100 years of Indian cinema : The Finale

This is the last of the trilogy. The mordern era has so far been the one I have grown up with and identify with most closely. It’s the last of the journey which started a century but still continues to amaze and inspire people to discuss about. So far this writing experience has been a unique one for me. Hope this installment is an enjoyable read. Have tried to encompass most of the aspects of Indian Cinema but still feel like i have just scratched the surface.

The links to the previous versions of the trilogy are as follows:



The era which followed the 70’s was that of change. The initial euphoria of the independence had vanished and the masses were going through a tumultuous phase. The expectations of the masses were shaken by the government to the core. This led to the overall dissatisfaction and  rising angst in the masses. It was a time when the common man wanted his rights back. Gandhian principles were not the order of the day. Though the initial 70’s was an era dominated by india’s first superstar “Rajesh Khanna” and his romantic musical’s like “Aradhana”, “Kati Patang” followed by a few mystery films “Ittefaq” and “The Train” being exceptions. But it was in Hrshida’s “Anand” which really i the cake in immortalized him for the ages to come. The film will probably remain as one his most memorable role on the big screen.  His films were the ideal romantic ones with some of the melodious songs shot at exotic locales and had a simple storyline.  70’s also saw Gulzar’s high on emotion and equally high on the content films which had its own audiences and were later termed  as classics. The modern era would also bring some of the best talents to the fore and win both critical and commercial acclaim overseas. This era would also see the old records broken and new ones made. Fresher faces, the concept of star sons and actors foraying into production houses and India going west. Experimental cinema and attempts at newer genres like horror,comedy, action were made so was the slice of life and  New Wave cinema which also made their mark and further helped Indian cinema reach dizzying heights  and then the decadence of Indian Cinema in the 90’s. Many Indian compositions were adapted by western filmmakers as a part of their sound tracks and technicians and art and costume designers also made it big. The journey which began from the silent era was now reaching out to global audiences.

The 70’s- the modern era of Indian Cinema

This era saw the rise of many greats like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shyam Benegal, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ghatak, Adoor Goopalakrishnan, etc. and film makers like Nagesh Kukunoor, Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia in the 90’s and 2000’s modern day cinema.  It was  also a time when Indian cinema through Naseer Hussain, Yash Chopra, Feroze Khan, Manmohan Desai, Raj Kapoor and Prakash Mehra made typical hindi pot boilers. Initially the artistic bent of cinema received a jolt with the Film Finance Corporation being cajoled towards making and promoting commercial cinema. This era however was to see some of cult cinema with “Sholay” making its way into the history books as one of the biggest box office hits ever. It was probably a film which can easily be defined as the very of erstwhile Bollywood. A film which redefined the way hindi films were made and till date is a cult classic. There were films like “Jai Santoshi Maa”  in the mythological genre which made a comeback and was a commercial success. Some other important actors of the 70’s were Sanjeev Kumar, Jeetendra, Vinod Khanna, Manoj Kumar, Rishi Kapoor and Amol Palekar. Actress of the era were Sharmila Tagore, Rekha, Hema Malini, Dimple Kapadia, Mumtaaz and Reena Roy.

This period brought forward the writer duo which was a hitherto unknown selling point in hindi -cinema. Salim-Javed, the duo were the real hero’s of the 70’s and sculpting the the image of “The Angry Young Man” who really was a personification of India against its system.

With author backed roles (Vijay) was the man against the system. The quintessential good guy no more. He was a man willing to take chances and make it to the top with his own rules. The public lapped up the image as it appealed and touched them in various ways. Films like Deewar, Zanjeer, Don, Trishul, Muqqadar Ka Sikandar and Kala Patthar established him as the latest sensation of B-town. He was a force which seemed unstoppable. This period also marked the departure from the romance and drama genre and established the action read (dhishum- dhishum) genre in cinema. The Bachchan  phenomena took the southern cinema by storm as well with Rajnikanth cashing on the image of the “angry young man”. The music of this period was dominated by most of the old stalwarts like Madan Mohan, Naushad, Laxmikant Pyarelal, but the the biggest impact made was by “Boss” or R.D Burman. Fondly referred to as “Pancham” his music was a refreshing change to the classical and melodious compositions Indian people had experienced so far. His style infused beats and was a cocktail of indo-western style. His distinct style made the 70’s get the term swinging.

The question which was asked by them to the system and the way forward made a lot of difference. People wanted to see the common man rise and take what is rightfully his from the rich. Though the 70’s saw a mediocre level of superstars, its was the towering Big B who dwarfed every and walked away with everything . His films were not just classics but were beyond the obvious. The second half of the 70’s and the 80’s were an era which saw some interesting cinema being served to the audiences.

It was certainly the second half of the 70’s which saw the NFDC and FTII alumni make some of the amazing cinema. They produced some great actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and a host of other artistes like Danny Denzongpa, Amrish Puri, Shabana Azmi, Shatrughan Sinha to name a few. The foundation of  a proper parallel cinema had been laid.

The late 70’s and the 80’s had a very interesting milieu of cinema. The seed’s sown some forty years prior was a now a separate brand of cinema now. The production houses were churning out a host of film genres like comedies, westerns, dacoit sagas, emotional melodramas, period dramas and horror etc. Each actor had his had now his own dedicated legion of fan following, Mumbai became the centre point which churned out celluloid dreams by the day. India was still making a higher number of feature films as compared to most film making nations.  Some of the major films in this era were B, The 70’s specially towards the end had actors like Farooq Sheik, Amol Palekar, Om Puri, Amrish puri, Pankaj kapoor, Kulbhshan kharbanda,  Shabana Aazmi, Smita Patil all took the acting to higher levels. Benegal made the public take notice with his  critically acclaimed “Ankur”. Parallel cinema was spearheaded by the likes of Gulzaar, Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, Mahesh Bhatt and Govind Nihalani. These films dealt with themes of realism and were not sheer candy floss and larger than life. Post Benegal’s acclaimed Ankur (1974) which paved way for parallel cinema, many films were made which challenged the status quo and established itself as an alternative to the typical commercial stuff served so far. Benegal later further showed his class with films like “Bhumika”, “Manthan”, “Nishant”, “Trikaal” and “Kalyug”. This era saw some of the most brilliant cinema being made with films spreading and cutting across genres like drama, black comedy, horror, adaptations. Films really broadened the horizons and created its own niche market. Filmmaker s like Sai Paranjpe, Amol Palekar, Sudhir Mishra, Meera Nair, Deepa Mehta, Vidu Vinod Chopra, Kundan Shah.  Most of the FTII and NSD students were a part of this burgeoning fraternity. Films like “Junoon”,” Shatranj ke Khiladi”, “Kalyug”,” Trikaal”,” Gaman”,”Anubhav”,” Dastak”,” Akrosh”,” Ardh- Satya”,” Sparsh”,”Jaane Bhi DoYaroon”, ” Chakra”, “Mandi”, “Garam Hawa”, “Chetna”,” Khamosh”,”Masoom” and” Salaam Bombay” were widely regarded as masterpieces of Indian cinema. 

There were a few films like “Kaala Patthar” and “The Burning Train” which brought the disaster films genre to the fore, but emotions played heavy and bogged them down and the films were not very well received by audiences.

Malayam, Bengali and Oriya cinema also started to make their mark and made some really interesting films and proved to be the golden era of films. Notable amongst them were films by Adoor Gopalkrishnan (Elipatthayam), Shaji Karun (Piravi), John Abraham and G Aravindam in Malayam Cinema. Mrinal Sen, Basu Bhattacharya, Manmohan and Nirad Mohapatra,

The early 80’s also saw the first signs of this Industry being handling over the baton to the gen next. Sanjay Dutt with” Rocky” and” Kumar Gaurav”  ‘Love Story”and Sunny Deol with “Betaab” all sons of illustrious stars hit the screen and received box office success .  The basic fraternity was now divided into two parts. The stars and their brigade and the newbees from the FTII’s and independent cinema people. The era also saw the shift of Southern Stars like Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan tasting success with films like Andha Kanoon and Sadma and Ek Duje Ke Liye. The 80’s music was largely dominated by the likes of Bhappi Lahiri and R.D Burman. But due to the action genre films gathering momentum.The melody made way for disco and other western music. Though this era also saw the the rise of musical geniuses like “Jagjit Singh” who revived the Ghazals and composed some real soulful numbers throughout the 80’s.

Throughout the 80’s Amitabh became and further established his image as the action -comedy and man with the entertainment bone. He was followed by most of the other stars. This era saw a growth in action capers with only a few comedies or romances. Directors like Yash Chopra, Suraj Barjatya, Mahesh Bhatt, Raj Kumar Santoshi, J.P. Dutta , Mehul Kumar Raj Kapoor still made films for a mass audience level.  This period also saw the newer faces like Raj Babbar, Mithun Chakrabortory, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff. Sridevi, Rekha, Tina Munim, Smita Patil, Zeenat Aman, Jaya Prada, Padmini Kohlapure and  Madhuri Dixit  being the top actressess of the time, This genre saw masala films being made with a lot of fervour and saw the art house favourites swithcing to do commercial films as well. The 80’s and 90’s. saw the decadence of cinema and  saw the release of a host of b-grade films which focused on excessive usage of violence and vulgarity to woo the audiences. The horror genre was dominated by the “Ramsey brothers” who specialized in the use of cheap prosthetic’s also provided audiences with some cheap thrills with films like “Veerana”.

The mid 90’s  also introduced the Khan phenomena which even after 20 years is still going strong. Startring with Aamir and Salman khan in 1989 with “QSQT” and “Biwi Ho toh Aisi”.  Followed by SRK who debuted with “Deewana” in 1992. The mid and late 90’s also saw romance make a comeback with many a candy floss flicks making mullah at the BO. Thus setting a trend for romantic films to make a comeback.  Besides other actors who provided wholesome entertainment were Govinda, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor etc. Many immortal villains and character actors also left their mark. Notable names were Amrish Puri, Paresh Rawal, Sadashiv Amrapurkar etc.. Amrish Puri went on to be a legendary status with his portrayal of his roles of super villains. His craze and status was no less than our heroes, Mugambo being his most notable in Mr. India.   However the period also saw some good cinema and filmmakers who made an impact as well Like Mahesh Bhatt with his sensitive and truer to life relationship based films like “Saaransh” “Arth” and “Daddy” with really no major stars but with actors and a script which was the real star. But these films had a limited audiences and a market which was predominantly driven by the burgeoning middle class and intelligentsia. This phase actually was the turnaround phase and encouraged many film makers in the later half to make some great cinema.

But the real change was the firebrand RGV (Ram Gopal Verma0 who changed the face with the return of hard core cinema with” Shiva“,“Satya”, other important cinema was made by Mani Ratnam’s “Roja”, “Bombay” and “Dil se” as well as Sanjay Leela Bhansalis “Khamoshi” and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanaam.  Other important filmmakers in the 90’s were Mahesh Bhatt, Raajkumaar Santoshi, Karan Johar, Rakesh Roshan, David Dhawan and  Inder Kumar were a few names who tasted success at the silver screen . Notable films were “Aankhien,” Mohra”,” Darr”, “DDLJ,” “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun”, “Ghayal”,” Border” and” Dil Toh Pagaal Hai”.  Lots of fresh faces made a beeline primarily the star sons with Puru Raaj Kumar, Bobby Deol and Akshaye Khanna in the 90’s. The earlier part of the 90’s saw a flurry of B-graders which were the major cause of concern and the home video industry killing the theater going audiences and restricting them to indoors. Most films made in the early 90’s were usual potboilers and lacked content. Films were focused on violence and vulgarity made it really difficult for family going audiences to attend shows.  Govinda with his comedies and the Barjatiya’s and Chopra’s ensured that the families returned back to be enthralled with films like Chandini, DDLJ, HAHK and a host of other films. David Dhawan was another director who teamed up with Govinda to serve up laugh riots like Hero no 1, Coolie No.1, Sajaan Chale Sasuraal and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. The music of the 90’s was kickstarted with the comeback of melody by the duos like Nadeem- Sharavan and Jatin Lalit. With romance making a return the music composed in the initial era was good. But post that and a few musicals the era really had some of the most erractic and outrageous numbers made. Special mention goes to A.R Rehman who made his mark and composed some of the most unique marvels and pitchforked Indian music on the global stage like never before.

Regional cinema specially that of the Bengali, Marathi and Southern (Malyalam and Tamil) cinema gained prominence too. With many regional language cinema making it to the top awards and making its presence count. Filmmakers like Mani Ratnam, Aparna Sen, Ritparno Ghosh and Amol Palekar made some of the best possible regional cinema. It was a major time where some of the most intriguing topics were covered.  Films like Harischnadra chi factory, Deool, Swas, Chokher Bali, Yugant, Mr and Mrs. Iyer, Kanchipuram.

The good thing which happend in the later part was that technological breakthrough’s and budgets of films going up made a lot of difference.  The late 90’s saw many blockbusters and established the stardom of the Khans and took the three to another dimension altogether. They were like the holy trinity of Bollywood. There were besides the big production houses a few smaller ones and independent production houses. Directors like Nagesh Kukunoor and Kaizaad Gustaad made success with films like “Hyderabad Blues” and “Bombay Boys” which set the ball rolling for many directors to follow. Directors like Priyadarshan with his “Gardish”, “Virasaat” and “Hera-Pheri” also made his foothold strong in the film industry.

The 2000’s also see many actors turned to production and Aamir’s “Lagaan” which got nominated for the Oscars in the best foreign language category top 5. The 2000’s also saw a paradigm shift and many small studios and new faces saw their films released and make it big. Directors like Vishal Bharadwaj, Anuraag Kashyap, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Anant Balani, Milan Lutharia, Dibakar Banerjee, Rakeysh Sudhir Mishra, Prakash Jha and Om Prakash Mehra were the few notable ones. Female film makers like Deepa Mehta, Kalpana Lajmi and Mira Nair also made many notable contributions. This was in many ways the era where new talents emerged in all departments of the film business.

The action oriented 80’s also made a huge comeback in the second decade of the 2000’s. With actioners like “Dabangg”, “Singham” and “Wanted “getting the crowd on their feet. 

The whole concept of television and piracy in the 2000 made it tough for the film industry to handle. The whole concept of multiplex cinema revived the audiences which had left to come to the theatres. There were  allotted elaborate budgets to really woo the audiences. There were separate  TV channels exclusively for films and stars. The Budgets of films were really through the roof. There were a lot of films and stories that found audiences which earlier were lying canned. Indian films also had a global audiences. The audiences were also subjected to bolder and uninhibited cinema. iconoclastic cinema with “Dev-D” and “Nishabd” proving that the audiences are accepting fresher topics. The young brigade spearheaded by filmakers like Frahan Akhthar, Ayan Mukherjee and Shimit Amin are showing that Indian audiences are maturing at a rapid pace.  With the  themes becoming varied and layered. Cinema had found a whole new dimension. The way things are going its really interesting for the audiences and challenging for the makers. The music too has gone  a long way and compsers like Amit Trivedi and Shanker Ehsaan Loy making it count with there musical scores. and Its good see the coming of age of cinema and new films on varied topics are being made with Gangs of Wasseypur

and Bhag Bhag Milkha Bhag taking Indian cinema places there is no dearth of excitement. It will be a even a more competing and the changing values of the audiences making it ever more interesting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s