history of indian cinema


Regional Cinema

The first film in Southern India was made in 1916 by R Nataraja Mudaliar- Keechaka Vadham. As the title indicates the subject is again a mythological from the Mahabharata. Another film made in Madras - Valli Thiru-Manam (1921) by Whittaker drew critical acclaim and box office success. Hollywood returned Ananthanarayanan Narayanan founded General Pictures Corporation in 1929 and established filmmaking as an industry in South India and became the single largest producer of silent films. Kolhapur in Western Maharashtra was another centre of active film production in the twenties. In 1919 Baburao K Mistry - popularly known as Baburao Painter formed the Maharashtra Film Co. with the blessings of the Maharaja of Kolhapur and released the first significant historical - Sairandhari (1920) with Balasheb Pawar, Kamala Devi and Zunzarrao Pawar in stellar roles. Because of his special interest in sets, costumes, design and painting, he chose episodes from Maratha history for interpreting in the new medium and specialised in the historical genre. The exploits of Shivaji and his contemporaries and their patriotic encounters with their opponents formed the recurring themes of his 'historicals' which invariably had a contemporary relevance to the people of a nation, who were fighting for liberation from a colonial oppressor. The attack against the false values associated with the Western way of life and their blind imitation by some Indians was humorously brought out by Dhiren Ganguly in his brilliant satirical comedy - England Returned (1921) - presumably the first 'social satire' on Indians obsessed with Western values. And with that another genre of Indian cinema known as 'the contemporary social' slowly emerged. Baburao Painter followed it up with another significant film in 1925 - Savkari Pash (The Indian Shylock) - an attempt at realistic treatment of the Indian peasant exploited by the greedy moneylender.

In Bengal, a region rich in culture and intellectual activity, the first Bengali feature film in 1917, was remake of Phalke's Raja Harishchandra. Titled Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra, it was directed by Rustomjee Dotiwala. Less prolific than Bombay based film industry, around 122 feature films were made in Calcutta in the Silent Era.

The first feature film in Tamil, also the first in entire South India, Keechakavatham was made during 1916-17, directed by Nataraja Mudaliar.

Marthandavarma (1931) produced by R Sunder Raj, under Shri.Rajeswari Film, Nagercoil, directed by P V Rao, got into a legal tangle and was withdrawn after its premiere. Based on a celebrated novel by C V Raman Pillai, the film recounts the adventures of the crown prince and how he eliminates the arch-villains to become the unquestioned ruler of the Travancore State. The film has title cards in English and Malayalam, some of which are taken from the original text. A few of the title cards and action make obvious reference to the Swadeshi Movement of the time. Had it not been for the legal embargo, the film would have had a great impact on the regional cinema of the South.


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