A Living Portrait of India
India Heritage:Performing Arts:Cinema In India:History
India Scene

Lumiere brothers' Cinematographe arrived in India on July 7 1896, to a truly dramatic setting. Natural and political factors had unsettled the country - floods, & famine : at Sholapur, a famine-afflicted 5000-strong crowd stole bags of grain, resulting in police firing and many deaths. Also, the night of July 7 was a stormy one, complete with lightning!

The first show was held at Watson's Hotel, Bombay. Six items, each of 17 metres, were included - Entry of Cinematographe, The Sea Bath, Arrival of a Train, A Demolition, Ladies & Soldiers on Wheels, and Leaving the Factory. On July 14, the shows shifted venue - to the Novelty Theatre, Bombay. Twenty-four items were on, including A Stormy Sea and The Thames at Waterloo Bridge. Alternating between these two hosts, the shows concluded on August 15 of the same year.

Film shows became popular thereafter, and on January 1 1900, Tivoli Theatre was the venue for a show of 25 pictures that included such titles as Japanese Dance by the Beauties and Fatima, an Indian Dance. The city of Calcutta held its first film exhibition at Star Theatre on October 2 1898.

True to the contradictions that make up India, the factors that would have a profound influence on Indian cinema - silent and sound (talkie) - are those that happened before the advent of the motion picture. Bharatmuni's Natyashastra, written between 200 B.C and A.D. 200 considers the dramatic form as a combination of natya (drama), nritya (pantomime, gestures) and nrrita ( pure dance). These three remain vital to Indian cinema.

The other two factors occurred in 1853! First, the play Indrasabha by Amanat, written on the instructions of Wajid Ali Shah (the last Nawab of Oudh). Translated into several Indian languages, it determined the form of theatre and later of cinema : song and dance extravaganzas so proliferated in cinema that they were dismissed as 'sing-song noises' but later evolved into some of the most haunting melodies ever.

Second, the founding of the Parsi Natak Mandali that established modern play theatres complete with English stage machinery and splendid costumes and sets. Madan Theatre in Calcutta boasted a revolving stage! Cinema continued the tradition of fanciful sets and costumes.


So Many Cinemas.
Author - B.D. Garga
Publishers - Eminence Designs Private Limited.

Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema.
Author -Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen
Publishers -Oxford University Press.

Could not find what you were looking for?