At the turn of this century, when the country was poised for major social and political reforms, a
new entertainment form dawned in India-the Cinema. The first exposure to motion pictures which
India received was in 1896, when the Lumiere Brothers' Chinematographe unveiled six soundless
short films at Watson Hotel, Esplanade Mansion, Bombay on July 7. And the first exposing of
celluloid in camera by an Indian and its consequent screening took place in 1899, when
Harishchandra Bhatvadekar (Save Dada) shot two short films and exhibited them under Edison's
Hiralal Sen and F.B. Thanawalla were two other Indian pioneers engaged in the production of short
films in Calcutta and Bombay in 1900. Around 1902, J.F. Madan and Abdullah Esoofally launched
their career with Bioscope shows of imported short films. In 1912 , N.G. Chitre and R.G. Torney
made a silent feature film Pundalik which was released on May 18, and it was half British in its
Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, more generally known as Dada Saheb Phalke was responsible for the
production of India's first fully indigenous silent feature film Raja Harishchandra which heralded the
birth of the Indian film industry. The film had titles in Hindi and English and was released on May 3,
1913 at the Coronation Cinema, Bombay. In 1917, Bengal saw the birth of its first feature
film-Satyabadi Raja Harishchandra made by Madan's Elphinstone Bioscope Company. In Madras,
the first feature film of South India Keechaka Vadham was made by Nataraja Mudaliar in 1919.
After stepping into 1920, the Indian cinema gradually assumed the shape of a regular industry. The
industry also came within the purview of the law. The new decade saw the arrival of many new
companies and film makers. Dhiren Ganguly (England Returned), Baburao Painter (Savkari Pash),
Suchet Singh (Sakuntala), Chandulal Shah (Guna Sundari), Ardershir Israni, and V. Santharam
were the prominent film makers of the twenties.
The most remarkable things about the birth of the sound film in India is that it came with a bang and
quickly displaced the silent movies. The first Indian talkie Alam Ara produced by the Imperial film
company and directed by Ardershir Irani was released on March 14, 1931 at the Majestic Cinema
in Bombay; The talkie had brought revolutionary changes in the whole set up of the industry. The
year 1931 marked the beginning of the talking ear in Bengal and South India. The first talkie films in
Bengali (Jumai Shasthi), Telugu (Bhakta Prahlad) and Tamil (Kalidass) were released in the same
The thirties is recognised as the decade of social protests in the history of Indian Cinema. Three big
banners-Prabhat, Bombay Talkies and New Theatres gave the lead in making serious but gripping
sand entertaining films for all classes of the wide audience. A number of films making a strong plea
against social injustice were also made in this period like V.Santharam's Duniya Na Mane, Aadmi
and Padosi, Franz Osten's Achut Kanya, Damle & Fatehlal's Sant Thukaram, Mehboob's Watan,
Ek hi Raasta and Aurat. For the first time Ardeshir Irani attempted a colour picture in 1937 with
The decade also witnessed the release of the first talkie films in Marathi (Ayodhiyecha Raja 1932),
Gujarathi (Narasinh Mehta-32), Kannada (Dhurvkumar-34); Oriya (Sita Bibaha-34); Assamese
(Joymati-35); Punjabi (Sheila-35) and Malayalam(Balan-38).
The decade during which the second world was fought and Indian independence won, was a
momentous one for cinematography all over India. Some memorable films were produced during
the forties such as Shantharam's Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, Mehboob's Roti, Chetan Anand's
Neecha Nagar, Uday Shanker's Kalpana, Abbas's Dharti Ke Lal, Sohrab Modi's Sikander, Pukar
and Prithvi Vallabh, J.B.H. Wadia's Court Dancer, S.S. Vasan's Chandralekha, Vijay Bhatt's
Bharat Milap and Ram Rajya, Rajkapoor's Barsaat and Aag.
The first International Film Festival of India held in early 1952 at Bombay had great impact of Indian
Cinema. The big turning point camp in 1955 with the arrival of Satyajit Ray and his classic Pather
Panchali which opened up a new path leading the Indian film to the World Film Scene. International
recognition came to it with the Cannes award for best human document followed by an
unprecedented crop of foreign and national awards. In Hindi Cinema too, the impact of neorealism
was evident in some distinguished films like Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin, Devadas and Madhumati,
Rajkapoor's Boot Polish, Shri-420 and Jagte Raho, V. Shantharam's Do Aankhen Barah Haath
and Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, Mehbood's Mother India.
Gurudutt's Pyaasa, and Kagaz Ke Phool and B.R. Chopra's Kanoon; The first Indo-Soviet
co-production Pardesi by K.A.Abbas was also made during the fifties. The transition to colour and
the consequent preference for escapist entertainment and greater reliance on stars brought about a
complete change in the film industry. The sixties was a decade of mediocre films made mostly to
please the distributors and to some extent, meet the demands of the box office. The sixties began
with a bang with the release of K. Asif's Mughal-E-Azam which set a record at the box-office. It
was followed by notable productions which include romantic musical and melodramas of a better
quality. Rajkapoor's Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Sangam, Dilip Kumar's Gunga Jamna,
Gurudutt's Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam, Dev Anand's Guide; Bimal Roy's Bandini, S.Mukherji's Junglee,
Sunil Dutt's Mujhe Jeene Do and the experimental Yaadein, Basu Bhatacharya's Teesri Kasam,
Pramod Chakravorthy's Love in Tokyo, Ramanand Sagar's Arzoo, Sakhti Samantha's Aradhana,
Hrishikesh Mukherji's Aashirwad and Anand, B.R. Chopra's Waqt, Manoj Kumar's Upkar, and
Prasad Productions Milan were the significant Hindi films of the decade.
Among the regional languages, Malayalam cinema derived much of its strength from literature during
the sixties. Malayalam cinema hit the head lines for the first time when Ramu Kariat's Chemmeen
(1965) won the President's Gold Medal. Towards the end of the decade, Mrinal Sen's Bhuvan
Shome, signalled the beginnings of the new wave in Indian Cinema.
The New Indian Cinema emerged as a reaction to the popular cinema's Other Worldiness. It is a
cinema of social significance and artistic sincerity, presenting a modern, humanist perspective more
durable than the fantasy world of the popular cinema.
Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen were the founding fathers of the new cinema in India.
Acclaimed as India's foremost director Satyajit Ray has made 30 feature films and five
documentaries, tacking a wide range of rural, urban historical themes. His cinematography places
him away form the inheritors of the neorealist school, and yet his films are infused with an unusual
humaneness. Pather Panchali, Apur Sansar, Charulata, Jalsaghar, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne,
Seemabadha, Jana Aranya, Ashani Sanket and Agantuk are some of his outstanding films. He was
fortunate enough to present his films in almost all the leading films festivals of the world. The national
and international awards won by Ray are numerous.
Ritwik Ghatak swooped on the Indian scene with new dynamism. His films constitute a record of
the traumas of change form the desperation of the rootless and deprived refugees from East Bengal
.(Meghe Dhaka Tara, Ajantrik, Komal Ghandhar, Subarnarekha). Mrinal Sen is the ebullient
one-experimenting with neorealism as well as new wave and fantasy. His notable films are Bhuvan
Shome, Chorus, Mrigaya, Ek Din Pratidin, Akaler Sandhane, Kharij & Khandahar. He has also
won several national an international awards.
In Bombay, a new group of film makers emerged on the Hindi cinema. Notable amongst them are
Basu Chatterji (Sara Akash), Rajinder Singh Bedi (Dastak), Mani Kaul (Uski Roti, Duvidha),
Kumar Shahani (Maya Darpan), Avtar Kaul (27-Down), Basu Bhattacharya (Anubhav), M.S.
Sathyu (Garam Hawa), Shyam Benegal (Ankur), and Kanthilal Rathod (Kanku). In Calcutta,
following the trend set by Ray, Ghatak and Sen, Tapan Sinha and Tarun Majumdar also made some
note worthy films. (Kabuliwala, Hatey Bazarey, Harmonium, Safed Haathi; Balika Bodhu,
Nimantran, Ganadevta, Dadar Kirti).
The seventies has further-widened the gap between multistar big budgeted off beat films. The
popular Hindi hits of the decade include Kamal Amrohis Pakeeza, Rajkapoor's Bobby , Devar's
Haathi Mere Saathi, Ramesh Sippy's Sholay, Zanjeer, Deewar, Khoon Pasina, Yaadon Ki Baarat,
Kabhi Kabhi, Dharamveer, Amar Akbar Anthony, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, and Muqaddar ka
Sikandar. Of these majority of the films were action oriented with revenge as the dominating theme.
Down in the South, the new wave cinema originated in Karnataka and Kerala. Pattabhi Rama
Reddy's Damskara (70) and Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Swayamvaram (72) were the trend setters in
Kannada and Malayalam respectively. This continued with a series of socially conspicuous films like
M.T. Vasidevan Nair's Nirmalyam, B.V.Karanth's Chomana Dudi, Girish Karnad's Kaadu, Girish
Kasara Valli's Ghatasradha, G. Aravindan's Uttarayanam and Thamp, K. Balachander's
Arangetram, Avargal and Apoorva Ragangal, Adoor's Kodyettam, K.G. George's Swapnadanam
and P.A. Backer's Chuvanna Vithukal and G.V.Iyer's Hamsageethe.
The Hindi avante garde or new wave seems to have reached its bloom period towards the end of
the seventies with the coming of film makers like Govind Nihalani (Aakrosh), Saeed Mirza (Albert
Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai, Aravind Desai ki Ajeeb Daastan), Rabindra Dharmaraj (Chakra),
Sai Paranjpe (Sparsh), Muzafar Ali (Gaman) and Biplab Roy Chowdhari (Shodh). The movement
spread to the other regional cinemas such as Marathi, Gujarathi, Assamese, Oriya and Telugu.
Directors like Jabbar Patel (Samna, Simhasan), Ramdas Phuttane (Sarvasakshi), Ketan Mehta
(Bhavni Bhavai). Babendranath Saikia(Sandhya Rag), Jahanu Barua (Aparoopa, Papori),
Manmohan Mohapatra (Klanta Aparanha, Majhi Pahacha), Nirad Mohapatra (Maya Miriga) and
Gautam Ghose (Ma Bhoomi) came to the scene with their films.
Also from the South came film makers such as Jayakantan, John Abraham, Bharathan, Padmarajan,
Balu Mahendra, Bharathi Raja, T.S. Ranga, T.S. Nagabharana, K.R. Mohanan, G.S. Panicker,
Chandrasekhar Kambar, P.Lankesh, C. Radhakrishnan and Bhagyaraj who presented significant
films like Unnai Pol Oruvan, Agraharathil Kazhuthai, Prayanam, Peruvazhiambalam and Oridathsoru
Phayalvan, Kokila, 16 Vayathinile and Kizhakke Pokum Rail , Geejegand Goodu, Grahana,
Aswathama, Ekakini, Kaadu Kudre, Pallavi, Agni, Suvar Illatha Chithrangal and Mundani Mudichu.
The new cinema movement continued with full spirit in. the next decade (eighties) also . Shyam
Benegal presented some good movies like Manthan, Bhumika, Nishant, Janoon , and Trikal.
Nihlani's Aaghat and Tamas were remarkable works. Other important films with new style of
treatment include Damul (Prakash Jha), 36-Chowringhee Lane (Aparna Sen), New Delhi Times
(Ramesh Sharma), Mirch Masala (Ketan Mehta), Rao Saheb (Vijaya Mehta), Debshishu
(Utpalendu Chakraborthy), Massey Saheb (Pradeep Kishna), Trishagni (Nabayendu Ghosh),
Ijaazat (Gulzar), Umrao Jaan (Muzafar Ali), Dakhal, Paar (Gautam Ghose), Dooratwa, Neem
Annapurana, Andhi Gali (Buddhadeb Dasgupta), Aajka Robin Hood (Tapan Sinha), Tabarana
Kathe, Bannada Vesha (Girish Kasara Valli), Accident & Swamy (Shanker Naag), Daasi (B.
Narasinga Rao) and Phaniyamma (Prema Karanth).
The new wave masters of Kerala, Adoor and Arvindan, consolidated their position in the eighties
with their films Elippathayam, Mukha Mukham, Anantharam, Esthappan, Pokkuveyil,
Chidambaram, and Oridath, Elippathayam has won the prestigious British film Institute award for
1982. Shaji N.Karun's maiden film Piravi(1988) bagged several national and international awards
and was shown in nearly forty film festivals. Meera Nair, the young woman director, won the
Golden Camera award at Cannes for her first film Salaam Bombay in 1989. In 1990, Adoor
Gopalakrishnan's Mathilukal won the FIPRESCI and UNICEF awards.
The late eighties and early nineties saw the revival of the musical love stories in Hindi cinema. Mr.
India, Tezaab, Qayamat se Qayamat Tak, Main Pyar Kiya, Chandni, Tridev, Hum, Ghayal,
Saudagar, Rakhwala, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Hum Hain Rahi Pyarke, Baazigar, Aaina, Yeh
Dillagi, Hum Apake Hai Kaun, Krantiveer, Raja and Rangeela were some of the popular Hindi films
of the last decade.
The first half of nineties witnessed the release of some better films in Hindi as well as in other
regional languages. Drishti and Drohkal (Nihalani), Lekin (Gulzar), Disha (Sai Paranjpe), Prahar
(Nana Patekar), Parinda (Vinod Chopra), Diskha (Arun Kaul), Kasba (Kumar Shahani), Rudaali
(Kalpana Lajmi), Maya Memsaab (Ketan Mehta), Mujhse Dosti Karoge (Gopi Desai), Suraj Ka
Satwan Ghoda & Mammo (Benegal), Who Chokri (Subhankar Ghosh)&Ek Doctor Ki Maut
(Tapan Sinha), were some of the notable Hindi films from Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Manipur
came films like Tahader Katha, Bagh Bahadur, Charachar (Buddhadeb Dasgupta), Uttoran (Sandip
Ray), Wheel Chair (Tapan Sinha), Unishe April (Rituparno Ghosh), Adi Mimansa, Lalvanya Preethi
(A.K. Bir), Nirbachana (Biplab Roy Chowdhari), Halodhia Choraya Baodhan Khai, Firingoti
(Jahau Barua), Haladhar (Sanjeev Hazarika), and Ishanou (Aribam Shayam Sharma). In the South
Malayalam Cinema presented some notable films. They include Vasthuhara (Aravindan)_, Vidheyan
(Adoor) Kireedom, Bharatham (Siby Mmalayil), Amaram (Bharathan) Innale (Padmarajan), Oru
Vadakkan Veeragatha, Sargam, Parinayam (Hariharan), Devasuram (I..V.Sasi). Kilukkam,
Thenmavin Kombath (Priyadarsan), Perumthachan (Ajayan), Daivathinte Vikurthikal (Lenin
Rajendran), (Sivan), Manichithrathazu (Fazil), Ponthanmada (T.V. Chandran) and Swaham (Shaji),
From Tamil and Telugu cinema, there came few films like Anjali, Roja and Bombay (Mani Ratnam)
,Marupakkam and Nammavar (Sethsumadhavan),Karuthamma (Bharathi Raja), Surigadu (Dasari
Narayana Rao), Swathi Kiranam (K.Viswanath), Mogha Mul (G.Rajasekharan) etc. English film
like Miss Beatty's Children (Pamela Rooks), and English August (Dev Benegal) were also produced
during this period.
All in all, it has been a long story of nearly nine decades, with the early shaky screen images turning
into a multi pronged and multi winged empire of its own, that has yielded about 27,000 feature films
and thousands of documented short films. Cinema has raised India's flag high in the world as the
consistently largest film producer. But when it comes to quality the flag has to fly half mast.