By Dhurjati Mukherjee
New Delhi, June 27 : Hundred years of Indian cinema have traversed a chequered path of glory. Over the years, the country has successfully produced both commercial and art films, some of which have received appreciation from critics at different film festivals world-over. This apart, the industry has produced many stalwarts, who too have duly received recognition for their contribution, both nationally and internationally. The names that easily come to mind include Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, V. Shantaram, Mrinal Sen, Dilip Kumar, all doyens of the great Indian film industry.
Delving into history, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, better known as Dadasaheb Phalke, and considered the father of Indian cinema, made his first feature film, Raja Harishchandra, which released in the year 1913. The film, based on a popular mythological legend, is commonly believed to have been the first Indian feature film. Phalke himself had wished to see Indian images on the screen and took great pains to produce it followed with some mythological-based pictures in 1917 and 1918. In the next few years, there emerged other genres, each drawing upon different performance traditions and regional histories.
A few years later, in 1921, Dhirendranath Ganguly, a Bengali artist, made his first film, Bilet Pherat, a comedy which drew upon 19th century Bengali traditions of satire. The next year, possibly the first social film in the country was made based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s famous short story ‘Andhare Alo’ with Sisir Bhaduri, who at that time had revolutionized the Bengali stage with his acting skills.
In the 1930s, and even later, the first decade of the talkies, films made in Bombay, Calcutta, Chennai etc vied to be counted as the best of Indian cinema. Directors of the calibre of Promothes Barua, V. Shantaram and Nitin Bose each brought their distinctive imprints and technical know-how to give a direction to the industry. The next two decades witnessed steady growth on Indian cinema..
In the next decades, commercial cinema became very popular across the country. The leader was clearly the Bombay film industry followed by Bengali, South Indian and Marathi films. The latter became regional cinemas and also started gaining popularity within and also outside their geographical domains. In fact, with the new trend of these films getting dubbed in Hindi, the viewership has increased manifold.
However, with the Bombay film industry having an all India clientele and big budget was relatively superior to the regional films. Stars of Yesteryears, such as Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, became household names across the nation. One may mention here super hit films such as Sangam or Guide, specially the latter because of its revolutionary bold theme of a married woman getting involved with another man and the unforgettable music by the legendary Sachin Dev Barman.
The type of films in Bombay differed with films made in Bengal, specially by the legendary Satyajit Ray, Ritwick Ghatak and the like. The former were films centred on popular subjects such as love with the righteous hero emerging the winner against the crooked villain or how a small town young man emerges victorious against overcoming all vicissitudes of life.
Popularity of Bollywood increased by leaps and bounds and reached its zenith by the end of the previous millennium, culminating in the most popular and sensational film of decades, Sholay. This film not only stood out because of the superb acting of stars like Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar but also the story line and also the realistic outdoor locations. All these three actors made many other notable films later and contributed the growing popularity of Hindi films.
However, during that time, most of the Bengali films were somewhat different. The story element was realistic and suited middle class sentiment, the production was simple and the total film appeared to be a reflection of the problems of life. Ritwick Ghatak’s Baishe Sraban and Subarnarekha were low budget films but created a sensation as it portrayed the problems and challenges that the poor face in everyday life. This trend along with somewhat political films of Mrinal Sen in the 70s and 80s, drew large audience.
Ray was very much different as his experimentation has been of a very high order. Charulata, a love story based on Tagore’s story as also the Apu trilogy proved his unique directorial skill and unique manner in handling real life situations. Apart from this, films like Goope Gyne Bagha Byne and detective films for children were also very much acclaimed during and after his death when his son, Sandip Ray, made these. It may be mentioned here that he made an immensely popular film, Nayak, with Uttam Kumar, the most popular Bengali screen hero which showed the struggling life of a hero and what he had to do to keep up his image. In fact, Ray experimented with films on different subjects and did the nation proud with his film Pather Panchali (1955) by bagging 11 international awards.
With variation coming into the Bombay film industry during the last decade or so, a similar type of film was made on the challenges of a model called Fashion which was found to be very realistic and became very popular. Unconventional films started being made by Bollywood like Tara Zameen Par (award winning educational film), 3 Idiots and Lagaan of Amir Khan, Chak de India (related to sports), Rajneeti (political film), Iqbal (historical film) and the like. In fact, there has been a perceptible change in the Bombay film industry since the last decade or so from hero-heroine romance to various other realistic portrayals such as politics.
That the Indian film industry has developed over the years cannot be doubted as it occupies a significant place in the global film fraternity. Innovations in film making, technological developments in production, from black and white to 3 D, music and competence in acting skills have all contributed to boost up the quality of Indian cinema. As we continue to develop and make more realistic films over the years, it is but natural that more innovations and quality development would take place and there will be entertainment, entertainment and entertainment. —INFA
(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)