A Century of Entertainment

Indian Cinema is a blend of art, industry and showmanship. The Indian Hindi film industry, commonly referred to as Bollywood, is the largest in the world, the major film studios of which are located in Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. For 100 years, the Indian Cinema has been the major source of entertainment in India. Commercial releases continue to control the market not only in India, but in other countries as well.

In 100 years, Indian Cinema has not only entertained us, but also taught us how to celebrate life, build confidence, fight against injustice and moreover, be optimistic at every stage of life. Bollywood has produced a number of groundbreaking movies which have changed our perceptions and beliefs. Many movies have brought about a change in the society.

Cinema recreates life, makes us feel the unfelt, believe the bizarre and transfers us to an all new world. We lose ourselves in the magic of the reel world – the thrill, the happiness and the personal connection with the moving magic does not cease to amaze us. Cinema is a massive gift to the world, breaks the monotony and adds that much-needed extra pinch of spice to our lives. Some movies are pure entertainment while some leave an impact on our minds for weeks, months and even years to come.

With such passion and zeal, the filmmakers have been entertaining us for a century. We can say that cinema has been inspired by real life. It bares the truth of the society, revealing its positive and negative aspects and in turn inspiring, educating and entertaining the masses. Indian Cinema is indeed a massive gift to the world.

It was, once upon a time, just a bud, which has grown into the colossal industry we see today and it is no less than a miracle that, despite the vast cultural differences it has withstood the test of time and is now 100 years young.

In days when acting was taboo, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, better known as Dadasahib Phalke, breaking the constraints, introduced India to the world of cinema by releasing a silent full length feature film ‘Raja Harishchandra’. The first show of the movie was held at Bombay’s Olympia Picture Palace on April 21, 1913. The commercial screenings started 12 days later, on May 3, 1913 at Coronation Cinematograph and Variety Hall, Sandhurst Road, Girgaum, Bombay. This marked a historic benchmark in the Indian film industry. Since then, Indian cinema has been evolving by leaps and bounds, leaving no stone unturned to enamour and entertain us. ‘Raja Harishchandra’ was so well accepted by the audiences that many filmmakers indulged in making silent films after its success.

Indian cinema has a unique identity, a unique individuality in itself and is not only passion, but also obsession. Despite evolving at a tremendous speed we have been successful in retaining the very basic elements of thrill and entertainment.

At that point of time it was really hard to arrange somebody to portray the role of females. Among the middle classes, that association of acting with the loss of virtue, female modesty and respectability has only recently been put into question.

The silent era was broken by the release of ‘Alam Ara’ in the year 1931. The talkies gave a new look to the Indian cinema. Dialogues and music now formed an important part of the films. It was important for the characters to be fluent in the language and have effective speaking skills. The year also marked the beginning of the talkie era in South Indian films. The first talkie films in Bengali (Jumai Shasthi), Telugu (Bhakta Prahlad) and Tamil (Kalidass) were released the same year.

The decade of the forties was a chaotic one. A lot of political changes took place all over the world. It was in the middle of the Second World War in 1945 that ‘Kismet’ starring Ashok Kumar was released. Based on bold themes like the first anti-hero and an unmarried pregnancy, it turned out to be one of the biggest hits in the history of Indian cinema.

Indian cinema has a unique identity, a unique individuality in itself and is not only passion, but also obsession. Despite evolving at a tremendous speed, we have been successful in retaining the very basic elements of thrill and entertainment despite many patterns in the movies having changed. For example, the song and dance routines are now more organized and more systematized. Stunt scenes are better managed and there is more security during production.

With the passage of time, a large number of blockbusters hit the big screens and the Indian cinema reached out to international audiences, spreading its genre all around the globe. The actors continued to win hearts by giving fabulous performances. The name of Indian cinema has been etched in indelible ink in the cinematic records. Gradually, a change was seen in the style of movies. Sholey, Zanjeer and Deewar were titled the most popular movies of that time, the most famous actors being Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand and Jitendra. The actresses were paced at the same speed and were not behind. Vyjayanthi Mala, Nargis, Rekha, Sridevi, Hema Malini, Sharmila Tagore became heartthrobs of the nation.

Bengali film-makers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen gave Indian cinema a brand new turn that was known by family drama and insignificant plots. The Film and Television School at Pune produced some of the best actors of all times viz Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, and Om Puri.

Film-makers such as Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta, Govind Nihalani and Saeed Mirza had a different mindset altogether and wanted to get to the root of caste and class contradictions of Indian society, the oppression suffered by women, the dislocations created by industrialism and the migration from rural to urban areas, the problem of landlessness, the impotency of ordinary democratic and constitutional procedures of redress.

1990’s was a mixed genre comprising romantic, thrillers, action and comedy films. There was development in the corporate sector during which technology was upgraded and the industry was gifted with Dolby digital sound effects, advanced special effects, choreography and international appeal.

The overseas market had a massive hand in contributing towards Bollywood’s box office collection. The present approximate Bollywood viewership is of three billion a year which overtook Hollywood in 2004 with an estimated viewership of 2.6 billion.

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