The history of cinema in India extends back to the beginning of the film era. The Indian film Industry is the 2nd oldest in the world. Following the screening of the Lumière and Robert Paul moving pictures in London (1896), animated photography became a worldwide sensation and by mid-1896 both Lumière and Robert Paul films had been shown in Bombay.
Silent films (1910s–1920s)
In 1897 a film presentation by one Professor Stevenson featured a stage show at Calcutta's Star Theatre. With Stevenson's encouragement and camera Hiralal Sen, an Indian photographer, made a film of scenes from that show, namely The Flower of Persia (1898). The Wrestlers (1899) by H. S. Bhatavdekar, showing a wrestling match at the Hanging Gardens in Bombay, was the first film to be shot by an Indian and the first Indian documentary film.
The first Indian film released in India was Shree Pundalik, a silent film in Marathi by Dadasaheb Torne on 18 May 1912 at Coronation Cinematograph, Bombay. Some have argued that Pundalik was not the first Indian film, because it was a photographic recording of a play, and because the cameraman was a British man named Johnson and the film was processed in London.
The first full-length motion picture in India was produced by Dadasaheb Phalke, Phalke is seen as the pioneer of the Indian film industry and a scholar of India's languages and culture. He employed elements from Sanskrit epics to produce his Raja Harishchandra (1913), a silent film in Marathi. The female characters in the film were played by male actors. Only one print of the film was made, for showing at the Coronation Cinematograph on 3 May 1913. It was a commercial success. The first silent film in Tamil, Keechaka Vadham was made by R. Nataraja Mudaliar in 1916.
The first chain of Indian cinemas, Madan Theatre was owned by Parsi entrepreneur Jamshedji Framji Madan, who oversaw production of 10 films annually and distributed them throughout India beginning in 1902. He founded Elphinstone Bioscope Company in Calcutta. Elphinstone merged into Madan Theatres Limited in 1919, which had brought many of Bengal's most popular literary works to the stage. He also produced Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra in 1917, a remake of Phalke's Raja Harishchandra (1913).
Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu was an Indian artist and a film pioneer. From 1909, he was involved in many aspects of Indian cinema, travelling across Asia. He was the first to build and own cinemas in Madras. He was credited as the father of Telugu cinema. In South India, the first Tamil talkie Kalidas was released on 31 October 1931. Nataraja Mudaliar established South India's first film studio in Madras.
Film steadily gained popularity across India. Tickets were affordable to the masses (as low as an anna (one-sixteenth of a rupee) in Bombay) with additional comforts available at a higher price.
Young producers began to incorporate elements of Indian social life and culture into cinema. Others brought ideas from across the world. Global audiences and markets soon became aware of India's film industry.
In 1927, the British Government, to promote the market in India for British films over American ones, formed the Indian Cinematograph Enquiry Committee. The ICC consisted of three Brits and three Indians, led by T. Rangachari, a Madras lawyer. This committee failed to support the desired recommendations of supporting British Film, instead recommending support for the fledgling Indian film industry. Their suggestions were shelved.
Ardeshir Irani released Alam Ara, the first Indian talkie, on 14 March 1931. Irani later produced the first south Indian talkie film Kalidas directed by H. M. Reddy released on 31 October 1931. Jumai Shasthi was the first Bengali talkie. Chittor V. Nagaiah, was one of the first multilingual film actor/singer/composer/producer/directors in India. He was known as India's Paul Muni.
In 1932, the name "Tollywood" was coined for the Bengali film industry because Tollygunge rhymed with "Hollywood". Tollygunge was then the centre of the Indian film industry. Bombay later overtook Tollygunge as the industry's center, spawning "Bollywood" and many other Hollywood-inspired names.
In 1933, East India Film Company produced its first Telugu film, Savitri. Based on a stage play by Mylavaram Bala Bharathi Samajam, the film was directed by C. Pullaiah with stage actors Vemuri Gaggaiah and Dasari Ramathilakam. The film received an honorary diploma at the 2nd Venice International Film Festival.
On 10 March 1935, another pioneer film maker Jyoti Prasad Agarwala made his first film Joymoti in Assamese. Jyoti Prasad went to Berlin to learn more about films. Indramalati is another film he himself produced and directed after Joymoti. The first film studio in South India, Durga Cinetone was built in 1936 by Nidamarthi Surayya in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh. The 1930s saw the rise of music in Indian cinema with musicals such as Indra Sabha and Devi Devyani marking the beginning of song-and-dance in Indian films. Studios emerged by 1935 in major cities such as Madras, Calcutta and Bombay as filmmaking became an established craft, exemplified by the success of Devdas. directed by an Assamese film maker Pramathesh Baruah. In 1937, Kisan Kanhiya directed by Moti B was released, the first colour film made in India. The 1940 film, Vishwa Mohini, is the first Indian film to depict the Indian movie world. The film was directed by Y. V. Rao and scripted by Balijepalli Lakshmikanta Kavi.
Swamikannu Vincent, who had built the first cinema of South India in Coimbatore, introduced the concept of "Tent Cinema" in which a tent was erected on a stretch of open land to screen films. The first of its kind was in Madras, called Edison's Grand Cinemamegaphone. This was due to the fact that electric carbons were used for motion picture projectors. Bombay Talkies opened in 1934 and Prabhat Studios in Pune began production of Marathi films meant. R. S. D. Choudhury produced Wrath (1930), which was banned by the British Raj for its depiction of Indian actors as leaders during the Indian independence movement. Sant Tukaram, a 1936 film based on the life of Tukaram (1608–50), a Varkari Sant and spiritual poet became the first Indian film to be screened at an international film festival, at the 1937 edition of the Venice Film Festival. The film was judged one of the three best films of the year. In 1938, Gudavalli Ramabrahmam, co-produced and directed the social problem film, Raithu Bidda, which was also banned by the British administration, for depicting the peasant uprising among the Zamindars during the British raj.
The Indian Masala film—a term used for mixed-genre films that combined song, dance, romance etc.—arose following World War II. During the 1940s cinema in South India accounted for nearly half of India's cinema halls and cinema came to be viewed as an instrument of cultural revival. The partition of India following independence divided the nation's assets and a number of studios moved to Pakistan. Partition became an enduring film subject thereafter.
After Indian independence the film industry was investigated by the S. K. Patil Commission. Patil recommended setting up a Film Finance Corporation (FFC) under the Ministry of Finance. This advice was adopted in 1960 and FFC provide financial support to filmmakers. The Indian government had established a Films Division by 1948, which eventually became one of the world's largest documentary film producers with an annual production of over 200 short documentaries, each released in 18 languages with 9,000 prints for permanent film theatres across the country.
The Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), an art movement with a communist inclination, began to take shape through the 1940s and the 1950s. Realist IPTA plays, such as Nabanna (1944, Bijon Bhattacharya) prepared the ground for realism in Indian cinema, exemplified by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas's Dharti Ke Lal (Children of the Earth) in 1946. The IPTA movement continued to emphasize realism and went on to produce Mother India and Pyaasa, among India's most recognizable cinematic productions.
Golden Age (late 1940s–1960s)
The period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s is regarded by film historians as the Golden Age of Indian cinema.
This period saw the emergence of the Parallel Cinema movement, mainly led by Bengalis, which then accounted for a quarter of India's film output. The movement emphasized social realism. Early examples include Dharti Ke Lal (1946, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas), Neecha Nagar (1946, Chetan Anand), Nagarik (1952, Ritwik Ghatak) and Do Bigha Zamin (1953, Bimal Roy), laying the foundations for Indian neorealism and the Indian New Wave.
The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959, Satyajit Ray) won major prizes at all the major international film festivals and firmly established the Parallel Cinema movement. Pather Panchali (1955), the first part of the trilogy, marked Ray's entry in Indian cinema. The trilogy's influence on world cinema can be felt in the "youthful coming-of-age dramas that flooded art houses since the mid-fifties", which "owe a tremendous debt to the Apu trilogy".
Cinematographer Subrata Mitra, who debuted in the trilogy, had his own important influence on cinematography globally. One of his most important techniques was bounce lighting, to recreate the effect of daylight on sets. He pioneered the technique while filming Aparajito (1956), the second part of the trilogy. Ray pioneered other effects such as the photo-negative flashbacks and X-ray digressions in Pratidwandi (1972).
During the 1960s, Indira Gandhi's intervention during her reign as the Information and Broadcasting Minister of India supported production of off-beat cinematic by FFC.
Commercial Hindi cinema began thriving, including acclaimed films Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959, Guru Dutt) Awaara (1951) and Shree 420 (1955, Raj Kapoor). These films expressed social themes mainly dealing with working-class urban life in India; Awaara presented the city as both a nightmare and a dream, while Pyaasa critiqued the unreality of city life.
Epic film Mother India (1957, Mehboob Khan), a remake of his earlier Aurat (1940), was the first Indian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Mother India defined the conventions of Hindi cinema for decades. It spawned a new genre of dacoit films. Gunga Jumna (1961, Dilip Kumar) was a dacoit crime drama about two brothers on opposite sides of the law, a theme that became common in Indian films in the 1970s. Madhumati (1958, Bimal Roy) popularised the theme of reincarnation in Western popular culture.
Dilip Kumar (Muhammad Yusuf Khan) debuted in the 1940s and rose to fame in the 1950s and was one of the biggest Indian movie stars. He was a pioneer of method acting, predating Hollywood method actors such as Marlon Brando. Much like Brando's influence on New Hollywood actors, Kumar inspired Indian actors, including Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah, Shah Rukh Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Neecha Nagar won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, putting Indian films in competition for the Palme d'Or for nearly every year in the 1950s and early 1960s, with many winning major prizes. Ray won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Aparajito (1956) and the Golden Bear and two Silver Bears for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival. The films of screenwriter Khwaja Ahmad Abbas were nominated for the Palme d'Or three times. (Neecha Nagar won, with nominations for Awaara and Pardesi (1957)).
Ray's contemporaries Ghatak and Dutt were overlooked in their own lifetimes, but generated international recognition in the 1980s and 1990s. Ray is regarded as one of the greatest auteurs of 20th century cinema, with Dutt and Ghatak. In 1992, the Sight & Sound Critics' Poll ranked Ray at No. 7 in its list of "Top 10 Directors" of all time, while Dutt ranked No. 73 in the 2002 Sight & Sound poll.
Multiple films from this era are included among the greatest films of all time in various critics' and directors' polls. Multiple Ray films appeared in the Sight & Sound Critics' Poll, including The Apu Trilogy (ranked No. 4 in 1992 if votes are combined), Jalsaghar (ranked No. 27 in 1992), Charulata (ranked No. 41 in 1992) and Aranyer Din Ratri (ranked No. 81 in 1982). The 2002 Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll also included the Dutt films Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool (both tied at #160), Ghatak's films Meghe Dhaka Tara (ranked #231) and Komal Gandhar (ranked #346), and Raj Kapoor's Awaara, Vijay Bhatt's Baiju Bawra, Mehboob Khan's Mother India and K. Asif's Mughal-e-Azam all tied at #346. In 1998, the critics' poll conducted by the Asian film magazine Cinemaya included The Apu Trilogy (ranked No. 1 if votes are combined), Ray's Charulata and Jalsaghar (both tied at #11), and Ghatak's Subarnarekha (also tied at #11).
South Indian cinema saw the production works based on the epic Mahabharata, such as Mayabazar (listed by IBN Live's 2013 Poll as the greatest Indian film of all time). Sivaji Ganesan became India's first actor to receive an international award when he won the "Best Actor" award at the Afro-Asian film festival in 1960 and was awarded the title of Chevalier in the Legion of Honour by the French Government in 1995. Tamil cinema is influenced by Dravidian politics, with prominent film personalities C N Annadurai, M G Ramachandran, M Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa becoming Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu.
Contemporary Indian cinema (1970s–present)
Realistic Parallel Cinema continued throughout the 1970s, practiced in many Indian film cultures. The FFC's art film orientation came under criticism during a Committee on Public Undertakings investigation in 1976, which accused the body of not doing enough to encourage commercial cinema.
Hindi commercial cinema continued with films such as Aradhana (1969), Sachaa Jhutha (1970), Haathi Mere Saathi (1971), Anand (1971), Kati Patang (1971) Amar Prem (1972), Dushman (1972) and Daag (1973).
By the early 1970s, Hindi cinema was experiencing thematic stagnation, dominated by musical romance films. The arrival of screenwriter duo Salim-Javed, consisting of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, revitalized the industry. They established the genre of gritty, violent, Bombay underworld crime films, with films such as Zanjeer (1973) and Deewaar (1975). They reinterpreted the rural themes of Mother India and Gunga Jumna in an urban context reflecting 1970s India, channeling the growing discontent and disillusionment among the masses, unprecedented growth of slums and urban poverty, corruption and crime, as well as anti-establishment themes. This resulted in their creation of the "angry young man", personified by Amitabh Bachchan, who reinterpreted Kumar's performance in Gunga Jumna, and gave a voice to the urban poor.
By the mid-1970s, crime-action films like Zanjeer and Sholay (1975) solidified Bachchan's position as a lead actor. The devotional classic Jai Santoshi Ma (1975) was made on a shoe-string budget and became a box office success and a cult classic. Another important film was Deewaar (1975, Yash Chopra). This crime film pitted "a policeman against his brother, a gang leader based on the real-life smuggler Haji Mastan", portrayed by Bachchan. Danny Boyle described it as "absolutely key to Indian cinema".
"Bollywood" was named in the 70s, when the conventions of commercial Bollywood films were established. Key to this was Nasir Hussain and Salim-Javed's creation of the masala film genre, which combines elements of action, comedy, romance, drama, melodrama and musical. Another Hussain/Salim-Javed concoction, Yaadon Ki Baarat (1973), was identified as the first masala film and the "first" quintessentially "Bollywood" film. Salim-Javed wrote more successful masala films in the 1970s and 1980s. Masala films made Bachchan the biggest Bollywood movie star of the period. Another landmark was Amar Akbar Anthony (1977, Manmohan Desai). Desai further expanded the genre in the 1970s and 1980s.
Salim-Javed was highly influential in South Indian cinema. In addition to writing two Kannada films, many of their Bollywood films had remakes produced in other regions, including Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cinema. While the Bollywood directors and producers held the rights to their films in Northern India, Salim-Javed retained the rights in South India, where they sold remake rights, usually for around ₹1 lakh (equivalent to ₹27 lakh or US$38,000 in 2017) each, for films such as Zanjeer, Yaadon Ki Baarat and Don. Several of these remakes became breakthroughs for Rajinikanth, who portrayed Bachchan's role for several Tamil remakes.
South Indian industries
Kannada film Samskara (1970, Pattabhirama Reddy), pioneered the parallel cinema movement in south Indian cinema. The film won Bronze Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival.
Telugu film Sankarabharanam (1980) dealt with the revival of Indian classical music and won the Prize of the Public at the 1981 Besancon Film Festival.
Tamil language films appeared at multiple film festivals. Kannathil Muthamittal (Ratnam), Veyyil (Vasanthabalan) and Paruthiveeran. Kanchivaram (2009, Ameer Sultan) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Tamil films were submitted by India for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language on eight occasions. Nayakan (1987, Kamal Hassan) was included in Time magazine's "All-TIME" 100 best movies list. In 1991, Marupakkam directed by K.S. Sethu Madhavan, became the first Tamil film to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film, the feat was repeated by Kanchivaram in 2007.
Malayalam cinema experienced its own Golden Age in the 1980s and early 1990s. Acclaimed Malayalam filmmakers industry, included Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G. Aravindan, T. V. Chandran and Shaji N. Karun. Gopalakrishnan, is often considered to be Ray's spiritual heir. He directed some of his most acclaimed films during this period, including Elippathayam (1981) which won the Sutherland Trophy at the London Film Festival, as well as Mathilukal (1989) which won major prizes at the Venice Film Festival. Karun's debut film Piravi (1989) won the Camera d'Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, while his second film Swaham (1994) was in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 1994 event. Commercial Malayalam cinema began gaining popularity with the action films of Jayan, a popular stunt actor who died while filming a helicopter stunt.
in 2012. The most successful Indian actress during the 1980s–1990s, she is considered one of India's greatest and most influential movie stars and is cited as the "First Female Superstar of Bollywood cinema".
Sridevi is widely considered as the first female superstar of Bollywood cinema due to her pan-Indian appeal and a rare actor who had an equally successful career in the major Indian film industries: Hindi, Tamil and Telugu . she's also the only movie star in history of Bollywood to star in the top 10 highest grossers of the year throughout her active period (1983-1997).
Commercial Hindi cinema grew in the 1980s, with films such as Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), Himmatwala (1983), Tohfa (1984), Naam (1986), Mr India (1987), and Tezaab (1988). But by the late 1980s, Hindi cinema experienced a period of stagnation, with a decline in box office turnout, due to increasing violence, decline in musical melodic quality, and rise in video piracy, leading to middle-class family audiences abandoning theaters. The turning point came with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), directed by Mansoor Khan, written and produced by his father Nasir Hussain, and starring his cousin Aamir Khan with Juhi Chawla. Its blend of youthfulness, wholesome entertainment, emotional quotients and strong melodies lured family audiences back to the big screen. It set a new template for Bollywood musical romance films that defined Hindi cinema in the 1990s. Commercial Hindi cinema grew in the 1990s, with the release of Chaalbaaz (1989), Chandni (1989), Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), Saajan (1991), Khalnayak (1993), Darr (1993), Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994), Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya (1998) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). Cult classic Bandit Queen (1994, Shekhar Kapur) received international recognition and controversy.
In the late 1990s, Parallel Cinema began a resurgence in Hindi cinema, largely due to the critical and commercial success of crime filmsSatya (1998 and Vaastav). These film's launched a genre known as Mumbai noir, urban films reflecting social problems there.
Since the 1990s, the three biggest Bollywood movie stars have been the "Three Khans": Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Salman Khan. Combined, they starred in the top ten highest-grossing Bollywood films. The three Khans have had successful careers since the late 1980s, and have dominated the Indian box office since the 1990s. Shah Rukh Khan was the most successful for most of the 1990s and 2000s, while Aamir Khan has been the most successful since the late 2000s; according to Forbes, Aamir Khan is "arguably the world's biggest movie star" as of 2017, due to his immense popularity in India and China.
Other Hindi stars include Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit and Kajol. Haider (2014, Vishal Bhardwaj), the third instalment of the Indian Shakespearean Trilogy after Maqbool (2003) and Omkara (2006), won the People's Choice Award at the 9th Rome Film Festival in the Mondo Genere category making it the first Indian film to achieve this honor.
Aamir Khan Productions has been credited for redefining and modernizing the masala film (which originated from his uncle Nasir Hussain's Yaadon Ki Baarat, which he first appeared in), with Aamir Khan's own distinct brand of socially conscious cinema in the early 21st century. His films blur the distinction between commercial masala films and realistic parallel cinema, combining the entertainment and production values of the former with the believable narratives and strong messages of the latter, earning both commercial success and critical acclaim, in India and overseas.