July 7 1896 – Indian Cinema Is Born

 On July 7th 1896, the Lumiere Brothers showcased six films at the Watson Hotel in Mumbai (then Bombay) and this marked the birth of Indian cinema as we know it today. 

The Lumiere brothers were French Cinematographers who arrived in India after having proved their cinematic excellence in Paris. The screening of the films took place on July 7th 1896 at the Watson Hotel in Mumbai and the ticket was priced at Re.1. The Times of India referred to this event as the “miracle of the century”. The show received an overwhelming response and motion pictures were soon introduced to India, in Kolkata (Calcutta) and Chennai (Madras).

The six films screened that day were Entry of Cinematographe, The Sea Bath, Arrival of a Train, A Demolition,  Ladies and Soldiers on Wheels and Leaving the Factory. The second film screening by the Lumiere Brothers took place on July 14th at a new venue, the Novelty Theatre, Bombay and twenty four films were screened that day, including A Stormy Sea and The Thames at Waterloo Bridge. Alternating between these two venues, the shows culminated on August 15th 1896.

Much before the introduction of film (silent or talkies) three elements were vital in Indian culture natya (drama) nritya (pantomime) and nrrita (pure dance). These three aspects were eventually passed on to Indian cinema. Bollywood films today epitomize Indian culture by their extravagant song and dance sequences and flamboyant costumes and Bollywood has contributed immensely to Indian music by composing some of the most melodious tunes in Indian music history.

After the film screening in Mumbai by the Lumiere brothers, films became a sensation in India and the following year a Professor Stevenson staged a show at Calcutta’s (now Kolkata) Star Theatre. Using Stevenson’s camera, Hiralal Sen, an Indian photographer, made a motion picture of scenes from that show, namely The Flowers of Persia (1898). The first film ever to be shot by an Indian was called the The Wrestlers made in 1899 by H.S Bhatavdekar depicting a wrestling match in Mumbai’s Hanging Gradens. This was also India’s first documentary film. The first film released in India was Sree Pundalik a silent Marathi film by Dadasaheb Torne on May 18th 1912.

India’s first full length film was made by Dadasahed Phalke (also known as the father of Indian cinema), India’s earliest film maker who blended together elements from Sanskrit epics to make his first film Raja Harishchandra in 1913, which was a silent film in Marathi. The roles of females were played by men and this film remains a landmark moment in the history of Indian cinema. Raja Harishchandra was a great commercial success and was an inspiration for further such films.

India’s very first talkie (that is the first talking film) was Alam Ara made by Ardeshir Irani which was released on March 14th 1931. The first two south Indian films to have a theatrical release were Prahalada (Telegu) and Kalidas (Tamil) and were released on October 31st 1931. The first Bengali talkie to be released was Jumai Shasthi. Talkies soon became very popular in India and actors in these films were much in demand and made a decent amount of money by acting. 

With the development of sound technology, the 1930s saw the use of music in Indian films and Indra Sabha and Devi Deviyani were one of the first song and dance films in India.  Indian commercial cinema (also known as masala films), which were a heady cocktail of dance, music, drama, comedy and romance came up after the Second World War. During the 1940s, south Indian films too had gained immense prominence in Indian cinema.

The Partition of India in 1947 also greatly affected Indian cinema and many films were made on this historic event for many years to come. The Golden Age of Indian cinema came following the independence of India in 1947 which saw the rise of a new genre of Indian cinema called parallel cinema, which was predominantly led by Bengali cinema. A few examples of films from this era were Nagarik by Ritwik Ghatak (1952) and Do Biga Zameen by Bimal Roy (1953). By the mid 1950s, Satyajit Ray had made his entry into Indian Cinema and made Pather Panchali in 1955 which was the first part of his famous Apu trilogy.

Commercial cinema too was mushrooming and some of the most popular commercial film in the 1950s and '60s were Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955) Pyaasa (1957), Mother India (1957) Kaagaz  Ke Phool (1959) and Mughal-e-Azam (1960). Commercial cinema continued to grow in the 1980s and 1990s and is today flourishing as one of the most popular and loved genres in Indian cinema today. Like in the past, Indian films still continue winning prominent awards at home and abroad.

The credit of establishment of cinema in India goes to the Lumiere Brothers, who ignited the spark of making motion pictures in various Indian filmmakers.


Also On This day:

1763 - Britishers declare Mir Jafar as Nawab of Bengal.

1799 - Ranjit Singh captures Lahore in Punjab from Sikh rulers.

1943 - Rasbehari Bose hands over the command of 'Azad Hind Fauz' to Netaji Subhashchandra Bose at Singapore.

1946 - Gandhiji addresses the A.I.C.C. meeting at Bombay; Congress accepts the Cabinet Mission plan of May 16.

1948 - The first public corporation, the Damodar Valley Corporation, is established.


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