Celebrating Indian Cinema

All bemused and exasperated over the political conundrum and the presidential race, the hue and cry surrounding the nation; I reclined back on my hanging swing at the balcony outside my room and crave for something I can be proud of and I can boast about. (Radio was on in the background and suddenly it hums, “Yeh kahan aa gaye hum…..”) And it reminded me of OUR Indian Cinema of which we are currently entering into the 100th year of existence. Incredible!!

Now, this is something that makes me feel elated and all cheerful about. It seems to me as if it has been there in situ since times immemorial. The year my grandfather was born, Indian first feature film was in making. And as he grew one year older, the Indian Cinema was born with DadaSaheb Phalke’s Raja Harischchandra—the complete indigenous feature film. As he said, this was purely ‘Swadeshi’ in terms of cinematographers to the lead actors; everyone involved was Indian. And Pundalik which was released in 1912 couldn’t make it to this epithet because the project employed British cinematographers. Now that is what you call patriotism!

It was April 21, 1913, when the movie was screened and all elite had come down to Olympia theatre to witness something that would kindle the onset of a momentous reign.  And since then there was no looking back. The cinema started with emphasis on socio-polity-economic conditions of the society and all the movies carried some social message. Eventually, the scene changed and cinema moved to the today’s cliché love and romance genre. Songs became a distinctive feature of the Indian movies. The duet songs would hook people to the screens as it was the only sequence then where some mushiness could be seen. And this enigma spread like a wild fire and we had movies in regional languages including Tamil, Telugu, Bhojpuri and Bengali. This added a new dimension to the entire cinema industry. Now the exchange of ideas increased and the liking for the cinema increased even more.  It was the period which saw fabulous actors, heart touching melodies and meaningful lyrics.

Cinema in Decades:

Come, let’s take a dip into this glorious past and see how the tale of Indian Cinema was penned down. Though it started with Raja Harsihchandra (1913) and while Alam Ara, the first talkie was released in 1931, there were in total 209 silent films made in the span. Lanka Dahan (1917) and Kalia Mardan (1919) were the biggest hits of the time. 1935 was the year which witnessed mega blockbusters like Devdas—the story of wasted love and Achhut Kanya. It kick started the love and romance stories. Coming to the 50’s; Dilip Saheb, Dev Saheb, and Raj Kapoor had stolen the show. The silver screen was buzzing with their super skilled acting, impeccable dialogue delivery and above all their off screen good image. Mother India (1957), Naya Daur(1957) and Mughal-e-Azam (1960) were blockbusters. Then, came the times of elicit love of “Yahoo”. Yes, a phenomenon called Shammi Kapoor emerged on the screen. He, Rajendra Kumar and Rajesh Khanna became household names. Ganga Jamuna (1961), Sangam (1964), Araadhna and Do Raaste (1969) and Mera Naam Joker (1970) were all the movies of 70’s. And now Bollywood dumps romance for action with the angry young man (Amitabh Bachchan) making an entry into the industry. Bobby (1973), Sholay (1975) and Muqaddar ka Sikandar (1978) were the biggest hits of this time. The 80’s was the time when industry was unstable because of the video piracy. And there were many flops during this time. Still, we had movies like Kranti (1981), Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985) and Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989) which won the hearts of Indian audience.  Nineties saw the onset of family drama which was actually applauded by many. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayegne (1995) were box office hits .After that came the decade of the Khans, which needs no mention.

Spiced Up:

Spanning over the times, Bollywood generated lot of spice inside the industry with the alleged affairs. Some of which include Dev Anand-Suraiya; Randhir-Babita; Dharmendra-Hema; Amitabh-Rekha; Rishi Kapoor-Neetu and there were many which died their own death or found solace in real life too. One such esteemed pair is that of Dilip Saheb and Saira Bano (the lead actress of the “Yahoo” song). They are happily married till now. But then it became too common for the industry to witness such link-ups and move on. The stories still remain there with verity or falsehood on Paparazzi and keep emanating smoke now and then. We all are now so used to all this and accept this as part of our very own cinema.

It would be unfair on my part if I do not take you across the ‘baddies’ of our Indian cinema without whom I guess our industry would have been so incomplete. Pran, Prem Chopra, Kader Khan, Ranjit, Amrish Puri with their peculiar style of oratory touched the hearts of Indian cinemagoers. Women were not behind; Bindu and Aruna Irani were all time favourites. And one who can’t be forgotten ever is the ‘golden girl’—Helen. She danced, she was quixotic. She would love the actor more than the actress and die at the end for two of them. She was charismatic. She gained respect from nook and cranny of India despite doing such sensuous numbers at that time. She is the one who devised the formula called ‘item-number’ which our modern girls have not been able to catch, not even a bit of her oomph and style.

Dialogue-Baazi:

I absolutely have no doubt about their surpassed and unmatched dialogues. If songs were the catch of the movie, dialogues were the punch lines. Dialogues are what made the movies so distinct and remembered for their uniqueness.

Here are some the evergreen dialogues:

Devdas (Dilip Kumar): Kaun kambakht bardasht karne ke liye peeta hai, main toh peeta hoon ke bas saans le sakoon.

Waqt (Raaj Kumar): Chenoy Seth…jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hote hain, woh doosron ke ghar pe pathar nahi fenka karte.

Sholay (Gabbar Singh alias Amjad Khan): Tera kya hoga Kalia

Deewar (Shashi Kapoor): Mere paas maa hai.

Kalicharan (Ajit): Saara shahar mujhe loin ke naam se jaanta hai.

Mr. India (Amrish Puri): Mogambo khush hua

Ishqiya (Arshad Warsi): Tumhara pyaar pyaar, humara pyaar s*x.

It was a fashion in our industry to tag the actors and actresses such as Asha Parekh was the tragic queen, Hema Malini- The Dream Girl, Helen-The Golden Girl, Madhuri Dixit-The Dancing Queen, Amitabh Bachchan-The Angry Young Man. Such epithets would make them even more special and class apart. The names conferred to them by the local masses and their fans have been etched in the history of the industry forever.

What made them different?

But what amazes me the most is what was so special about stars of that day that made them so distinct, unique and likeable. What is that our stars of today are not able to get hold of?  No doubts that the industry has corporatized and it has become more of business rather than an art. But why the stars have not been able to secure a place like the stars of those times Be it Raaj Kumar with his peculiar voice and tone, be it Ajit, Reena Roy, Shabaana Aazmi, Rekha, Nutan, Keshtu Mukherjee, Mehmood, Asrani. They were themselves. This made them all unique. It can be said that if same script was given to different actors of that time, each movie would have been different altogether.

What Happens Today?

The Indian cinema has undergone major changes. Now, it is not just about on-Screen people but people back stage, technical staff, lyricist, singers and choreographers all have their share of fame and applaud. This is one good thing which has happened in the industry over the years of its evolution. There is a scope for off-beat movies like I Am by Onir, Dev D by Anurag Kashyap. With each passing year, we are adding new things to the kitty. Contrary to this, there are changes which are not much appreciable like doing away with the songs which have become impositions rather than part of the narrative. Songs is what makes Indian cinema separate from the rest of the world. So it is better not let them go. Then, there is so much of sequel and remake going on which somehow makes me think that there is a dearth of ideas. The originality is somehow missing. The movies have less impressive dialogues, less of original playback singing, less of content and more of money minting techniques. You mint the money but let’s not hurt the sanctity of the industry which has come so far treading a path for itself.

The Standing Ovation:

All said and done, ladies and gentlemen, now is the time to give a standing ovation to all our actors-actresses there. Let us give a big hand to the industry that has entertained us over the span of 100years with its heart-touching stories, fabulous narratives, finest playback singing, and overwhelming hard work. They have been indefatigable in delivering to their fans the best of what they have in store. And we are all pleased to have them here. With all respect, adulation and love, we request you to keep entertaining us in the years to come. We wish that industry keeps its originality and sanctity and may there never be dearth of ideas. We are already visible at the global platform, be it Grammys or Cannes. We are known worldwide. Let’s hope that we are known for the Best and the Finest. And this caravan goes on and on…..!!

(aur app sun rahe hain pakeezah movie ka gaana:  “yuhin koi mil gaya the sare rah chalte chalte, tum saath na chod dena yun sham dhalte dhalte) And I smile.

Karanvir Gupta

Image Courtesy : Karanvir Gupta