Top 100 – The first steps of Indian Cinema (Part 1)
It’s time for trivial pursuit. Unless you recently relocated from Metropolis,by now you know of Dada Phalke and his exploits. Celebrations all around, it’s the centenary of Indian cinema after all (which should have been commemorated in 1999 but that’s another matter).
Here’s a compilation of the baby steps the intrepid took, some flying in the face of rejection and ridicule, their mission being the only calling of their life. Some film industry firsts –
1. Ads Anyone!: “The marvel of the century, the wonder of the world, Living photographic pictures in life-sized reproductions”. Thus proclaimed the first film advertisements. July 7, 1896, The Times of India, Bombay.
2. Show time: Six shorts including ‘Arrival of a Train’ exhibited by Lumiere brothers’ cameraman Marius Sestier at Watson’s Hotel on the same day as above.
3. Film Company: Royal Bioscope Company established 1898 by Hiralal Sen. The entire stock of films was destroyed in Oct 1917 when an inferno engulfed his warehouse.
4.Film review: Started with tentative commenting in columns of the Times of India in 1899.
5. Documentary: 1901. Writer Director Sai Paranjpe’s grandfather, Dr. R P Paranjpe was filmed by Save Dada at the reception in his honor when he returned as the first Indian Wrangler of Cambridge University.
6. It’s a Record: Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd, Calcutta introduced records in 1898 and Shashimukhi of Classic Theaters became first Indian to record a song in 1902.
7. Premiere: ‘Raja Harishchandra’ at Olympia Cinema in Bombay on April 21,1913.
8. Film Serial: Like a really long film released in four parts, one week apart. ‘Rama Banvas’ (1918) by Patankar Friends and Co.
9. Hit hai: Phalke’s ‘Lanka Dehan’ (1917). Ran for 23 weeks. Receipts were transported in bullock carts with armed guards!
10. Women’s Lib: Kamalabhai Gokhale and her mother Durgabai, the first ladies onscreen acted in Phalke’s second film ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’ in 1913, causing uproar.
11. Kid stuff: Phalke’s son Bhalchandra in the film ‘Raja Harishchandra’ and daughter Mandakini in ‘Krishna Janam’ in 1918. First child stars.
12. Hollywood return: First Hollywood-trained Indian Suchet Singh, worked as an associate to Chaplin in 1918 and returned later that year. Started Oriental Film Manufacturing Company Ltd. For his maiden venture ‘Shakuntala’ (1920).
13. Snip Snip: Film Censor Boards were set up in Calcutta, Madras and Rangoon in 1920 with its headquarters in Bombay.
14. Ban bane: Kohinoor Studios ‘Bhakta Vidur’ was banned in Sind and Chennai in 1921. Written by the highest paid writer of the time, Mohanlal G Dave.
15. Desi Camera: Baburao Painter founder of Maharashtra Film Company produced his first film ‘Sairandhiri’ (1919) with a camera invented by his late brother, Anandrao Painter from a junked film projector.
16. Pehla Khitaab (First title honor): Baburao Painter was also bestowed with the title ‘Cinema Kesari’ by Lokmanya Tilak in 1919 after seeing ‘Sairandhri’.
17. Phata Poster: Painter here again, hand drew the poster for his film ‘Vatsala Haran’ in 1923.
18. Aha.. Remake: Much before Bollywood became a blatant cheat, Wadia Brothers honestly paid for the rights to make ‘Thief of Baghdad’ (1924).
19. Dress me up: Maganlal Dresswala founded by Bhagwanjibhai in 1926 provided the costumes for the talkie ‘Alam Ara’. Their third generation are still operating successfully and have seven outlets across Mumbai.
20. She’s Got It: Begum Fatma Sultana, mother of actress Zubeida (of Alam Ara fame) produced and directed the fantasy film ‘Bulbul-e-Paristan’ in 1926, the first woman in India.
21. Two of me: Master Vithal portrayed the first double role in a feature film ‘Prisoner of Love’ (Sharda Film Company) in 1927.
22. Woh kaun thi: Sulochana alias Ruby Meyers wore nine different disguises for one character in a film called ‘Wild Cat of Bombay’aka Bambai Ki Billi (1927)
23. Bol baby bol: ‘Alam Ara’ by Ardeshir Irani (Imperial Film Company) was released at Majestic Cinema, Bombay on March 14, 1931. A costume fantasy with seven songs it had Master Vithal, Zubeida, Prithviraj Kapoor and WM Khan, who sang ‘De De khuda ke naam pe’ – the first song of the talkies. The music directors were Pirojshah Mistry and B Irani. Indian silver screen sang.
24. 18+: ‘Social Evil’ (1929), a docu-drama made by the Social Purity League of Bombay. Imparted sex education and guidance to ignorant youth about sexual problems. First film certified ‘A’ in a progressive Bharat only alive in memories.
25. Kiddie Party: V Shantaram directed ‘Rani Saheba’ (1930) under the banner of Prabhat Film Company, the first children’s film.