Hindi films have been a fascination of many since its inception in 1913 when Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, directed and produced the first Indian silent film Raja Harishchandra. Since then, the production of films, in general and more so, Hindi films, has always been on the rise compared to other language films. From silent era to talkies, from black and white to colour, from small films to big budget movies, inside the studios to foreign locations, from single screens to multiplexes, premieres to special screenings; the process has grown thousand folds. And today, film production has become a money-spinning business unlike the earlier days, when, it was mainly passion for the craft that drove many into the field.
In 1951, the year Screen was launched, approximately 90 Hindi films were released with about a handful that became the highest grossers. Cut to 2014, as Screen celebrates its 63rd anniversary, the rise in the number of films has, obviously increased, but meagerly. Around 99 films hit the screens till September 2014 while another 20 may release between October and December.
Though box-office figures were unavailable, the highest grossing films in 1951, were B.R. Chopra’s directorial debut Afsana starring Ashok Kumar, Awara with Raj Kapoor’s trademark Charlie Chaplin style that became a worldwide success, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut Baazi for Dev Anand’s Navketan banner, small-time actor Bhagwan and an established heroine Geeta Bali’s musical comedy Albela, the romantic drama Deedar, starring Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Nargis and Nimmi, Jadoo with Nalini Jaywant as the heroine, Vyjayanthimala’s debut film Bahar, Madhubala-Premnath’s costume drama Badal and the social drama Humlog, starring Nutan, Balraj Sahni and Shyama. This was confirmed by Nalin Shah, film historian and Hindustani film music expert.
Cut to 2014, the highest grosser of the year is undoubtedly Salman Khan’s Kick, in which he once again played the action hero with panache, with Rs. 233 crore. Khan’s first release of the year Jai Ho had garnered Rs.111 crore, making him the only hero to reap rich dividends for the film industry. Ajay Devgn’s cop story Singham Returns became the actor’s first-ever highest opener when it collected Rs.32 crore. It went on to earn about Rs.139 crore in total. Two of Akshay Kumar’s films, Holiday and It’s Entertainment, Riteish Deshmukh-starrer Ek Villain, Priyanka Chopra, Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh’s Gunday, Kangana Ranaut’s Queen and Sajid Khan-directed Humshakals are some of the highest earners this year, according to trade experts of Bollywood.
Alia Bhatt, who has had 2 States where she played the daughter of a conservative Tamil Brahmin family and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, in which she was paired with Varun Dhawan for the second time after the success of Student of the Year, is on a roll with some good films to her credit.
Shah says that Bollywood got the petite South Indian actress Vyjayanthimala that year when she made her acting debut in Hindi films with Bahar opposite the good-looking actor Karan Dewan. It was the remake of her Tamil film, the 1949-Vazhkai. “B.R. Chopra too became a full-fledged director that year. He was a very intelligent man, no doubt, but when it came to directing Afsana, his first film, he took the help of Ashok Kumar, the hero of the film,” says Shah referring to Chopra’s first independent directorial venture in 1951. It was Dev Anand who gave Guru Dutt the chance to turn director with Baazi for his prestigious Navketan banner.
Moving to 2014, the year saw Humpty Sharma … and 2 States bringing in two new directors into the field. Shashank Khaitan forayed with the Varun Dhawan-Alia Bhatt-starrer for Dharma Productions and Abhishek Verman brought to life on screen the 2009 novel of the same name written by Chetan Bhagat with Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor playing lovers in producers Karan Johar and Sajid Nadiadwala’s film.
After successfully producing films for over two decades, Nadiadwala attempt at direction worked in his favour. He wielded the magic wand and tasted huge success, for his first directorial debut Kick, the remake of 2009 Telugu film by the same name. Some of the other new directors in 2014 were Vinil Mathew with the Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra starrer romcom Hasee Toh Phasee. After writing slapsticks Farhad-Sajid tried their hand at directing a comedy with It’s Entertainment, Samar Shaikh turned Vidya Balan into a detective in Bobby Jasoos, Soumik Sen had the fortune of working with Madhuri Dixit Nene in Gulab Gang and set designer Omung Kumar turned director when he made a biopic on Indian wrestler Mary Kom with Priyanka Chopra in the title role.
It’s a roller coaster
The number game exists in every industry and its brethrens have to face the repercussions because of the constant upheavels that they cause. Generally it is about who is ruling the roost and who has taken beating in their profession. In the film industry, the graph is too evident. To retain the top position means to ensure a good number of substantial releases during the year. As mentioned earlier, 1951 saw 90 film releases and surprisingly, the count is almost similar in September 2014. Considering this, one would assume that in the current year, the number of releases for each actor would be on a higher side, however that is not the case. It is quite a wonder to see that no actor has had more than two-three releases during this year.
Those with just two releases were Deepika Padukone (Finding Fanny and Kochadaiiyan), Naseeruddin Shah (Dedh Ishqiya and Finding Fanny), Priyanka Chopra (Gunday and Mary Kom), Salman Khan (Kick and Jai Ho), Parineeti Chopra (Hasee Toh Phasee and Daawat-e-Ishq), Ranveer Singh (Gunday and a special appearance in Finding Fanny), Sonam Kapoor (Bewakoofiyan and Khoobsurat), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Kick and Miss Lovely), Sidharth Malhotra (Hasee Toh Phasee and Ek Villain), Varun Dhawan (Main Tera Hero and Humpty Sharma ...) and Soha Ali Khan (Chaarfutiya Chhokare and Mr Joe B Carvalho), to name a few. Only Alia Bhatt (Humpty Sharma …, Highway and 2 States) and Arjun Kapoor (Gunday, 2 States and Finding Fanny) had the honour of having three releases this year. Surprisingly Amitabh Bachchan, who is the most active and agile actor of the industry, had just one film, the fantasy Bhoothnath Returns to his credit. However, this only goes to show that today’s artistes seem to be more organised in their working pattern and are willing to devote time for their projects, concentrating on work on hand instead of rushing into several assignments.
Six decades ago, unlike the present times, the onus of marketing and promoting a film did not rest on the actors. Once they completed the shooting of a film, their work in the project was almost over. Hence, they could take on several assignments. Interestingly Nirupa Roy, who started out as a heroine and went on to do character roles over the years, playing mother to several actors, had eleven releases in 1951, most of which were mythologicals. Geeta Bali was next with nine releases, Madhubala was seen in eight films, Dev Anand in seven, Nargis, Bhagwan and Nalini Jaywant had five releases each, Meena Kumari, in four films, Dilip Kumar had three releases and Ashok Kumar had two films that year. Film-maker Nanabhai Bhatt, father of Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt, and known for making over a hundred fantasy and mythological films, had four releases that year. In contrast, Mahesh Bhatt produced the critically-acclaimed Citylights this year.
It is unfortunate that the next generation of famous celebrities of 1951 did not really carry the tradition forward. While an interesting observation is that both, Shobhana Samarth with Jai Mahalaxmi and Ram Janma and her daughter, the erstwhile Nutan, (Hum Log and Nagina) had two releases each where the duo played the lead in their respective films in the same year, similarly 2014 had Alia Bhatt ruling the roost in a major way with Humpty Sharma …, Highway and 2 States and making her dadaji late film-maker Nanabhai Bhatt and father Mahesh Bhatt who produced the critically-acclaimed Citylights during the year, immensely proud of her choice of films and her repertoire of work. Of the Bachchans, son Abhishek will be seen in the forthcoming Happy New Year, while his dad had a release in Bhoothnath Returns. Veteran actor Rishi Kapoor, who hasn’t shied away from experimenting with his characters just had one release in Bewakoofiyaan this year while son Ranbir Kapoor did not have a single release except for a cameo in the fantasy film Bhoothnath Returns where he appeared as a star. However, another from the Kapoor clan did make an advent into the film industry. Rishi Kapoor’s sister Reema Jain’s son Armaan Jain made his acting debut in Lekar Hum Deewana Dil. However the film, which was titled after mama Rishi Kapoor’s famous song from 1973-film Yaadon Ki Baarat, failed to impress at the box-office.
Evergreen actor Dev Anand’s son Suneil Anand, who had tried his hand at acting was not so lucky, is now working to keep the Navketan banner flying high, in the absence of his famous father, by making a crossover project Vagator Mixer, the shooting of which is almost complete.
It was inevitable for the handsome Dev Anand to be linked with his beautiful heroines. That year he was paired with Madhubala in two films, D.D. Kashyap’s Aaram and Hira Singh’s Nadaan. He even worked with Suraiya in two films, D.D. Kashyap’s Do Sitare and Nandlal Jaswantlal’s Sanam. Dilip Kumar and Nargis were seen in Shubh Karan Ojha’s Hulchul and Nitin Bose’s Deedar which also had Raj Kapoor in the lead, making this film one of the earliest triangle love stories.
However, this year saw Abhay Deol starring with his real life girlfriend, Preeti Desai, in the romcom One by Two, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt were in Humpty Sharma … while Ranveer Singh was seen in a cameo with Deepika Padukone in Finding Fanny.
Prior to the release of any film, the actors are involved in frenetic promotional activities, whether it is television, radio or digital platforms. This active interaction with the audience helps in the promotion of their films.
This is a far cry from the earlier days when promotion of a film meant just placing hoardings all over town prior to the release. So protected and guarded were the actors that they were rarely seen on any interactive platform unlike these days. Fans did not have access to the favourite actors unlike today when a star’s job is not complete till after the film is released. The only time, actors would probably be seen at a public event would be at some musical shows or maybe award functions held within the confines of a hall.
Today, as part of the film marketing and promotion, a fan is even allowed to shake hands, share the stage and get an autograph and even take photographs with their favourite stars who are promoting their films at the malls, parties, reality shows, etc. For example, the actors of Farah Khan’s Happy New Year recently sent personalised signed posters to their fans as part of the promotions. Even during Jai Ho, Salman Khan distributed water to a water deprived village. Before the release of Holiday, Akshay Kumar, in which he was playing the role of an army officer, visited army camps in Jodhpur and Amritsar. However, such promotional activities in 1951 was unheard of.
On a song
Filmi music as Hindi films songs are called, have been the soul of every film. Many a times, the music and songs make or break a film. There are many instances where the film is forgotten, but the song lives on.
In the olden days, unlike today, the playback singer, composer and lyricists, all were given equal importance when the songs were played on radio and even in the credits of the film, whereas today, the credits come with the end titles.
While singers featured as actors decades ago, today when an Akshay Kumar or a Salman Khan singing in their film becomes big news.
Talking about the present musical scenario, young singers like Yo Yo Honey Singh, Mika Singh are a favourite with the youth who are impressed with their unique style and songs that have a western as well as rural flavour to it. But, most of their songs feature in the title credits which has become a new trend these days.
The tagline Aata Majhi Satakli caught on like house on fire when Singham was released in 2011. So, for the sequel the film-makers roped in Yo Yo Honey Singh, Mamta Sharma and Nitu Choudhary to croon the peppy number. While the song Aata majhi satakli did catch on for a while, it soon faded away from public memory. Sonam Kapoor turned sentimental and singing Maa Ka phone in Khoobsurat has made the song popular.
As compared, Albela, the biggest hit of 1951, had a less known actor Bhagwan in the lead with the beautiful Geeta Bali as his heroine. The high point of the musical comedy was its melodious and foot-tapping music by C. Ramchandra. While the film had many westernised songs like Sholajo badhke and Aye deewana, aye parwana that had the cabaret along with bongo drums, clarinets, trumpets and saxophones. There was also the love song Balma bada nadan re sung at a slow pace by Lata Mangeshkar. Shah asserts that “Albela was a musical hit. It is one film that will always be remembered for its melodious songs.” Dil dhadke nazar sharmaye, Shaam dhale khidki tale, Bholi soorat dil ke khote were romantic songs that touched the heart with their soulful rhythm and lyrics and light music. Another song, Kismat ki hawa kabhi naram was fast paced and heavy on western influence. Dheere se aaja ri ankhiyon mein was a lullaby sung by Lata Mangeshkar. C Ramchandra, besides composing was the main male playback singer of the songs penned by Rajinder Krishan.
According to Shah, the music of Baazi became very popular for its novelty, while Afsana had offbeat music. “Badal had some melodious tracks by Shankar-Jaikishan. Awara was a big hit because of Raj Kapoor’s performance and the songs, Ghar aaya mera pardesi and Awara hoon have become timeless. One has to hear Shamshad Begum singing La ra lu in Jadoo to sense its magic composed by Naushad. This was such an innovative song and had impressive lyrics composed in 1951, much ahead of its times. Though the music was good, the film unfortunately did not do well at the box-office.”
He recalls that when Hum Log released, at first nobody went to the theatres, but once the songs became popular, the film managed to do average business because of its dark story line. “The music became so popular that we did not find the long play records for the film. Roshan’s (Hrithik Roshan’s grandfather) was a very competent musician. He composed Chun chun chun baje payaliya meri and Chali ja chalija in Lata’s voice are badiya gaana.
Shamshad Begum’s Chaman ke rahake veerana from Deedar cannot be ignored in that year,” he said recalling a trivia about Humlog, a social drama that starred Nutan, Balraj Sahni and Shyama in the lead. Apparently, for the premiere of the film, 15-year-old Nutan was escorted by family friend Shammi Kapoor, but was not allowed into the theater because of the film’s scary content.
In comparison, in 2014, Yaariyan, the coming-of-age romance adventure by debutant director Divya Khosla Kumar was heavy on music, since it was a film by T.Series, a renowned music company. The film has twelve songs composed by a range of musicians like Pritam Chakraborty, Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Anupam Amod and Mithoon. A special number by Honey Singh titled Sunny Sunny became very popular and is played at DJs, parties, pubs, etc. ABCD. Baarish, Allah waariyan and Love me thoda aur were the other chartbusters. Made at a budget of Rs.10 crore, Yaariyan which released on January 14 grossed Rs. 40 crore.
Going back, like all Raj Kapoor films, Awara too dealt with a social themes mainly about the working-class urban life in India. The film presented the city as both a nightmare and a dream. The song Awara hoon sung by Mukesh with lyrics by Shailendra and music by Shankar Jaikishan, became hugely popular across the Indian subcontinent, as well as in the Soviet Union, China, Turkey, Afghanistan and Romania. The film became an overnight sensation worldwide and was nominated for the Grand Prize of the Cannes Film Festival in 1953. It was included in the 20 new entries to All-Time 100 greatest films by TIME. Another highlight of the film, Shah mentions, was the song Ghar aaya mera pardesi which is considered the first dream sequence in Indian cinema, with its sea of twirling clouds symbolising the conflicts in the lead character’s mind.
That year, it was Deedar that established Dilip Kumar as King of Tragedy as the film was about unfulfilled love, where childhood friends are separated due to class inequalities. It is among the noted tragedies made in early Hindi cinema. With Ashok Kumar, Nargis and Nimmi also in lead roles, it is considered as another of the top grossing films of that year. It had music by Naushad and lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni who gave us songs like Bachpan ke din bhoola na dena, Hue hum jinke liye barbad, Meri kahani bhoolne wale, Le ja meri duayeein le ja, Nazar na phero humse that are unforgettable and had singing talents like Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum and G.M. Durani.
Some of the other popular songs of that year were Taqdeer se bigadi hui and Aaj ki raat piya dil na todo from Baazi in Geeta Dutt’s voice, Shamshad Begum singing Sainya dil mein aana re and Duniya ka majaa le lo duniya purani hai in Bahar, mentions Shah.
Since songs have always dominated the film, there are more in numbers in the year 1951 but the same cannot be said about the current year as the songs have not really hit the right note.
A film showcasing at any festival is a matter of pride for the country. And India has not been far behind in sending its films for world viewing. It is a moment of pride for Homi Adajani whose Finding Fanny starring Deepika Padukone and Arjun Kapoor along with erstwhile actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia and Pankaj Kapur has been selected to be screened at 19th Busan International Film Festival in October, 2014. Similarly this year, the Hindi film Liar’s Dice, a road drama about a tribal woman’s journey to find her missing husband, directed by Geetu Mohandas and starring Geetanjali Thapa and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, apparently beat 29 other films to represent India at the Oscars 2015 in the Best Foreign Film category. Kalki Koechlin-starrer Margarita, With A Straw, a film about a young romantic rebel in a wheelchair, was the official selection for the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival 2014 held recently. The Viacom18 Motion Pictures production directed by Shonali Bose, was screened under the ‘Contemporary World Cinema’ category.
While Kangana Ranaut-starrer Queen had the privilege of being premiered at Busan International Film Festival in October 2013, prior to its theatrical release in India, the movie, which showed an unmarried girl going on a honeymoon alone, emerged a major commercial success when it released worldwide in 800 screens on March 7, 2014 to critical acclaim. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Miss Lovely also did the rounds of film festivals
Cut to 1951, the year when the Film Federation of India (FFI) as well as the Central Board of Film Censors was launched, saw Raj Kapoor’s Awara being nominated for the Grand Awara Prize of the Cannes Film Festival.
While the concept of a film premiere is taking a back seat with special screenings for family and friends and paid previews becoming the norm, a film is already seen by many even before it hits the theatres. Thus, the audience gets a feedback much in advance. And today the fate of the film is decided in just three days of its release and a celebration is held even before the week is over.
Earlier, however, a film was considered a hit only if it ran houseful for 25 weeks making it a Silver jubilee or had a 50-day run and celebrating a Golden Jubilee.
And Nalin Shah says that all films in the fifties and sixties would have grand premieres. “Importance was given to a film premiere depending on kiske paas kitna paisa hota tha. But premiere sab ke hote the with all artistes attending,” he said.
Movies will keep entertaining people whether film premieres happen or not. The tech-savvy generation has a film at the click of a button on their smartphones and a click away, on DVDs and television sets. Whatever the generation or era, cinema will continue to dominate people’s lives.