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Indian Cinema - A Piece of History: Part - II
-Pradeep Chennavajjula*
. It was just a millenium back... and at the turn of this century, when the country was poised for major social and political reforms. No one across the world ever thought that this country can ever revive the political onslaught on their heritage and culture. However, a new entertainment form dawned in India-the Cinema, that upheld the values and sentiments that we have been protecting helping us to propagate the same for the next generations. Here's a brief look at what happened in the past with Indian Cinema and how it grew.

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 projecting kinetoscope. 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 make. 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 year. Point to be noted is that Telugu Cinema has been pioneer in the usage of technology and trends involved and the same is evidenced till date.

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 Kisan Kanya. 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.
To be continued .....
* Prof. Pradeep Chennavajjula is working as the Dean, ICFAIan Business School, Mumbai
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