–   From Chup: Revenge of the Artist

The first part of this article series is dedicated to celebrating Amitabh Bachchan’s 80th birthday, this year! This will take us on a delightful ride through the evolution of Hindi cinéma from 1913 to the late 1960s, before the rise of Bachchan.

India has one of the oldest, largest and most popular film industries in the world. Hindi cinéma, popularly known as Bollywood, refers to that segment of the Indian film industry that produces motion pictures in the Hindi language. Bollywood produces both mainstream commercial movies with dance numbers as well as art films that are more formally known as parallel cinéma. Hindi cinéma has evolved with time as a result of constant change in the trends of creativity and technology.

Dadasaheb Phalke’s ‘Raja Harishchandra’ (1913) is the first full-length silent feature film made in India, with intertitles in Hindi as well as Marathi and English. Dadasaheb Phalke is often referred to as the “Father of Indian Cinéma” after whom a prestigious lifetime award is now bestowed upon legendary contributors to cinéma. From the age of silent films, the Hindi film industry has come a long way in terms of producing spectacular films with heavy Special Effects (SFX) and top-notch Visual Effects (VFX) such as ‘Ra.One’ (2011), and ‘Brahmāstra’ (2022) which released earlier this year.

(Image Source- Wikipedia)

Hindi cinéma started talking from the 1930s. India’s first talkie, ‘Alam Ara’, was directed and released by Ardeshir Irani in 1931. The launch of talkies in Bollywood eventually led to the introduction of songs and dance numbers in films as well. A few evergreen musicals were produced thereafter, signifying the birth of song-and-dance in Hindi cinéma.

The late 1940s and the 1950s, popularly known as the “Golden Age of Hindi Cinéma”, was predominantly the era of absolute classics. Hindi cinéma witnessed the emergence of playback singing and dubbing in this era; and legendary artists such as Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi dominated the playback singing industry.

(Image Source- medium.com)

Brilliant directors such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak, and renowned filmmakers such as Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor, founded the concept of Hindi parallel cinéma in this golden era. Raj Kapoor’s ‘Shree 420’ (1955), Mehboob Khan’s ‘Mother India’ (1957), Guru Dutt’s ‘Pyaasa’ (1957) and ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ (1959) highlighted the socio-economic crises that India was facing in that period. Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar are two iconic artists of this era who continue to bestride the Indian film fraternity even after several decades.

(Image Source- Netflix USA)

Balraj Sahni gave stellar performances in films such as ‘Do Bigha Zamin’, ‘Kabuliwala’ and ‘Garm Hava’, to name a few. These were made by Bimal Roy and M. S. Sathyu. Kundan Shah’s ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ was a satirical comedy that became a cult classic. All the actors in the film were from prestigious institutions such as the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and National School of Drama (NSD).

The next two decades, the 1960s and the 1970s, saw the rise of mega-budget commercial movies that were truly meant to entertain the audience and ruled at the box-office. Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Pakeezah’, Raj Kapoor’s ‘Bobby’, and almost all films of Ramesh Sippy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee changed the face of Hindi cinéma as commercial films began to be produced in bulk alongside art films while clearly maintaining the line of demarcation between the two. Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Rishi Kapoor, Hema Malini, Rekha and Jaya Bachchan, to name a few, remained the leading men and women in the Hindi film industry in this era.

Ketan Mehta’s ‘Mirch Masala’ turned out to be an absolute masterpiece with stunning performances by Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. Satyajit Ray’s ‘Sadgati’ (television film) and ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ are wonderful adaptations of Munshi Premchand’s stories on the silver screen. In the late 1960s, ‘Sara Aakash’ by Basu Chatterjee and ‘Bhuvan Shome’ by Mrinal Sen attained massive critical acclaim.

Just like every movie we watch has an interval, this is just the intermission before the next part unfolds. While the action has risen significantly, we are yet to reach the climax! There is so much more to talk about! Stay tuned!

  • Reneeka Chatterjee

FY B.Sc.





–   From Chup: Revenge of the Artist

After the intermission, let us pick up from where we left off in the last part because “Picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost…”

The turbulent 1970s saw the country undergo topsy-turvy socio-political and socio-economic scenarios. The Emergency was imposed on the nation by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. Unemployment, poverty and anarchy prevailed in society, as a consequence. The masses needed a rebellious figure, anti-institutional imagery, a voice that would speak and act on behalf of them and for them. This led to the rise of the “Angry Young Man of India”, Amitabh Bachchan, who became the voice of the common masses through his iconic films such as ‘Zanjeer’ (1973), ‘Deewaar’ (1975) and ‘Trishul’ (1978), to mention a few. Commercial, mainstream and larger-than-life movies began to be preferred by the common masses. Thus, Amitabh Bachchan emerged as the biggest megastar of the 1970s and continues to enthral the audience with his superb onscreen presence.

The biggest megastar of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, debuted with a black-and-white film called ‘Saat Hindustani’ in 1969 in which he played the small role of a Muslim poet. It is alleged that he replaced the original artist who was roped in for this role on receiving a letter of recommendation from the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. His debut film was his only black-and-white film in his entire career that spans over six decades. Amitabh Bachchan gained widespread popularity with ‘Zanjeer’ in 1973, and went on to deliver numerous commercial and artistic successes in the coming years.

(Image Source- Samaa English)

Romance became a typical and common genre in that era, and, by the late 1970s, commercial films with extensive action sequences emerged as a trend too. In 1975, ‘Sholay’ and ‘Deewaar’ became massive box-office triumphs that portrayed the socio-economic scenario of the common man in that era besides entertaining the audience with their ‘masala’ elements. Amitabh Bachchan towered over the rest, quite literally, alongside colleagues such as Anil Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty. In the next two decades, the focus again shifted from action to romance with romantic musicals being preferred to gangster movies. Films like ‘Kabhi Kabhie’ and ‘Silsila’ prove the same.

The 1960s and the 1970s witnessed the emergence of marvellous film directors such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee, Basu Bhattacharya, Gulzar and Mahesh Bhatt who depicted the simple, day-to-day stories of the common man on the big screen in a manner that was neither too larger-than-life nor too artistic, and was easily relatable to the common, educated masses.

Basu Bhattacharya made only eight films but they were hugely impactful and are now regarded as cult classics. His films like ‘Teesri Kasam’, ‘Anubhav’ and ‘Aavishkar’ were highly acclaimed theatrical creations. Another notable filmmaker of that time was Sai Paranjpye who made films such as ‘Sparsh’, ‘Katha’ and ‘Chashme Buddoor’.

The late 1960s, the 1970s, and the early 1980s saw the production of refined films by renowned film directors such as Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, M. S. Sathyu, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Sampooran Singh Kalra and Goutam Ghose, to name a few. They gave birth to the concept of parallel arthouse cinéma which realistically portrayed the agony of the people in India then.

Films like ‘Mere Apne’, ‘Nishant’, ‘Manthan’, ‘Ardh Satya’ and ‘Paar’ won global accolades and nourished the sensibilities of the audience by catering to the educated and socially-aware sections of the population. Sanjeev Kumar, Amol Palekar, Farooq Shaikh, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi and Deepti Naval emerged as successful actors. Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Paresh Rawal took the baton of acting several notches higher than their predecessors from the 1970s.

The most popular dance icon of the 1980s who appealed to the down-trodden sections of the society was Mithun Chakraborty. He had massive mass appeal. In the late 1980s, Hindi cinéma deteriorated but by the 1990s, a fresh generation of actors and filmmakers came to the forefront. Family-oriented dramas became cult classics with the emergence of the ‘Khans’. While Salman Khan pleased us all with his comedic timing, Aamir Khan continues to please us all with the movies he chooses.

Shah Rukh Khan, the undisputed “Baadshah of Bollywood”, debuted with ‘Deewana’ in 1992 wherein he played the second male lead. He embarked on a unique journey of playing the role of the antagonist in his next few films that gained him massive mass appeal. By 1995, he began to perform in romantic comedies and musicals as well which has made him the “King of Romance” today. ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ (1988), ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ (1994) and ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ (1995) are, till date, absolute unanimous favourites.

(Image Source- Biz Asia Live)

Actors like Akshay Kumar and Govinda, actresses such as Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Rani Mukerji and Kajol, among others, kept the spirit of action and comedy alive in mainstream movies. In the following decades, Hindi cinéma genuinely reached a global platform at a broader level, delivering classics such as ‘Lagaan’ (2001), ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ (2001), ‘Devdas’ (2002), ‘Veer-Zaara’ (2004), ‘Rang De Basanti’ (2006), ‘Chak De! India’ (2007), ‘3 Idiots’ (2009), and many more.

Irrfan Khan’s contribution to films is worthy of mentioning and his films like ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ and ‘Maqbool’ are laudable. Similarly, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and several other actors, filmmakers and film directors ought to be commended for their mastery of their precious craft. Today, Bollywood is not only influenced by other film industries but also influences global markets across continents.

(Image Source- Wikipedia Hindi)

Actors such as Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Ayushmann Khurrana, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt, among others, continue to stun us with their stellar performances. “Bachchan Back to the Beginning” was a thoughtful and fantastic initiative by Film Heritage Foundation and PVR Cinémas from 8th October to 11th October to celebrate the 80th birthday of the living legend, Amitabh Bachchan! They showcased 11 iconic films of Amitabh Bachchan in more than 17 cities across India to revive his magic on the big screen. Although we have reached the denouement of this article series, may the magic of Bollywood remain intact till eternity!

(Image Source- imdb.com)

Reneeka Chatterjee

FY B.Sc.

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