From Alam Ara, To #Sholay, To #Dabangg: The Journey of Indian Cinema

Posted on April 3, 2011 in Media


By Sanika Natu:

80 years ago, a revelation crept in India and ever since, entertainment lovers have been rejoicing like never before. A couple of weeks back was the 80th anniversary of Alam Ara. March 14, 1931 was a Friday that released India’s first sound film, Alam Ara. And since then, Indian cinema has come a long way from black and white prints at the time of its dawn to Eastman Colors in 70s and the contemporary aspirations of creating a 3D eye candy for cinema-goers.

Through black and white and with color films- Indian cinema has correctly portrayed a mixed bag of Indian emotions. Early 70s marked the rise of a clichéd cinema plot that highlighted a Hero who was an ideal son, multi-talented boyfriend and a savior of the masses. He loved, sacrificed, took revenge and in the end emerged as the conqueror over all villainous powers and all this within 3 hours! Apart from his heroics in battling the evil, he also sang romantic melodies and grooved to masala numbers.

Amitabh Bachchan became the face of such plots with fanatics idolizing his on-screen heroism. Such movies did not fail to capture imagination of the audiences and transformed Hindi cinema into a well established industry called Bollywood. As far as economics of Bollywood was concerned back then, such masala movies did very well in grabbing a large chunk of the box-office. One of such movies was Sholay, which was a cult name during the 70s and still remains to be a sensation in itself. Many have claimed it to be the best Indian film of the century and the fact that it held the record of highest grossing film over a long period of time proved the claims. In spite of such adventurous films clutching the box-office firmly, many small budget films revolving around romance, comedy or the role of women blossomed now and then. But no matter what genre, Indian movies did not fail to uphold Indian culture and value structure back then.

From the great Indian values, cinema moved to pelvic thrusts and cheesy numbers when India moved to Mithun’s disco. Late 80s and 90s saw love triumphing above all. Movie makers targeted the young audiences and made them fall in love. A DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge) was enough to provoke every girl to dream of some Mr. Raj. And while young couples dreamt of romancing in the fields of Punjab, DDLJ rocketed to become India’s longest running film. It still continues to be screened at Maratha Mandir in Mumbai. If you thought this decade only saw love above all then wait, it also saw the dawn of item numbers and tacky dances. Sholay had Basanti dancing for her Veeru, but around the end of 20th Century actresses grooved for no reason, except for movie publicity. Moreover, black marketing in sale of tickets had existed but around this time piracy started moving in.

Today, the audiences have welcomed all genres with open arms. Family drama has stepped aside and movies of larger social interests have crept in. Action, comedy or romantic-comedy has become the main interest of movie makers and their targets have been the metropolitan audiences. The entry of multiplexes has induced producers to make movies for the city cinema-goers for huge grossing and profit.

Indian cinema has indeed come a long way with movies like Udaan and Love, Sex aur Dhoka gaining wide appreciation last year. But, Indian audiences still seem to be fascinated with action packed masala movies like never before as Dabangg became the highest grossing film of all time in the same year. Movie plots, actors, themes and audiences might have transformed over more than 8 decades but our reason to watch movies has remained the same- pure entertainment. Sheilas and Munnis might have replaced passé family drama, but fresh action, music and masala still remains to be the face of Bollywood.