We are Indians and a unique ecstasy is to share among us. We’re dreamers and we dream for the ambitious ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ parivaar, or the epic end to DDLJ’s tale of romance in our lives, or even the mystery behind what ‘Rajini can’t’! The art of storytelling is a gene engulfed in our every celluloid. And here is just another untold story, the story of our Indian cinema, an evolution which wishes to make itself known to all, a story which truly defines us as Indians.
There is this beautiful element about us Indians and it is that we explore the simplest of ideas. Be it the elegant game of gentleman’s cricket or the picturesque art of story-telling. It is we who feel inspired, add our spice to it and explore it to the awaiting audience. One such enlighten-er was the owner of a printing press who initiated the spark, producing and directing the first full-length feature film for the Indian film industry, ‘Raja Harishchandra’. Dadasaheb Phalke was, is and will continue to remain the Father of Indian cinema. And thus began the story of the 100 year-old journey of the Indian cinema.
Dichromatic black and white movies engineered its journey ahead with Dadasaheb’s film at the starting juncture. Raja Harishchandra (1913) was a silent tale to the initiating voice of the Indian art of cinematography. Silence later turned into audible words and symphonic music when India’s first sound film, ‘Alarm Ara’ was released in 1931. History accounts that police aid had been required to control masses, waiting to see this new tech-update in films. That same year of 1931, Telugu and Tamil film industries branched out releasing their first films Bhakta Prahlada and Kalidas respectively, which led to the rise of multilingualism in this very art. The industry with an initial starting cost of one anna (4 paise) per ticket, rose commercially. But the tale that followed remains eternal. The tale of Devdas, his long-lost love Parvati a.k.a. Paro and the observing Chandramukhi which shifted its way from a Bengali novella to a Bengali film in 1935, captivating every eye of the nation, enthralling every niche and corner.
And there was a sudden halt. It was the time of the struggle for Independence; Intermission.
The tale continues with the beginning of the Golden Era of the Indian cinema post-Independence, with Bengal’s The Apu Trilogy making a mark on the platform of world cinema. The sheer brilliance of cinematography skills used, the art of foretelling Apu’s innocence tagged itself being the greatest films of all time on the global scale. Spotlight over us, curtains drawn, we were now making our way onto the world’s podium. It was our time to add our masala for experimentation. It was us who provided numerous cinematography techniques like bounce lighting, photo-negative flashbacks, X-ray digression, etc. It was us who inspired Steven Spielberg to bring about his 1982 E.T. with our The Alien in 1979; and this just adds to our pride. Commercialism raised its stakes higher with Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt offering us their glorious classics and with Mother India granting us the ‘Oscar fame’, Mughal-e-Azam and what not! Critics never failed to appreciate and applaud every productive art from the cinematic factory. Dialogues began to echo on every tongue. It’s more than just an industry of name, fame and wealth. It continues to remain a medium for masses, a medium to express the tale of every Indian knitted with a string of similar tales. And this led to another uprising of an art, the art of Parallel Cinema.
Modern cinema shone its way ahead as Bachchan solidified himself concretely and so did Shah Rukh Khan’s mesmerizing charm. The key to a successful film shifted from a notable director to a sheer actor. Masala sprinkled over every film as dance and music continued to enlighten us all. Rafi’s charm, Kishore’s enigma and Lataji’s melodious chirps continue to reverberate even today. Bombay’s Bollywood rose and so did Telugu’s Tollywood or in that case, Tami Nadu’s Kollywood. The Indian cinema turned a new medium of investment and it enlightened everyone with actors dancing behind the orchids as they murmur titter-bitter lyrics, some songs, and questions over “Shabash!”, “Kyu?” and “Yeh nahi ho saktaaa!” conundrum, and some more songs. Industry turned cheesier if that seems legitimate. But it led to yet another downfall.
Entertainment is the aim of today’s films and not a medium of expression. The entire movie revolves around either why Munni remained badnaam or Sheila’s mundane jawaani. A problem maybe either that we’re out of storylines, or imitating a Hollywood flick, or even squeezing and draining out talent; the entire modus operandi seems incorrect. Movies today may have wooed the target audience but nevertheless, ‘Mogambo khush nahi hua!’ The industry upsets us today, losing the very art of cinematography.
Our legacy must move ahead for another 100 years with pride because ‘picture, abhi baaki hai mere dost!’