Today, the world’s largest democratic celebrates its 64th Republic Day. I, as a filmmaker who has made some films bordering around nation-centric themes, feel extremely proud to say that just like our nation, our cinema too is breaking free from the shackles of age-old thoughts and processes, and moving towards a new future with every passing film. Here’s looking at 26 such moments, films and people.
1. Raja Harishchandra — The first wholly made Indian film was released in 1913. Dada Saheb’s iconic masterpiece celebrated its 100 years the last year itself!
2. Alam Ara — Released in 1931, this film was India’s first motion picture with sound!
3. Mughal-e-Azam — A film that cannot be defined aptly in words, not rated by any critic! It took a decade to be made, but this legendary film is one of India’s greatest products ever.
4. Satyajit Ray — He is considered as India’s greatest filmmaker by audience and industry folks alike! With films like Pather Panchali and Shatranj Ke Khiladi to his credit, he has been awarded India’s highest civilian honour — the Bharat Ratna!
5. SD Burman — Dada Burman, as he is fondly called, was the king of melody! His simplistic compositions right from O Re Majhi to Phoolon Ke Rang Se carried the essence of his simplicity, and still lingers in the minds of music listeners.
6. Sholay — This Ramesh Sippy classic is hailed as the greatest film to have ever released in this country. Every character is legendary, be it the overpowering Gabbar Singh, or the lovable Imaam Saheb!
7. Emotion at its very best — Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen and Mehboob Khan’s Mother India are synonymous with projection of emotions. These two masterpieces still manage to draw admirers from all corners of the country. The latter was even sent for the Oscars way back in 1958!
8. Fresh music talent — Indian cinema has brought to the forefront several musical talents who have enthralled the audience with their unique styles. No wonder, we have a chartbuster going viral every now and then!
9. The Directors — India has had its rich treasure trove of directors. Right from Satyajit Ray’s unparalleled portrayal of emotions, to RGV’s silence between the shots! Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, Buddhadeb Das Gupta, Mani Ratnam, Amol Palekar, RGV, Arvindan, Atul Gopal Krishnan, Shekhar Kapoor, and Anurag Kashyap are just some of the names from our vast pool of talent!
10. Deshbhakti films — As Manoj Kumar was sent to the gallows in Shaheed, we all wept. But we also rejoiced equally hard when the Indian army defeated Pakistan in Border! These deshbhakti films are the ones every Indian swears by. From Haqeeqat to Rang De Basanti, they elicit the strongest of emotions in us.
11. Big B — Just like we’ve the national flower, and the national fruit, Big B is truly the national favourite! His baritone voice, his height, impeccable command over the languages, and unbelievably good acting!
12. Mere paas maa hai — The character of ‘Maa’ has always been central to Hindi films. Right from Nirupa Roy’s portrayal of a bechari maa in Deewar and Amar Akbar Anthony to Rakhi’s Mere Karan-Arjun aayenge hopeful mother, we’ve seen how maa can make difference in movies!
13. Item numbers of the 70s — Indian men can never get enough of item numbers! We’ve had Helen grove to Yeh Mera Dil, and Saira Bano dance to Thoda Sa Thehro way back during the 70s.
Their moves set the 35mm screens on fire!
14. Aam Aadmi — Indian films have always been inspired by the life of a common man. The Common Man is always the real hero, as we’ve seen through Amol Palekar’s honest portrayals in Chhoti Si Baat and Chitchor, and Naseer’s speech in A Wednesday.
15. The fans – One of the most touching things about Indian cinema is the fans! It doesn’t take them long to idolise you to such an extent, that they build temples of you! The temples of the one and only thalaiva, Rajinikanth, are famous across the world!
16. Bromance — We have all cried with Veeru when he mourns his best friend Jai’s death in Sholay, and even made plans to visit Goa with our friends after watching Dil Chahta Hai! Indians can never get enough of Bromance, and we’ve had quite a few iconic films depicting the strongest of friendships!
17. Actors versus stars — We’ve had some actors who had done the most phenomenal acting. Belonging to this elite league are actors like Balraj Sahni, Kanhaiyalal, Pran, Ashok Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, Mohan Lal, Smita Patil, Suchitra Sen, Soumitra Chatterjee, Utpal Dutt, Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah, and more recently Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddique. They have shown us what acting is all about!
18. Impact of literature — Every now and then, we can see a book being adapted into a movie. This trend is going on right since the time when Tagore’s Kabuliwala was turned into a film starring the legendary Balraj Sahni! Regional literature is still a favourite when it comes to taking references for films.
19. Rebirth — Rishi Kapoor came back to take revenge in Karz, and so did SRK in Om Shanti Om! Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella was also based on the theme of reincarnation. Indian cinema goers are really fascinated with the theme of reincarnation. No points for guessing — these films have been blockbusters!
20. Regional films — Regional films have always been one of our richest assets. They are a rich pool of talented performances, thoughtful scripts, rich narratives, and spellbinding direction.
21. Kishore Kumar – RD Burman — There quite hasn’t been a singer-music composer duo as Kishore da and RD Burman! They’ve made countless Indians dance on Bachna Ae Haseeno, and made an equal number cry on O Manjhi Re. They were truly the gems of Indian cinema, and have seen a following that no other artists ever saw.
22. The Mangeshkar Sisters — Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle — the only two voices that have dominated the Indian music scene since the 50s till date!
23. Out-of-the-box films vs The 100 crore club — As times progressed, two distinctive ideas have overtaken Indian cinema. A lot of people measure the success of the film by its numbers while out-of-the-box films are better received by critics as well as audiences.
24. Independent films — The past few years have seen a great number of independent film makers coming to the limelight.Even the audience is accepting such films with great zeal. The past year saw the release of great films like The Ship of Theseus and The Lunchbox.
25. AR Rahman — The entire nation rejoiced on February 23, 2009, as AR Rahman accepted his Oscar! We all wait with eagerness for every release of this maestro!
26. Small budget films — The audience now enjoys shorter and small budget films like Vicky Donor, Khosla Ka Ghosla, and Fukrey. The trend is slowly shifting from the traditional three hour drama to shorter narratives that are able to hold the audience’s attention!