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The Cinemas of India (1896-2000)
The Cinemas of India (1896-2000)
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Foreword

Few writers, either Indian or non-Indian, have had the courage to make the attempt to unravel the complex plurality of India's many cinemas. Ineluctably rooted in its traditions, moving with seeming ease between present and past, it requires an intrepid spirit to decipher its codes, to comprehend the variations as much as the unifying principles in the films made not only in the 'Bollywood' formula in its own unique form, but also the 'art' cinema by filmmakers in the less familiar northeastern part of the country and its southernmost tip, in Maharashtra in the west, of Bengal in the east.

To be able to grasp this cinema and present it in a lucid manner, requires a sympathetic perception of India itself, its values, its traditions-and the determination of some to reject them-its mythology and its contemporary history, its chaos and confusion and its ability to rise above them. And the cinema, like the country, encompasses all of this, as it presents side by side, entertainment and intellectual abstraction, poverty and wild extravagance, a poet's imagination and a feel for the marketplace.

To put all this multiplicity within the covers of a single book, to give it a historical perspective, yet single out the many directors in the different regions of the country for the country for the significance of their contribution to this many-layered, multicoloured, intricately woven tapestry, is a Herculean task.

But Yves Thoraval is a determined and painstaking chronicler whose fascination with this country and its cinema(s) shows through in his book. It is a labour of love over years of effort. Carefully researched, significant as a guide and work of reference, it is not an academic, scholarly exercise but the work of someone who loves what he has seen and views its aberrations with a tolerance born of understanding. One may not always agree with his point of view but as far as possible, Yves Thoraval has tried to be objective. This does to claim to be an encyclopaedia of Indian cinema but presents an historical overview, singling out a number of directors in different parts of the country for particular attention. The economic, political and sociological shifts in the country through the years provide a background to the development of the cinema in the hundred years of its existence. That is where the value of this book lies, for the reader in India as elsewhere.

The tone of affection that is present in his writing is such that it will encourage other writers to take up specific areas for analysis in greater depth and detail, as each one of the chapters can be a book in itself. As an introduction to the vast canopy of India's many cinemas, it is a book that will be of great use in the interest in Indian cinema studies that is now happily growing.

From the Jacket

Born at the same time as in the West, over a century, Indian cinema, has today earned the pride of place as the world's largest cinematographic industry. Dynamic and professional, it seems that the Indians are never tired of seeing images on the screen, a trend that causes alarm to the Hollywood film industry (having patterned the first integrated Indian Studios in the 1930s-50s in Bombay), which has its eye on such a luscious market, given its recent efforts at dubbing American blockbusters into Hindi and Tamil for release in theatres. But the Seventh Art is totally integrated into the Indian millennial tradition of images and plastic and performing arts, taking up all the 'genres' and reflecting the diversity of the cultures, languages and musics of a country as vast as a continent. This is why this book's title is plural, The Cinemas of India, a journey through the galaxy of Indian films and filmmakers, mostly auteurs, since the very beginning of cinema in India and its full instrumentalisation by the pioneer Dadasaheb Phalke. And the reader will also make substantial incursions into the 'dream factories' of 'commercial' cinema, mostly in Mumbai's Bollywood, Chennai and Hyderabad.

As of now, the distinction between auteur and commercial films might be less relevant in the coming years, as the emerging blend of both the genres is beginning to appear to attract the new generation, tired of a certain regularity of recipes as old as the cinemas of India themselves.

A comprehensive guide to wade through the world of Indian cinema, from 1896 to 2000, this book, an enlarged edition of the original French title, Les Cinemas de L'lnde, presents its multiple regional facets illustrated by filmmakers that the world is now beginning to discover-represented historically and through their protagonists and films in the west, in Mumbai (Bombay); in the east, in Calcutta, which remains a centre of cultural innovation; but also in the northeast, in Assam, Manipur, Orissa; and, in the south, in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai (Madras), Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). A work of indispensable referral value, may this book give the desire to the Indians to care more about the grandeur of their cinemas and to the non-Indian readers to pay far more attention to the beauties that all the Cinemas of India have to offer.

Based in Paris, Yves Thoraval, 53, pursued Political Science at the Paris-X University (Anglo-Saxon studies), simultaneously learning Russian at the Institute of Oriental Civilisations, and moved over to securing diplomas in Classical and Egyptian Arabic. And a scholarship at the Cairo University led to his touring the Middle East and East Africa for various publications, while he completed a Ph'D in Middle Eastern Anthropology, Cinema Section. Subsequently, he had a staple of assignments commencing with Seuil, a leading publishing house in Paris; followed by an invitation from the Ministry of Immigration, to devise cultural programmes for the African-Asian non-immigrant communities in France, with the newly created 'Mosaic' TV channel. Thereafter, he joined the French National Library, first as its Press Officer, then as an Islamic bibliographer, attending symposia in Europe and the Middle East and organizing literary exhibitions in Tunis, Baghdad, Paris.

Currently, he is the chief curator, for the 'foreign section' of the International Exchange of Publications worldwide. A cinephile to the core, these last 25 years, he has attended film festivals in Europe, the middle East, Central Asia, India and the Far East, as a jury member, including for the International Federation of Film Critics in Korea, Singapore, Istanbul, Carthage, Tashkent, Cannes, etc.).

A prolific writer, he has authored eight books, besides contributing to collective works both in the field of the Islamic Civilisation and Oriental Film History (Egypt, India, Turkey, Iran…). He also contributes to Radio-France and Guide des Films and writes for Le Monde Diplomatique, L'Avant-Scene/Cinema, Jeune Cinema, Historians, Atlantica and Cinemaya: the Asian Film Quarterly, as its representative in Europe.

Preface

The idea of doing this book was born of an irrational passion for Indian cinema-nurtured for the last 30 years due to many factors. First, the revelation of the films of Satyajit Ray during the 1960s, at the Cinematheque in Paris (close to my school), then the fact that I was able to watch Indian films at the theatres in certain parts of Paris, like Belleville and Barbes, where each week an Indian or an Egyptian musical was shown mainly for the immigrant North African population (a dream opportunity for students like me, of the two centuries-old Institute for the Oriental Civilisations). Later, I lived in Cairo during the early '70s, in order to gather material for my thesis on the history of Egyptian cinema, and was able to enjoy the pleasures of forgetting everything, as I immersed myself in the music and dances of 'made in Bombay' films, which were shown in halls in the city centre, a kind of 'mini-Broadway'. Commercial Indian cinema has had a marked influence on Egyptian cinema, and during the International Film Festival held in Cairo in 1991, the presence of the Hindi film superstar Amitabh Bachchan caused riots and the police had to be called in to control the crowds.

Moreover, during my travels of the last three decades, to places as diverse as Iran, the Maghreb, Indonesia, Salalah in Oman, or Mukalla in South Yemen-where the film was projected on a concrete wall withered away by salt from the nearby Indian ocean-or Kassala in Sudan, Asmara in Eritrea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, or Syria-how many evenings, which would otherwise have passed idly, were enlivened by an open air screening of a 'B' grade Indian film? For, these countries were for a long time 'missionary post' territories for the Indian cinema industry.

Finally, for a lover of opera like myself, Indian cinema seems to offer, because of the primordial place it gives to voice, music, dance and to theatricality, a logical visual extension of this passion. Opportunities for me to view Indian films include some remarkable retrospectives held in Paris at the Cinematheque (Indomania in 1995-96), or at the Pompidou Centre (in 1983 and 1985, on which occasions I saw about 230 films), festivals throughout the world where India's presence has grown considerably through the years. These, as well as screenings at art and experimental cinemas in Europe, have prepared, preceded or accompanied 12 years of attending the prestigious International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Held in different cities of the subcontinent, this festival has led me to discover the marvelous riches of the principal cinema industry in the world, a veritable multi-cultural 'tropical Hollywood' –not in the least 'Third World' in its infrastructure and professionalism. Since 1971, India has been the largest producer of films in the world, having overtaken Japan, which formerly held this place.

I cannot forget those, Indians and Westerners, who have passed through my life and, with their writings and enthusiasm, have been able to solve the puzzles of Indian cinema for such neophytes like myself. The names are many: Philippe Parrain, Henri Micciolo, Louis Marcoreles, Guy Hennebelle, Paul Willemen, Derek Malcolm, Eric Barnouw, Roy Armes, Andrew Robinson, John W Hood, S Krishnaswamy, Feroze Rangoonwala, BD Garga, Ashish Rajadhyaksha, PK Nair, Chidananda Dasgupta, and especially Aruna Vasudev, who has played a key role in opening up the doors of Indian and Asian cinemas to Westerners.

A negative factor has also motivated me to do this work: the irritation, even anger, I feel, when more and more often people in Europe speak of Indian cinema with a knowing air, generally without ever having seen a single Indian film (perhaps with the exception of Ray's films, but ignoring all the rest)! Or worse, when one has to see the condescending smile of the listener to whom one is confiding one's passion for the cinemas of India in all forms and genres!

This is the first comprehensive book on Indian cinema in a Western language since Indian Film by Erik Barnouw and S Krishnaswamy, Columbia University, 1963, which was subsequently revised by Oxford University Press in 1980, dedicated to the largest film industry in the world and aims at providing the reader-whether he be a cine buff, programme coordinator, distributor, TV channel executive, cultural animator, buyer of video rights, or just anyone interested in the evolution of modern India-a descriptive data bank. The use of this guide, which gives special emphasis to auteur or new cinema, has been made easier by the 'persons' and 'titles' indexes-in English and Indian languages in an attempt to retrace the complete history of Indian cinema through its directors, actors and feature films (the fabulous figure of some 28,000 feature films will have been made in India by the year 2002, from the Silent Era to the latest in the sophisticated technologies of today).

The films talked about in this book have all been made in India by Indians, many of whom from the very beginning were involved in the various struggles for freedom-both social and political-led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Indian civilization, after all, is founded on an ancient tradition of the image, of the plastic arts, of theatre and of music and thus immediately integrated into its culture the invention of the Lumiere brothers. It developed this beginning into a strong national industry, an almost unique example in history spanning a century, with the exception of such countries as Japan, the Western countries or those with related cultures (Mexico, Russia, amongst others). That is why the Indian public is most avoid in its thirst for Indian images…even if the Hollywood model has always been a reference point, sometimes extremely Indianised, for the popular cinema of the country.

At the very start, I would like to point out the many lacunae-deliberately kept-in this book. It was impossible to discuss the different cinema industries of 25 States and seven Union Territories of India in its present form (22 languages each with their own literature have been classified by the Sahitya Akademi). A total picture of these industries would amount to a book about the 100 years of cinema history of all the European countries-from Ireland to Russia with Portugal included.

However, the 10 principal language cinemas have been covered, with major emphasis on their auteur cinema, but without in any way ignoring the more commercial kind of films. The latter, in fact, are the most popular in a country with a population of a billion, and of which a large part (about 60 per cent) is still illiterate. In no way should commercial cinema be looked down upon, for it also reflects in its own way the values and culture of this country.

More serious lacunae include the very few allusions to the exceptional growth of the documentary film genre. More than a 1000 are made each year, for instance, more than 934 short films and 1029 videos were made in 1998. The documentary film has evolved into a rich, often courageous and 'people-oriented' genre, which through the years has tackled all kinds of subjects (cultural heritage, ecology, economy, women's rights and place in society, minority issues, caste issues, other contemporary social and political themes, etc.)

These films are usually in English, which is de facto language of 'pan-Indian' communication. The documentary film, n fact merits a separate book. This genre-like the auteur or 'art' feature films-are watched and supported by a society conscious of its civil rights, having evolved a structure of its own, and by a very professional Press (more than 3000 newspapers in 20 languages), which enjoys a freedom rare outside Western society today.

In addition to these omissions, animation and children's films (the latter produced and financed by the very dynamic Children's Film Society of India)-two genres which are often made by excellent directors-have not been covered in this book. The same is true for Indian directors or those of Indian origin who no loner reside in India (with a few exceptions), as editorial constraints did not allow their inclusion in this volume.

Back of the Book

It was thus that on July 7, 1896, at Hotel Watson in Bombay, the Lumiere operator Maurice Sestier, on his way to Australia, presented to a public comprising English (also discovering cinema for the first time) and Westernised Indians, the first reels ever shot of a real film/s, L'Arrivee d'un Train a la Gare de La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at the Ciotat Station), La Sortie de I'Usine (Leaving the Factory), just six months after their world premiere at the 'Indian Salon' of the Hotel Scribe in Paris.

The National Film Archive of India has a record, until now, of about 1313 silent films produced in India in 22 years, one of the most productive eras of the cinema of any country for that period. Unfortunately, only about 15 films have survived, and even they are in bad shape. The others have been lost or their negatives destroyed…By 2002, India will have produced some 28,000 features since 1913.

It is significant that Dadasaheb Phalke was least interested in the Westernised section of Indian society, which comprised regular viewers of foreign films, and that in equal measure, the English-speaking Press largely ignored him. Phalke's objective was to create an indigenous form of the Seventh Art and to make it a profitable national industry. His pivotal role in the budding national film industry is therefore apparent.

In a culture, which mixes up characters, mythological 'actions' and the daily problems of contemporary life, the substrata of Indian cinema is founded on a very strong social, artistic, moral and religious tissue, which has not (as yet) been dislodged by post-industrial modernity (as is often the case in Western society), and, in fact, regards with a rather confused apprehension the advent of this modernity generated by increasing industrialization. That is why popular Indian cinema gives the impression of functioning like a myth, which reinforces the structure of beliefs, considered necessary by the cinema industry and by politicians for the existence of the homo indicus, a typically Indian myth-related mirror image.

Contents

Forewordvii
Prefaceix
Acknowledgementsxiii
1The Cinemas of India (1896-2000)1
The Prehistoric Era 1
THE SILENTERA (1912-1934)
The Phalke Phenomenon and the Birth of Genres5
The 1920s-30s: New Talents and the First Studios (Bombay-Calcutta-Madras)8
2The Talkie: The Beginning of a Golden Age20
The 1930s: The 'Talkie' Revolution20
Studios and Auteurs-The Antagonism Between Bombay and Calcutta 23
Ardeshir Irani and Alam Ara24
The Maratha 'Quality' 24
A 'Suitable' Profession for Women25
Return to Baburao Painter26
V Shantaram26
On the 'Lives of Saints'27
Calcutta 29
New Theatres29
The 'Devdas' Syndrome31
Other Directors from the 'Golden Age'32
Return to Bombay32
In the South: Tamil Cinema, A Giant in Gestation35
Other Tamil Directors37
The End of a State of Grace41
3The Supremacy of Hindi Cinema42
A Brief Historical-Political Survey (1940-2000)42
The 1960s: Films in Colour Become the Norm in Commercial Cinema44
Hindi Cinema: A New Order for the Studios47
The 'Golden Age' of Popular Hindi Cinema49
The All-India Films51
A Brief Incursion into the Star System52
MUSIC, SONGS AND DANCES IN CINEMA
The Inescapable Elements which Make up a Film54
The Reign of Musicians, Lyricists, Singers and Choreographers in Films58
All India Music and All India Radio60
'Kalpana', a Unique Film63
A Return to Song and Dance64
What Purpose is Served by Song and Dance in Cinema?66
The Audio Cassette Boom (1998)67
Hindustani Cinema: The 'Golden Age' (1930s-60s)68
The Cultural Symbiosis Wrought by Hindustani69
The 'Four Greats' of Hindustani Cinema71
Mehboob Khan72
Aan (Mangala, the girl from India)73
Mother India 74
Guru Dutt75
Bimal Roy81
Raj Kapoor84
Other Films and Directors Who Set the Tone89
OLD AND NEW MASTERS
V Shantaram92
On Marathi Cinema (1950-70)93
Sohrab Modi95
Costume Dramas96
Kamal Amrohi (1918-1993) and Meena Kumar97
Idealism, Populism and Moralising-Recipes for Hindi Realism99
Inescapable Landmarks of Hindi Cinema101
The Chandralekha 'Syndrome'102
Mughal-e-Azam: Film as 'Opera'103
41960-1990: Escapism, Formulas and Star System107
The 1960s and the '70s: Towards an Out and Out Commercialism107
The Spirit of ;the 1960s-70s: Seen Through Some Hindi Films108
Some 'Note So Ordinary' Film Personalities114
1970-90: PAN-INDIAN 'MEGASTARS' AND 'MEGAMOVIES'
Foray into the 'Essence' of Commercial Cinema115
Urbanisation Under the Shadow of Violence119
Amitabh Bachchan: A 'Phenomenon of Society' 121
'Sholay' or the Quintessence of a 'Grand' Commercial Cinema124
Adaptation of the 'Commercial' Film and New Idols128
No 'Requiem' for 'Masala' Films (1998)130
A Rapidly Changing Audiovisual Landscape (1998)133
5New Indian Cinema'-The Rise of 'Auteur' Cinema138
Introduction138
THE CONTEXT AND THE INSTITUTIONS
The Film Societies141
'Capital' of Cinema Studies: The FTII, Pune141
International Film Festival of India (IFFI)142
Government and Cinema142
A Few Words about NFDC144
Public Sector Participation146
THE WESTERN STATES-NEW DIRECTIONS AND THEIR FILMS
Two Cult Directors of 'New Cinema': M Kaul and K Shahani148
Kumar Shahani151
Shyam Benegal: From Precursor to 'Classic'157
Four Exceptional Actors166
OTHER MAJOR DIRECTORS OF NEW CINEMA
Govind Nihalani169
Saeed Akhtar Mirza175
Ketan Mehta181
THE WESTERN PART OF INDIA: OTHER 'AUTEUR' FILMMAKERS
Basu Chatterjee187
Basu Bhattacharya (1934-97)189
Muzaffar Ali: Nostalgia for the Greatness that was Lucknow198
AMONG THE YOUNG TURKS OF THE 'NEW CINEMA'
Prakash Jha191
Kundan Shah192
Rabindra Dharmaj193
Awtar Kaul193
Ramesh Sharma193
Mahesh Bhat194
Vinod Pande194
Kantilal Rathod195
S Sinha, Aruna and V Desai, V Chopra and Others195
Some Promising Graduates of FTII196
Feature Films in the English Language (1980-2000)197
WILL 'SERIOUS' CINEMA DISSOLVE IN 'COMMERCIAL' CINEMA OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY ROUND?
Shekhar Kapur198
Sudhir Mishra 199
FROM THE WESTERN INDIA: AN ARRAY OF WOMEN FILMMAKERS
Vijaya Mehta201
Sai Paranjpye203
Kalpana Lajmi205
THREE DIRECTORS WHO STRADDLE INDIA AND THE HIGH SEAS
Mira Nair206
Deepa Mehta208
IFFI 1998210
The Maharashtrian Personality210
The 'New' Marathi Cinema212
Jabbar Patel212
Amol Palekar214
Other Contemporary Marathi Directors216
6The Regional Cinemas
The 'Cinemas' of India219
Linguistic Explosion and India's Multilingualism219
THE BENGALI CINEMA
An Overview 222
'Bhadralok' and 'Babu' 225
Cultural Events227
Ideological Ferment227
A SYNOPSIS OF BENGALI CINEMA SINCE THE 1950s
The Production229
Bengali Directors Who Matter (1950-90)231
Some Great Bengali Actors of Yesteryears and Today237
THE 'TRIAD' WHICH REVAMPED BENGALI AND INDIAN SEVENTH ART CINEMA
A Giant of Universal Cinema: Satyajit Ray (1921-92) 238
A 'Trilogy' on Calcutta, in the '70s 255
THE LAST TEN YEARS OF CREATION (1981-1991)
Sadgati264
TWO OTHER MAJOR BENGALI DIRECTORS
Ritwik Ghatak: The Meteoric Visionary270
The Major Films of Ghatak272
Mrinal Sen: Awakening the Conscience278
The Films of Mrinal Sen281
Three Masterpieces of the '70s 284
Self-Criticism and 'Return' to the Middle Class287
THE BENGALI CHANGE OF GUARD AND PAN-INDIAN 'NEW CINEMA'
The Two Bengali Masters of the Indian 'New Cinema' 300
Some New Protagonists of the Bengali 'Auteur' Cinema312
THE CINEMA OF SOUTH INDIA
Regionalism and the 'Dravidian Difference'316
7Tamil Cinema318
Introduction: Cinema and Politics318
Tamil Cinema: An Exploration (1950-80)322
The Other Stalwarts of Tamil Cinema327
Original Films and Their Directors (1970s-2000)330
A Skinny 'Arthouse Cinema'334
Kamal Haasan: A Macho Humorist342
8Telugu Cinema344
Introduction344
A Synopsis of Telugu Cinema346
Filmmakers of Today353
9Kannada Cinema354
The Context354
A Synopsis of Kannada Cinema (1924-1970)355
Some Filmmakers and 'Classical' Films357
The 'Mannada New Cinema'365
The '3 K'365
10Malayalam Cinema376
An Overview 376
The Beginnings of the Cinema Industry in Kerala378
A Brief Synopsis of Malayali Production (1940-1970)381
MALAYALAM CINEMA UPTO 2000
The Outstanding Directors384
The Malayali New Generations390
Other Filmmakers398
T WO GAINTS
Aravindan: The Fascination of Inner Silence, of Myth and of Nature401
Gopalakrishnan: A Universal Concern for Humanity409
Shaji Karun: A Prodigy of Indian Cinema (1980s to 2000)419
11At the Foot of the Himalayas: The Cinemas of Assam and Manipur423
The Northeast of India: A Brief Introduction423
The Assamese 'Mosaic'424
A Brief History of the Assamese Seventh Art (1935-90)425
The Major Assamese Filmmakers of Today428
Jahnu Barua: A Hope for Himalayan and Indian Cinema430
Filmmakers in Languages Termed 'Tribal'423
The Best Model Films with a Difference436
Manipur: Filming in the Situation438
A Brief Look at Manipuri Cinema Today439
12A Few Words About the Cinema of Orissa442
The Backdrop442
A Quick Synopsis of Oriya Cinema442
The Oriya 'New Cinema' and Graduates of the FTII 444
13Post-Scriptum 2000: Towards a 'Commercial-Middle Cinema'?451
14Indian Feature Film Production (1990-1999)454
Bibliography457
Index471
Reference to Personalities471
Reference to Films487

The Cinemas of India (1896-2000)

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2005
ISBN:
0333934105
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8.7" X 5.7"
Pages:
525 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W)
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Foreword

Few writers, either Indian or non-Indian, have had the courage to make the attempt to unravel the complex plurality of India's many cinemas. Ineluctably rooted in its traditions, moving with seeming ease between present and past, it requires an intrepid spirit to decipher its codes, to comprehend the variations as much as the unifying principles in the films made not only in the 'Bollywood' formula in its own unique form, but also the 'art' cinema by filmmakers in the less familiar northeastern part of the country and its southernmost tip, in Maharashtra in the west, of Bengal in the east.

To be able to grasp this cinema and present it in a lucid manner, requires a sympathetic perception of India itself, its values, its traditions-and the determination of some to reject them-its mythology and its contemporary history, its chaos and confusion and its ability to rise above them. And the cinema, like the country, encompasses all of this, as it presents side by side, entertainment and intellectual abstraction, poverty and wild extravagance, a poet's imagination and a feel for the marketplace.

To put all this multiplicity within the covers of a single book, to give it a historical perspective, yet single out the many directors in the different regions of the country for the country for the significance of their contribution to this many-layered, multicoloured, intricately woven tapestry, is a Herculean task.

But Yves Thoraval is a determined and painstaking chronicler whose fascination with this country and its cinema(s) shows through in his book. It is a labour of love over years of effort. Carefully researched, significant as a guide and work of reference, it is not an academic, scholarly exercise but the work of someone who loves what he has seen and views its aberrations with a tolerance born of understanding. One may not always agree with his point of view but as far as possible, Yves Thoraval has tried to be objective. This does to claim to be an encyclopaedia of Indian cinema but presents an historical overview, singling out a number of directors in different parts of the country for particular attention. The economic, political and sociological shifts in the country through the years provide a background to the development of the cinema in the hundred years of its existence. That is where the value of this book lies, for the reader in India as elsewhere.

The tone of affection that is present in his writing is such that it will encourage other writers to take up specific areas for analysis in greater depth and detail, as each one of the chapters can be a book in itself. As an introduction to the vast canopy of India's many cinemas, it is a book that will be of great use in the interest in Indian cinema studies that is now happily growing.

From the Jacket

Born at the same time as in the West, over a century, Indian cinema, has today earned the pride of place as the world's largest cinematographic industry. Dynamic and professional, it seems that the Indians are never tired of seeing images on the screen, a trend that causes alarm to the Hollywood film industry (having patterned the first integrated Indian Studios in the 1930s-50s in Bombay), which has its eye on such a luscious market, given its recent efforts at dubbing American blockbusters into Hindi and Tamil for release in theatres. But the Seventh Art is totally integrated into the Indian millennial tradition of images and plastic and performing arts, taking up all the 'genres' and reflecting the diversity of the cultures, languages and musics of a country as vast as a continent. This is why this book's title is plural, The Cinemas of India, a journey through the galaxy of Indian films and filmmakers, mostly auteurs, since the very beginning of cinema in India and its full instrumentalisation by the pioneer Dadasaheb Phalke. And the reader will also make substantial incursions into the 'dream factories' of 'commercial' cinema, mostly in Mumbai's Bollywood, Chennai and Hyderabad.

As of now, the distinction between auteur and commercial films might be less relevant in the coming years, as the emerging blend of both the genres is beginning to appear to attract the new generation, tired of a certain regularity of recipes as old as the cinemas of India themselves.

A comprehensive guide to wade through the world of Indian cinema, from 1896 to 2000, this book, an enlarged edition of the original French title, Les Cinemas de L'lnde, presents its multiple regional facets illustrated by filmmakers that the world is now beginning to discover-represented historically and through their protagonists and films in the west, in Mumbai (Bombay); in the east, in Calcutta, which remains a centre of cultural innovation; but also in the northeast, in Assam, Manipur, Orissa; and, in the south, in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai (Madras), Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). A work of indispensable referral value, may this book give the desire to the Indians to care more about the grandeur of their cinemas and to the non-Indian readers to pay far more attention to the beauties that all the Cinemas of India have to offer.

Based in Paris, Yves Thoraval, 53, pursued Political Science at the Paris-X University (Anglo-Saxon studies), simultaneously learning Russian at the Institute of Oriental Civilisations, and moved over to securing diplomas in Classical and Egyptian Arabic. And a scholarship at the Cairo University led to his touring the Middle East and East Africa for various publications, while he completed a Ph'D in Middle Eastern Anthropology, Cinema Section. Subsequently, he had a staple of assignments commencing with Seuil, a leading publishing house in Paris; followed by an invitation from the Ministry of Immigration, to devise cultural programmes for the African-Asian non-immigrant communities in France, with the newly created 'Mosaic' TV channel. Thereafter, he joined the French National Library, first as its Press Officer, then as an Islamic bibliographer, attending symposia in Europe and the Middle East and organizing literary exhibitions in Tunis, Baghdad, Paris.

Currently, he is the chief curator, for the 'foreign section' of the International Exchange of Publications worldwide. A cinephile to the core, these last 25 years, he has attended film festivals in Europe, the middle East, Central Asia, India and the Far East, as a jury member, including for the International Federation of Film Critics in Korea, Singapore, Istanbul, Carthage, Tashkent, Cannes, etc.).

A prolific writer, he has authored eight books, besides contributing to collective works both in the field of the Islamic Civilisation and Oriental Film History (Egypt, India, Turkey, Iran…). He also contributes to Radio-France and Guide des Films and writes for Le Monde Diplomatique, L'Avant-Scene/Cinema, Jeune Cinema, Historians, Atlantica and Cinemaya: the Asian Film Quarterly, as its representative in Europe.

Preface

The idea of doing this book was born of an irrational passion for Indian cinema-nurtured for the last 30 years due to many factors. First, the revelation of the films of Satyajit Ray during the 1960s, at the Cinematheque in Paris (close to my school), then the fact that I was able to watch Indian films at the theatres in certain parts of Paris, like Belleville and Barbes, where each week an Indian or an Egyptian musical was shown mainly for the immigrant North African population (a dream opportunity for students like me, of the two centuries-old Institute for the Oriental Civilisations). Later, I lived in Cairo during the early '70s, in order to gather material for my thesis on the history of Egyptian cinema, and was able to enjoy the pleasures of forgetting everything, as I immersed myself in the music and dances of 'made in Bombay' films, which were shown in halls in the city centre, a kind of 'mini-Broadway'. Commercial Indian cinema has had a marked influence on Egyptian cinema, and during the International Film Festival held in Cairo in 1991, the presence of the Hindi film superstar Amitabh Bachchan caused riots and the police had to be called in to control the crowds.

Moreover, during my travels of the last three decades, to places as diverse as Iran, the Maghreb, Indonesia, Salalah in Oman, or Mukalla in South Yemen-where the film was projected on a concrete wall withered away by salt from the nearby Indian ocean-or Kassala in Sudan, Asmara in Eritrea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, or Syria-how many evenings, which would otherwise have passed idly, were enlivened by an open air screening of a 'B' grade Indian film? For, these countries were for a long time 'missionary post' territories for the Indian cinema industry.

Finally, for a lover of opera like myself, Indian cinema seems to offer, because of the primordial place it gives to voice, music, dance and to theatricality, a logical visual extension of this passion. Opportunities for me to view Indian films include some remarkable retrospectives held in Paris at the Cinematheque (Indomania in 1995-96), or at the Pompidou Centre (in 1983 and 1985, on which occasions I saw about 230 films), festivals throughout the world where India's presence has grown considerably through the years. These, as well as screenings at art and experimental cinemas in Europe, have prepared, preceded or accompanied 12 years of attending the prestigious International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Held in different cities of the subcontinent, this festival has led me to discover the marvelous riches of the principal cinema industry in the world, a veritable multi-cultural 'tropical Hollywood' –not in the least 'Third World' in its infrastructure and professionalism. Since 1971, India has been the largest producer of films in the world, having overtaken Japan, which formerly held this place.

I cannot forget those, Indians and Westerners, who have passed through my life and, with their writings and enthusiasm, have been able to solve the puzzles of Indian cinema for such neophytes like myself. The names are many: Philippe Parrain, Henri Micciolo, Louis Marcoreles, Guy Hennebelle, Paul Willemen, Derek Malcolm, Eric Barnouw, Roy Armes, Andrew Robinson, John W Hood, S Krishnaswamy, Feroze Rangoonwala, BD Garga, Ashish Rajadhyaksha, PK Nair, Chidananda Dasgupta, and especially Aruna Vasudev, who has played a key role in opening up the doors of Indian and Asian cinemas to Westerners.

A negative factor has also motivated me to do this work: the irritation, even anger, I feel, when more and more often people in Europe speak of Indian cinema with a knowing air, generally without ever having seen a single Indian film (perhaps with the exception of Ray's films, but ignoring all the rest)! Or worse, when one has to see the condescending smile of the listener to whom one is confiding one's passion for the cinemas of India in all forms and genres!

This is the first comprehensive book on Indian cinema in a Western language since Indian Film by Erik Barnouw and S Krishnaswamy, Columbia University, 1963, which was subsequently revised by Oxford University Press in 1980, dedicated to the largest film industry in the world and aims at providing the reader-whether he be a cine buff, programme coordinator, distributor, TV channel executive, cultural animator, buyer of video rights, or just anyone interested in the evolution of modern India-a descriptive data bank. The use of this guide, which gives special emphasis to auteur or new cinema, has been made easier by the 'persons' and 'titles' indexes-in English and Indian languages in an attempt to retrace the complete history of Indian cinema through its directors, actors and feature films (the fabulous figure of some 28,000 feature films will have been made in India by the year 2002, from the Silent Era to the latest in the sophisticated technologies of today).

The films talked about in this book have all been made in India by Indians, many of whom from the very beginning were involved in the various struggles for freedom-both social and political-led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Indian civilization, after all, is founded on an ancient tradition of the image, of the plastic arts, of theatre and of music and thus immediately integrated into its culture the invention of the Lumiere brothers. It developed this beginning into a strong national industry, an almost unique example in history spanning a century, with the exception of such countries as Japan, the Western countries or those with related cultures (Mexico, Russia, amongst others). That is why the Indian public is most avoid in its thirst for Indian images…even if the Hollywood model has always been a reference point, sometimes extremely Indianised, for the popular cinema of the country.

At the very start, I would like to point out the many lacunae-deliberately kept-in this book. It was impossible to discuss the different cinema industries of 25 States and seven Union Territories of India in its present form (22 languages each with their own literature have been classified by the Sahitya Akademi). A total picture of these industries would amount to a book about the 100 years of cinema history of all the European countries-from Ireland to Russia with Portugal included.

However, the 10 principal language cinemas have been covered, with major emphasis on their auteur cinema, but without in any way ignoring the more commercial kind of films. The latter, in fact, are the most popular in a country with a population of a billion, and of which a large part (about 60 per cent) is still illiterate. In no way should commercial cinema be looked down upon, for it also reflects in its own way the values and culture of this country.

More serious lacunae include the very few allusions to the exceptional growth of the documentary film genre. More than a 1000 are made each year, for instance, more than 934 short films and 1029 videos were made in 1998. The documentary film has evolved into a rich, often courageous and 'people-oriented' genre, which through the years has tackled all kinds of subjects (cultural heritage, ecology, economy, women's rights and place in society, minority issues, caste issues, other contemporary social and political themes, etc.)

These films are usually in English, which is de facto language of 'pan-Indian' communication. The documentary film, n fact merits a separate book. This genre-like the auteur or 'art' feature films-are watched and supported by a society conscious of its civil rights, having evolved a structure of its own, and by a very professional Press (more than 3000 newspapers in 20 languages), which enjoys a freedom rare outside Western society today.

In addition to these omissions, animation and children's films (the latter produced and financed by the very dynamic Children's Film Society of India)-two genres which are often made by excellent directors-have not been covered in this book. The same is true for Indian directors or those of Indian origin who no loner reside in India (with a few exceptions), as editorial constraints did not allow their inclusion in this volume.

Back of the Book

It was thus that on July 7, 1896, at Hotel Watson in Bombay, the Lumiere operator Maurice Sestier, on his way to Australia, presented to a public comprising English (also discovering cinema for the first time) and Westernised Indians, the first reels ever shot of a real film/s, L'Arrivee d'un Train a la Gare de La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at the Ciotat Station), La Sortie de I'Usine (Leaving the Factory), just six months after their world premiere at the 'Indian Salon' of the Hotel Scribe in Paris.

The National Film Archive of India has a record, until now, of about 1313 silent films produced in India in 22 years, one of the most productive eras of the cinema of any country for that period. Unfortunately, only about 15 films have survived, and even they are in bad shape. The others have been lost or their negatives destroyed…By 2002, India will have produced some 28,000 features since 1913.

It is significant that Dadasaheb Phalke was least interested in the Westernised section of Indian society, which comprised regular viewers of foreign films, and that in equal measure, the English-speaking Press largely ignored him. Phalke's objective was to create an indigenous form of the Seventh Art and to make it a profitable national industry. His pivotal role in the budding national film industry is therefore apparent.

In a culture, which mixes up characters, mythological 'actions' and the daily problems of contemporary life, the substrata of Indian cinema is founded on a very strong social, artistic, moral and religious tissue, which has not (as yet) been dislodged by post-industrial modernity (as is often the case in Western society), and, in fact, regards with a rather confused apprehension the advent of this modernity generated by increasing industrialization. That is why popular Indian cinema gives the impression of functioning like a myth, which reinforces the structure of beliefs, considered necessary by the cinema industry and by politicians for the existence of the homo indicus, a typically Indian myth-related mirror image.

Contents

Forewordvii
Prefaceix
Acknowledgementsxiii
1The Cinemas of India (1896-2000)1
The Prehistoric Era 1
THE SILENTERA (1912-1934)
The Phalke Phenomenon and the Birth of Genres5
The 1920s-30s: New Talents and the First Studios (Bombay-Calcutta-Madras)8
2The Talkie: The Beginning of a Golden Age20
The 1930s: The 'Talkie' Revolution20
Studios and Auteurs-The Antagonism Between Bombay and Calcutta 23
Ardeshir Irani and Alam Ara24
The Maratha 'Quality' 24
A 'Suitable' Profession for Women25
Return to Baburao Painter26
V Shantaram26
On the 'Lives of Saints'27
Calcutta 29
New Theatres29
The 'Devdas' Syndrome31
Other Directors from the 'Golden Age'32
Return to Bombay32
In the South: Tamil Cinema, A Giant in Gestation35
Other Tamil Directors37
The End of a State of Grace41
3The Supremacy of Hindi Cinema42
A Brief Historical-Political Survey (1940-2000)42
The 1960s: Films in Colour Become the Norm in Commercial Cinema44
Hindi Cinema: A New Order for the Studios47
The 'Golden Age' of Popular Hindi Cinema49
The All-India Films51
A Brief Incursion into the Star System52
MUSIC, SONGS AND DANCES IN CINEMA
The Inescapable Elements which Make up a Film54
The Reign of Musicians, Lyricists, Singers and Choreographers in Films58
All India Music and All India Radio60
'Kalpana', a Unique Film63
A Return to Song and Dance64
What Purpose is Served by Song and Dance in Cinema?66
The Audio Cassette Boom (1998)67
Hindustani Cinema: The 'Golden Age' (1930s-60s)68
The Cultural Symbiosis Wrought by Hindustani69
The 'Four Greats' of Hindustani Cinema71
Mehboob Khan72
Aan (Mangala, the girl from India)73
Mother India 74
Guru Dutt75
Bimal Roy81
Raj Kapoor84
Other Films and Directors Who Set the Tone89
OLD AND NEW MASTERS
V Shantaram92
On Marathi Cinema (1950-70)93
Sohrab Modi95
Costume Dramas96
Kamal Amrohi (1918-1993) and Meena Kumar97
Idealism, Populism and Moralising-Recipes for Hindi Realism99
Inescapable Landmarks of Hindi Cinema101
The Chandralekha 'Syndrome'102
Mughal-e-Azam: Film as 'Opera'103
41960-1990: Escapism, Formulas and Star System107
The 1960s and the '70s: Towards an Out and Out Commercialism107
The Spirit of ;the 1960s-70s: Seen Through Some Hindi Films108
Some 'Note So Ordinary' Film Personalities114
1970-90: PAN-INDIAN 'MEGASTARS' AND 'MEGAMOVIES'
Foray into the 'Essence' of Commercial Cinema115
Urbanisation Under the Shadow of Violence119
Amitabh Bachchan: A 'Phenomenon of Society' 121
'Sholay' or the Quintessence of a 'Grand' Commercial Cinema124
Adaptation of the 'Commercial' Film and New Idols128
No 'Requiem' for 'Masala' Films (1998)130
A Rapidly Changing Audiovisual Landscape (1998)133
5New Indian Cinema'-The Rise of 'Auteur' Cinema138
Introduction138
THE CONTEXT AND THE INSTITUTIONS
The Film Societies141
'Capital' of Cinema Studies: The FTII, Pune141
International Film Festival of India (IFFI)142
Government and Cinema142
A Few Words about NFDC144
Public Sector Participation146
THE WESTERN STATES-NEW DIRECTIONS AND THEIR FILMS
Two Cult Directors of 'New Cinema': M Kaul and K Shahani148
Kumar Shahani151
Shyam Benegal: From Precursor to 'Classic'157
Four Exceptional Actors166
OTHER MAJOR DIRECTORS OF NEW CINEMA
Govind Nihalani169
Saeed Akhtar Mirza175
Ketan Mehta181
THE WESTERN PART OF INDIA: OTHER 'AUTEUR' FILMMAKERS
Basu Chatterjee187
Basu Bhattacharya (1934-97)189
Muzaffar Ali: Nostalgia for the Greatness that was Lucknow198
AMONG THE YOUNG TURKS OF THE 'NEW CINEMA'
Prakash Jha191
Kundan Shah192
Rabindra Dharmaj193
Awtar Kaul193
Ramesh Sharma193
Mahesh Bhat194
Vinod Pande194
Kantilal Rathod195
S Sinha, Aruna and V Desai, V Chopra and Others195
Some Promising Graduates of FTII196
Feature Films in the English Language (1980-2000)197
WILL 'SERIOUS' CINEMA DISSOLVE IN 'COMMERCIAL' CINEMA OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY ROUND?
Shekhar Kapur198
Sudhir Mishra 199
FROM THE WESTERN INDIA: AN ARRAY OF WOMEN FILMMAKERS
Vijaya Mehta201
Sai Paranjpye203
Kalpana Lajmi205
THREE DIRECTORS WHO STRADDLE INDIA AND THE HIGH SEAS
Mira Nair206
Deepa Mehta208
IFFI 1998210
The Maharashtrian Personality210
The 'New' Marathi Cinema212
Jabbar Patel212
Amol Palekar214
Other Contemporary Marathi Directors216
6The Regional Cinemas
The 'Cinemas' of India219
Linguistic Explosion and India's Multilingualism219
THE BENGALI CINEMA
An Overview 222
'Bhadralok' and 'Babu' 225
Cultural Events227
Ideological Ferment227
A SYNOPSIS OF BENGALI CINEMA SINCE THE 1950s
The Production229
Bengali Directors Who Matter (1950-90)231
Some Great Bengali Actors of Yesteryears and Today237
THE 'TRIAD' WHICH REVAMPED BENGALI AND INDIAN SEVENTH ART CINEMA
A Giant of Universal Cinema: Satyajit Ray (1921-92) 238
A 'Trilogy' on Calcutta, in the '70s 255
THE LAST TEN YEARS OF CREATION (1981-1991)
Sadgati264
TWO OTHER MAJOR BENGALI DIRECTORS
Ritwik Ghatak: The Meteoric Visionary270
The Major Films of Ghatak272
Mrinal Sen: Awakening the Conscience278
The Films of Mrinal Sen281
Three Masterpieces of the '70s 284
Self-Criticism and 'Return' to the Middle Class287
THE BENGALI CHANGE OF GUARD AND PAN-INDIAN 'NEW CINEMA'
The Two Bengali Masters of the Indian 'New Cinema' 300
Some New Protagonists of the Bengali 'Auteur' Cinema312
THE CINEMA OF SOUTH INDIA
Regionalism and the 'Dravidian Difference'316
7Tamil Cinema318
Introduction: Cinema and Politics318
Tamil Cinema: An Exploration (1950-80)322
The Other Stalwarts of Tamil Cinema327
Original Films and Their Directors (1970s-2000)330
A Skinny 'Arthouse Cinema'334
Kamal Haasan: A Macho Humorist342
8Telugu Cinema344
Introduction344
A Synopsis of Telugu Cinema346
Filmmakers of Today353
9Kannada Cinema354
The Context354
A Synopsis of Kannada Cinema (1924-1970)355
Some Filmmakers and 'Classical' Films357
The 'Mannada New Cinema'365
The '3 K'365
10Malayalam Cinema376
An Overview 376
The Beginnings of the Cinema Industry in Kerala378
A Brief Synopsis of Malayali Production (1940-1970)381
MALAYALAM CINEMA UPTO 2000
The Outstanding Directors384
The Malayali New Generations390
Other Filmmakers398
T WO GAINTS
Aravindan: The Fascination of Inner Silence, of Myth and of Nature401
Gopalakrishnan: A Universal Concern for Humanity409
Shaji Karun: A Prodigy of Indian Cinema (1980s to 2000)419
11At the Foot of the Himalayas: The Cinemas of Assam and Manipur423
The Northeast of India: A Brief Introduction423
The Assamese 'Mosaic'424
A Brief History of the Assamese Seventh Art (1935-90)425
The Major Assamese Filmmakers of Today428
Jahnu Barua: A Hope for Himalayan and Indian Cinema430
Filmmakers in Languages Termed 'Tribal'423
The Best Model Films with a Difference436
Manipur: Filming in the Situation438
A Brief Look at Manipuri Cinema Today439
12A Few Words About the Cinema of Orissa442
The Backdrop442
A Quick Synopsis of Oriya Cinema442
The Oriya 'New Cinema' and Graduates of the FTII 444
13Post-Scriptum 2000: Towards a 'Commercial-Middle Cinema'?451
14Indian Feature Film Production (1990-1999)454
Bibliography457
Index471
Reference to Personalities471
Reference to Films487
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