Indian cinema: 1913-20
Indian cinema: 1913-19
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i)UrooJ, aligarians.com, mid-2000
“Brief history of Indian cinema”
Films were always sensational and sexy. While the celebrated 'first' Indian film, Dadasaheb Phalke's Raja Harischandra (1913) was mythological, the Indian film-going public were exposed to crime and sex in films from the same period they saw the first mythologicals. In the 1910s and 1920s, the biggest share of the Indian market was taken by American films, particularly serials, which showed daring feats and sensational scenes of the abduction of women with the looming threat of rape. Companies like Madan Theatres, the Calcutta-based giant film corporation, imported scores of such serials and B-films, which were shown mostly in tents and make-shift venues.
1913 : Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra, 3700 feet/ forty minutes long, opens on 21st April to a select audience and opens commercially on 3rd May in Bombay’s Coronation Cinematograph.
1914 : Phalke shows his first three features - Raja Harishchandra, Mohini Bhasmasur and Satyavan Savitri in London. R. Venkiah and R.S. Prakash build Madras’ first permanent cinema, The Gaiety.
1915 : First South Indian feature - R. Nataraja Mudaliar’s Gopal Krishna.
1916 : Universal Pictures set up Hollywood’s first Indian Agency.
1917 : J.F. Madan’s Satyavadi Raja Harishchandra is the first feature made in Calcutta. Phalke makes a short film about filmmaking, How Films Are Made.
1918 : The Indian Cinematograph Act modeled on that of Britain defines the term of censorship and cinema licensing. Phalke’s Hindustan Film Company is established. Patankar’s Ram Vanvas is the first Indian Serial with a length of 20,000 feet.
1919 : Baburao Painter starts the Maharashtra Film company at Kolhapur. Dwarkadas Sampat forms the Kohinoor Film Company.
1923: The first double role in Indian cinema was enacted by Patience Cooper in Madan Theatre's 1923 production 'Patni Pratap' (Atul Thakur TIMES INSIGHT GROUP | May 1, 2010 The Times of India)
Movies made by Nataraja Mudaliar (whose Keechak Vadham, 1918, was the first film made in southern India) and Raghupathi Venkaiah (considered the father of Telugu cinema) are also nowhere to be found. Even Phalke's Raja Harishchandra could not be fully preserved. The NFAI has only two of the original four reels and its website acknowledges that the authenticity of those reels is debatable. Some claim those are prints of a 1917 remake.
The story doesn't end with the silent era. India's first talkie, Ardeshir Irani's Alam Ara (1931), is also lost forever. A majority of the work that came out of Madan Theatre (a film production company founded by Jamshedji Madan, one of the pioneers of Indian cinema) such as the 1923-production Patni Pratap, in which Patience Cooper played the first double role of Indian cinema; and Indrasabha (1932), a film with 69-odd songs, also perished along with several reels of Calcutta Topical (the theatre's news periodical). The Kidar Nath Sharma-directed first version of Chitralekha (1941), which had a bathing sequence of the actress Mehtab, a first in India, is also not traceable.
Film-makers were also responsible for the loss. Films made in those days had little economic value after their theatrical run. Considering the high expense and risk involved in preserving nitrate film reels, these were destroyed by producers. In the West, it was common to recycle films for their silver content or sell parts of the print to private collectors. "Selling films to scrap dealers was normal in India as well," says Chabria. "In those days, there was a practice of selling world rights of films. These were usually bought by NRIs. The negatives were also part of the deal, with the result that a lot of significant films left India, never to return," says Rangoonwalla. "Perhaps Jwar Bhata, Dilip Kumar's first film, and Hamari Baat, Devika Rani's last film, were lost to foreign distributors," he adds. India, of course, has always been negligent about preserving history. While the site of the world's first public movie screening now has a restaurant, named Cafe Lumiere in its place, Watson's hotel, now known as Esplanade Mansion, is listed among the 100 endangered monuments of the world.
Silver screen vs celluloid
The surfaces of most screens of modern movie theatres are either aluminised or have glass beads. However, in the early days of film production, screens had embedded silver to increase their reflective property. From this comes the name silver screen, synonymous with cinema
In the late 19th century, most motion picture experiments were performed on paper roll films. Viewing a continuous moving image was very difficult. The modern motion picture stack was created after the introduction of celluloid as a film base material. Celluloid, which is made from nitrocellulose, became the metonym for films
Indian cinema: historical outline Covers the era before the first Indian feature film
Indian cinema: 1913-20