Indian cinema: 1950-59
Indian cinema: 1950-59
Title and authorship of the original article(s)
Brief history of Indian cinema By UrooJ, aligarians.com, mid-2000
Bollywood Cinema By h2g2, mid-2000
The Golden 50s of Indian Films By indianetzone, mid-2000
This is an article selected for the excellence of its content.
1950 : Various Film Trade Organizations confer to decide upon formation of Film Federation of India (FFI) as an apex body. Death of Rai Bahadur Chuni Lall, President of IMPAA and MPSI and one of the architects of FFI. The Pakistan Government levies a tax of Rs 1 per foot on all imported Indian films.
1951 : FFI formed with Chandulal Shah its first president. The Film Enquiry Committee submits its report. Formation of Central Board of Film Censors with B.N. Sircar representing the Film Industry. Russian director Pudovkin and actor Cherkasov visit India traveling to Bombay, Calcutta and Madras to meet Indian Film Makers. Guru Dutt makes his directorial debut with Navketan’s Baazi. The weekly newspaper Screen is set up by the Indian Express Group.
1952 : First International Film Festival held in India traveling to Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras. Parliament passes the Cinematograph Act of 1952 replacing 1918 Act though with little changes. A film delegation lead by Chandulal Shah visits Hollywood to study its working and to meet prominent filmmakers there. Parasakti, the most famous DMK film is released. Colour Films Aan and Jhansi ki Rani are made. Filmfare claiming to be ‘first serious effort in film journalism in India’ launched. Hindi tabloid Cinema begins publication. West Pakistan bans import of Indian Films. Bombay Talkies ceases production.
1953 : Aan becomes the first Technicolor Indian film It was directed by Mehboob Khan. Censorship rules amended for re-certification of films every five years and for depositing a copy of the script or film with the Censor Board. Prabhat Studio ceases production. The Cinematograph Act is amended extending the power of various authorities to suspend exhibition of certified films. The Film Federation of India accepts an Advertising Code. The Trade Weekly Trade Guide is started. Maiden Filmfare Awards are inaugurated.
1954 : P.K. Atre’s Marathi Film Shyamchi Aayee bags the first President’s Gold Medal as the Best feature Film of 1953. Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen also made in 1953 gets special mention at Cannes. Indian Film Festival held in the Soviet Union. Awaara (1951) is a major hit in the USSR. Government publishes its decision on the S.K. Patil Enquiry Committee Recommendations. K.A. Abbas’s film Munna is the second songless film. Talks between the Film Federation of India and the Government fail over All-India Radio’s policy of broadcasting film songs without crediting sources, driving producers to Radio Ceylon. The compulsory exhibition of ‘approved’ films (Government propaganda films) in Madras is declared unlawful by the Supreme Court. Last ditch effort to save Bombay Talkies - Badbaan fails. Death of Baburao Painter.
1955 : Pather Panchali directed by Satyajit Ray has its world premier at Museum of Modern Art, New York. Sangeet Natak Akademi organizes film seminar in Delhi at which prominent film personalities participate. Festivals of Indian Cinema in Beijing and London. The Children’s Film Society is set up. The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce starts The Journal of the Film Chamber. The High Court at Andhra Pradesh grants an interim stay on the law of compulsory exhibition of ‘approved’ films and on the show tax.
1956 : Pather Panchali wins President’s Gold Medal as Best Film of 1955. It also wins an award at Cannes as Best Human Document. Silver Jubilee of the Indian Talkie (1931-56) celebrated in Bombay. The Government refuses to make its ‘approved’ compulsory propaganda films available free of charge to exhibitors. The freeze on construction of new cinemas in Bombay is lifted. The Kerala Film Chamber is started in Cochin. The Andhra Film Journal is launched in Vijaywada. Hindi journal Film Sangeet published. Rossellini starts work on India 57. Despite major Government support and funds, his visa is allowed to expire after a variety of controversies including allegations that he infringed local moral codes.
1957 : Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito (1956) wins the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival. K.A. Abbas makes the first Indo-Soviet co-production Pardesi. RK Films’ Jagte Raho wins Grand Prix at the Karlovy Vary Festival. Kabuliwala receives a special mention for music in Berlin. Raw stock is declared an essential commodity and its import is centrally controlled. The Cinematograph Bill intended to start a National Film Board, Production Bureau and Film Institute is withdrawn. Chidananda Das Gupta, Satyajit Ray and others start the Indian Film Quarterly.
1958 : Mother India wins an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film and loses to Fellini’s Nights of Caberia by a solitary vote. Nargis wins Best Actress for the film at Karlovy Vary Festival. Do Aankhen Barah Haath wins the President’s Gold Medal for Best Feature of 1957. It also wins a Silver Bear at Berlin and the Samuel Goldwyn Award for Best foreign film. Ajantrik is shown in Cannes, out of competition. Death of D.N. Sampath, founder of Kohinoor Talkies.
1959 : Pather Panchali runs for over seven months at the Fifth Avenue Playhouse, New York and sets a record for foreign films released in the United States. Federation of Film Societies formed with Satyajit Ray as President. India’s second film in cinemascope, Kaagaz ke Phool.CinemaScope and 70mm films
h2g2 and indianetzone on Hindi-Urdu cinema of the 1950s
The 1950s saw a change in the Bollywood industry and many of the films actually altered it in many ways. One of these films was Master Bhagwan's Albela, in which he starred opposite the well-known actress Geeta Bali.
The Dilip Kumar, Nimmi starrer by Mehboob Khan was the first Indian film in Technicolor shot in 16 mm and later blown upto 35 mm.
Though there had been previous movies which could have been considered musicals, it is Albela, released in 1951, that is the best remembered today. This had comedy and tragedy as well as music and songs which are also remembered. It was the story of a daydreamer, Pyare, who lives with his retired father and mother, a brother, sister-in-law, and an unmarried sister who is about to get married. His father puts cash in the thousands towards the wedding, while his brother arranges for more. But Pyare is only able to raise a hundred as he is fired from his job due to his regular habit of daydreaming about becoming a star. He leaves his home and does go on to become a star.
The songs: 'Shola jo bhadke, dil mera dhake' ('As the fire lights, my heart beats faster'), and 'Nindiya aajare aaja dheerese aaja' ('Sleep come slowly'), are the best remembered ones as they were so popular at the time. Though Albela was a big hit movie, it was the only successful film by Master Bhagwan. The dances that he performed in the movie became so popular that many actors are said to have approached him for his guidance, including the superstar Amitabh Bachchan.
The film released after the Raj Kapoor-starrer Barsaat made history in many ways. Raj Kapoor acquired the right of the film from K.A. Abbas who had first offered it to Mehboob Khan, who was looking for a perfect film for Dilip Kumar. Apart from being a big box-office grosser, the film also got a tremendous response in Teheran and Russia thus, opening the door for an overseas market for Indian films.
The early 1950s saw another well known movie being released — Raj Kapoor's Awaara (Rogue). Whenever this title is mentioned, one remembers the dream sequence. This was the first RK Film to be shot in its own studios at Chembur. In this, Raj Kapoor plays the role of a son whose mother is thrown out of the house by her husband, a high class judge. The son, Raj, adopts a life of a dacoit (robber) and rogue, but then he meets his childhood sweetheart, Rita, who has been brought up by his father. Raj finds out how ruthlessly his father had thrown out his mother and he also finds out the cause was the dacoit, Jagga, who had kidnapped her. In a act of revenge, Raj, tries to kill his father and also kills the dacoit.
The movie starred Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Prithviraj Kapoor, Leela Chitnis, KN Singh and a very young Shashi Kapoor as the young Raj. The dream sequence is shown when Raj thinks about his childhood sweetheart and dreams that he is going to heaven from hell. Here he sees himself going into heaven which is surrounded by clouds, and statues of gods. Looking around he sees Rita, dressed in white, as an angelic figure, singing the song, 'Ghar aya mera padesi' ('My beloved has returned home') the playback1 for which is by Lata Mangeshkar (for Nargis).
Raj follows Rita up a spiralling staircase but then he sees the dark figure of the dacoit Jagga, he finds himself confused and going back to where he belonged, screaming for help and saying that he would like to stop living the life of a dacoit. This sequence was said to be taped at the very end of the filming and was then added to the film. It went on to become very popular, not just in India but also other countries such as Russia, Greece and China, and some Arabian and African countries. In Russia, many people could be heard singing another popular song from the movie, 'Awaara hoon' ('I am a rogue'), sung by Raj Kapoor's friend and playback singer Mukesh.
Raj Kapoor built RK Studios with the profits from his earlier movie, Barsaat, which had been released in 1949. The symbol of RK films was adopted from a scene of this film, when Nargis bends over backwards and is held with one hand by Raj Kapoor, who also holds a violin. Aan
In 1953 another change took place in the industry when Mehboob Khan released his film Aan in colour. Aan starred Dilip Kumar in the role of Jao Tilak, a poor villager, who enters a competition to tame a horse which belongs to a princess. Upon winning it, he is challenged to a fencing duel by the evil Prince, who loses. However, Jai falls in love with the arrogant Princess, played by the debutant actress Nadira, aged 19.
Bimal Roy was born in the city of Dhaka (now the capital of Bangladesh) in 1909, which was a part of the Bengal province in what was then British India. In the 1930s Roy joined New India Pvt Ltd as an assistant cameraman. During this period he assisted PC Barua in directing Devdas which starred KL Saigal, but it was not until the 1950s that he became well known. His films included Madhumati, which starred Dilip Kumar, Vyjayantimala and Pran, and Parineeta, which starred Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari.
Roy's films showed great depth in the understanding of human strengths and weaknesses. During his lifetime, he received seven Filmfare awards (the Indian equivalent to the Academy Awards) for Best Director, four Filmfare awards for Best Movie, plus an International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for Do Bigha Zameen. He passed away on 7 January, 1966, but his influence can be felt in films such as Lagaan (Tax), released in 2001, which was directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar and starred Aamir Khan. This was put forward for the Academy Awards by the Indian Film Industry but failed to win the award. Bimal Roy is fondly remembered today as Bimal Da.
Do Bigha Zameen (1953)
The film starring Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy and directed by Bimal Roy brought out the plight of landless labourers. It received critical acclaim and was the first film to get special mention at the Cannes Film Festival. One of the most popular films that is remembered today from this decade is Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zameen (Two Acres of Land). Bimal Roy was heavily influenced by the Italian Vittorio De Sicca, and he was also swayed by socialist dramas. In this film, the script was written by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who later went on to make some well known movies. Bimal Roy poured his heart and soul into this sentimental, moving drama about the predicament of a small-time farmer.
A farmer is in danger of losing his two acres of land, which is his ancestral plot, unless he repays a debt to the feudal lord. The farmer decides to go to the Bengali city of Calcutta to raise money. To do this he becomes a rickshaw puller, but struggles against the odds that are mounting. Despite all his efforts, sadly he loses his land and a factory is built upon it.
The well-known actress Geeta Bali came from the state of Punjab before the partition in 1947 but started her career in 1948 with the film Suhaag Raat (First Night) and went on to act with Guru Dutt and Dev Anand, and her future brother-in-law Raj Kapoor. But unlike other actresses, who stopped working in films after marriage, she continued to work and once acted with her future father-in-law, Prithviraj Kapoor in Anand Math, which was released in 1952. Her secretary was Surinder Kapoor, father of the movie director Boney Kapoor and actor and producer Anil Kapoor. She kept on working until her death on 21 January, 1965, when she succumbed to smallpox. Geeta Bali was survived by her husband Shammi Kapoor, a son Aditya and a daughter Kanchan. Her niece, Yogeeta Bali, later joined the industry.
Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
The film featured the irresistible Ganguly trio - Ashok Kumar, Anup Kumar and Kishore Kumar. The film was a big commercial hit and the music was appreciated well. The film supposed to boost the career of Anup Kumar who did not quite enjoy the same success as his brothers.
Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957)
Do Aankhen Barah HaathThe subject of reformation of criminals attempted by V Shantaram was also a big musical hit. The film walked away with the Catholic Cinema Bureau Award at the Berlin Film Festival and the Samuel Goldwyn International Award in 1958 for the best foreign film which was quite rare in those days.
Another director but also an actor who is well remembered today in 'Bollywood' is Guru Dutt. Mention Guru Dutt's name and many start to remember one of the songs from a movie that he acted in, Chaudvin Ka Chand (The Moon of the Fourteenth) from the film of the same title, accompanied by Waheeda Rehman. Dutt was said to have had a romance with Waheeda Rehman, even though he was married to a very well known playback singer, Geeta Dutt.
His birth name was Vasanth Kumar Shivshankar Padukone but following an accident, chose to re-name himself Guru Dutt. His childhood days were hard due to financial difficulties and strained relationship between his parents, hostility from his maternal uncle's family and a most frightening encounter with his insane, adopted, uncle. Dutt spent a lot of time with his mother's cousin, Balakrishna B Benegal, whose job was to paint posters for the film industry. Her younger brother Sridhar B Benegal is the father of the famous director Shyam Benegal.
Though a good student, Dutt never went to college and instead joined Uday Shankar's performing arts troupe3. However, he soon left and joined his parents and was found a job at Prabhat Film Company in Poona. It was here that he met two people who would go on to be good friends of his — Dev Anand and Rehman. In 1944 Dutt went on to act in a small film entitled Chand (Moon) and a year later he became an assistant director. But then in 1946, not only did he act and direct but also choreographed for the film Hum Ek Hain (We Are Together). The following year he became an assistant to the CEO at Prabhat Film Company and Studio. After that he became unemployed, and for ten months he lived with his parents, during which time he developed a flair for writing in English, and also began to write short stories. At the same time he wrote a script called Kashmakash, which was later re-titled Pyaasa (The Thirsty One) and this film was released in 1957.
Dutt's best known film as a director, Baazi (A Game of Chance), which starred Dev Anand, Geeta Bali, Kalpna Kartik (who later married Dev Anand), KN Singh and Johnny Walker, was released in 1951 out of Naveketan, Dev Anand's company. This movie introduced and highlighted two technical developments, the first was the use of close-ups by using a 100mm lens. It is estimated that there are 14 such close-ups in the movie. Secondly, the use of songs to move the story along. A year later, in 1952, Dutt released his film Jaal (The Net), which again starred Dev Anand and Geeta Bali.
Though these films didn't do well at the Box Office, they did succeed in bringing together a good team of film makers. Also in 1952, Dutt married the well known playback singer Geeta Roy.
In 1953, Dutt acted in his own film, Baaz (The Hawk) with Geeta Bali and KN Singh. Three years later, another film, C.I.D., was released, which starred Dev Anand, Shakila, Johnny Walker and Waheeda Rehman, but it was directed by Dutt's assistant, Raj Khosla, who was introduced to Dutt by Dev Anand. Raj Khosla went on to make some famous films such as Do Raaste (Two Ways), Mera Saaya (My Shadow) and Woh Kaun Thi (Who Was She).
Pyaasa, which Dutt starred in and also directed, also starred Waheeda Rehaman whom he was romancing, was released in 1957. Kaagaz Ke Phool (Paper Flowers), the 1959 film in which he had invested a lot of money as well as energy, was a disaster at the box office. He was so devastated that he decided not to direct any more films. Dutt's romance with Waheeda Rehman interfered with his marriage and he separated from his wife. He was already a smoker and began drinking heavily. Mixing sleeping tablets with alcohol proved to be a dangerous combination as he was found dead on 10 October, 1964, in what was termed a suicide. Today Kaagaz Ke Phool is considered a cult classic. In the 2002 Sight & Sound Critics and Directors poll it, and his other movie Pyaasa, were featured among the top 160 all time greatest films. In this same poll, Guru Dutt was ranked at number 73 in the list of all time great directors.
Jaagte Raho (1956)
The film was made in Hindi and Bengali, apart from being dubbed in Tamil. The film starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis in the lead, won the first Grand Prix at the major International Film Festival at Karlovy Vary in Czechoslovakia in 1957.
Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955)
The film, made purely on the theme of dance, became a rage for some unique dance numbers by Sandhya and Kathak exponent Gopi Krishna. The V. Shantaram film was also the first 35 mm film to be re-issued on the 70 mm format after a gap of 27 years in 1982.
Kagaz Ke Phool (1959)
Kagaz Ke Phool This was the second Indian and also the second Hindi film made in the cinemascope format, which depicted the tragedy of a showman. Guru Dutt portrayed the role of a filmmaker who has his own ups and down in his career. The film also featured Waheeda Rehman in the role of an actress.
(Telugu: మాయాబజార్ Tamil: மாயா பஜார்) is a 1957 folklore Telugu and Tamil Indian bilingual film. The Telugu version was first released in Andhra Pradesh on 27 March 1957. The Tamil version, the following month in Tamil Nadu, with changes in cast and other details apt to Tamil audience. The Telugu version was later dubbed in Kannada. The story, dialogues, and song lyrics were written by Pingali Nagendra Rao. The producer of both the versions, Bommireddy Nagi Reddy bagged the highest award for films in India, Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1986.
The critically acclaimed Mayabazar is considered one of the enduring classics of Indian Cinema. The film was touted as a landmark achievement in Indian film's cinematography, art direction and visual effects with the technology available at the time. The music delivered by Saluri Rajeswara Rao (uncredited) and Ghantasala has been extremely popular. The film stars Gummadi Venkateswara Rao as Balarama, NTR as Krishna, ANR (Telugu version); Gemini Ganesan (Tamil Version) as Abhimanyu, S. V. Ranga Rao as Ghatotkacha, and Savitri as Vatsala/Sasirekha. A digitally remastered colour version was released in 2010.
Mirza Ghalib (1954)
The first film to be made on the life of a renowned poet by Sohrab Modi was also the first to win the President`s gold medal for the best Hindi film of the year
Mother India (1957)
The immortal film of Hindi cinema by Mehboob Khan will be remembered long for the fantastic performance by Nargis. And this film also resulted in Nargis and Sunil Dutt coming together in real life. The marvellous actress won the best actress award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The film also had a rare American preview at World Theatre, New York on July 3, 1959.
One of the first to be nominated for an Academy Award for 'Best Foreign Film' is Mehboob Khan's Mother India. This is thought of as India's Gone With The Wind. Mother India was a powerful story about a mother and her two sons — one a dutiful and law-abiding, and the other rebellious and defiant. This storyline contained the message of Indian motherhood. It was also a vindication of women's authority and a statement on the strength of determination of character that is able to withstand a marathon struggle as well as bitter conflict.
The film depicts the painful struggle of a peaceful Indian farmer to cling to the glory of the bygone days. A farmer, who loses his hands in an accident, leaves his family. His wife 'Radha' faces the task of not just farming the land but also raising two sons, 'Birju' and 'Ramu'. Radha goes on to perform great sacrifices, which includes selling herself to the money lender so that she is able to buy food. But when the sons grow up, one becomes a rebel when he takes up a gun, rather than follow the footsteps of his brother Ramu and their mother. The ending, where the mother shoots her rebel son, is still remembered today and has been recreated several times. Most recently it was recreated on the Indian Television daily soap opera, Kyunke Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.
The film is also remembered for a dramatic incident as well. While filming a scene where there is fire all around her, the actress Nargis, who played the role of 'Radha', was surrounded by flames which went out of control. Actor Sunil Dutt, who played the part of the rebel son 'Birju', leapt in and saved her. The two later got married. Nargis Dutt was only 51 when she died on 3 May, 1981, after suffering from pancreatic cancer, just days before her son Sanjay's first film Rocky was released. Sanjay Dutt is now also involved in politics as is his sister Priya. Actor Sunil Dutt, husband of Nargis and father to Sanjay and Priya, passed away on 25 May, 2005.
Nadira, whose real name was Frahat Ezekiel, was born in Israel but she moved to India to work in films. She worked in a total of 66 films, including Raj Kapoor's Shree 420. It was because of her sharp, European features that Mehboob Khan offered her the role in his movie and also because he wanted to dub the movie in English. Nadira never married, and in later life she went on to play character roles. On 9 February, 2006, she passed away following a heart attack.
V. Shantaram once again proved his subject was the real hero of the film when he cast relative newcomer, Mahipal opposite Sandhya. Music by C Ramchandra and graceful dances by Sandhya were the major highlights.
Shree 420 (1955)
The Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer directed by RK himself brought to the fore his Chaplinesque figure more prominently in form, content and treatment. The film was not only a big hit in India, but all over, and was released overseas, too, particularly in Russia, The film perpetuated the Nargis-Raj Kapoor legend.
Bimal Roy attempted the off-beat social theme of untouchability with this film with remarkable success. Music by SD Burman and Nutan`s performance stood out prominently.
_____________________________________ 1 'Playback' is a term that is used for someone — a professional singer — whose voice is lipsynched by an actor or an actress in a film. The professional singer's name then appears on the CD soundtrack as 'singer' or 'playback singer'. 2 Prior to this, in the late 1930s, the only other film to be released in colour was Moti B Gidwani's Kisan Kaniya which was a silent movie. 3 Uday (1900 - 77) was famous sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar's elder brother
Indian cinema: historical outline Covers the era before the first Indian feature film
Indian cinema: 1950-59Indian cinema: 2010-19