The Indian film industry, by far the largest in the world, is as much an integral part of India as its cuisine or rivers or mountains. In 2009, India produced a total of 2961 films on celluloid, that include a staggering figure of 1288 feature films. Bollywood has overtaken Hollywood as the most popular source of entertainment in the world. From Kabul to Khartoum, from Tashkent to Tokyo, from New York to Nairobi, audiences in over 90 countries have fallen in love with Indian films.
History of Indian Cinema:
Six months after demonstrating their “cinematographic” machine in Europe at the Indian Salon of the Hotel Scribe in Paris, the Lumiere brothers took it to Bombay. So on 7 July 1896, at the Hotel Watson in Bombay, awestruck audiences saw the “Arrival of a Train at the Ciotat Station” and “Leaving the Factory”. The tickets were a few dram each, priced to suit every pocket. Within a week, the Novelty Theatre was regularly showing films, and cinema theatres followed within a couple of years in Calcutta and Madras.
Although the first few films were imported from Europe or America, indigenous Indian film-makers quickly emerged and the new "art" was rapidly Indianized. Some of the first Indian films depicted the ethos of the times - nationalism. In the first 22 years, over 1,300 silent films were produced. Only a handful has survived. And for subjects, India's film makers had two readymade inexhaustible sources - the ancient Indian streams of dance and music. Stage plays, with their own themes drawn from Indian mythology and history and depicted through music and movement, provided the nourishment that the nascent industry needed to survive. For theatre in India's millennial performing arts tradition is intrinsically linked to music and dance, and anchored in mythology.
The contours of Indian cinema's anatomy are discernible in Sanskrit drama whose legendary origin goes back to Brahma, the creator of the universe. Asked by Lord Indra, the god of heaven, for a "form of divergence which must be audible as well as visible" and "which will be shared by all the people", Brahma created the Natyaveda, the holy book of dramaturgy, by taking the four elements of speech, song, dance and mime from the Vedas. The great sage, Bharat Muni, who taught the new Veda to the people, laid down that drama should be a "representation of the various emotions depicting different situations" and "give courage, amusement and happiness as well as counsel to them all." And, in consonance with the Hindu view of life, was added the dictum that drama should not conclude with the defeat or death of the hero. Bhava -emotions, and rasa - the exalted sentiment or mood which the spectators experience, had pre-eminence over the plot and the structure.
These fundamental elements and components are all there in Indian cinema. It is "a form of divergence," "shared by all" with "speech, song, dance and mime," "rich in various emotions" in which all conflicts get harmoniously resolved without the defeat or death of the hero. This is in direct contradiction of the Western tradition of cinema that is rooted in Aristotle's Poetics and Greek drama. In Greek tragedy, the hero is doomed; in Hindu drama the hero triumphs over all obstacles. In the one, nature is in sharp contrast with human misery; in the other, it sympathetically echoes or accentuates human feelings.
Indian films inherited two traditions: first, the tradition of silent cinema representing a new international non-verbal visual style of presentation; secondly, the style of ancient Sanskrit theatre going back to a tradition of over 2000 years. Indian cinema also acquired two Indian characteristics; first the subject matter for a large percentage of films was drawn from Indian mythology. Secondly, a cinematic style became unique to India in the sense of being a combination of opera, ballet and drama fused with a new technology.
In 1931 came the first film with sound, Alam Ara. It was now possible to more fully exploit the immensely rich ancient heritage of song, dance and music, extending the philosophy of Bharata Muni. Cinema grew as a magnificent diversion with speech, song, dance and mime, rich in emotions of all kinds in which conflicts got harmoniously resolved with happiness for the people through the victory of the hero. Indian audiences had no difficulty switching from the village or town playhouse to the cinema hall, as long as the subject-matter appealed to Indian tastes, cultural values and preferences. The encounter between India's traditional forms of dance and music and the new technology of projecting speaking and moving pictures on the screen is the basis of popular Indian cinema.
Music, song and dance became an integral part of the narrative expression and of the visualization of the story, vital elements of the pleasure of going to the movies. They remain so. Indian film music even today uses traditional Indian musical instruments such as the tabla (drum), the bansuri (flute) and the shehnai (oboe).
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