Top 100 – The first steps of Indian Cinema (Part 2)
Umpteen film careers were annihilated as well as created with the coming of sound in cinema. An expressive, pleasant voice became a prerequisite. If you could sing, you were already half way there. The demand for composers, musicians, lyricists and writers shot through the roof. Reigning studios like Madan and Kohinoor shut shop as New Theaters (Calcutta), Bombay Talkies (Bombay) and Prabhat (Poona) became airborne. New cinematic idiom was coined and tested, niche markets identified and occupied as the Hollywood style studio system found favor. In continuation, here are a few defining firsts of that era:
26. Overdose: Madan Theatre’s Indrasabha (1932, Dir: J J Madan)) featured 71 songs. The singers were Master Nissar and Kajjan Devi. This is one World Record we shall hold forever.
27. First background score: Bengali film Chandidas (1932, Dir: Debaki Bose) released under the banner of New Theatres. The music was composed by Raichand Boral.
28. Cold comfort: Regal Theater, Bombay inaugurated in 1933 was the first centrally air conditioned cinema house in Asia. Was constructed at a cost of Rs 12 lakh on an empty site known as the Old Saluting Battery.
29. Night Shoot: First attempt by Imperial Films Co by using incandescent lights: Film – ‘Khwabe Hasti’ (1929). Apradhi (1931, Dir: Debaki Bose) became the first film shot completely with artificial lights.
30. Desi to English. Ardeshir Irani’s Noor Jahan (1931, Dir: Ezra Mir) was given an English version for foreign markets.
31. English song by Indian: “Now The Moon Her Light Has Shed” sung by Devika Rani for the film Karma (1933) under the baton of music director Earnest Broadhurst.
32. Silver Jubilees: Madan Theatre’s silent film Kapala Kundala (1929) ran for 25 weeks in Calcutta. Prabhat ‘Amirt Manthan’ (1934), the first Hindi talkie Jubilee at Krishna Talkies, Bombay. 29 weeks.
33. First Talkies Released Abroad: ‘Karma’, an Anglo-Indian production released in England in May 1933. Featured a three-minute kiss shared by recently married couple, Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai.
‘Seeta’ (1934, Dir: Debaki Bose), the first exhibited at Venice Film Festival in 1934.
34. Telephoto Lens: V Shantaram first to use the telephoto lens for extreme close-ups of actor Chandra Mohan’s eyes who played the hypnotist, cult leader Rajguru in Amrit Manthan (1934).
35. Dishum: Mary Ann Evans aka Fearless Nadia in Wadia Movietone’s Hunterwali (1935). 1st woman action star. Leapt on moving trains, mounted galloping horses, swung from chandeliers and socked the bad boys.
36. Rang Barse: Imperial Film Company’s Kisan Kanya (1937), first indigenous color film.
37. World fame: Prabhat’s Sant Tukaram (1937, Dir: Damle and Fatehlal) won at the 5th International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art in Venice. Voted as a Top Three film of the world that year.
38. No background music: Shantaram’s ‘Duniya Na Mane’ (1937). It had only ambient and natural sounds as background score.
39. Lady Composer: Jaddan Bai, the mother of ‘Mother India’ Nargis and granny of ‘Munnabhai’ Sanjay Dutt produced and composed for ‘Talash-e-Haq’ in 1935. First to foray into the uncharted territory of gentlemen music directors.
40. Playback start: New Theatre’s film ‘Dhoop Chhaon’ (1935, Dir: Nitin Bose) innovated playback singing. The song ‘Main Khush Hona Chahun’ had an all women chorus led by Parul Ghosh with Suprova Sarkar and Harimati. Music by Raichand Boral.
41. Songless: JBH Wadia’s ‘Naujawan’ in 1937. No songs – big risk – paid off.
42. Export Quality: Sabu (real name: Dastagir) acted in Robert Flaherty’s film Elephant Boy in 1937, the first Indian in Hollywood.
43. Me Tarzan: Zimbo the Apeman (1937, Dir: Mohan Bhavnani) *ing Navin Yagnik introduced the native Hindi speaking Tarzan.
44. High angle: Wadia Movietone’s technical expert B.M. Tara built the first Indian camera crane in a workshop – circa 1938.
45. Skin Show: Chitralekha (1941, Dir: Kidar Sharma) *ing Mehtaab, featured her in an uncensored topless bathing scene. In the silent era, this taboo was broken by Sati Anusuya (1921, Dir: Kanjibhai Rathore) which had actress Sakina in partially nude shot.
46. Blockbuster: Bombay Talkies ‘Kismet’ (1943, Dir: Gyan Mukherjee) creates an all time record for the longest continuous run of more than three and a half years at a single cinema Roxy in Calcutta, a record broken by ‘Sholay’ (1975, Dir: Ramesh Sippy) 37 years later.
47. First Talkie Produced in English Language: Wadia Movietone’s ‘The Court Dancer’ aka ‘Raj Nartaki’ (1941, Dir: Modhu Bose) was the first Indian film with English dialogue produced in India with an entirely India cast and crew. Released in USA in 1944.
48. Cannes Victory: Neecha Nagar (1946, Dir: Chetan Anand) won the Grand Prix award at the first Cannes Film Festival.
49. Nach meri jaan: ‘Kalpana’ (1948, Dir: Uday Shankar) was our first ballet film, (Music: Vishnudas Shirali, Dialogue: Amrit Lal Nagar, Lyrics Sumitra Nandan Pant). Uday taught dance to Guru Dutt and the film has recently been restored by World Cinema Foundation, helmed by Martin Scorsese.
50. Dream Sequence Song: Uday Shankar’s early dance partner Madame Simkie choreographed this spectacular sequence representing the ‘Earth-Hell-Heaven’ triptych. Took 5 months to complete and announced the big league entry of 26-year-old Raj Kapoor and R K Films.