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1930s – 1960s

The thirties saw the emergence of three big banners in Indian cinema - Prabhat, Bombay Talkies and New Theatres – which took the lead in making serious films with gripping social themes meant for all classes of the cinema audience. The studio system emerged in the early 1930s and its most successful initial product was P.C. Barua's film Devdas (1935). Its Hindi re-make established the legendary career of Kundan Lal Saigal. Some of the notable early talkie films include King of Ayodhya (1932), Lal-e-yaman (1933), Char Darvesh, Daku Ki Ladki, Miss 1933, Bambai Ki Mohini (1934) and Nai Duniya. A number of films of this period like V.Santharam's Duniya Na Mane, Aadmi and Padosi, Franz Osten's Achut Kanya, Mehboob's Watan, Ek hi Raasta and Aurat made a strong plea against social injustices. Veteran historical film-maker Sohrab Modi played a remarkable role in shaping the Indian films by enriching their style and presentation. Prabhat's Sairandhri, which was processed and printed in Germany in 1933, became India's first colour film. However, the first indigenously made colour film was Ardashir Irani’s Kisan Kanya made in 1937 and directed by Gidwani.

  J.B.H. Wadia and Homi Wadia were the forerunners of the stunt films in India with their Hunterwali (1935). The thirties was a period in Indian cinema when 'Wadia' and 'Nadia' were synonymous. The Australian actress Mary Evans became a stunt actress for the Wadias and earned the sobriquet "Fearless Nadia". The Wadias made a number of films like Toofan Mail, Flying Ranee, Punjab Mail and so on. J.B.H. Wadia's Naujawan (1937) became the first song-less film. Another Bombay company, Prakash, specialized in making thrillers like Its Passing Show, with Jayant in the role of a masked hero, and Mehboob's Deccan Queen, which portrayed a female mask-wearing bandit, became great treats. Premsagar (1939) produced and directed by K.Subrahmanyam, was the first Hindi film to be made in South India.

India's first dream girl, Devika Rani, began her career in the 1930's and became the top heroine of her days, starring in movies such as Kara and A Throw of Dice. The other renowned female leads were Durga Khote, Nadia, Jamuna, Padma Devi and Kanan Devi. The important male leads of the 1930s were Prithviraj Kapoor, K.L.Saigal, Ashok Kumar and P.C.Barua.

The 1940s was a tumultuous decade; the first half was ravaged by war and the second saw drastic political changes all over the world. V. Shantaram, the doyen of lyrical films, made Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, Padosi, Do Aankhen Barah Haath, Pinjra, Chaani, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje and Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne. The forties witnessed production of several memorable films like Ranjit's Achhoot; Acharya's Bandhan; Mehboob's Aurat (the original version of Mother India) and Roti; Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar; Abbas's Dharti Ke Lal; Sohrab Modi's Sikander, Pukar, Ek Din Ka Sultan and Prithvi Vallabh; S.Nazir's Laila Majnu; Kidar Sharma's Chitralekha; J.B.H. Wadia's Court Dancer; S.S. Vasan's Chandralekha; Vijay Bhatt's Bharat Milap and Ram Rajya; Rajkamal Kalamandir's Shakuntala; S.Mukherjee's Kismat, Santoshi's Shehnai; Prakash's Samaj Ko Badal Dalo and Kamal Amrohi's Mahal. In 1948, the famous modern dancer, Uday Shankar made his only film Kalpana, which was woven entirely in dance numbers. In 1949, Western India Theatre's Ajit was the first picture to be photographed in India on Kodachrome 16 mm film and then blown up in the USA. The first film in techni-colour was Sohrab Modi’s Jhansi Ki Rani (1953).

The leading actors of 1940s were Kishore Sahu, Jairaj, Pahari Sanyal, Pankaj Mullick, Bharat Bhushan, Ulhas, Ghulam Mohammad and Ashok Kumar while the leading actresses were Kanan Devi, Jamuna, Lalita Pawar, Nurjehan (who later migrated to Pakistan), Suraiya and Madhubala. The fifties brought onto the scene the famous trinity – Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand – each of whom developed their own image and huge fan followings. The R.K.Films was launched in 1950 with Barsaat. It was the same year when the Central Board of Film Censors was set up with Mr Justice Agarwal, the former Judge of the Patna High Court as its Chairman.

The first International Film Festival of India, which was held in early 1952 at Bombay, had great impact of Indian Cinema. In 1953 Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zameen won an award at the Cannes. The first National film awards were given to the feature film Shyamchi Aai and Jagat Murari's short Mahabalipuram, in the year 1954. In 1955, Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali won the Cannes award for ‘the best human document’, along with several other foreign and national awards.

In 1957 Mother India, which brought the character of mother at the centre-stage in Hindi films, was nominated for an Oscar as best foreign language film. The first Indo-Soviet co-production Pardesi by K.A.Abbas was also made in 1957. The first film in cinema scope was Guru Dutt’s Kagaz Ke Phool, which was made in 1958. The first documentary film festival was held in Bombay in the same year. In Hindi Cinema, several distinguished films were produced which include Ranjit's Jogan; Bimal Roy's Devadas and Madhumati; Kedar Sharma's Bawre Nain; Rajkapoor's Boot Polish, Shri-420 and Jagte Raho; Mehboob's Mother India; Gurudutt's Pyaasa and Kagaz Ke Phool; K.A.Abbas's Aadhi Raat and Anhonee; Devendra Goel's Vachan; Amiya Chakrabarty's Seema; Prakash's Baiju Bawra; Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Musasfir; Ramesh Saigal's Phir Subah Hogi; Savak Vachha's Yahudi and B.R. Chopra's Kanoon, Dhool Ka Phool and Ek Hi Raasta. Colour films Aan and Jhansi Ki Rani were also released. Sohrab Modi's Mirza Ghalib (1954) became the first Hindi film to get the President's Gold Medal.

S.K.Ojha's Naaz (1954) was the first Hindi film to have location work done abroad, in London and Cairo. Guru Dutt's Kaagaz Ke Phool was the first black and white Indian film to be made in Cinemascope.  Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Kishore Kumar, Mahipal, Raj Kumar, Balraj Sahni and Shammi Kapoor were among the leading heroes of the fifties while Sandhya, Vijayantimala, Nargis, Nutan, Suchitra Sen, Waheeda Rehman and Asha Parekh were among the leading heroines of the period.

The sixties experienced the use of most melodious music in the Indian films, which is difficult to replicate. K.Asif released his Mughal-E-Azam that broke all the previous records at the box-office. It was followed by notable productions like Rajkapoor's Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai and Sangam, Gurudutt's Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam, Dev Anand's Guide; Bimal Roy's Bandini, S.Mukherji's Junglee, Sunil Dutt's Mujhe Jeene Do, Basu Bhatacharya's Teesri Kasam, K.A.Abbas's Aasman Mahal (1965), Pramod Chakravorthy's Love in Tokyo, Ramanand Sagar's Arzoo, Sakhti Samantha's Aradhana, Hrishikesh Mukherji's Aashirwad and Anand, B.R. Chopra's Waqt and Gumraah and Manoj Kumar's Upkar.

Raj Kapoor's film Sangam popularised the trend for shooting on foreign locales. During the 1960s, popular cinema had shifted its social concerns towards more romantic genres. The period is also notable for a more assertive Indian nationalism. Following the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1962 and 1965, the Indian officer came to be a rallying point for the national imagination in films such as Sangam (Raj Kapoor, 1964) and Aradhana (Shakti Samanta; 1969). Chetan Anand's Haqeeqat (1964) was a memorable war film of the decade. Hemant Kumar's mystery thriller Bees Saal Baad (1962) became a runaway hit. The Film Institute was started in Pune in 1960 on the former Prabhat Studio premises. It coincided with the starting of the Institute for Film Technology in Madras. In 1961, the second Film Festival of India was held in Delhi. The Dadasaheb Phalke Life-time Achievement Awards were started in 1969. Towards the end of sixties, Rajesh Khanna emerged as a Romantic mega-star with the big success of Aradhana, which also put the singer Kishore Kumar to great fame. Dilip Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Ashok Kumar and Manoj Kumar were among the leading heroes of the sixties while Vijayantimala, Madhubala, Nutan and Waheeda Rehman were among the leading heroines. Rajesh Khanna emerged as the undisputed romantic hero of the sixties and early seventies following major hits like Andaz, Aradhana, Kati Patang, Do Raaste and Dushman.

1970s – 1980s

The seventies saw the mainstream cinema turning more explosive and violent, although romantic and good off beat movies continued. This period can be best described as the era of Amitabh Bachchan, who marched onto the Hindi filmdom with a great bang with his Zanjeer (1971). Amitabh introduced the 'Angry Young Man' as protagonist in Hindi cinema. Amitabh, in fact, became a one-man industry and came to be known as the first Superstar. His other films like Deewar, Sholay (1975), Khoon Pasina, Hera Pheri, Muqaddar ka Sikandar and Inquilab followed the same trend and became great block-busters. Amitabh also made a mark in serious as well as humorous roles in films like Kabhi Kabhi, Amar Akbar Anthony and Namak Halal. The seventies also saw the release of the first 70mm film in the form of Ramesh Sippy's Sholay. Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche (1972) established the Ramsay Brothers and the horror genre in Hindi cinema. The mythological film Jai Shantoshi Maa (1975) was a great hit. Amrit Nahata made his Kissa Kursi Ka in 1976, which was a political satire on the Emergency. The other notable films of the decade were Asit Sen's Safar; Chetan Anand's Heer Ranjha; Manoj Kumar's Purab Aur Paschim; Raj Kapoor’s Bobby; Johnny Mera Naam; Seeta Aur Geeta; Ram Aur Shyam and Victoria No 203. The film Heer Ranjha was unique in the sense the whole film was written in lyrics by Kaifi Azmi.

The eighties saw the advent of women film-makers, Vijaya Mehta (Rao Saheb), Aparna Sen (36 Chowringhee Lane, Paroma), Sai Paranjpye (Chashme Baddoor, Katha, Sparsh), Kalpana Lajmi (Ek Pal and Rudali), Prema Karanth (Phaniamma) and Meera Nair (Salaam Bombay).

Shammi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Sanjiv Kumar, Feroz Khan, Dharmendra, Jitender, Shashi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor and Mithun Chakravarty were the other important male leads of the eighties. Mumtaz, Hema Malani, Sharmila Tagore, Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi, Rakhi, Rekha and Rati Agnihotri were the important female leads. Among the all-time great villains, Ajit, Madan Puri, Prem Nath, Prem Chopra, Pran, Ranjeet, Amjad Khan, Shakti Kapoor, Gulshan Grover, Amrish Puri and Sadashiv Amrapurkar are notable. Some of the best comedians of Hindi cinema include Bhagwan, Johnny Walker, Mukhri, Rajendra Nath, Mehmood, Jagdeep, Asrani, Khader Khan, Satish Kaushik and Johnny Lever. Among the vamps, mention may be made of Lalita Pawar, Shashi Kala, Nadira, Helen, Faryaal, Bindu and Aruna Irani.

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