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History of Cinema

History of Cinema

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Published by aneesh manu.m

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Published by: aneesh manu.m on Mar 12, 2013
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history of indian cinema
 
Pre-cinema age
 Telling stories from the epics using hand-drawn tableaux images in scroll paintings, withaccompanying live sounds have been an age old Indian tradition. These tales, mostly thefamiliar stories of gods and goddesses, are revealed slowly through choreographicmovements of painted glass slides in a lantern, which create illusions of movements. Andso when the Lumire brothers' representatives held the first public showing at Mumbai's(Bombay) Watson's Hotel on July 7, 1896, the new phenomenon did not create much of astir here and no one in the audience ran out at the image of the train speeding towardsthem, as it did elsewhere. The Indian viewer took the new experience as something alreadyfamiliar to him.Harischandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar, who happened to be present for the Lumierepresentation, was keen on getting hold of the Lumiere Cinematograph and trying it outhimself rather than show the Lumiere films to a wider audience. The public receptionaccorded to Wrangler Paranjpye at Chowapatty on his return from England with the coveteddistinction he got at Cambridge was covered by Bhatwadekar in December 1901- the firstIndian topical or actuality film was born.In Calcutta, Hiralal Sen photographed scenes from some of the plays at the ClassicTheatre. Such films were shown as added attractions after the stage performances or takento distant venue where the stage performers could not reach. The possibility of reaching alarge audience through recorded images which could be projected several times throughmechanical gadgets caught the fancy of people in the performing arts and the stage andentertainment business. The first decade of the 20th century saw live and recordedperformances being clubbed together in the same programme.The strong influence of its traditional arts, music, dance and popular theatre on the cinemamovement in India in its early days, is probably responsible for its characteristic enthusiasmfor inserting song and dance sequences in Indian cinema, even till today.
Dada Saheb Phalke
 Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (1870 - 1944) affectionately called Dadasaheb Phalke isconsidered as the 'father of Indian Cinema'. Central in Phalke's career as a filmmaker washis fervent belief in the nationalistic philosophy of swadeshi, which advocated that Indiansshould take charge of their own economy in the perspective of future Independence.Phalke, with his imported camera, exposed single frames of a seed sprouting to a growingplant, shot once a day, over a month-thus inadvertently introducing the concept of 'time-lapse photography', which resulted in the first indigenous 'instructional film'-
The Birth of aPea Plant 
(1912) - a capsule history of the growth of a pea into a pea-laden plant. This filmcame very handy in getting financial backing for his first film venture.
 
Inspired from an imported film -
Life of Christ 
- Phalke started mentally visualising theimages of Indian gods and goddesses. What really obsessed him was the desire tosee Indian images on the screen in a purely Swadeshi venture. He fixed up a studioin Dadar Main Road, wrote the scenario, erected the set and started shooting for his firstventure
Raja Harishchandra
in 1912. The first full-length story film of Phalke was completedin 1912 and released at the Coronation cinema on April 21, 1913, for special invitees andmembers of the Press. The film was widely acclaimed by one and all and proved to be agreat success.
Raja Harishchandra
 The opening tableaux presents a scene of royal family harmony- with a space "outside" theframe from where the people emerge, and to which space the king when banished seeksshelter. The film's treatment is episodic, following the style of the Indian flok theatre and theprimitive novel. Most of the camera set-ups are static, with plenty of movements within theframe. The bathtub sequence where Harishchandra comes to call his wife Taramati, who isin the tub, with her fully drenched attendants is indeed the first bath-tub scene in Indiancinema. All the females in their wet sarees and blouses clinging to their bodies are in fact allmales in female grab.Phalke hailed from an orthodox Hindu household - a family of priests with strong religiousroots. So, when technology made it possible to tell stories through moving images, it wasbut natural that the Indian film pioneer turned to his own ancient epics and puranas for source material. The phenomenal success of 
Raja Harishchandra
was kept up by Phalkewith a series of mythological films that followed -
Mohini Bhasmasur 
(1914), significant for introducing the first woman to act before the cameras - Kamalabai Gokhale. The significanttitles that followed include -
Satyawan Savitri 
(1914),
Satyavadi RajaHarischandra
(1917),
Lanka Dahan
(1917),
Shri Krishna Janma
(1918) and
KaliaMardan
(1919).
Regional Cinema
 The first film in Southern India was made in 1916 by R Nataraja Mudaliar-
KeechakaVadham
. As the title indicates the subject is again a mythological from the Mahabharata. Another film made in Madras -
Valli Thiru-Manam
(1921) by Whittaker drew critical acclaimand box office success. Hollywood returned Ananthanarayanan Narayanan foundedGeneral Pictures Corporation in 1929 and established filmmaking as an industry in SouthIndia and became the single largest producer of silent films. Kolhapur in WesternMaharashtra was another centre of active film production in the twenties. In 1919 BaburaoK Mistry - popularly known as Baburao Painter formed the Maharashtra Film Co. with theblessings of the Maharaja of Kolhapur and released the first significant historical -
Sairandhari 
(1920) with Balasheb Pawar, Kamala Devi and Zunzarrao Pawar in stellar roles. Because of his special interest in sets, costumes, design and painting, he choseepisodes from Maratha history for interpreting in the new medium and specialised in thehistorical genre. The exploits of Shivaji and his contemporaries and their patrioticencounters with their opponents formed the recurring themes of his 'historicals' whichinvariably had a contemporary relevance to the people of a nation, who were fighting for liberation from a colonial oppressor. The attack against the false values associated with theWestern way of life and their blind imitation by some Indians was humorously brought out
 
by Dhiren Ganguly in his brilliant satirical comedy -
England Returned 
(1921) - presumablythe first 'social satire' on Indians obsessed with Western values. And with that another genre of Indian cinema known as 'the contemporary social' slowly emerged. BaburaoPainter followed it up with another significant film in 1925 -
Savkari Pash
(The IndianShylock) - an attempt at realistic treatment of the Indian peasant exploited by the greedymoneylender.In Bengal, a region rich in culture and intellectual activity, the first Bengali feature film in1917, was remake of Phalke's
Raja Harishchandra
. Titled
Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra
, itwas directed by Rustomjee Dotiwala. Less prolific than Bombay based film industry, around122 feature films were made in Calcutta in the Silent Era.The first feature film in Tamil, also the first in entire South India,
Keechakavatham
wasmade during 1916-17, directed by Nataraja Mudaliar.
Marthandavarma
(1931) produced by R Sunder Raj, under Shri.Rajeswari Film, Nagercoil,directed by P V Rao, got into a legal tangle and was withdrawn after its premiere. Based ona celebrated novel by C V Raman Pillai, the film recounts the adventures of the crownprince and how he eliminates the arch-villains to become the unquestioned ruler of theTravancore State. The film has title cards in English and Malayalam, some of which aretaken from the original text. A few of the title cards and action make obvious reference tothe Swadeshi Movement of the time. Had it not been for the legal embargo, the film wouldhave had a great impact on the regional cinema of the South.
Indian Cinema Starts Talking
 In the early thirties, the silent Indian cinema began to talk, sing and dance.
 Alam Ara
produced by Ardeshir Irani (Imperial Film Company), released on March 14, 1931 wasthe first Indian cinema with a sound track.Mumbai became the hub of the Indian film industry having a number of self-containedproduction units. The thirties saw hits like
Madhuri 
(1932),
Indira,M  A
(1934),
 Anarkali 
(1935),
Miss Frontier Mail 
(1936), and
Punjab Mail 
(1939).
V Shantaram
  Among the leading filmmakers of Mumbai during the forties, V Shantaram was arguably themost innovative and ambitious. From his first talkie
 Ayodhya ka Raja
(1932) to
 Admi 
(1939),it was clear that he was a filmmaker with a distinct style and social concern whose filmsgenerated wide discussion and debate. He dealt with issues like cast system, religiousbigotry and women's rights. Even when Shantaram took up stories from the past, he usedthese as parables to highlight contemporary situations. While
 Amirt Manthan
(1934)opposed the senseless violence of Hindu rituals,
Dharmatama
(1935) dealt withBrahmanical orthodoxy and cast system. Originally titled
Mahatma
, the film was entirelybanned by the colonial censor on the ground that it treated a sacred subject irreverently anddealt with controversial politics.
 Amarjyoti 
(1936) was an allegory on the oppression of women in which the protagonist seeks revenge. It could perhaps be called the first women'slib film in India.

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