In 1921, Bhakta Vidhur was the first Indian film to be banned over the protagonist’s resemblance in attire to Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1924, Master Vithal made his debut as a dancing girl in Kalyan Khajina, and by the end of the decade, the Indian Douglas Fairbanks was the highest paid actor.
In 1926, Fatma Begum with Babule Parastan became the first Indian female director.
In 1928, Free Press Journal was born, as was theatre and screenwriter Vijay Tendulkar.
In 1929, Himanshu Rai married Devika Rani.
Listing five such milestones from every decade since…
ALAM ARA India’s first talkie, opened on March 14, 1931, at Bombay’s Majestic Cinema. Produced and directed by Ardeshir Irani, the historical fantasy featured Fatma Begum’s daughter Zubeida in the lead opposite Master Vithal.
KARMA, the 1933 film, is remembered for ‘Bollywood’s longest kiss’, but it flopped and Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani returned to India to start Bombay Talkies Studio the following year. While shooting the 1936 film Jeevan Naiya, the actress eloped with her leading man. Rai replaced Najm-ul-Hassan with a reluctant lab technician, Kumudlal Ganguly. The film was a hit, Achyut Kanya, in the same year, was a blockbuster, and Kumudlal, rechristened Ashok Kumar, became an overnight star.
KISAN KANYA, produced in 1937 by Ardeshir Irani and written by Saadat Hasan Manto, was India’s first indigenously made colour film.
KUNDAN LAL SAIGAL after a slow start in 1932 became a sensation with the 1933 devotional biopic Puran Bhagat for which he sang four bhajans. Several chartbusters in blockbusters like Chandidas, Devdas, President, Street Singer and Tansen followed, but the singer-actor had turned into an alcoholic and at 42, passed away on January 19, 1947.
KUNDAN LAL SAIGAL |
MARY ANN EVANS joined Zarko Circus in 1930 and five years later, became ‘Fearless Nadia’ with films like Hunterwali, Miss Frontier Mail and Punjab Mail (1939). For two decades, she ‘whipped’ up a storm on screen, even playing Agent X1 in a James Bond spoof Khilari, her last outing being Ramsay’s Ek Nanhi Munni Ladki Thi in 1970.
KISMET opened on January 9, 1943. It is one of the highest-grossing Hindi films with a record run of 187 weeks at Kolkata’s Roxy Cinema. Ashok Kumar, as the pickpocket Shekhar, started the trend of anti-heroes glorified and idolized by the audience.
CHETAN ANAND’S Neecha Nagar screened at the Cannes Film Festival on September 29, 1946, won the Palme d’ Or. It was never released in India.
DEV ANAND, Chetan Anand’s younger brother, was launched as a hero in Ziddi by Ashok Kumar whose younger brother, Kishore Kumar, sang his first solo, Marne Ki Duyayein, and his first duet with Lata Mangeshkar, Yeh kaun aaya, for the 1948 film.
DEV ANAND |
VIDYA, another 1948 Dev Anand starrer, brought Suraiya into his life after he saved his heroine from drowning during the shoot. Unfortunately, their love story was short-lived following dissent from her grandmother. Suraiya never married.
RAJ KAPOOR, at 24, became the youngest producer-director to debut with Aag in 1948 opposite Nargis. They co-starred in 16 films, including Barsaat the following year, their iconic pose giving RK Studio its emblem. The year 1949 is also remembered for Mahal, Madhubala and Lata Mangeshkar’s Aayega aayega aayega aanewala ayega.
AWARA with Raj Kapoor as a Chaplinesque Tramp was the first film to be shot at RK Studio. It made him an evergreen hero in Soviet Russia. It was also released in China in 1951, without the songs and dances, and was equally popular.
MEHBOOB KHAN’S 1952 Aan was India’s first full feature in technicolour. It was released in the UK and the US as The Savage Princess, winning praise from Oscar winning actor-filmmaker Cecil B DeMille. Naushad recorded the background music at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
BIMAL ROY’S maiden production, Do Bigha Zameen, won him Best Film and Best Director at the first Filmfare Award, also the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film at the National Film Awards, along with the Prix International at Cannes and the Prize for Social Progress at the Karlovy Vary film fest. Balraj Sahni actually pulled a rickshaw through the streets of Kolkata as part of his prep.
MOTHER INDIA, Mehboob Khan’s 1957 colour remake of his 1940 Aurat, was India’s first official entry to the Oscars in the Best Film in a Foreign Language category, losing by one vote to Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria. On March 11, 1958, Nargis quietly married Sunil Dutt, her rebellious son Birju in the film who had rescued her from a fire on the sets.
GURU DUTT’S Kaagaz Ke Phool was the first Indian film to be made in cinemascope. It flopped and he never directed another film, passing away prematurely on October 10, 1964.
GURU DUTT’S Kaagaz Ke Phool |
MUGHAL-E-AZAM, K. Asif’s epic extravaganza was unveiled after 16 years on August 5, 1960. It was the highest-grossing Hindi film for 15 years till Sholay broke the record. Asif had wanted to reshoot the film in colour, but by then the distributors had lost patience and only allowed him to shoot the two songs, including the iconic, Jab pyar kiya to darna kya in colour.
Forty-four years later, Mughal-e-Azam was the first Hindi film to be colourized and re-released on November 12, 2004, immortalising Madhubala and Dilip Kumar as Anarkali and Salim. She was detected with a hole in her heart and married Kishore Kumar in 1960, passing away on February 23, 1969. Dilip Kumar married Saira Banu in 1966.
SHAMMI KAPOOR who had broken the jinx of a flop star with Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Dil Deke Dekho in the ’50s, became a ‘Junglee’, ‘Janwar’, ‘Bluff Master’ and ‘Budtameez’ in the ’60s, ending the decade with Brahmachari, which won him the Filmfare award for Best Actor. His Kashmir Ki Kali in 1964 introduced Satyajit Ray protégé Sharmila Tagore to Bollywood, and two years later, with Teesri Manzil, Rahul Dev Burman, composer Sachin Dev Burman’s son exploded on the scene.
GUIDE, the Hindi-English bilingual film directed by Vijay Anand and Tad Danielewski, was Dev Anand’s first colour film and a big gamble given its bold subject. In 2008, 43 years after its release in 1965, the Hindi Guide was screened in the ‘Classics’ section at the Cannes film festival, a first for an Indian film.
UPKAR made to propagate then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan Jai jawan jai kisan, was written by Manoj Kumar on the train while returning to Mumbai after Shaheed’s premiere. The 1967 patriotic drama, his first official film as director, changed bad man Pran’s image and gave him a new name, Mr Bharat.
ARADHANA, a platinum jubilee hit, made Rajesh Khanna, who played both father and son, an overnight star and the ‘Phenomenon’ of the ’70s. Asha Parekh had turned down the film because she didn’t want to age, Sharmila Tagore, with chalk in her hair, walked home with the Best Actress Award when pregnant with Saif Ali Khan. She had married India’s cricket captain, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi on December 27, 1969.
GUDDI, the schoolgirl heroine of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1971 coming-of-age love story, made fresh-faced Jaya Bhaduri a star. Amitabh Bachchan was initially cast in the role of her fiancé, Navin, but after Anand’s spectacular success, he was replaced by Bengali actor Samit Bhanja.
ZANJEER has become synonymous with Amitabh Bachchan today, but he only entered the cop drama after debutant producer Prakash Mehra had been turned down by Dharmendra, Dev Anand, Raaj Kumar and Dilip Kumar. Pran recommended his son’s friend who was reeling after a dozen flops and Inspector Vijay made Amitabh the ‘angry young man’. The film opened on May 11, 1973, and to celebrate its success, he planned a vacation with his girlfriend and the film’s Chappan Churiwali Jaya Bhaduri, but their parents would only give them permission if they were married. So, on June 3, 1973, the couple tied the knot and flew off to London that night.
AMITABH BACHCHAN notched up many more hits like Namak Haram, Abhimaan, Deewar, Sholay, Chupke Chupke, Kabhie Kabhie, Amar Akbar Anthony, Trishul, Don and Muqaddar Ka Sikander. Sholay brought to the screen the iconic villain, Gabbar Singh, a role that came to Amjad Khan after Danny Denzongpa opted out. The rest is box-office history.
BOBBY was Raj Kapoor’s biggest gamble after the debacle of Mera Naam Joker with son Rishi Kapoor and 16-year-old Dimple Kapadia. It pulled him out of the red, but six months before its release on September 28, 1973, Dimple married Rajesh Khanna and quit films. She returned after they separated, in 1984, with Saagar. Rishi married Neetu Singh on January 24, 1980.
SATYAM SHIVAM SUNDARAM sizzled with Zeenat Aman in a mini sari, but quickly ran out of steam. The mythological, Jai Santoshi Maa, which released in the same year as Sholay, was a surprise blockbuster, bringing the solah shukravar vrat into households across the country.
STAR SONS DEBUT Kumar Gaurav and Sanjay Dutt made their debut almost simultaneously with Love Story and Rocky in 1981. The former was a bigger sensation, but faded away. Sanju Baba is still a crowd puller.
COOLIE and a freak accident on its set on July 26, 1982, turned debutant Puneet Issar into a real-life villain as Amitabh Bachchan hovered between life and death. He returned to continue from where he had left off on January 7, 1983, the original ending tweaked with Lambuji making a miraculous recovery even on screen. It was the highest earner of 1983.
MR INDIA, Anil Kapoor’s 1987 fantasy adventure, gave us another iconic villain in Amrish Puri’s Mogambo while Ram Lakhan two years later, made Gulshan Grover ‘Bad Man’ for life.
MR INDIA |
EK DO TEEN took Madhuri Dixit to the top of the box-office charts in 1988. She reigned unchallenged for a decade till marriage took her off to Denver. Tezaab also made Anil Kapoor the reigning superstar, he remains evergreen like his Mohini.
PAPA KEHTE HAIN BADA NAAM KAREGA Aamir Khan crooned, little realising the prophecy would come true. His Romeo Juliet love story, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, in 1988 with Juhi Chawla was a runaway hit.
AGNEEPATH may not have lived up to expectations in 1990 despite a National Award-winning performance as the underworld don Vijay Deenanath Chauhan because the audience could not accept the raspy whisper which had replaced Amitabh Bachchan’s familiar baritone. But over the years, it has become a cult classic. It’s remake in 2012 was a blockbuster. Towards the end of the decade, Ram Gopal Varma’s 1998 crime drama, Satya, also brought Manoj Bajpayee his first National Award. His “Mumbai ka king kaun? Bhiku Mhatre!” still resonates.
SHAH RUKH KHAN was the new Deewana on the block in 1992. By the following year, he had metamorphosed into a killer with Baazigar, Darr and Anjam. Then, Aditya Chopra’s debut directorial Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), Yash Chopra’s Dil To Pagal Hai and Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai made him a much-loved dilwale.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) |
He married Gauri Chibber on October 25, 1991 and his dulhania Kajol took the pheras with Ajay Devgn on February 24, 1999. They remain the best of friends.
AR RAHMAN was approached by Mani Ratnam in 1992 to compose the music of Roja. The following year, he bagged the National Award for Best Music Director. Today, he has to his credit not just six National Awards, but the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan too, along with two Oscars, two Grammys, a BAFTA, along with countless others. Truly the ‘Mozart of Madras’!
BANDIT QUEEN premiered in the ‘Director’s Fortnight’ at the 1994 Cannes film fest and brought director Shekhar Kapur international glory. The seven Oscar nominations and one win for another biopic, Elizabeth, in 1998, along with BAFTA and Golden Globe wins, helped him consolidate his position in the West.
SANJAY DUTT was on a high after Saajan, Sadak, Khal Nayak and Gumrah when he was arrested for his alleged involvement with the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai. He made a comeback in 1999 with Khubsoorat, Haseena Maan Jayegi, Daag, Vaastav and the critically-acclaimed Mission Kashmir.
AAMIR KHAN, actor-producer, and writer-director Ashutosh Gowariker took their 2001 sports drama, Lagaan, to the Oscars. It narrowly missed out to the Bosnian film No Man’s Land, but made Aamir a big global star.
MUNNA BHAI MBBS, Rajkumar Hirani 2003 debut directorial, brought Sanjay Dutt back into the race and made his ‘jadoo ki jhappi’ the cure for all ills. Three years later, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, was a bigger hit, making ‘Gandhigiri’ the new buzzword. Meanwhile, after being in and out of jail several times, Sanjay was acquitted in all TADA cases in 2006, but sentenced to six years rigorous imprisonment and rearrested on August 2, 2007. He was finally released from Yerwada Jail on February 25, 2016 after serving out his sentence.
VISHAL BHARDWAJ’s Shakespearean trilogy started with the Indianised Macbeth, Maqbool, in 2003, followed by Omkara in 2006 which took Othello to UP and ended with Haider, Hamlet in Kashmir, in 2014.
STAR WEDDINGS Hrithik Roshan married Sussanne Khan on December 20, 2000 and Akshay Kumar married Tina Khanna on January 17, 2001. The wedding of the decade was Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan’s on April 20, 2007.
JAB WE MET is one of Kareena Kapoor’s most memorable performances as Geet. She and Shahid Kapoor were dating when they signed the 2007 film, but had split by the time it was completed.
JAB WE MET |
ISHQIYA in 2010, followed by No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture — it won her the National Award for Best Actress — in 2011 and Kahaani in early 2012, made Vidya Balan an actress of substance. She married Siddharth Roy Kapoor, her Ghanchakkar producer, in 2012 and has continued to impress.
GANGS OF WASSEYPUR, Anurag Kashyap’s 321-minute crime drama, was screened in the ‘Director’s Fortnight’ at the Cannes in 2012 because no Indian theatre would play the five-hour plus film and eventually split into two parts in India. In 2019, The Guardian listed it among the 100 greatest movies of the 21st century.
GANGS OF WASSEYPUR |
STAR WEDDINGS Kareena Kapoor married Saif Ali Khan in 2012, they became parents to Taimur in 2016 and Jehangir in 2021. Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli have been batting on the same pitch since December 11, 2017; their daughter, Vamika, was born in 2021. ‘Desi Girl’ Priyanka Chopra took the pheras and walked down the aisle with her pardesi babu Nick Jonas in December 2018. Earlier, on November 14, Ranveer Singh committed himself to his Leela, Mastani and Padmaavat, Deepika Padukone.
URI: THE SURGICAL STRIKE, Aditya Dhar’s debut directorial, Uri: The Surgical Strike, busted the box-office, picking up four National Awards, including Best Actor for Vicky Kaushal. His oft-quoted line, “How’s the josh?” was even borrowed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
URI: THE SURGICAL STRIKE |
KABIR SINGH, the Hindi remake of director Sandeep Vanga Reddy’s 2017 Telugu hit Arjun Reddy, also grossed a triple century in 2019 despite heated criticism about its hero glorifying misogyny and toxic masculinity.
COVID-19 PANDEMIC and subsequent lockdown brought shoots to a halt and shut down theatres across Indian, in some states for over a year.
SHERSHAAH, Captain Vikram Batra biopic. released on August 12, 1921 on Amazon Prime Video, by the month's end it was the most watched film on the OTT platform in India. Lead pair Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani married on February 7, 2023.
SHERSHAAH- Lead pair Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani |
Earlier, Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal had also tied the knot in Rajasthan on December 9, 2021. The wedding of the decade however was Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s small intimate ceremony on April 14, 2022, their daughter, Raha, was born in November.
RRR, SS Rajamouli’s 2222 Telugu action epic drama, not only kept the cash counters jingling worldwide, but “Naatu Naatu” won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for ‘Best Original Song’ among many others. The Elephant Whisperers also bagged the Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Earlier in 1983, costume designer Bhanu Athaiya had been felicitated by the Academy for Gandhi, and Gulzar, Resul Pookutty and AR Rahman for Slumdog Millionaire in 2009.
PATHAAN marched into the theatres on January 25, 2023, on a crest of controversy to smash box-office records and proved Shah Rukh Khan remains the Badshah of Bollywood. He has two more releases this year, Jawaan and Dunki. Son and daughter, Aryan and Suhana, are also following in his footsteps.
DILIP KUMAR passed away on July 7, 2021. Within six months, on February 6, 2022, we lost Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar and 10 days later, ‘King of Disco’ Bappi Lahiri. Earlier in 2020, D-Day costars, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, passed away within a day of each other. Last year, on May 31, singer KK bid the world adieu soon after a concert. But for Bollywood, the show goes on…