14 essentials of a Box Office Hit

India’s first movie palace – The Elphinstone in Calcutta

Seventy seven years ago, in the summer of 1935, this article appeared in “Cinema” magazine published from Lahore. A majority of century old Bollywood is still defined by most of these clichés. Will things ever change?

1. A plot which has more story than spectacle. It should be such that the public should never lose interest throughout the film and should be punctuated with suspense and one or two exciting climaxes.

2. Romance is the keynote of a filmic drama. Love is essential in pictures as in life.

Tantalising 20s - Heer-Ranjha

Tantalising 20’s – Heer-Ranjha Uncensored

3. The hero and heroine should be beautiful. People do not like to see a plain heroine. Beauty is essential in a picture as the majority of picture goers in India are males. Feminine beauty should be “displayed” in the pictures as much as possible. A few beautiful women should be included in certain scenes wherever proper and their physical beauty “exhibited” within limits of decorum and decency.

Madans-Indra-Sabha-1932

Leg Show in Indra Sabha (1932)

4. One or two melodious songs to be sung by males and heroines respectively. If the hero is not a singer then some other male singer should be introduced in a suitable role. Only excellent singers should sing. It is better not to sing than to sing badly.

5. One or two solo dances should be introduced and at least one group dance.

S-S-Vasans-Chandra-lekha 1948

Spectacle in Chandralekha (1948)

6. Close ups of the heroine, close ups of the dancers and the proper use of the close ups must be made as often as required, to show the importance of the situation or the beauty of face or body.

7. Flowing hair of the girls, dressing the hair before a mirror, toilet of a beautiful lady, girls bathing in a tank, young girls playing in gardens are some of the scenes which appeal to masses and lovers of beauty.

Torneys-Sinbad-the-sailor

Bathing Beauties in Sinbad the Sailor (1930)

8. Dialogues should be easy, intelligible, crisp and to the point. No long-winded dialogues should be introduced unless they are indispensable. More action however is needed in a film than dialogue.

9. Costumes worn by the characters should be such as to enhance the beauty of the players. Setting must be correct and appropriate. Big settings are necessary. If correct settings are not available, do without them. Corners of rooms, gardens etc. were always alike.

Karwaan-e-Hayat-Saigal-and-Raj-Kumari

Dressed for Adventure – Karwaan e Hayat (1935)

10. Outdoors must be used. The difference between the stage and the screen is that on the stage we can finish the whole drama in a few hours while in a film we can take scenes at the top of a mountain and at the bottom of the sea. Beautiful localities and natural scenery add to the interest of the film.

Lunch-Break-Outdoors-with-a-silent-film-unit

Outdoors lunch break – Film unit in 1926

11. Comic element is essential in every picture. Comic touches should be given by creating comic situations and by actions and not by dialogue or gestures. If possible the characters should make the audience laugh by his or her own trouble, real or imaginary. The ending should be happy unless historically inaccurate.

12. Continuity of the story must be well kept. Tempo should be perfect – no scene or song should be too long or too short.

13. Every studio should employ “dialogue specialists” to correct the pronunciation and manner of speech of characters. They must correct the dialogues as the director may not be a master of language.

Dialogue-baazi Mughal e Azam

Perfect dialogue baazi in Mughal e Azam

14. Back ground music should be in accordance with the situation. No piece of film should be without back ground music excepting during dialogues and songs or whenever it is necessary to create some sensation or effect by perfect silence.

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