• The first talking film Alam Ara was produced in 1931 by Imperial Film Company and directed by Ardeshir Irani.
  • Dada Saheb Phalke, the producer of India’s first indigenous feature film Raja Harichandra (1913) is considered as the father of Indian Cinema.
  • India’s first cinemascope film is Kagaz ka Phool 1959 by Guru Dutt.
  • India’s first 70 mm film is Around the World (Hindi) 1967 by Raj Kapoor.
  • The most prestigious award in the Indian film world is Dada Saheb Phalke Award instituted by the Government of India for lifelong contributions to Indian Cinema.
  • Swarna Kamal is the name of the award given to the best film of the year by the Government of India.
  • The first winner of the Dada Saheb Award was Devika Rani Roerrch (1969). She is known as the Lady of Indian Film.
  • Adi Shankara directed by G.V. Iyer is the first Sanskrit film in India.
  • The first actress of the Indian Cinema to win a Padmashri Award was Nargis Dutt.
  • Sivaji Ganesan was the first Indian to win the Chevalier Award instituted by the French Government.
  • M.G. Ramachandran was the first film star to become the Chief Minister of an Indian State.
  • The first International Film Festival of India was held in 1952.
  • First Indian 3-D Picture is Malayalam cinema My Dear Kuttichathan.
  • Filmmakers such as Shyam Benegal continued to produce realistic Parallel Cinema throughout the 1970s, alongside Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Gautam Ghose in Bengali cinema; Adoor Gopalakrishnan, John Abraham and G. Aravindan in Malayalam cinema; and Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani, Ketan Mehta, Govind Nihalani and Vijaya Mehta in Hindi cinema.

History of Indian Cinema

  • The Lumiere Brothers who are famous as the inventors of Cinematograph brought the concept of motion pictures to India. They exhibited six-soundless short films in Bombay in 1896, which managed to engross the audience. Shot by an unknown photographer in 1897, the first film was titled Coconut Fair and Our Indian Empire.
  • The Italian duo, Colorello and Cornaglia, who made an exhibition in tents at the Azad Maidan in Bombay (now Mumbai), started the next big venture. These were followed by a spate of short films like The Death of Nelson, Noah’s Ark, etc, exhibited in Bombay in 1898.
  • But these were all foreign ventures, which were focusing on the British or their empire in India.
  • The first motion venture by an Indian was by Harishchandra Bhatavdekar, who was popularly known as Save Dada. He made two short films in 1899 and exhibited them to the audience.
  • In 1900s, there were very few Indian filmmakers but notable amongst them was F.B. Thanawalla who made Taboot Procession and Splendid New Views of Bombay. Apart from him, Hiralal Sen was very well known for his picture Indian Life and Scenes made in 1903.
  • Gradually, the market for these pictures increased and as these were temporary exhibits, it created an urgent need for a cinema house. This need was fulfilled by Major Warwick, who established the first cinema house in Madras (now Chennai) in 1900.
  • Later a wealthy Indian businessman, Jamshedjee Madan established the Elphinstone Picture House in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1907. Looking at the profits in the budding Indian market, Universal Studios established the first Hollywood based agency in India in 1916.

The Era of Silent Films

  • The decade of 1910 to 1920 was dominated by silent films. Although they were called silent films, they were not totally mute and were accompanied by music and dance. Even when they were being screened in the theatres, they were accompanied with live musical instruments like sarangi, tabla, harmonium and violin.
  • The first Indo-British Collaboration for making a silent movie was in 1912 by N.G. Chitre and R.G. Torney. Their film was titled Pundalik.
  • Dadasaheb Phalke who produced the film titled Raja Harishchandra in 1913 made the first indigenous Indian silent film. He is known as the Father of Indian Cinema and is credited with films like Mohini Bhasmasur and Satyavan Savitri. He is also credited for making the first box office hit titled Lanka Dahan in 1917.
  • The process of film-making got an impetus in 1918 by the opening of two film companies, i.e. Kohinoor Film Company and Dadasaheb Phalke’s Hindustan Cinema Films Company. Once films began making a decent amount of money, the government imposed ‘Entertainment Tax’ in Calcutta in 1922 and next year in Bombay. The film companies gave an opportunity to many filmmakers like Baburao Painter, Suchet Singh and V. Shantaram.
  • As this was the beginning of cinema in India, the filmmakers explored several different subjects. The most popular subjects were mythology and history as the stories from history and folklore had a great appeal to the audience’s sense of a shared past.
  • Some writers and directors also picked up social issues like V. Shantaram who made Amar Jyoti, a film about women’s emancipation. During this period there were very few notable women filmmakers.
  • Fatma Begum was the first Indian woman who produced and directed her own film in 1926, titled Bulbul-e-Paristan.
  • The first film controversy regarding censorship was over the film Bhakta Vidur, which was banned in Madras in 1921.
  • Several international collaborations were also made during this period. One of the most popular movies made in collaboration with Italy was Madan’s Nala Damayanti. Himanshu Ray who directed successful films like A Throw of Dice and Prem Sanyas, used Indo-German sponsorship.

The Epoch of Talkies and Colour Films

  • The first talking film was Alam Ara, which was directed by Ardeshir Irani in 1931. This film had a few memorable songs by W.M. Khan, who was India’s first singer and his song De de khuda ke naam par was the first recorded song in Indian cinematic history.
  • Several big banners like Bombay Talkies, New Theatres and Prabhat emerged in the late 1930s and they were also responsible for the coming of the Studio System.
  • The first film to use the studio system in 1935 was P.C Barua’s Devdas. The production houses started experimenting with the content of the films and the production styles.
  • This experimentation led to the coming of colour films like Sairandhri made by Prabhat in 1933, which is the first Indian colour film, but it was processed and printed in Germany. Films like Kisan Kanya deserve a mention for being the first indigenously made colour film and was produced by Ardashir Irani.
  • Some of the other distinctive films were:
1935J.B.H Wadia and Homi WadiaHunterwali, Toofan Mail, Punjab Mail, Flying RaniThese were the first Indian stunt films. They had an Indian actress of Australian origin Mary Evans who earned an Indian nickname ‘Fearless Nadia’.
1937J.B.H WadiaNaujawanFirst film without any songs.
1939K. SubrahmanyamPremsagarFirst South Indian film.

War Ravaged 1940s

  • The forties were a period of turmoil in Indian politics and it was reflected in the films produced during that period.
  • The fervour for independence was displayed in the films like Dharti ke Lal, Do Aankhen Baarah Haath, etc.
  • Several films were made on tragic love stories and fictional historical tales like Chandralekha, Laila Majnu, Sikander, Chitralekha, etc.
  • Even though India was struggling with post-independence troubles, the film industry was growing by leaps and bounds.

Coming of Age – 1950s

  • The Indian cinema came of age in the 1950s with the setting up of the Central Board of Film Certification, established to regulate the content of the large number of films, which were being produced in north and south India.
  • This period saw the rise of ‘film stars’ who became household names and achieved unprecedented levels of fame. The ‘trinity’ of Hindi cinema- Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor, came up during this period. The first techni-colour film was made in 1953 by Sohrab Modi, titled Jhansi Ki Rani.
  • This was also the period when international film festivals turned towards India as a destination. The first International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was held in Bombay in 1952. This also opened doors for more Indian films to gain recognition abroad.
  • Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen was the first Indian film to win an award at Cannes Film Festival.
  • Another famous film to win a Cannes Award was Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali.
  • Mother India was nominated in Best Foreign Language Film Category in 1957 for Oscar Award.
  • Taking a cue from the international scenario, the Government of India instituted the National Film Awards, which was first given to the feature film titled Shyamchi Aai.
  • The best short film award was given to Mahabalipuram produced by Jagat Murari.
  • The first film to win the President’s Gold Medal was made by Sohrab Modi in 1954, titled Mirza Ghalib.

The Golden Era – 1960s

  • The music industry became an integral part of the film fraternity in the 1960s. Several movies started using music as their unique selling point (USP).
  • Some of the notable ones were Jis Desh mein Ganga Behti hai, starring Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand’s Guide, Yash Chopra’s Waqt, etc. This period also witnessed two wars of 1962 and 1965, which became the subject of several nationalistic films. Notable amongst this genre was Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat, Shakti Samanta’s Rajesh Khanna starring Aradhana and Raj Kapoor starring Sangam. All these movies achieved cult status.
  • With the firm establishment of the film industry, there was a need for an institution to train various people involved in the complicated film process.
  • This motivated the government to establish the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune in 1960. This institute trained writers, directors and actors in their craft.
  • It was in 1969 that the doyen of Indian cinema and theatre Dadasaheb Phalke passed away and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Lifetime Achievement was instituted in his honour.

The ‘Angry Young man’ Phase – 1970-80

  • This period was dominated by the need to produce and direct film around the young men who were finding their feet in industrial Bombay.
  • The successful formula was to make ‘rags to riches’ stories, which would allow people to live their dreams on screen.
  • Amitabh Bachchan became the poster boy for most of these movies and this can be considered as the ‘Era of Amitabh Bachchan’. His successful movies include Zanjeer, Agnipath, Amar Akbar and Anthony, etc.
  • Another film that needs a special mention is the classic Sholay that was the first film to be made on the 70 mm scale. It broke all existing records and was the longest running film in cinemas till the 1990s.

Phase of Romantic cinema – 1980-2000

  • The face of Indian cinema changed rapidly from 1980 onwards. There was a spate of movies about social issues. Romantic movies and family dramas were also getting a huge audience.
  • Three major actors of this period were Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Govinda. They acted in successful blockbusters like Tezaab, Ram Lakhan, Phool aur Kante, Hum, etc.
  • The late 80s saw the emergence of ‘anti-hero’ image through films like Baazigar and Darr, which launched the stardom of the Khan trio.
  • LPG in 1990s allowed for advanced technology to come to India. For example, My Dear Kuttichatan was India’s first 3D movie that was made in Malayalam.
  • Indian audience was introduced to another major technology – the Dolby Sound System.

The Parallel Cinema

  • The parallel industry from late 1940s always made hard-hitting movies, whose sole purpose was to create good cinema and experiment with the craft even if they were not extremely commercially viable. This movement started in the regional cinema first with the production of Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome in 1969. This opened a wave of ‘new cinema’, which has been focusing on artistic excellence and had a humanist perspective that was in contradiction to the fantasy based world of popular mainstream cinema.
  • The causative factors for the coming of parallel cinema in India were:
    • Firstly, the global trend after World War II had shifted towards neorealism and the depiction of the human errors. This was reflected in the Indian cinema by remarkable movies, which focused on social problems like Mother India, Shree 420, etc.
    • Secondly, there was now a plethora of institutions related to study of films that were available to people like the National Film Archive of India that was opened in 1964.
    • Lastly, as India became a hotspot for international film festivals, more and more Indian directors were able to gain access to global cinematic trends that were reflected in their own work.
  • The foremost name in the parallel cinema movement was of Satyajit Ray who made The Apu Trilogy-Pather Panchali, Apur Songsar and Aparajito. These films got him global critical acclaim and several awards.
  • Other distinguished name was Ritwik Ghatak who concentrated on the problems of the lower middle-class through his films like Nagarik, Ajantrik and Meghe Dhaka Tara.
  • In the 1980s, parallel cinema moved towards bringing the role of women to the forefront. Several women directors became very famous in this period. The most notable were Sai Paranjpye (Chasme Baddoor, Sparsh), Kalpana Lajmi (EkPal) and Aparna Sen (36 ChowringheeLane). Some even got recognition at the global level like Meera Nair whose film Salaam Bombay won award at Cannes Film Festival in 1989. Most of these movies discussed the changing role of women in our society. The next box given below highlights the role of women according to the cinematic experience.
Changing Role of women in Indian Cinema
  • The image of women, as portrayed in films, has experienced a shift with changing times. During the period of silent movies, the directors focused on the restrictions placed on a woman’s life.
    • During the period 1920-40, most directors like V. Shantaram, Dhiren Ganguli and Baburao Painter made movies that touched upon women emancipation issues like ban on child marriages, abolition of sati, etc.
    • Slowly the cinematic approach changed and they also supported widow remarriage, women’s education and the right to equality to women in workspace.
    • During 1960-80, the cinematic approach to the woman was extremely stereotypical. When showing the heroine or the ‘ideal woman’, they glorified motherhood, fidelity among women and to make absurd sacrifices for her family.
    • It is only in the parallel cinema that filmmakers with a strong need to push women’s liberation have shown us the life of an Indian woman. Notable directors of this genre are Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Guru Dutt, Shyam Bengal, etc.
    • Current age of cinema is also experimenting with the image of a ‘modern’ woman who works for a living, has a child and a career to balance and is still trying to find her own footing.

South Indian Cinema

  • The cinema of South India can be used to refer collectively to the five film industries of South India—the Tamil, the Telugu, the Kannada, the Malayalam, and the Tulu (Coastal Karnataka) film industries as a single entity.
  • Telugu and the Tamil film industries are the biggest among them. Telugu cinema produced numerous films based on mythological themes. The stories of epics like Ramayana and the Mahabharata are very popular in Andhra Pradesh.
  • N.T.Rama Rao was famous mainly from his portrayals of the characters of Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Arjuna and Bhima.
  • Mythological stories are also depicted in Kannada and Tamil films. However, films based on socio-economic issues form a major component of South Indian cinema.
  • Plots involving: corruption, asymmetric power structures, prevalent social structures and its problems like unemployment, dowry, remarriages, violence on women, etc. brought out these problems from the closet and challenged people to re-think their views. Movies in 1940s-1960s also had political overtones and were used to drive propaganda.
  • Illustrative list of notable superstars include M.G.Ramachandran, N.T. Rama Rao, Shivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, Rajinikanth, Thilakan, Prem Nazir, Mohan Lal, Kamal Hasan, Mammootty, Ajith Kumar, Chiranjeevi, Mahesh Babu, Joseph Vijay and many more.
  • Notable South Indian actresses include Savitri, Jayasudha, Lakshmi, Suhasini, Sridevi, Revathy, Shobana, Soundarya, Padmini, Jayalalitha, Anjali Devi, etc.

Indian Cinematograph Act, 1952

  • The Government of India instituted the Indian Cinematograph Act, 1952 to certify films. The major function of the Act was to flesh out the constitution and the functioning of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), or the ‘Censor Board of India’.
  • The Act provides for appointment of a Chairman of the Censor Board and also a team of people (not less than twelve and not more than twenty five) to be appointed by the Central Government, to help the Chairman in his functioning.
  • The Board has to examine the film and decide if the film should not be exhibited on the grounds of offense to a certain geographical area, age group, religious denomination or political group.
  • It can also direct the applicant of the movie to make modifications and excisions in the film before it can be given a certificate. If such changes are not made, the Censor Board may refuse to sanction the film for public exhibition.
  • Although certification of films is a subject under the Union, the enforcement of the censorship in their respective domain lies with State governments. The certification is done on the following basis:
UUniversal exhibition. Films considered suitable for unrestricted public exhibition.
ARestricted to adult audience only.
UAUnrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children under the age of 12 years.
SPublic exhibition restricted to specialised audience like doctors, engineers etc.
  • Another major provision of the 1952 Act was, establishment of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). This was set up under section 5D of the Act and was specifically created for hearing appeals of those disgruntled parties who ask for a re-examination of the decision of Censor Board (CBFC).

Central Board of Film Certification

  • The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) was set up under the Cinematograph Act 1952. CBFC certifies films for public exhibition in India.
  • The CBFC is a well-structured organisation and it has a Chairman and a team of people (not less than 12 and not more than 25) who are appointed by the government through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • They can be appointed for a term of three years or more, as per the government directive. The members are usually famous and talented personalities from the film industry or other intellectuals.
  • It is directly under the directive of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • Although the head office is in Mumbai, it has many regional offices that deal specifically with the regional films. These offices are in Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Guwahati, Cuttack, Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad.
  • All of these institutions provide the certificate to a film without which they cannot be screened in the cinema theatres.
  • It is necessary for all films to get a Censor Board Certificate. Even the foreign films that are imported to India have to get a CBFC certification. All the films that are dubbed from one language to another have to get a fresh certificate to ensure that the language change is not offensive in any manner.
  • The only exception to the CBFC certificate are films made especially for Doordarshan as they are the official broadcaster for the Government of India and they have their own set of rules for examining such films. CBFC certification is not required for television programmes and serials.
  • In 2016, Government of India had constituted Shyam Benegal Committee to lay down norms for film certification that take note of best practices in various parts of the world and give sufficient and adequate space for artistic and creative expression.
  • The Committee submitted their recommendations and some of the major highlights of their report are:
    • CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity.
    • The committee has also made certain recommendations regarding the functioning of the board and has stated that the Board, including Chairman, should only play the role of a guiding mechanism for the CBFC, and not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of films.
    • Online submission of applications as well as simplification of forms and accompanying documentation.
    • Recertification of a film for purposes of telecast on television or for any other purpose should be permitted.
    • Regarding the categorisation of films, the Committee recommended that it should be more specific and apart from U category, the UA Category can be broken up into further sub-categories – UA12+ and UA15+. The A category should also be sub-divided into A and AC (Adult with Caution) categories.

National Film Development Corporation Limited (NFDC)

  • The National Film Development Corporation Limited was incorporated in 1975.
  • It was formed by the Government of India with the primary objective of planning and promoting an organized, efficient and integrated development of the Indian film industry.
  • NFDC was reincorporated in the year 1980, by merging the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) and Indian Motion Picture Export Corporation (IMPEC) with NFDC.

Directorate of Film Festivals

  • The Directorate of Film Festivals was setup under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 1973 with the prime objective of promoting good cinema.
  • The activities of Directorate of Film Festivals include
    • (a) The International Film Festival of India
    • (b) The National Film Awards and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award
    • (c) Cultural Exchange Programme and Or-ganising screening of Indian films through the mission abroad.
    • (d) The selection of Indian Panorama.
    • (e) Participation in international film festivals abroad.
    • (f) Special film exposition of behalf of the Government of India
    • (g) Print collection and documentation. These activities provides a unique platform for exchange of ideas, culture and experiences between India and other countries in the field of Cinema.

National Film Archive of India

  • The National Film Archive of India was established as an independent media unit under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in February 1964 with the following aims and objectives.
    • To trace, acquire and preserve for pos-terity the heritage of national cinema and build up a representative collection of World Cinema.
    • To classify and document data related to film, undertake and encourage re- search on cinema and publish and dis-tribute them; and
    • To act as a centre for dissemination of film culture in the country and to ensure the cultural presence of Indian Cinema abroad.

Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI)

  • Children’s Film Society, India was established in 1955 to provide value based entertainment to children through the medium of films.
  • CFSI is engaged in production, acquisition, distribution, exhibition and promotion of children’s films.

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