Movies and TV shows that we watch today are advanced and so easy to relate to. It's so easy for us to believe that superman can actually fly without making it look unrealistic or maybe one can take a look into the future and agree how things would change. The visual medium has made all of this possible for us and we should be grateful for how this medium has grown over the years
The concept of films was brought about by the Lumiere brothers. By clicking many photographs in one go they realized that by moving them faster, it looked like the pictures were moving! They created a new technology without even knowing and soon this technology was distributed all around the world.
Initially, the sound was difficult to add in the movies. This era was called the ‘silent era’ of the film industry. No one in those times was that interested in storytelling or character traits, but only the fascination of movement. When the world first saw these pictures moving they didn’t care about the plot of the film but instead, the main focus was recording anything they could find, from the streets to a garden party. Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar was the first from India to witness this from the Lumiere brothers and he brought this to India through a short film on wrestling. Sure this film was nowhere near ‘Sultan’ or ‘Dangal’, but it was something new to everyone. This movie was called “The wrestlers” and it was shot at the hanging gardens of Mumbai and featured the match between famous wrestlers, Pundalik Dada and Krishna Navi. One film that as per some sources is said to be the first Indian film was Shree Pundalik, a silent film in Marathi by Dadasaheb Torne. Although an interesting fact about this is that it is quite a debate that this was not an Indian film, for two reasons. Firstly because it was a recorded play and not a film with actors and secondly because this play’s recording was done by cameraman Johnson from the British film arena who also processed this film in London first. However, there are very few such disputes with the film that is considered by most, to be the first feature-length Indian film.
Dadasaheb Phalke, considered the founder of Indian cinema, contributed a lot to the early years of Indian cinema. He produced the Marathi silent film Raja Harishchandra. A mythological story about the King Harishchandra, who was so righteous and honest that he sacrificed his kingdom, wife, and son to keep a promise to Rishi Vishwamitra. Dadasaheb Phalke used the elements of Sanskrit epics to produce this film. And this became a common practice amongst the early filmmakers of India. They started directing and producing many films dedicated to Indian mythology like the great epics “Mahabharata” and “Ramayana.” The concept of “writing” was very foreign and unrealistic in those times, so they made films with stories everyone already knew and which were already ready to be made. Phalke was an amazing filmmaker and he did a lot in his life that was dedicated to the betterment of the film industry. In his early years, he learned magic tricks from a German magician who was traveling in his hometown so that he could use these tricks in trick photography for his filmmaking.
In the later years when Phalke had three successful films out, he became a legend everywhere. Filmmakers from London were approaching him to produce a film in their country but Phalke denied, saying he wished to make films for India. In the coming years he was approached by Warner Brothers and he accepted their offer.
In the early films, the actors were mostly all male and even the role of female characters was done by men on majority of occasions. Now, remember, these films were silent meaning no sound, only movement. Along with that, they were all black and white.
Slowly, the whole industry started changing. We got sound in films and colour in pictures by 1937. Kisan Kanya was a 1937 Hindi Cinecolor feature film which was directed by Moti Gidwani. Earlier there was a Marathi film produced called Sairandhri in 1933 that had only few scenes in colour. However, India was not technologically advanced in those times and the movie had to be processed in Germany.
There was a rapid expansion in movies seen in the mid-1940s and during this time the genres of disaster lavish romantic musicals and melodramas were cinematic staples. This time, we also got the very first “blockbuster” of India - the movie Kismat which grossed in excess of the important barrier of one crore rupees. Interestingly, the movie was made on a budget of only two lakh rupees. This movie tackled contemporary issues, especially those arising from the Indian Independence movement.
And from the 1950's we saw the golden era of the Indian film industry. Cinema started becoming a big part of everyone’s lives and look how it is so easily accessible to us now. The parallel movement in Bengal started in the late 1940s. The movement emphasized social realism. One of the main series of movies produced in this movement was the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray which won major prizes at all the premier international film festivals. The trilogy's influence may be seen in the "youthful coming-of-age dramas that have filled art houses since the mid-fifties," which "owe a significant debt to the Apu trilogy." The 1950s were really beneficial for Indian cinema where we got musicals, historical movies and fantasy films for the audiences. We also got nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film for the very first time for the movie Mother India.
Eventually, our progress started increasing year by year leading us to use animation and special effects in our films too. Seeing how far we have come in filmmaking, maybe in the future too we will have various technologies that will take our cinematic experience to the next level. The coming years hold great possibilities for Indian cinema.