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Introduction to Mass Communication

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Film is a term that encompasses motion pictures as individual projects, as well as the field in
general. The origin of the name comes from the fact that photographic film has historically been the
primary medium for recording and displaying motion pictures.
Many other terms exist for an individual motion picture, including picture, picture show, and most
commonly, movie. Additional terms for the field in general include the big screen, the silver screen, the
cinema and the movies.
Films are produced by recording actual people and objects with cameras, or by creating them using
animation techniques and/or special effects. They comprise a series of individual frames, but when these
images are shown rapidly in succession, the illusion of motion is given to the viewer. Flickering between
frames is not seen due to an effect known as persistence of vision — whereby the eye retains a visual
image for a fraction of a second after the source has been removed.

A true art-form

Film is considered by many to be an important art form; films entertain, educate, enlighten and
inspire audiences. The visual elements of cinema need no translation, giving the motion picture a universal
power of communication. Any film can become a worldwide attraction, especially with the addition of
dubbing or subtitles that translate the dialogue. Films are also artifacts created by specific cultures, which
reflect those cultures, and, in turn, affect them.

Films come to subcontinent

The Lumière Brothers of France exhibited their short films in December 1895 at Grande Cafe,
Paris. The following year, they brought the show to India and held its premiere at the Watson Hotel in
Bombay on 7 July 1896. It was a package of 6 films viz, Entry of cinematograph, Arrival of the train, The
sea bath, A demolition, Leaving the factory and Ladies and Soldiers on wheels. From 18 July 1896, films
were released at the Novelty Theatre on a regular basis. Entrance tickets ranged from four anaas to one
Raja Harishchandra (1913) was the first silent feature film made in subcontinent. It was made by Dadasaheb
Phalke. By the 1930s, the industry was producing over 200 films per annum. The first Indian sound film,
Ardeshir Irani's Alam Ara (1931), was a super hit. There was clearly a huge market for talkies and musicals;
Bollywood and all the regional film industries quickly switched to sound filming.
The 1930s and 1940s were tumultuous times: like the whole world the subcontinent was rocked by the
Great Depression, World War II, the Indian independence movement, and the violence of the Partition.
There were a number of filmmakers who tackled tough social issues, or used the struggle for independence
as a backdrop for their plots. In late 1950s, Bollywood films moved from black-and-white to colour. Lavish
romantic musicals and melodramas were the staple fare at the cinema. Successful actors included Dev
Anand, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor.

Accusations of plagiarism

Constrained by rushed production schedules and small budgets, some writers and musicians have
been known to resort to plagiarism. They copy ideas, plot lines, tunes from sources Hollywood and other
Western movies, Western pop hits).
In past times, this could be done with impunity. Copyright enforcement was lax here. As for the Western
sources, the film industry was largely unknown to Westerners, who would not even be aware that their
material was being copied. Audiences also may not have been aware of the plagiarism, since many in the
Indian audience were unfamiliar with Western films and tunes.
While copyright enforcements are more familiar with foreign movies and music, flagrant plagiarism may
have diminished -- however, there is no general agreement that it has.

Pre-cinema times

Telling stories from the epics using hand-drawn tableau images in scroll paintings, with
accompanying live sounds have been an age old tradition. These tales, mostly the familiar stories of gods
and goddesses, are revealed slowly through choreographic movements of painted glass slides in a lantern,
which create illusions of movements. And so when the Lumière brothers' representatives held the first
public showing at Mumbai's (Bombay) Watson's Hotel on July 7, 1896, the new phenomenon did not create
much of a stir here and no one in the audience ran out at the image of the train speeding towards them, as it
did elsewhere. The viewer took the new experience as something already familiar to them
In Calcutta, Hiralal Sen photographed scenes from some of the plays at the Classic Theatre. Such films were
shown as added attractions after the stage performances or taken to distant venue where the stage
performers could not reach. The possibility of reaching a large audience through recorded images which
could be projected several times through mechanical gadgets caught the fancy of people in the performing
arts and the stage and entertainment business. The first decade of the 20th century saw live and recorded
performances being clubbed together in the same program.

Influence of traditional arts – music, dance on cinema

The strong influence of its traditional arts, music, dance and popular theatre – which was already in
existence for the last about 80 years, on the cinema movement in subcontinent in its early days, is probable
responsible for its characteristic enthusiasm for inserting song and dance sequences in subcontinent cinema,
even till today.

First local film showing
Raja Harish Chandra

Director Dada Saheb Phalke made a studio in Dadar Main Road, wrote the scenario, erected the set
and started shooting for his first venture Raja Harishchandra in 1912. The first full-length story film of
Phalke was completed in 1912 and released at the Coronation cinema on April 21, 1913, for special invitees
and members of the Press. The film was widely acclaimed by one and all and proved to be a great success.
Phalke hailed from an orthodox Hindu household - a family of priests with strong religious roots. So, when
technology made it possible to tell stories through moving images, it was but natural that the film pioneer
turned to his own ancient epics for source material. The phenomenal success of Raja Harishchandra was
kept up by Phalke with a series of mythological films that followed - Mohini Bhasmasur (1914), significant
for introducing the first woman to act before the cameras - Kamalabai Gokhale. The significant titles that
followed include - Satyawan Savitri (1914), Satyavadi Raja Harischandra (1917), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri
Krishna Janma (1918) and Kalia Mardan (1919).

Regional Cinema

(Here we will discuss different regions in the subcontinent where the film art flourished. The
mention of Lahore as one very strong pocket which nurtured a film industry will be made in the next setting
along with cinema life in Pakistan).

South subcontinent

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.
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.

Calcutta film Industry

Madan Theatres of Calcutta produced Shirin Farhad and Laila Majnu (1931) well composed and
recorded musicals. Both films replete with songs had a tremendous impact on the audience and can be said
to have established the unshakeable hold of songs on our films. Chandidas (1932, Bengali), the story of a
Vaishnavite poet-priest who falls in love with a low caste washerwoman and defies convention, was a superhit.
P C Barua produced Devdas (1935) based on Saratchandra Chatterjee's famous story about frustrated
love, influenced a generation of viewers and filmmakers.

Cinema Starts Talking

In the early thirties, the silent Indian cinema began to talk, sing and dance. Alam Ara produced by
Ardeshir Irani, released on March 14, 1931 was the first Indian cinema with a sound track.
Mumbai became the hub of the Indian film industry having a number of self-contained production units.
The thirties saw hits like Madhuri (1932), Indira, M A (1934), Anarkali (1935), Miss Frontier Mail (1936),
and Punjab Mail (1939).

Hindu cast system was first to get attention

The hindu culture based strongly on cast-divide and not be changed by long muslim rule, but
strongly felt by hindu scholars, was the first to get attention when a strong mass medium like film was
Among the leading filmmakers of Mumbai during the forties, V Shantaram was arguably the most
innovative and ambitious. From his first Ayodhya ka Raja (1932) to Admi (1939), it was clear that he was a
filmmaker with a distinct style. He dealt with issues like cast system, religious bigotry and women's rights.
Even when Shantaram took up stories from the past, he used these as parables to highlight contemporary
situations. While Amirt Manthan (1934) opposed the senseless violence of Hindu rituals, Dharmatama
(1935) dealt with Brahmanical orthodoxy and cast system. Duniya Na Mane (1937) was about a young
woman's courageous resistance to a much older husband whom she had been tricked into marrying. Admi
(1939) was one of Shantaram's major works.
Tamil cinema emerged as a veritable entertainment industry in 1929 with the creation of General Picture
Corporation in Madras (Chennai). Most of the Tamil films produced were multilingual productions, with
versions in Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada until film production units were established in Hyderabad,
Trivandrum and Bangalore. The first talkie of South India, Srinivas Kalyanam was made by A Narayanan in

Mehboob Khan 40s to 50s

Mehboob made his films down to earth, dramatic, even melodramatic. Roti made in the early 1940s
inspired by the German Expressionism, is a real critique of Indian society with prophetic insight. It deals
with two models - one of a millionaire, possessed by money and power in an industrial civilization, the other
of a tribal couple living in a primeval state of nature. The millionaire is saved by the couple after an air
crash, the tribal couple immigrates to the city, do not find happiness and return. The millionaire is ruined in
the city, tries futilely to find salvation among the tribal.
Mehboob remade his film Aurat (1940) in colour and with drastically different imagery as Mother India
(1957), which was a massive success and later even acquired an epic status. The story revolves around
Radha, played by Nargis, one of the strongest woman characters of Indian cinema. Her husband having lost
both arms in an accident leaves her. Alone, she raises her children while fending off the financial as well as
the sexual pressure from a moneylender. One of her sons, Birju becomes a rebel and the other one Ramu
remains a dutiful son. In the end the long suffering mother kills her rebel son, as his blood fertilizes the soil.
Highly successful and critically acclaimed, Mehboob's films often derive from clash between pre-capitalist
ruralism and an increasingly modernized state with its commercial-industrial practices and values.

Bimal Roy

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Bimal Roy entered the field of cinema as a camera assistant. His
directorial debut was with Udayer Pathey (1944). He introduced a new era of post World War romanticrealist
melodramas that was an integration of the Bengal School style with that of De Sica. Do Bigha Zamin
(1953) and Sujata were two of the most notable films of Bimal Roy, who basically was a reformist, a
humanist liberal. Do Bigha Zamin was one of the Indian first films to chart mass migration of rural people
to cities and their degradation in urban slums. Though the situation was tragic, Roy sought to relieve the
starkness by brave and hopeful songs and dances. Sujata dealt with the disturbances created to a lost soul
from the world of untouchable underclass who escaped accidentally to the world of the urban middle class.

Raj Kapoor

Born in Peshawar, now in Pakistan as son of Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor acted the role of a
megastar, successful producer and a director. He started as a clapper-boy in the Hindi film industry and
latter became one of the most successful directors of the industry. He set up the R K Films in 1948 and
made his first directorial venture Aag. His earlier films Awara (1951) and Shri 420 (1955) evince a
sentimental approach to social reforms, presenting political independence as a loss of innocence in
exchange of stability.

Pakistan film history from 1896-1947

Pakistan shared its film history with India from 1896 to 1947. Lahore produced many films and a
big number of Pakistani artists debuted in this period.

Pakistani artists before 1947

The first silent film from Lahore was The Daughter of Today released in 1924 and the inaugural
Punjabi or talkie film from Lahore was Heer Ranjha in 1932. (Alam Ara was released in 1931, which
means Lahore was going as fast and one top hum after Bombay for film making in the subcontinent.
To be continued...

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