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Friday, September 07, 2012

In the fourth of six articles on Indian cinema in the last century, we look at the trend-setting 1960s and the 1970s

1960-1970 : Lavish Sets and Love Triangles

The Historical Extravaganza
THE decade began with the release of the evergreen  historical extravaganza : K.Asif's Mughal-E-Azam, a movie that took more than eight years to make and cost over 15 million rupees.

The movie, released in 1960 at Bombay's Maratha Mandir, was an instant box-office hit.  The tragic  romance between the legendary court dancer, Anarkali and Prince Salim, son of Emperor Akbar, touched cinema-goers' hearts. Mughal-E-Azam  continues to be  regarded as the best historical romance film ever made in India.

FILMS of the 60's were definitely bigger and more lavish, if not critically outstanding. Barring a few exceptions like Bimal Roy's Bandini and Guru Dutt's evocative Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, mainstream Hindi cinema revelled in glossy love-triangles (Raj Kapoor's Sangam), religious melodrama (B.R. Chopra's  Dharamputra), youthful romantic capers (Vijay Anand's Tere Ghar Ke Samne) and thrillers & mysteries (Raj Khosla's CID, Woh Kaun Thi and Mera Saaya).

1960 - The Film Institute of India, the country's premier film training school was set up at Prabhat Studios in Poona.

1961 - Dilip Kumar won the  Diploma of Special Honour from the Czechoslovak Academy of Arts, Prague, for his role in his home-production, Gunga Jumna. The film also won the Silver Bowl at Berlin.

1962 - Satyajit Ray made his first colour film, Kanchenjunga.

1963 –

  •     The Indian Motion Pictures Export Corporation was formed.
  •     Indian Cinema celebrated its Golden Jubilee Year.

1964  - The National Film Archives of India was set up in Poona.


  •     The Third International Film Festival was held in New Delhi.
  •     Dev Anand's Navketan banner released its adaptation of R.K. Narayan's novel, Guide.  Waheeda Rehman won the Best Actress award at Chicago for her lead role in the film.

1966 - Director Bimal Roy and lyricist Shailendra passed away.
1967 - Doyen of Marathi cinema Baburao Pendharkar,  music director Roshan and director Shaheed Lateef passed away.
1968 - Hatey Bazare (Bengali) won the Silver Trophy at Phnom Penh Festival.
1969 - The Khosla Committee on film censorship  created a furore when it released its report, permitting  kissing on celluloid provided it was relevant to the story.

Tragic End
IN 1965, Guru Dutt, one of the country's most gifted film makers, committed suicide.

Shiv Shankar Padukone, as Guru Dutt used to be called in childhood,  was born on 9 July, 1925 to a Saraswat family in Mangalore. He did his early education in Calcutta. Unhappy with the traditional education, he received, he left his studies and joined  Uday Shankar's dancing school at Almora, where he developed his  sense of rhythm, pace and movement and a fascination for shadow play (which he effectively used in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam).

His fame as a film maker began  after Pyaasa, in which he played the role of a misunderstood poet who was exploited by society and jilted in love. Then followed Kagaz Ke Phool, in which he acted the part of a film director, looked down upon  by his upper class in-laws. The film was not appreciated by the audience, who didn't like its unhappy ending. Shattered by the  film's failure,  he  never took credit as a director again.

Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam was Guru Dutt's  last major contribution to cinema. He was working on  a light-hearted romance Baharen Phir bhi Aayegi, when  overcome by personal dissatisfaction with his work and his life, he took his life.

 (Content provided by Amrita Bharati)

1970-1980 : Violence - 'N' - Colour
And The Show Goes On..

THE 'parallel cinema' movement officially took off in 1969 when the FFC funded Mrinal Sen's  Bhuvan Shome. As if a dam had burst through, Awtar Kaul's 27 Down, Basu Chatterjee's Sara Akash, Mani Kaul's Uski Roti, Kumar Shahani's  Maya Darpan, Basu Bhattacharya's Anubhav, Kantilal Rathod's Kanku, Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Svayamvaram and M.S. Sathyu's Garam Hawa (widely acknowledged as the best film on the Partition trauma) followed at lightning speed.

The 'parallel movement' brought to the fore a breed of avant-garde film makers like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza and Ketan Mehta. Benegal, who proved to be the most prolific and successful of them all, gave to the industry extraordinarily gifted artistes like Nasseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Om Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, and  Anant Nag. Simultaneously, the parallel movement launched in the Kannada film industry, introducing internationally recognised film makers like Rajiv Karanth, Girish Karnad, Girish Kasaravalli and Prema Karanth. Marathi cinema too, experienced a revival with Vijay Tendulkar's Shantata Court Chalu Aahe ('71) and Jabbar Patel's Saamna and Simhasan.

In the mid-70's  almost 99% of the films were  made in colour.

THE seventies was the era of glorified violence, spearheaded by the super-success of the 'angry young man'- the lanky, soft-spoken son of poet Harivanshrai Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan. Despite a disastrous debut in Saat Hindustani, his role of the  brooding,  intense babu moshai in  Hrishikesh Mukherji's Anand made both the industry and the audience take notice of him..  Even non-action films like Ankur and Nishant (both directed by Benegal) mirrored the repressed anger and rebellion of a generation that was tied down by the Emergency, and which sought instant and direct redress of its woes.

Production costs had blown up, with big budgets to the tune of Rs. 150-200 million, where a dream or dance sequence cost as much as an entire medium-budget film! Except for Hrishikesh Mukherji's light entertainers (Milli, Guddi, Bawarchi, Khubsoorat), the family-drama genre had died a fast death.

However, in one of the most surprising verdicts of the Indian public, an obscure film maker Satram Rohras mythological drama Jai Santoshi Mata, produced at a cost of  2.5 million rupees, grossed over 50 million! That too, in competition with  Sholay!

1970: Government issued Dadasaheb Phalke State Award to commemmorate his hundredth birth anniversary. Devika Rani was  the first recipient of this prestigious award.
1971: Kamal Amrohi's magnum opus, Pakeezah, opened to packed houses.
1972: Kapoor patriarch, Prithviraj Kapoor, singer Geeta Dutt and tragedienne Meena Kumari passed away.
1973: Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Svayamvaram (Malayalam) won the President's Gold Medal for 1972.

  •     Raj Kapoor's teenage love story,  Bobby broke box-office records by celebrating 50 weeks in seven cinema houses.
  •     Madras toppled Bombay to become the highest production centre with 250 films to its credit.
  •     Shyam Benegal released his first film Ankur, which marked the debut of Shabana Azmi.

1975 :

  •     The first Filmotsav was held in  Calcutta. Mrinal Sen's Chous (Bengali) won the Swaran Kamal for the best feature film in the country.
  •     Ramesh Sippy's Sholay  became  a box-office legend, running for five consecutive years in Bombay!
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