This year Indian Cinema has completed its centenary; during this journey, which was started with the making of silent movie, Raja Harishchandra, it has crossed many milestones and set numerous landmarks. Today, in terms of total number of movies produced, Indian cinema has crossed the number of movies produced by even Hollywood. In terms of viewership, it is rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood movies; the release of the Hindi movies is not only eagerly awaited by the people from every nook and corner of this country, the viewers from rest of the subcontinent, namely from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives enthusiastically watch movies made in India.
Indian Cinema has successfully crossed the linguistic barriers in terms of global viewership also; with the subtitles in their respective languages, people from most of the countries have started patronising Hindi cinema. In countries like Afghanistan and other central and west Asian countries – especially in absence of their own worthwhile cinema – Indian movies have created a huge fan following. Moreover, Hindi movies are showcasing traditional Indian dances, music and dresses and in a way have become messengers of Indian culture abroad.
If any one institution can be credited for taking Hindi, the national language to far flung areas like Arunachal Pradesh where people speak in as chaste Hindi as is spoken in the heartland, it is Hindi Cinema only. Through the medium of Cinema, the masses remain in constant touch with the age old culture also; the traditional Indian dances and music reaches the people in a best possible way through the Indian Cinema. It has very successfully established the raga based Indian music in its simplistic classical form in the minds of the cinema watchers.
The best contribution of the Indian Cinema has remained in disseminating social messages while keeping the entertainment value intact .and upholding the cultural ethos very high. The hundred year long journey has seen many technological up gradations too; in this respect, the year 1932 was a watershed year when for the first time a talkie named Alam Ara was produced, and a nineteen years long phase of silent movies was brought to an end. Indian Cinema reached another milestone when in the year 1936 a movie named Achhut Kanya was produced by Himanshu Roy; the said movie proved to be a revolutionary development in the context of breaking the social taboo of untouchability.
There are innumerable movies, directed by immensely talented and creative directors, which have hugely impacted the mass psyche. The noteworthy element is, the protagonist while presenting the said movies has not compromised with the entertainment content of the same and still very successfully disseminated the social message. In the decade of fifties, the great director, V. Shantaram made a movie titled as Do Aankhen Barah Haath; the said movie dealt with the subject of the rehabilitation of hardcore criminals and indeed the director established through his work that with compassion and trust even the outlaws can be turned into law abiding citizens.
On the subject of upholding the moralistic values even against the worst kind of feudalistic subjugation, an epic of a movie called Mother India was produced and directed by Mehboob Khan. The said movie not only was a huge commercial success, it left an indelible mark on its watchers minds when in the end, Nargis, the main female lead of the film, shoots down her own son in order to protect the dignity of the daughter of the village zamindar who all along his life has remained her tormentor.
Raj Kapoor is not only remembered as a showman of the Indian film industry, he has so many movies to his credit which proved to be trendsetters in social respects and cleared obfuscations from the minds of the viewers in respect of social taboos. He dealt with the subject of the surrender of dacoits in his movie, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai; and those who have followed the history of the surrender of the dacoits of Chambal vouch for the fact that the said movie had a undeniable hand in inspiring them to abandon the path of violence and come back to the mainstream life. One of his other movies, Prem Rog advocated remarriages of the widows and left a positive impact on the watchers of the said movie.
The mastery of instilling patriotic fervour in the masses, through his movies, was attained by none other than Manoj Kumar. If any youngster would watch his movie Shaheed, in which Manoj himself had played the role of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, he would not be able to draw himself out of the aura of the great martyr for days together. When the country was struggling with the worst kind of famine and at the same time had to face an aggression from Pakistan, Manoj made the movie Upkaar which was based upon the slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kisan given by the then prime minister of india, Lal Bahadur Shastri. His movie Purab Aur Pachhim created a niche while dealing with the subject of the comparison between the western and the Indian cultures.
No one who has been an avid watcher of the Indian movies can forget the contribution of Hrishikesh Mukherji who constantly kept on entertaining the masses as well as sending messages most nonchalantly. One of his movies, Anand taught people that even in the most distressed condition of suffering from terminal disease like cancer, the main character of the movie, keeps on turning acquaintances into friends and endeavours to fullfill their lives with happiness.
It is very heartening to know that in the current crop of directors, there is no dearth of individuals who have been making great meaningful movies. The one name which cannot go without mentioning is that of Raj Kumar Hirani. He has been directing movies which have been shaping up the minds of the viewers, especially the younger lot, with unforgettable messages. Through his movie Munnabhai MBBS, he amply established that in medical profession, love, care, compassion and faith matter more that the medication itself. His other movies like Lage Raho Munnabhai and Three Idiots not only crossed the landmarks of commercial success, they also presented the cinematic food for thoughts for the viewers.
There are innumerable producers, directors, music composers, cinematographers, choreographers, story and script writers, editors, lyricists, dialogue writers and other technicians who have enriched the great Indian cinema immensely; it is not possible to remember all of them here, however, their indelible footprints which they have left behind, will always keep on guiding the generations who want to follow them in their great profession of entertainment. —Rajan Khanna