Colour films in India

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Qawwali scene from Ajali Nabou (Dec 1979): the first Assamese film in Eastmancolor

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Kanchanjungha/ Bengali
Dangal: Bhojpuri
Liludi Dharti (1968) Gujarati
Liludi Dharti (1968) Gujarati: Chal Man Door Door Tirathdham Have Maro Thakyo Aatamram - Manna Dey
Amarashilpi Jakanachari/ Kannada
Kandam Becha Coat/ Malayalam: A dream sequence to escape the every day reality of poverty.
Kandam Becha Coat/ Malayalam: A dream sequence to escape the every day reality of poverty.The first Malayalam film in Eastmancolor
Chemmeen God’s own state, in Eastmancolor
Sairandhri (1933) Marathi
Gapa Helevi Sata (1976) Oriya
Vimi in Nanak Nam Jahaz Hai: good Eastmancolor prints of the 1960s, too, have great colours. Indian colour laboratories started started operating in the 1970s, and Indian Eastmancolor of the 1970s and even 1980s is so, well, different. / Punjabi
Alibabavum Narpadhu Thirudargalum/ Tamil: Compare the fading of GevaColor with the Techni- or even Eastman- color pictures on this page
Lavakusa (1963/Telugu and Tamil)
This could be one of the few surviving sequences available to the public from Kamal Narayan Choudhury's Bhaity (1972), the first ‘fully in colour’ film in Assamese. An elderly Muslim swings a dog by his tail, as the dog cries out in pain. In 1972 this counted as Comedy.
Indpaedia finds this photograph so revolting that we have violated the alphabetical order and put it at the bottom, despite its historic value.


The first colour films of India

India was the sixth country to produce a colour film (at most seventh, if firmer dates about the first Soviet colour film indicate otherwise).

For a history of the first colour films of India, see Colour films in Hindi-Urdu

Hand-tinted films

Sources: Chit Dukhira, LeMauricien


In the 1940s some films made in Bombay and Madras were ‘hand-tinted' This meant that human artists painted colours on every frame of the positive print with their hands. This was a tedious and labour-intensive procedure.

As far as still photographs are concerned, most Indian small towns with a respectable photo studio would have at least one artist who would colourise black and white prints with their hands. For instance, a studio in Shahbad, Haryana, was doing this till the late 1960s.

Moving images were vastly more difficult. Artists needed specialised training so that the colours did not jump up and down from frame to frame. The Hindu informs us that, an 'advocate of Madras had a company undertaking ‘Hand Tinting,' and a technician Murugesan was expert at doing such sequences.'

K. Subramanyam's mythological Bhaktha Chetha (1940/ Tamil), starring Vethala had some tinted sequences. So did Vethala Ulagam and Haridas'.'

Parts of Shakuntala (1943/ HIndi and possibly Marathi as well) by V. Shantaram (1901-1993) were hand tinted. The film was screened continuously at Bombay's Swastik theatre for 104 weeks. A hand-coloured print of the film was screened in the 25th week.

This writer has come upon one stray suggestion that Mangama Sabatham (1943/ Tamil) had tinted scenes. This, incidentally, was the debut film of Vasunthara Devi, the mother of actress Vaijayanthimala.

Bhaskar Pictures' Saalivaahanan (1945/ Tamil/ dir B.N. Rao) was one of the earliest films made in India that had a hand-tinted scene. A romantic scene between Ranjan and Rajakumari (who played a princess) had been hand-tinted (The legendary M.G. Ramachandran played Vikramaditya, a villain in the film and Ranjan the eponymous hero, Saalivaahanan.)


Shakuntala (1961/ dir: Dr. Bhupen Hazarika) was the first Assamese feature film with some sequences in colour.

The first colour film was Kamal Narayan Choudhury's Bhaity (1972).

'Ajali Nabou' (1980), directed by Nip Baruah, was the first Assamese film in Eastmancolour.

(No colour photographs are available in public from Shakuntala. The article Assamese cinema has a B&W still from Shakuntala, though. Can any reader help?)

Indpaedia has located a short colour clip from 'Bhaity': is it the same as the Assamese film of that name? We are posting it on the page Bhaity in the hope that it is from the film.

Meanwhile, the entire film Ajali Nabou is available on youtube. Therefore, there can be no doubts about the authenticity of its colour photgraphs


Kanchanjangha (Bengali: কাঞ্চনজঙ্ঘা Kanchonjônggha) (1962) written and directed by Satyajit Ray is arguably the first colour film in Bengali, Indian or East Pakistani. It was in Eastmancolour, which is more fragile than Technicolor. By the 1970s all complete colour prints of the film were lost and an international effort got together portions of the film available around them world, edited them together into a whole and restored the faded colours.


Bhojpuri:first colour movie, Dangal (1977), starring Sujit Kumar and Prema Narayan.


First Gujarat colour film: Liludi Dharti (1968).

Director: Vallabh Chokshi


See the main entry Colour films in Hindi-Urdu

Prabhat Film Company's‘Sairandhri' (1933/ Hindi and Marathi versions/ dir: V. Shantaram) was the Indian first film to be shot in colour. However, the prints that were screened were in monochrome, apparently because of shoddy processing in Germany.

Ardeshir Irani established India's first colour film processing studio in Bombay in 1937.

Kisan Kanya (lit: the peasant girl; 1937/ Dir: Moti B. Gidvani; prod. Ardeshir Irani) was arguably the first colour film to be actually released in Hindi-Urdu, and the first colour film of India and of South Asia. Only the colour poster of the film survives.


‘Stree Ratna' (Kannada-1954) had some sequences in colour.

The first full-length colour film in Kannada, Amarashilpi Jakanachar [Jaggannachari], was released in 1964


‘Jeevitha Nauka' (1951) had one sequence in colour.

The first full-length Malayalam colour film was Kandam Vecha Coat (1961/ dir: T. R. Sundaram). It was produced by Modern Theatres, which had made the first Malayalam ‘talkie’ Balan (1938).

According to B. Vijayakumar, Kandam Vecha Coat was in Eastman colour and ‘was probably the first Malayalam film to use a movie trailer for the marketing of the film.’ (TheHindu, November 7, 2011)

Pakshiraja Studios’ Sabarimala Sree Ayyappan, (Gevacolor/1961), a mythological film, followed a few months later.

Udaya Studios’ Bharya (1962), Kadalamma (1963), Shakuntala (1965) and Pearl View (1970), some films from other studios, had a few sequences in colour.

Chemmeen (1965), in full-length Eastmancolor, was a critical and commercial success. With music by Salil Chaudhary its songs were popular all over India. It won the President of India's Gold Medal for the best feature film in India.

The full-length colour films that followed were ‘Kallichellamma' (1969), ‘Nadhi,' ‘Kumaraambhavam' (1969), 'Triveni' (1970), ‘Karakanakkadal' (1971), ‘Panitheeratha Veedu' (1972), ‘Nakhangal' (1973), ‘Chattakkari,' and ‘Nellu' (1974).


Langlen Thadoi (1984) by MA Singh (Maibam Amuthoi Singh) is the first colour feature film in Manipur produced by K.P Films International in 1984

(No photograph available. Can any reader help?)


Sairandhri (1933), processed and printed in Germany; would have been the first colour film in Marathi, and also India's first colour film. However, its processing was not successful. It was shot on Agfa B&W 35-mm negative. The release prints were made in Germany by Bipack colour printing, which, as mentioned, did not result in the print being in colour. All surviving stills from the film are in black & white.

So, the question is, which was the second colour film in Marathi, because Sairandhri’s final, released print was not in colour.

There is one theory, that Pinjra (1972) 'led to the introduction of colour films in Marathi cinema.' [1] It is difficult to believe that colour took that long to reach Marathi cinema, but the fact is that Marathi cinema was among the last in India to produce a CinemaScope film. (See CinemaScope films in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.)

Odiya/ Oriya

The first Oriya Colour Movie was "Gapa Helevi Sata" (1976) though 'Samaya' (1975) was partially coloured).


Indian Punjabi

Nanak Nam Jahaz Hai (Punjabi: ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮ ਜਹਾਜ਼ ਹੈ), a 1969 National Award winning Punjabi film directed by Ram Maheshwary, was the first Indian colour film in Punjabi. The film's colours were digitally enhanced and the film was re-released in 2015.


See the page Colour films in Tamil

Haridas (Tamil-1944) and Naam Iruvar (Tamil-1947) had some sequences in colour.

The first Tamil film ‘entirely in colour’ was Alibabavum Narpadhu Thirudargalum-1956 (Geva Color)


See the page Colour films in Telugu

First ‘entirely in colour’ film Lavakusa (1963/ GevaColor).

First Eastmancolor film Eenadu (1982)

See also

Colour films in South Asia

Colour films in India

Colour films in Hindi-Urdu

Colour films in Tamil

Colour films in Telugu

CinemaScope films in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka I.e. the first part of this article

70mm films in India/ South Asia

Cinerama theatres in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

3D films in South Asia

IMAX in India

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