadekar sent the material he shot, to London for processing. Infact, Bhatvadekar’s films can be termed as the “first ever motion pictures made in India. “

Among the important events filmed by Bhatvadekar were: Return of Wrangler Paranjpe, an Indian who had won distinction in mathematics at CambridgeUniversity. Another important event shot by Bhatvadekar was the celebrations of Coronation of King Edward VII. Incidentally, all these films were photographed with a Lumiere Brothers’ Camera which he had brought for 15 guineas. The camera which can hold fifty feet of film is still in excellent condition and is in the collection of the National Film Archives of India. In the later years of his life, Bhatvadekar gave up production of films and concentrated on exhibition and built a chain of theatres.

Hiralal Sen from Bengal also saw some imported motion pictures and got interested in the medium. Like Bhatvadekar, he too, immediately switched over to the film medium. But, unlike his Bombay counterpart who was concentrating mostly on news coverage, Hiralal Sen, started photographing scenes from popular Bengali plays, and went on to make other shorts and also exhibit them through his Royal Bioscope Company-the first film production concern in India. Even before his Bioscope Company started functioning properly, he was making films under the guidance of visiting experts, and his first film was A Dancing Scene From Opera-the Flower of Persia in 1898.

The filmologists from Bengal claim that Hiralal Sen actually is the pioneer of Indian Cinema, and his Flower of Persia was made a few months before Bhatvadekar’s Wrestling Match, but in the absence of any evidence of Sen’s venture, having been made and exhibited earlier, Bhatvadekar gets the honour of being the film‑maker of India.

Another claim by Bengal that Hiralal Sen made India’s first ever feature film, Alibaba in 1902 also cannot be substantiated either. If it can be proved that Hiralal Sen had made Alibaba as early as it is claimed, then Hiralal Sen gets the credit of being the pioneer of not only Indian feature film industry but the world as well, as the first feature film on record is Edwin Porter’s The Great Train Robbery was made in 1903.

Motion Pictures, which had already become a craze in the big cities, started spreading to small towns and even rural areas. A few permanent cinema houses sprang up in the big cities. Most of the permanent as well as tent cinemas exhibited films mostly from Britain, America and France.

The first story film of India, Pundalik, made in 1911 was the joint effort of two Indians, RG Torney and NG Chitre, with a British cameraman of a locally established British company. It was a photographed stage play, and was developed and printed in London. Apart from the fact that it was photographed in India, it had little to offer and was soon forgotten.

The second attempt came around the end of 1912, when Patankar, Karandikar and Divakar, three enterprising young men, pooled their savings and made Savitri, based on Hindu mythological story in which a wife brings back the soul of her dead husband from the God of death. Because of unknown reasons, this film even though completed, was never released.

During the initial years, Biblical films led the field. One such, Life of Christ was being shown in Bombay in 1910 at the America‑India Cinema. On the Christmas Eve, Dhundraj Govind Phalke was among the audience. He was closely associated with the stage and was a master magician. Phalke had seen motion pictures before, but it was this film that kindled in him the idea of a local film industry. In 1917, in an article published in a local paper, Phalke said, “While witnessing Christ on screen, I was visualising Lord Krishna, I saw the film again, the same day, and was so moved by it that I decided to make a similar film on the life of Lord Krishna. “

To learn film making, Phalke ordered books and film catalogues from abroad and also acquired a miniature camera. In the process, he mortgaged his insurance policy, sold his wife’s jewellery, disposed off his printing press, and started experiments in motion pictures, which continued for well over a year. His friends thought him to be mad, and one of them even tried to take him to the lunatic assylum.

Seeing film daily, conducting experiments for long, uncertain hours, the resultant loss of sleep, coupled with lack of means of livelihood and adverse comments from friends and relatives, the dark uncertain prospects if the experiments failed-all these factors told on his health and impaired his eyesight badly. He had to put on three pairs of glasses in order to see clearly. But nothing could stop him, except finance, and that also, he was lucky to get from his friend Y. G. Nadkarni, who loaned him a sum of Rupees ten thousand. With this money in hand, Phalke sailed for England to buy equipment for making motion pictures.

On his return, since he had no staff, his wife and children helped him unpack the cases. The raw film those days was unperforated, and so his wife helped him perforate the film-two hundred feet in three and half hours.

The camera was ready for shooting, but Phalke was not. He lacked the confidence. So he decided to shoot a short film first. He put a seed in a pot and photographed it everyday until the seed grew into a sapling. It took him a month to shoot this film which lasted a minute. It was Titled From Peanut to Plant it was a frame by frame shot of a growing plant. . a sort of prelude to animation

The experiment gave him the much needed confidence. He postponed the plan to make the film on the life of Lord Krishna, for he wanted to make it on a grant scale, and at that time, he did not have sufficient funds. Instead he started work on Raja Harishchandra, a mythological subject, almost at the same time as Louis Mercanton was making his epoch making Queen Elizabeth, starring Sarah Bernhardt, in France; Quo Vadis was being made in Italy and Student of Prague in Germany.

Dada Saheb Phalke (as he was affectionately called), however, ran into a bit of trouble when he set about selecting the cast for the film. He searched in vain for actresses. To his dismay, he found that, no one was willing to work in films, because of the stigma attached to the profession. Although Indian theatre had flourished centuries ago at the time of Kalidasa, in recent times the performing arts had come to the profession of certain castes only and were looked down upon in the social main stream. Specially the women who appeared on stage were usually looked down upon as women of ill repute.

In the face of these difficulties, he put an advertisement in the newspapers, “Handsome faces wanted for films. . . . “, which drew only third‑rate stage artistes. So much so that he had to add another line in subsequent advertisements, “Ugly faces need not apply !” With great difficulty Phalke got an actress for his film, but after he had coached her for a few days, she ditched him and became the mistress of a rich man and refused to act. With the result. Phalke had no option but to cast a slender boy Solanki, a cook by profession, as the queen in Raja Harishchandra.

The production problems were many and varied. Phalke had to do everything-direct, write and even photograph the film. It was a round the clock job, shooting during the day, and at night perforating the negative, developing the exposed film, editing and printing it. He went through this gruelling routine for eight months and completed his labour of love, Raja Harishchandra.

This 3700 feet film was shown to a packed auditorium at the Corornation Theatre in Bombay on May 17, 1913. Even though Phalke had no Sarah Bernhardt to boast of, the film was a tremendous success. Only one print was made, but on that one print only, he got amazing returns. It had an initial run of twenty‑three days-a record for those times when films ran hardly for four days. Thus the foundation stone of the Indian film industry, which was later to become the biggest film production centre of the world, was laid.

Reviewing the film after a special preview in the 5th May issue (preview was held at Bombay’s Olympia Cinema on 21st April), Bombay Chronical wrote, “an interesting departure is made this week by the management of the Corornation Theatre. . . the first great Indian dramatic film on the lines of great epics of the western world. . . It is curious that an experiment in this was so long in coming. . . it is to Mr. Phalke that Bombay owes this. . . the rest of his effort excels one’s expectations. The film was witnessed by a large crowd on Saturday night on whom it evidently made a great impression, and we have no doubt that the Corornation will have crowded houses throughout the week. “ It is surprising that, while the Chronical raved over the film, The Times of India, chose to neglect the pioneering Indian venture by not mentioning anything about it.

Phalke followed his initial success of Raja Harishchandra with Bhasumar Mohini in 1914. Even though the stigma to the performing arts was still there and getting ladies to act in films was a difficlut task, somehow Phalke was able to persuade two women, Durga and Kamla, a mother and daughter to play important female roles. This 3245 feet film was also released at the Corornation Theatre. Bhasumar Mohini was followed by Savitri. It was 3680 feet in length and was released in Bombay in June 1914.

Inspired by the success of his films here, Phalke took all the three films to London and screened them there. London’s Bioscope and Cinematograph Weekly, while praising his work, commented, “from the technical point of view, Phalke’s films are uncomparable-surprisingly excellent. “ Cecil Hepworth, the pioneer British Producer, offered Phalke funds to produce films on Indian themes in England. Phalke refused, considering it impractical to produce films on Indian milieu outside India.

On his return from England, Phalke, under his banner, Hindustan Film Company, made film after film at Nasik, including some on Lord Krishna. His choice of subjects had tremendous popular appeal. They reached entirely new and vast Indian audiences, giving them a chance to identify with the characters portrayed on the screen, something which they could not do for while watching British, American or French films.

With his knowledge of stage and magic shows, Phalke kept on experimenting, and soon achieved mastery over trick photography. One feels that he would not have succeeded in making popular films based on Indian mythology, as all the supernatural and miraculous deeds of our dieties and demons alike had to be visually created on the screen. In those days, without the colour comics and its super‑heroes, Phalke gave a visual form to the thrilling episodes by toning, e. g. for an under‑water sequence he gave blue‑tone and for a fire sequence red‑tone. This was a major task to which he applied his mind right from the beginning.

His most ambitious films were Shree Krishna Janam and Kaliyamardan (in which his daughter Mandakini played Lord Krishna). These films were so successful that the box‑office collections had to be carried in bullock‑carts under police custody (continuous shows from seven in the morning to midnight were held in those days) Phalke, who made over hundred films in his career of twenty one years, retired from active film making in 1944 and died the same year. His last film Gangavatran was a talkie for Kolhapur Cinetone.

If one studies Phalke’s career carefully, he’ll find a striking similarity between Phalke and George Melies. Both of them were art directors, script writers, directors and magicians and knew the theatre world very well.

As promoters of filmic art both of them have left a written record of their views. This they did to make their audience aware of Cinema as a new form of entertainment. Even their style of writing was similar. Melies’s writings “Vues Cinemtographiques” published in “Annuaire General et International de la photographic” were the result of Roger Aubry’s request to Melies to give the ‘genesis and process of film making’. Therein Melies said in his talk with the readers, “I will explain the film maker s difficulties in the best possible way”.

Phalke too, had offered his four article series on Indian Cinema at the request of ‘Navyug’s editor and said that he would give interesting information about cinema. He also requested his appreciative audience to analyse the motion pictures, and intended the series to be a guidance for other film makers. Most of Phalke’s contemporaries followed his pattern of film making and drew their ideas from mythology and famous legends.

Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra (1913) had triggered off great enthusiasm among many aspiring filmmakers. Among them was a young man, Baburao Painter.

He was born Baburao Krishnarao Mestri in 1890 in Kolhapur. He taught himself to paint (hence the name) and sculpt in academic art school style. He and his artist cousin Anandrao Painter between 1910 and 1916 were the leading painters of stage backdrops in Western India doing several famous curtains for Sangeet Natak troupes and also for Gujarati Parsee theatres. They became ardent cinefans following Raja Harishchandra.

They turned to cinema first as exhibitors while trying to assemble their own camera. Anadrao however died in 1916 and Painter and V. G. Damle eventually put together a working camera in 1918.

With financial support from local nobility, he set up the Maharashtra Film Company in Kolhapur in 1919. Painter gathered around him old colleagues among them Damle and S. Fatehlal joined a little later by V. Shantaram-the group that later left to set up The Prabhat Film Company. He also introduced two female artisits Gulab Bai and Anusuya Bai renamed as Kamala Devi and Sushila Devi respectively. Since acting was looked down upon, the two ladies were excommunicated by their community and had to find refuge in the studio premises. As well as acting in films, they would often cook and serve food to the entire unit!!!

Baburao’s first film Sairandhri (1920) attracted the attention of the then censor board for its graphic depiction of the slaying of Keechak by Bhima. Finally it had to be deleted but the film won both critical and commercial acclaim spurring Painter on to more ambitious projects. Baburao was a man of many talents-he wrote his own screenplays, changed the concept of set designing from painted curtains to solid multi‑dimensional lived in spaces, he introduced artificial lighting and understood the importance of publicity. As early as 1921‑22 he was the first to issue programme booklets, complete with details of the film and photographs. He also painted himself tasteful, eye‑catching posters of his films.

Sinhagad (1923) proved so popular that it attracted the Revenue Department’s attention to bring about introduction of Entertainment Tax.

Baburao also made the first realistic Indian film Savakari Pash (1925) dealing with money lending, a problem that blighted the lives of countless illiterate, poor farmers. However the audience long fed on mythological fantasy and historical love was just not prepared for so strong a dose of realism and the film did not do well. Baburao returned to costume dramas.

Among those who entered film production at this stage was Dhiren Ganguly, a student at Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan. Ganguly was a painter, photographer and an actor. He had published two books of photographs in which he himself appeared in various costumes and roles. He saw some of Phalke films in Hyderabad, where he was the head‑master of an art school, and was drawn towards the medium. He left his job and proceeded to his hometown, Calcutta, to explore the possibilities of making a film.

In partnership, he produced a comedy England Returned, which was released in 1921. It was a satire on the westernised Indians, as well as orthodox Indians, who wouldn’t accept new ideas. Thus Ganguly produced the first Indian film with a contemporary background. England Returned was a tremendous success and Ganguly was prompted to make any more films after that, to mention a few, the Lady Teacher, the Marriage Tonic, Hara Gouri, and The Step Mother.

Jamsetji Framji Madan at the time was Indian Cinema’s ace showman, and its greatest entrepreneur. He belonged to minority of educated families in the country. He had started working as a prop‑boy in Calcutta. He later turned to acting and bought over the theatre he was working in. Even though he had been interested in show business right from his childhood, theatre was his love. He successfully combined his interest in the theatre with his other enterprises.

In 1907 he opened the first bioscope hall in Calcutta and in 1917 started producing films, simultaneously acquiring agencies of important foreign film producing companies as well as cinema equipment manufacturers, and then proceeded to build‑up a chain of exhibition theatres all over India, Burma and Ceylon.

Like Adolph Zukor and Louis Mercanton, Madan also believed in casting ‘famous players in famous plays’. In 1920, Madan brought Miss Patience Cooper (female stars were always billed with the title ‘miss’ in front of their names.

This performed a double function, it pointed out that they were actually women and not young men dressed‑up as women, and at the same time wrapped them in a faint but necessary aura of respectability) and Kaikhusro Adajania, both well‑known stage artistes, for their initial stage appearance in Nala Damayanti, which Madan picturised. The Italian, Eugenio De Liguro, who directed the film, played an important role in the film.

The oriental opulance with the technical hands of the West combined to make the film a sure commercial success. Bilvamangal, Shivratri, Yashoda Nadan and Dhruv Charita (all based on Hindu mythology) stuck to the Madan pattern of film making, and it seldom failed.

Those days, the film makers were mainly concerned with coping the increasing demand. They gave little thought to improving the technical side of the film making. Consequently the whole process of Indian film production was influenced by stage technique; curtains were used instead of sets, the gestures and actions of the artistes were exaggerated and unrealistic and had a crude theatrical tough and even the costumes were of the same hybrid variety as used by stage performers. Despite all this, Indian films were immensely popular, especially with the uneducated and semi‑educated classes. The educated, used to superior foreign films, however, chose to neglect the Indian products. Nevertheless, a good film of Indian manufacture drew much larger audience than any foreign film.

In the mid‑twenties, Chandulal Shah, who was working in Bombay stock‑exchange, with the help of his brother D. J. Shah, who wrote stories for mythological films, got a directorial assignment from the Imperial Theatre who were desperate to make a mythological film for a festival. Shah, though had taken the advance for a mythological film, made with notable success a social film. His next was Guna Sundari (English Version of Which Was Titled Why Husband Go Astray) which attempted to show that a wife should not only be beautiful and dutiful, but also be a cheerful companion. When released, this film created a sensation. In a way, it was a challenge to the Indian orthodox ways.

Guna Sundari was followed by Typist Girl. These two films put the Indian social film on a sound footing and at par with the mythological films-atleast in the cities. The term social film, in the language of the Indian film trade meant and still means a film in which the atmosphere, setting and costumes are modern, as distinct from a mythological or a historical film.

Chandulal Shah followed his initial success with over one hundred and thirty films. An element of sensation was always found in his films. In the later years, he built his own Ranjit Studios.

During the first World War, European and British film production received a sever set‑back. But audiences everywhere were eager to see films now, with a result that American producers, at that time established in Hollywood, were eager to fulfill this need. The American film trade thus expanded on a sound footing. At the end of the war, finding their home markets dominated by Hollywood, European nations took steps to encourage their own film industries. Great Britain introduced a quota system specifyingn that a minimum share of theatre time should be allotted to the British films. British producers also began to think of the market in British India.

In India, soon after the war, lucrativeness and newness of the trade soon brought many people in the field. Patankar and Company made the The Exile of Lord Rama-six part serial; Elphinstone Bioscope Company made Harishchandra and Bilvamangal.

During 1922‑28, three enterprising men, Dwarkadas Naraindas Sampat, Maneklal Bhogilal and Abdulaly Eusafally, arrived on the Indian film scene. It was largely due to their efforts that Bombay became the pioneer of talkies in the country, He grew restless with monotony and craved for something new, and so joined hands with Abdulaly Eusafally and went into exhibition of foreign films. With the profits they formed the Imperial Film Company in 1926.

Dwarkadas Sampat started the Kohinoor Film Company, which not only produced some of the most successful films lime Bhakta Vidoor, Malati Madhav and Sati Anusaya, but also provided training to people like Nandlal Jaswantlal, Mohan Bhavnani-who later became the pillars of the film trade-and produced artistes like Goharbai, Zebunissa and Rampiyari.

Inspite of the difficulties faced by the film makers those days, efforts to improve the quality of Indian films continued, Baburao Painter founded his famous Maharashtra Film Company in Kolhapur, and went to the extent of converting a projector into a motion picture camera, and made Good Night. In this film, for the first time an attempt was made to wed art with commerce.

The stage, however, influenced the selection of themes and stories for films. The favourite theme those days was mythology. Mythological stories mean those stories whose historical authenticity is partly or wholly open to question, but which through tradition are popularly accepted in good faith as true. A common factor of these stories is the part played by miracles.

These stories were and still are inseparable part of faith of an overwhelming mass of the Indian public and there is nothing in them that is derogatory to basic standards of morality. They present deep rooted moral and spiritual ideals, personalities idealised through centuries. They depict the Golden age which most people believe existed and which most religions hope to bring about.

When someone wanted to deviate from the mythological subject, the only other theme they could think was adventure. Action was the key note of the time, and for this kind of films the artist’s ability to jump from tree to tree, and from tree to a waiting horse, was more important than his acting talents or even looks. The dare devils stunts such films contained were crudely faked, but to the engrossed audience any lack of realism was unnoticable. The physical impact, the mounting suspense, the death‑defying leaps swept the spectators. They stamped their feet and often cried out in spirit of participation with the actors.

Netaji Palkar (1927) directed by V. Shantaram and Karna (1928) directed by Damle and Fatehlal were huge hits. However after a few more silent films, the Maharashtra Film Company pulled down its shutters with the advent of sound. Baburao was not particularly keen on the talkies for he believed that they would destroy the visual culture so painfully evolved over the years.

He returned to painting and sculpture, his original vocation barring sporadic ventures like remaking Savkari Pash in sound in 1936, Pratibha(1937), one of his few preserved films which is a good illustration of Painter’s control over big sets, lighting and crowd scenes and Lokshahir Ramjoshi (1947) on Shantaram’s invitation.

BM Dave in 1925 started Sharda Film Company, and at the same time, Manek B. Patel started Krishna Film Company. Both these companies specialised in this type of film making. Krishna Film Company made some highly successful action films, namely The Victim and The Vieled Enemy, both starring Miss Ermeline and Nandram Pahelwan. It’s biggest hit however was At the Clang of Fetterns, featuring Miss Gulab and Nandram Pahelwan.

Among Sharda Film Company’s successful and popular titles are the Vamp-with Miss Ekbal in the female lead; Jan‑E‑Alam with Miss Mani and Jani Babu, and Masked Terror featuring Master Vithal and Miss Kumudini.

Master Vithal: He debuted as a child artiste at Rajapurkar Natak Mandali and made his first film appearance as a dancing girl in Maharashtra Films’ Kalyan Khajina (1924)-but Master Vithal was the consummate action hero of his time! The major break came with Sharada Studios Ratan Manjari (1926)-this was his first lead role and he remained with the studio as major lead over many years.

The stunt film genre was his forte and he consolidated his position with historical films based on Rajput and Maratha themes. These determined his image-the fearless, noble hero loved by all.

Subsequently he moved to Sagar Movietone, and was engaged in a lawsuit with Sharada Studios, defended by no less than M. A. Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan.

Master Vithal starred in India’s first talkie, Alam Ara (1931), and later in the super successful Ramshastri (1944).

Baburao Painter, when he founded the Maharashtra Film Company, had an altogether different approach to Cinema. He used it much in the same way as DW Griffith did, as a vehicle for social propaganda through historical interpretation. Though Painter possessed none of the attributes of Griffith as an innovator, what he did share with him was his penchant for the spectacular and the changing quality of atmosphere. Griffith made the spectacular Birth of A Nation, while Painter dazzled everyone with his Sairandhri. Painter, painted meticulously each frame of the print in color thus Sairanadhari, can have the distinction of being the first colored Indian Motion Picture. Again, incidentally, both men were essentially painters.

Chandulal Shah who with his leading lady Miss Gohar had formed the Ranjit Film Company produced Rajputani and Husband and Wife. He himself wrote and directed both these films with Miss Gohar teamed with the Indian screen’s Rudolf Valentino, D. Billimoria, in the first and Raja Sandow in the other. Both the films fit the Shah pattern of film making.

Along with Bombay Talkies, New Theatres and The Prabhat Film Company, Chandulal Shah’s Ranjit Studios was one of the great institutions of the studio era. With stars like Gohar, E Billimoria, Madhuri, Motilal, Khurshid and KL Saigal on its payroll, the studio’s boast was: “There are more stars in Ranjit Studios than in the heaven!”

Ironically, Chandulal Shah entered the Film Industry purely by chance. Born in 1898 in Jamnagar, he studied at SydenhamCollege in Bombay and in 1924 got a job at the Bombay Stock Exchange. The following year he was called by the Laxmi Film Company to direct a film Vimla (1925), as its director Manilal Joshi was bedridden. Chandulal Shah not only directed the film but also went on to do two more pictures for the company, Panch Dadda (1925) and Madhav Kamkundala (1926) before returning to the Stock Exchange.

His solicitor friend Amarchand Shroff who was with the Laxmi Film Company brought him to Kohinoor Film Company where he first came into contact with Gohar, a contact that eventually developed into both a personal and professional relationship.

The first film independently directed by him at Kohinoor was Typist Girl (1926) starring Sulochana and Gohar made in 17 days. The film did extremely well at the box‑office leading Shah to direct another five films for the studio all featuring Gohar. Of these the most famous was Gunsundari (1927). This silent film about a dowdy housewife, who loses her husband to another woman but wins him back after transforming herself, was a record‑breaking success. Shah himself made the film thrice, directing the first two versions in 1927 and 1934 and it was a success each time. Its story has become a staple of Hindi cinema and has been retold several times over the years with slight variations.

Jealousy amongst the staff at Kohinoor drove Shah and Gohar to seek greener pastures at Jagdish Film Company where Shah wrote and directed four films all with Gohar before forming his own Shri Ranjit Film Company in 1929 in partnership with Gohar and with finance from Vithaldas Thakoredas. Ranjit Film Company churned out 39 silent films in little more than 3 years from 1929‑32!

With the advent of sound, Ranjit Film Company, became Ranjit Movietone. Ranjit eventually acquiring four sound stages and achieved an output of six features a year, which stretched over more than a decade of uninterrupted successes. The company specialized in socials. During the 1930s Ranjit had on its payroll of about 300 artists, technicians and others. It produced films in Hindi, Punjabi and Gujarati. Ranjit brought an assembly line approach to their film‑making.

Mid‑budget socials, satires and the stunt film were their cup of tea. The factory approach that they had adopted enabled them to be the biggest producers in India in those times. Their films suggest the solid entrenchment of genres associated with the post World War II Hindi Cinema, ranging from films around Nirupa Roy’s mythological mother figure to those with Motilal and Saigal. Important films include Sati Savitri (1932), Barrister’s wife (1935), Achut (1940), Tansen (1943), Moorti (1943) and Jogan (1950).

Besides Filmmaking, Chandulal Shah also devoted a lot of time to the organizational work of the Indian Film Industry. Both the Silver Jubilee (1939) and the Golden Jubilee of the Indian film Industry (1963) were celebrated under his guidance. He was the first president of The Film Federation of India formed in 1951 and even led an Indian delegation to Hollywood the following year.

Shah had directed many of Ranjit’s earlier talkies and tried unsuccessfully to achieve a comeback as a director with the Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer, Paapi (1953) after a gap of 13 years. (His last film as director before this was Achut (1940), which incidentally was Gohar’s last film too). Shah’s continuing obsession with The Stock Exchange and the races led to massive losses and finally he was left with no option but to allow the takeover of his labour of love – Ranjit Studios by his creditors. He died almost a pauper in 1975.

In the meantime, Baburao Painter’s Maharashtra Film Company suffered a severe set‑back when few of its employees, Shantaram, Fatehlal, Damle, Dhaber and Kulkarni formed their own Prabhat Film Company in Kolhapur itself. Under Shantaram’s direction Prabhat produced string of financially successful and aesthetically significant films. Their very first was Gopal Krishna, followed by Khooni Khanjar, Bajar Batoo, Udaikal, Chandrasena, and Zullum. During the thirteen years that Painter’s Maharashtra Film Company existed, he made a number of films, notable among them being Sinhagada (1923), Kaliyan Khajan (1924), Shahala Shah (1925), Sati Padmani (1925) and Ran Hamir also in 1925. Rajaram Vanakurde Shantaram (popularly known as V. Shantaram) in his early teens worked in railroad workshop. On part time basis he worked at a tin‑shed cinema doing odd jobs, such as, rewinding the film and painting posters. He eventually graduated to an usher.

At the Cinema he studied the films closely, specially Phalke films-the stories he had heard from his elders and was much impressed by them. Thus when years later he made his first sound film, Ayodheya Raja, it wasn’t a surprise that he selected this story, as it was the same story which has launched Phalke’s career. Leaving the tent Cinema to join Baburao Painter’s Maharashtra Film Company he worked in every conceivable capacity there, from a cleaner to laboratory assistant, special effects man and even as an assistant cameraman. Because of the miscellaneous nature of his job, he acquired confidence and mastered the craft. So, when he directed his very first film, Gopal Krishna, though the facilities available were primitive, he made a film which even at that time was thematically and technically much ahead of its time.

Other outstanding films of the era were-Imperial’s The Wrath in which an actor played Mahatma Gandhi, and as expected, was banned. Ram Rahim on Hindu‑Muslim unity; Wedding Night adopted from Victor Hugo’s Harnani, Anarkali based on a moghul love story; The Cinema Girl,

On the Bombay front, Father India and Sindbad the Sailor. Naval Gandhi made Sacrifice based on Rabindranath Tagore’s play of the same name about the independence struggle. This was one of the major achievements of the silent era in India, and so was Mohan Bhavnani’s Vasantsena, a historical love tale. While these films proved immensely popular and did indicate a groping for better values, the bulk of the production, not surprisingly, remained trivial and corny.

Brahmachari (1938): An ordinary young man Audumbar (Master Vinayak) inspired by a lecture on bachelorhood and nationalism by the Deshbhakta Jatashankar (Javdekar), renounces his desires, throws away his collection of movie star posters, starts exercising in Hanuman tradition. He also joins the Self-Help Institute of the Acharya Chandiram (Malvankar) where he devotes himself to spinning and wielding the broom. All his discipline however comes to naught as he encounters Kishori (Meenakshi), the young and charming daughter of a visiting forest officer. . . and what follows is hilarious.

A brilliant combination of wit, satire and romance, Brahmachari a bilingual made in Marathi and Hindi boldly ridiculed puritanical social norms and at the same time had the audience laughing uncontrollably. The dialogues by Acharya PK Atre in the Marathi version and the situations in which the hero finds himself sparkle with wit and the film moves along at a quick tempo greatly helped by Vinayak’s performance in the central role, a simple minded innocent pitted against entrenched hypocrisy and fossilized beliefs. Though he was called Audumbar in the Marathi version, in the Hindi version he was called Kanhaiya and was a total antithesis of the original Kanhaiya (Lord Krishna) the great lover.

Vinayak’s aversion to religious bigotry and social hypocrisy combined with Atre’s keen sense of satire make for an extremely entertaining film with outrageous humour and gentle mockery. Damuanna Malvankar has his first major success in the role of the Acharya Chandiram.

Meenakshi also makes her first appearance in a Vinayak film. She went on to act in several of his films-Devata (1938), Brandichi Batli (1939), Ardhangi (1940) and Badi Maa (1945).

Brahmachari was a big success during its time and made cine history by running for twenty-five weeks in Bombay and fifty-two weeks in Pune. Incidentally, Brahmachari was perhaps one of the first Indian films in which the heroine appeared in a bathing costume in a sensational seduction song!

It was in this atmosphere that the Government of India appointed the Indian Cinematograph Committee in 1927. It was essentially set up to study the adequacy of censorship in India, and the possibility of encouraging ‘Empire films’ in India. ‘Empire films’ meant, British and Indian films. The committee consisted of three Indian and three Britons with an Indian as its Chairman. Their study revealed how the tensions of the time were reflected in films. Political censorship those days was intense; for instance, sub‑titles such as “My Brother’s only sin was to love his country”, and “Dreamt of a day when the Government would be a Government of the people, by the people and for the people” were deleted. Censors was very touchy about communal questions as well. The films by this time, had not learnt to speak, and all the dialogues/messages had to be conveyed through sub‑titles. This was after all The Silent era.

Submitting its report after extensive research and over four hundred interviews, the committee felt that there was no need to give any preference to films produced by the Empire. The committee found censorship differing from province to province in India, and suggested the formation of a Central Board of Film Censors to help develop uniformity. It urged for Govermental help in financing Indian films and favoured the establishment of a training school for film technicians.

The report of the Indian Cinematograph Committee-a valuable record for the film historians-got buried among Government archive material and was taken out after independent India appointed a similar committee more than twenty years later.

The film trade, which the first enquiry committee had so minutely observed and studied, was in for some drastic changes.

The Dream Factory : 100 Years of Cinema in India by HK Verma – Chapter – 3

The Digital Revolution

Albert Einstein had said: “I never think of the future, it comes soon enough. “

One aspect of the future that can never come soon enough is that of greater autonomy. In film‑making though autonomy is frequently stifled by the unequal possession of capital and the voices of the many are simple marginalised. Alternatively autonomy can be undermined by the predilections of the owners of capital, as in the studio systems where formulas are devised to meet market‑researched standards at the cost of creativity or experimentation.

Most perniciously though, any act of investment constricts autonomy by creating a structural dilemma-the necessity of recouping investments-without which future production is endangered. The expensive nature of 35mm productions thus exerts an all too obvious pressure on film‑makers, which drives commercial cinema towards the safety of numbers and tried‑and‑tested content. Unsurprisingly then, lowest common cultural denominators and universal themes often determine what is popular cinema.

Digital video as a technology promises empowerment through an improved set of opportunities which far outweigh its constraints. Autonomy in digital film‑making (the making of digital format motion pictures) is derived from its relatively low capital‑intensity requirements. This in turn reduces the break‑even constraint. As a general rule though the scale effects that dominate the production requirements of traditional formats are toned down enormously. An immediate consequence is the increased ability to take risks with form and content.

The essential thrust of digital film‑making is liberal‑democratic as it increases the spectrum of output and also protects diversity by allowing for niche markets to be satiated. In occupational terms, the relative affordability of digital video also allows for the studio apprentice system to be replaced by greater hands on experience for first‑time film‑makers who believe that creativity can transcend experience.

Another significant feature of digital video is its relative immunity against the heavy‑handed tactics of parochial politics. It is hardly the case that India lacks brave political and social cinema. However, producing and protecting such produce becomes easier when it is an digital form. Banning a film or a visual outright and refuse a Censor certificate-may not be possible in the future because duplicates of a film shot on Digital Video format would be cheap and easier to store and distribute.

Digital Video’s subversive capabilities are however, obviously double‑edged The role of audio tapes, as a decentralised, low‑cost medium, in furthering communal tension in the early 1990s, has been well documented. It is a myth that decentralised mediums, which promote the freedom of speech need not always promote what you want to hear. Nonetheless high‑quality audio‑visual dissent can strengthen human rights and provides unique perspectives: Palm‑sized digital cameras for example have been used for sensitive under cover investigations and war reporting.

Presently, digital film‑making is dogged by significant constraints. An awkward question is whether digital video will gain widespread acceptability amongst audiences despite its less than cinematic visuals. One complicated alternative is for a digital film that looks commercially viable to be transferred to 35mm for theatrical release. A more promising alternative lies in newer distribution channels that seek to broadcast over the Internet and broadband, or better still create digital projection theatres.

Recent innovations in video compression technology, together with increased bandwidth availability on fibre‑optic networks promise to substantially increase the download speeds and visual quality of such streaming video. Research suggests it may eventually be possible for digital films to be down‑loaded from satellites to digital cinemas, thus allowing for an important part of the cinematic experience to be retained. Ultimately we can hope that the seemingly inexorable progress of technology will carry digital films towards greater sophistication and viability and you never know that might be the future of Cinema

Digital film‑making should thus be seen as a challenge to the unifying nature of global production for global markets. As such, it is an alternative to-not the replacement of-traditional techniques and content. Its produce will thus complement 16mm independent and guerrilla cinema that also challenge the formula system the so called nouvelle vogue, parallel or low budget cinema. Magnum Opuses requiring grandeur will have to be made on bigger format and viewed on bigger screens.

A significant example of this techno‑aesthetic approach is the Dogme Manifesto-a statement of intention adhered to by film‑makers who seek to refocus film‑making away from the special effects and large budgets of Hollywood and back to story telling and innovative camera work. Critically acclaimed works in this genre include Festen (which addresses sexual abuse within families). The Idiots (which addresses society s notions of deviancy), and two Oscar‑nominated documentaries, The Buena Vista Social Club and The Farm.

Some, Indian filmmakers have also reacted powerfully to this new medium and are experimenting with the medium. Their efforts should assist the development of a support structure essential to the promotion of the digital arts.

The philosopher Kierkegaard wryly noted that “people demand freedom of speech as compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. “ The embryonic digital revolution, in contrast, promises the means for an affirmation of free thought and the exercise of fundamental rights. It has already made significant contributions to documentary, short and experimental film making. The citadel of popular cinema, however, is yet to be breached. As one director cynically puts it: people who shoot on film still want to shoot on film and people who shoot on video still want to shoot on film.

As with most revolutions, the digital revolution will take its time in coming. That time, though cannot come soon enough. Digital camcorders, which are rapidly going mainstream, will soon make even the amateur home movies look sharper, crisper and clear.

The chances are you haven’t experienced the digital video scenario just yet. But you probably will-and sooner than you might expect. Digital camcorders are rapidly going mainstream. At the same time, PCs equipped to handle digital video are blossoming like flowers in the spring. And since both sides “speak” digital, you can transfer video clips from your camcorders without any conversion process or loss of quality. But as intriguing as the camcorders‑computer marriage is, you needn’t be a budding electronic filmmaker to like what digital video brings to your home movies.

How’s DV work? Like analog camcorders, DV models use a CCD sensor that records images as coloured points of light that get converted into electrical data and stored onto tape. But digital reccorders records that data as a precise stream of ones and zeroes rather than analog waveforms, and store them on MiniDV tape cassettes, which are even smaller than 8mm or VHS‑C tapes. This process, coupled with various signal filters and pixel‑ sampling techniques, produces a highly accurate and very clean recording, with a high signal‑to noise ratio and virtually no picture “dropouts”.

In addition to their better video quality, digital camcorders of either the DV or Digital 8 variety yield several inviting perks. Most digital models come with a photo mode that enables you to snap a still picture with your camcorders. Typically, the quality of these stills is only mediocre, since digital camcorders capture images at a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels. Most of today’s megapixel digital still cameras, by contrast, capture images that comprise three to six times that many pixels, yielding pictures on paper that look far more like film prints. But for pictures destined to appear on TV or big screens-to be attached to an e‑mail or posted to a Web site, for instance-a digital camcorders low resolution is fine.














17 JUL 1908-2 DEC 1972 NIREN LAHIRI

Niren Lahiri

Born:17 Jul 1908
Died:02 Dec 1972

Niren Lahiri filmography (Most recent movies)

Rajdrohi (1966)DirectorBuy

Chhabi (1959)Director

Indrani (1958)DirectorBuy

Tansen (1958)Director

Prithibi Amare Chay (1957)DirectorBuy

Madhu Malati (1957)Director

List of Niren Lahiri movies

Niren Lahiri biography

His father’s name was Jitendra Nath Lahiri. Niren Lahiri was a famous director and actor. He was born on 17th July on 1908.. As an actor he made his first appearance in the film named ‘Ekoda’ whish was released in the mid 30s’. Niren Lahiri made his directional debut in the film called ‘Byabodhan’ was released in the year 1940. Niren Lahiri has directed a film named ‘Bhabikal’. The movie with out songs released in the year 1940. He had directed about 27 films. Niren Lahiri died in 1972 on 2nd December.

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17 JUL 1908-2 DEC 1972 NIREN LAHIRI


Shabnam Mausi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shabnam “Mausi” Bano (शबनम मौसी) (“Mausi” noun. Hindi – “Aunty”) is the first transgender Indian or Hijra to be elected to public office. She was an elected member of the Madhya Pradesh State Legislative Assembly from 1998 to 2003. (Hijras were granted voting rights in 1994 in India.)

Early life[edit]

Shabnam Mausi was born into a Brahmin family. Her father was a superintendent of Police.

Political career[edit]

Shabnam Mausi was elected from the Sohagpur constituency in Madhya Pradesh state’s Shahdol-Anuppur district. Shabnam attended two years of primary schooling, but speaks 12 languages that she has learnt during her travels. As a member of the Legislative Assembly, her agenda includes fighting corruption, unemployment, poverty, and hunger in her constituency. Shabnam Mausi also intends to use her position in the Legislative Assembly to speak out against discrimination of hijras as well as to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS.


Shabnam Mausi inspired a lot of Hijras in India to take up politics and participate in ‘mainstream activities’ in India, giving up their traditional roles as dancers, prostitutes, and beggars, living on the fringes of Indian society; for example they sometimes attend weddings or the house of a newborn child offering services to ward off bad luck.

Jeeti Jitayi Politics (JJP)[edit]

In 2003, Hijras in Madhya Pradesh have announced establishing their own political party called “Jeeti Jitayi Politics” (JJP), which literally means ‘politics that has already been won’. The party has also released an eight-page election manifesto which it claims outlines why it is different from mainstream political parties.

Popular culture[edit]

In 2005, a fiction feature film titled ‘Shabnam Mausi’ was made about her life. It was directed by Yogesh Bharadwaj, and the role of Shabnam Mausi was played by Ashutosh Rana.

Although she is no longer in public office, Shabnam Mausi continues to participate actively in AIDS/HIV with NGOs and gender activists in India.

“We brothers and sisters often face stigma and discrimination because of our sexual orientation. Talking openly about AIDS helps us understand each other!” – Shabnam Mausi

External links[edit]

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  1. True Story of Eunuchs – sooe.org.in‎

    Read their real life stories. Eunuchs and their life in India.
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Shabnam Mausi
Indian legislator
Shabnam “Mausi” Bano is the first transgender Indian or Hijra to be elected to public office. She was an elected member of the Madhya Pradesh State Legislative Assembly from 1998 to 2003. Wikipedia
Born: 1955, India
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Shabnam Mousi (2005 film)
Release date: May 20, 2005 (India)
Director: Yogesh Bharadwaj
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About Afsha Musani

Afsha Musani is an Indian child personality and is the co-host of the popular show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs 2009 on Zee Tv. The show is for 8 to 13 year old singers who compete for the title of L’il Champ. Afsha initially auditioned for the show as a contestant, but due to her stage presence and ready wit, she was roped in as the co-host of the show. Her co-Host is Dhairya Sonecha, an established child actor in India.

Personal life

Afsha was born on July 17, 2003 to Firoz and Saira Musani In the city of Mumbai in India. She currently lives in Malad, a locality in Mumbai. Her Father Firoz is a Civil Engineer by profession, while her mother Saira is a housewife. She is the youngest of three children, with elder brother Atif and sister Asmika.

Popular Search Terms:   afsha musani biography, afsha musani, asmika musani, afsha musani born, afsha musani sister


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Lehmber Hussainpuri

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sardar Lehmber Hussainpuri
Genres Bhangra, Punjabi Hip hop
Years active 2001–present
Labels Envy Entertainment (2002-2005)
Serious Records (2005-2014)
E3UK Records (2014-Present)

Lehmber Hussainpuri (Punjabi: ਲਹਿੰਬਰ ਹੁਸੈਨਪੁਰੀ, pronounced [lǽmbər husɛːnpuri]; is a Bhangra singer.[1]


From 2008 to 2010, songs such as Mera Mahi Tu Pateya, featured on Jeeti’s Serious Duets, Gulaab featured on DJ H’s Reloaded, and Dil Lagee featured on North American group Dhol Beat International’s Absolut Bhangra 4, continued to top charts.[2]

On April 28, 2010, it was announced that MovieBox Records had acquired Serious Records.[3]

July 2010 passed by without any further announcement by MovieBox regarding the delay or any new release date. Hussainpuri, after a long break from the limelight, gave insight into his upcoming projects in an interview. He said, “Besides my solo album, I have a devotional album also coming out this year.” He also stated that for his next solo project he was trying his hand singing qawwalis and songs which address a social cause, quite a different approach to his usual fast-beat party tunes. Lastly, he mentioned that he was heading towards Bollywood. He said, “Akshay Kumar has expressed his desire to work with me and we shall come out together with a project soon.”[4]

Hussainpuri also featured on the soundtrack of the Hindi film Mausam (2011 film) on the song Mallo Malli with Hard Kaur.[5]

In May 2011, after a longer than anticipated break, Hussainpuri returned to the UK in true “Lehmber-style” – by releasing a major dance-floor hit. The smash hit Matha Tekhiya was featured on Bups Saggu’s debut album ‘Redefined’ and instantly became a hit.[6]

On October 21, 2011, after a 5-year hiatus since his last solo effort Chalakiyan, Hussainpuri released his new album Folk Attack 2 on Serious Records. It featured production from Hussainpuri’s regular collaborators Jeeti and Kam Frantic as well as Bhinda Aujla, Sukhi Chand, and Panjabi By Nature.[7] The first single from the album, Jatt Pagal Karte (produced by Jeeti) was released October 14, 2011 and was followed by Pulli Phirdi (produced by Kam Frantic) on November 4, 2011.

In an interview, Hussainpuri mentioned how he has done a total of 6 songs with Bollywood producer Pritam, a few songs with other Bollwood producers, and 21 total songs for Punjabi Movie Industry, in order to expand his market.[8]

As part of BBC Asian Network’s Bhangra Britain season (April 2014) to find the greatest Bhangra anthem, Hussainpuri’s classic Das Ja was selected as Third Best UK Bhangra Song of All-Time. A panel of experts shortlisted 50 songs from the 1970s onwards, celebrating four decades of British Bhangra sounds.[9]

After a summer 2014 chart-toper, Make It Clap with Jags Klimax, Hussainpuri released a follow-up to one of the biggest UK bhangra tracks of all time,Das Ja. Das Ja 2, released 12 years after the original was featured on DJ Sanj‘s album Hype, once again had Lehmber at the helm but this time around was produced by roadshow DJ’s, DNA.[10]


Official albums[edit]

Year Name Record Label Producers Singles Released
2005 Folk Attack Baseline Records Dr. Zeus Sachiyaan Suniyaan
Je Jatt
2006 Chalakiyan Serious Records Aman Hayer, Jeeti & Kam Frantic Chalakiyan
2011 Folk Attack 2 Serious Records Jeeti, Kam Frantic, PBN
Bhinda Aujla, & Sukhi Chand
Jatt Pagal Karte
Pulli Phirdi
2016 TBA E3UK Records Bally Gill
Bhinda Aujla
Bhangra Pauna
Aaj Kujh Wandna Pau

Compilations, religious albums, and foreign releases[edit]

Year Name Record Label
2005 Strictly Vocals Speed Records
2005 The Best of Lehmber Hussainpuri Jatt Records
2006 The Great Bhangra King VPearl Records
2006 Folk Magic VPearl Records
2006 Daaru Pee Ke VPearl Records
2006 DJ Attack Vol. 1 VPearl Records
2006 Lehmber the Remix Album Punjab2000 Records
2007 21st Century King of Bhangra ENVY Entertainment (UK)
2007 DJ Attack Vol. 2 VPearl Records
2007 The Don HOM Records
2007 Party with Lehmber Hussainpuri HOM Records
2007 Phuchal Speed Records
2007 Bhuchal Planet Records
2009 DJ Attack 3:Pehchan Punjabi De VPearl Records
2009 Chal Chaliye Maiyea De (Religious Album) T-Series
2010 First Impression (3CD) Speed Records
2010 Ho Rahi E Jee Teri Jai Jai Kaar (Religious Album) Shemaroo Entertainment
2011 Best of Lehmber Hussainpuri VIP Records (UK)
2011 Made In England (2CD) Speed Records
2013 The Best of Lehmber Hussainpuri MovieBox Records (UK)

Film soundtracks[edit]

Year Movie Music Director Song
2011 Tanu Weds Manu RDB (Rhythm Dhol Bass) Sadi Gali
2011 F.A.L.T.U. Sachin-Jiger Bhoot Aya
2011 Mausam (2011 film) Pritam Mallo Malli
2011 Yaar Annmulle Gurmeet Singh Tera Ishq Soniye
2012 Sirphire Jatinder Singh-Shah Phuchal
2012 Yaraan Naal Baharaan 2 Jaidev Kumar Yaraan Naal Baharaan
2012 Burrraahh Gurmeet Singh Ek Vaari Jeena (w/ Nachhatar Gill)
Bhangra Boliyan (w/ Pappi Gill & Master Saleem)
2012 Power Cut Gurmeet Singh Ghutt Charh Kay
2012 Yamley Jatt Yamley Jassi Katyal Speaker
2013 Saadi Love Story Jaidev Kumar Dhol Special (w/ Manak-E)
2013 Sadda Haq (film) Jatinder Shah Dabb Di Killi
2013 Punjab Bolda Prince Ghuman Ankhi Putt (w/ Sarbjit Cheema)
2013 Sikander Gurmeet Singh Hootar (w/ Labh Janjua)
2013 Aashiqui Not Allowed Gurmeet Singh Free Mind
Free Mind Remix
2013 RSVP (Ronde Saare Vyah Picho) Gurmeet Singh Aibo
2013 Heer & Hero Gurmeet Singh Heer Te Hero
2014 Fateh (2014 film) Tigerstyle Hai Shava
2014 iPhone Mann Gurmeet Singh Goli
2015 The Mastermind – Jinda Sukha Tigerstyle Jinda Sukha Anthem (w/ Ranjit Bawa)
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Lehmber Hussainpuri Punjabi: ਲਹਿੰਬਰ ਹੁਸੈਨਪੁਰੀ, pronounced; is a Bhangra singer. Wikipedia
Born: July 17, 1977 (age 39), Kapurthala
Sadi Gali
Sadi Gali – Video Edit
Mera Mahi Tu Pateya
The Best Of
Das Ja 2
Das Ja
21St Century King Of Bhangra
Kehde Pind Di
Folk Attack
Je Jatt Bigr Gaya
The Original Edit
Holi Nach
Je Jatt
Ne Baliyeh
The Best Of
Folk Attack 2
R.S.V.P. (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Jatt Pagal Karte
Folk Attack 2
Sikander (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Mittran Di Mehfil
DC Salute
Phuchal: Earthquake Here
Sanu Sohni Lagdi
Dil Lagee
Absolut Bhangra – Vol 4 The Double Shot
Mele Vich Jatt
Unda Da Influence
The Boliyan Showdown
Hor Nai Peeni Daru
Folk Attack 2
Mil De Yaar
Unda Da Influence
Pulli Phirdi
Folk Attack 2
The Best Of
Khulle Boohe
Folk Attack 2
The Best Of
Tin Cheeja
Unda Da Influence
Folk Attack 2 (2011)
Folk Attack 2
Folk Attack (2005)
Folk Attack
The Original Edit (2005)
The Original Edit
YDYP-Assi Haan Yaar Punjabi (2013)
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Best of Lehmber Hussainpuri (2011)
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Sachin Bhowmick

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sachin Bhaumick
শচীন ভৌমিক
Born 17 July 1930
Died 12 April 2011 (aged 80)
Mumbai, India
Occupation Screenwriter, director
Years active 1958–2008

Sachin Bhaumick (Bengali: শচীন ভৌমিক; 17 July 1930[1] – 12 April 2011) was an Indian Hindi film writer and director. Writing was his main work and he wrote stories or screenplays for over 94 films.[2][3] He was also a regular contributor to Ultorath, a Bengali magazine on cinema. Due to the Bengali pronunciation of his surname Bhaumick we will find his surname spelled as Bhowmick in numerous sites.

Writing highlights[edit]

He started his writing career with the screenplay for Mohan Segal’s Nargis starrer Lajwanti in 1958.[2]


In the 1960s he was associated with several hits such as Anuradha (1960), which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film, Ayee Milan Ki Bela, Jaanwar (1965), Love in Tokyo (1966), Aaye Din Bahar Ke (1966), An Evening in Paris (1967), Bhramachari (1968),Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969) and Aradhana.


In the 1970s he had successes including Aan Milo Sajna (1970), Caravan (1971), Be-Imaan (1972) Dost (1974), Khel Khel Mein (1975), Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977), Gol Maal (1979).


His films in the 1980s include Karz (1980), Do Aur Do Paanch (1980), Bemisal (1982), Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981), Nastik (1983), Andar Baahar (1984), Saaheb (1985) and Karma (1986). He also co-wrote the Tamil comedy movie Thillu Mullu (1981), a remake of his own film Gol Maal.


He continued in the 1990s with hits including Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994), Yeh Dillagi (1994), Karan Arjun (1995), Koyla (1997), Soldier (1998), Aa Ab Laut Chalen (1999) and Taal (1999).keemat -they are back (1998)


In the 2000s, he has continued with the hits Koi Mil Gaya, Kisna and Krrish (2006).


He directed only one film, Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore starrer Raja Rani in 1973, which was also written by him.

Personal life[edit]

He married and later divorced actress Kalpana.[4] In 1971 he married again. He was married to the daughter of the famous musician DM Tagore., her name being Bansari Bhaumick and soon after they had a son Sandeep Bhaumick.

In 2003 Bhaumick filed a defamation case against Barbara Taylor Bradford after she had sued him for copyright infringement regarding a TV soap opera.[5][6]



Awards and nominations[edit]


Has worked for several films for each of the following producers/directors:

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