Smita Srivastava, Mumbai. Today, the foundation of Indian cinema, which has become an industry of billions of rupees, was truly laid by the country’s first talking film ‘Alam Ara’. This 124-minute long Hindi film released in the year 1931 was directed by Ardeshir Irani. The story of the production and release of ‘Alam Ara’ was quite interesting. Smita Srivastava’s article talks about the changes brought about by the formation of ‘Alam Ara’ and this big step in the path of self-reliance of Indian cinema …

India’s first talkie film ‘Alam Ara’ produced by Ardeshir Irani brought the winds of change in Hindi cinema. It is said that Irani was a visionary and dreamed of doing something big. He not only saw dreams but also fulfilled them. These dreams of his gave shape to Indian cinema. Irani got the inspiration to make the country’s first talking film ‘Alam Ara’ in the year 1929 after watching the American film ‘Show Boat’. However, this too was not a completely eloquent film. But this film inspired Irani to make a speaking film in the Indian language. From here the tradition of making great music in Bollywood also started. ‘Show Boat’ was produced by Universal Pictures.

risk that succeeded

Established in 1926, Irani’s Imperial Film Company was at the forefront of innovation. Imperial Studio, known for its historical costume drama, was the first studio in India to shoot at night for the scenes of the film ‘Khwab-e-Hasti’ (1929) and later the first indigenous color film ‘Kisan Kanya’ (1937). build out. ‘Alam Ara’ was a pioneer for many reasons including being speechless. Before the release of this film, silent films were produced in India which were based around mythological stories. Ardeshir Irani took a big risk by choosing a popular drama that was different from that leak. He kept a mix of Hindi and Urdu in ‘Alam Ara’. He was sure that by doing so the film would reach a wider audience. The film was an adaptation of a Parsi play written by Joseph David. Its basic plot revolves around a love story between a prince and a banjara (gypsy) girl. Actors Master Vitthal and Zubeida played central roles in the film.

worked hard many times

Due to lack of recording equipment at that time, ‘Alam Ara’ had to be shot using original sound. Artists used to hide microphones in their pockets or clothes to record dialogues. American engineer Wilford Deming partially assisted in the process of recording the sound of Imperial. ‘Alam Ara’ was shot at the Majestic Cinema in Bombay between 1 pm and 4 pm, as the shooting studio had a train track and the fewest trains passed at that time. Songs in the film were created on the Tanar sound system, which used a Tanar single-system camera, which could also record sound directly on film. Its song ‘De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe Pyare’ became the first playback song of Indian cinema. It was voiced by Wazir Muhammad Khan, who played the character of Fakir in the film. The background music and songs at the time were created using real sound, with the musicians hiding behind trees and corners on the set. Thus it took four months to make ‘Alam Ara’.

many obstacles

In speech films, it became extremely important for actors to articulate their dialogues. The then top star Sulochana aka Ruby Myers was not selected to play the lead role as she did not speak Hindustani well. Instead, Zubeida, daughter of filmmaker and actress Fatma Begum, was chosen. In the film L. V. Prasad was in a supporting role, who later became a prominent actor of South Indian films. The selection of the hero for the film was also not easy. It is believed that Irani was keen to cast Mehboob Khan (who later created ‘Mother India’) as the hero, but had to reconsider her choice due to the popularity of Master Vitthal. Vitthal had a contract with Sharda Studios. Vitthal broke his contract with Sharda Studios to be a part of the first spoken historical film to be produced under the Imperial Film Company. His former employer filed a case against him and Vitthal sought help from the barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who would later become the founder of Pakistan. Jinnah effectively defended them and won the case. Eventually the first spoken Hindi film was released on March 14, 1931.

the voice of every heart

Obviously, there was a lot of enthusiasm among the audience about the first spoken Hindi film. Ticket prices of ‘Alam Ara’ had gone up unimaginably from four ananas (25 paise) to five rupees. During the promotion and advertisement of the film, the makers used the tagline – ‘All living, breathing, 100 percent talking.’ In Hindi it was written – ’78 dead humans became alive. Watch them speak’, as 78 artists had recorded their voices for ‘Alam Aara’. Seven songs of the film became the center of attraction. Since then music, song and dance became an integral part of Indian films. The film remained housefull for eight weeks after its release at Mumbai’s Majestic Cinema. The popularity of the film was such that the police had to be called to control the crowd. This film made careers of many actors. These included Prithviraj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan and L.K. V. Prasad later became a film legend.

Regional cinema was born

The immense success of ‘Alam Ara’ inspired Ardeshir Irani to make many more films including ‘Kisan Kanya’, India’s first color feature film in the year 1937. The changes in the film industry amid the success of ‘Alam Ara’ were far-reaching. Stage actors with good speaking and melodious singing voices were sought for films. Many studios that could not use the use of sound had to close. In course of time, speaking films began to be produced in major languages ​​across the country giving rise to regional cinema. The huge popularity of films also led to a boom in the number of cinema halls. The Sawaak films also marked a significant change in the techniques of filmmaking, introducing a whole line of technicians – singers, composers, choreographers, sound designers. The film business turned into an industry. Indian cinema has never been the same again. Although unfortunately no print of this historical film is available.

from projector to reel

Ardeshir Irani, who made the first talkie film in India, was born in Pune in 1886 to an Iranian-Parsi family. Irani’s parents came to India from Iran to escape religious persecution. Ardeshir Irani grew up in Mumbai and started running a musical instrument shop. It was a matter of luck for him to appear in films. In the year 1903, he won a lottery of 14 thousand rupees, which was a huge amount in those days. With this money, he set foot in the film industry. He decided to become a film distributor for a while, showing films from projectors in ‘tent theatres’. It promoted the culture of watching movies. From there he became interested in filmmaking. The film ‘Nal Damayanti’ produced by him was released in 1920. After that he founded Star Films Limited. This studio launched the career of Fatma Begum, the first female director of Indian cinema. In the year 1926, he founded the Imperial Film Studio. After the success of ‘Alam Ara’, Irani made films till the year 1945. His last film was ‘Pujari’. He died in the year 1969 at the age of 82.

Edited By: Priti Kushwaha