The study of Indian cinema would throw light on the progress of technology, especially cinematography, and the changing political scene and social values and attitudes. The first films were the silent films launched by Phalke, which had titles in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu, related to myths and legends.
The stories were familiar to the audience and required minimum commentary. Historical also proved very popular; Harsh, Chandragupta, Ashoka and the Mughal and Maratha kings won the silver screen.
While Phalke was the father of Indian cinema, Irani was the father of the talkie. He produced his first talkie, Alam Ara, in 1931. The classic Hollywood musical ‘Singing in the Rain’ exemplifies the cynicism with which people first regarded the talking movie and this holds good for India too.
If Bombay (Now Mumbai) was the hub of early cinema, the other centers were not far behind-Calcutta (Now Kolkata) and Madras (Now Chennai) were also making path-breaking films in the initial years of Indian Cinema. Like cinema in Bengal, Malayalam, Tamil, Kanad cinema too was meaningful, but it took a longer time to get noticed. The seventies saw an unhealthy divide between the existing commercial or mainstream cinema and the new parallel cinema or art films.
Fortunately, this situation did not last long, for soon there came a crop of filmmakers who realised that meaningful films need not incur heavy losses.
It was only after the government set up the Film Finance Corporation (FFC, which in 1980 came to be known as NFDC i.e. National Film Development Corporation) that several small but serious filmmakers got the wherewithal to make films.
The eighties saw the passion of women filmmakers, Vijaya Mehta (Rao Saheb), Aparna Sen (36, Chowringhee Lane, Paroma), Sai Paranjpye (Chashme Baddoor, Katha, Sparsh), Kalpana Laxmi (Ek Pal and, later the much acclaimed Rudali), Prema Karanth (Phaniamma) and Meera Nair (Salaam Bombay).
The most commendable thing about these directors is their individuality. Their films have strong content and are told with passion.
In the nineties, Indian cinema faced tough competition from television; the cable network gave viewers number of channels and due to this the cinema halls took a beating.
Nevertheless, films like Aditya Chopra’s maiden effort ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ and Suraj Barjatya’s ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ broke all records, because they recalled the innocence of the fifties, a novelty in this age of sex and violence. This gave hope.
In 2000, the movies were more based on technologies and effects. Rakesh Roshan’s ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ and ‘Krish’ broke all records. These stories are based on aliens and made by advanced technologies. Similarly, ‘Dhoom-1 and ‘Dhoom-2’ are technology and thrill based movies.
In India, cinema can never die. It has gone too deep into our mind. It may undergo several changes in future. With other mediums opening up, there will be a smaller market for films. We are living in a global world and we are becoming a judicious audience. No one can fool us, only the best will survive and this is just as well.