66 Years Of Bollywood Since Independence: Why The Show Will Always Go On


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Ankush Kumar brings back 66-years of the Hindi film industry since Independence

“Awara hoon, ya gardish mein hoon, aasman ka tara hoon”. This Raj Kapoor classic sums up the journey of Hindi cinema in the last 100 years. A name that is not just a poorer cousin of its western counterpart, but also is behind its regional competitor, ‘Bollywood’ has reached an age of celebrations. Bevinda Collaco, the veteran journalist and Amit Khanna, a film maker both have staked claim in coining the term, that now appears even in the Oxford English dictionary ‘BOLLYWOOD’.

Ever since India gained independence in 1947 Hindi cinema has taken baby steps forward and today in 2013 we are ready to cater to global audiences. In the last 66 years Hindi cinema has seen some great periods of entertainment and some really low phases when the audience were treated to utter nonsense and stupidity. Today lets look back at the industry of entertainment fondly known as ‘Bollywood’.

“Dekha ek khawb, toh yeh silsile hue”
This song defines the era of post independence Hindi cinema. The fifties and sixties was the golden period of Hindi movies. A few good men saw the dream of making quality cinema and entertaining the audiences at large. Guru Dutt, Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor redefined the perception of Hindi cinema and brought a cross cultural appeal to it. Hence the films of that era, even today are considered timeless gems. In a poll conducted by BBC Asia for the top hundred songs in Bollywood, a whopping 46 percent of its music came from this era. At the dusk of the sixties, and dawn of the seventies, Hindi cinema witnessed the birth of a legend, that too purely ‘Luck by Chance’.

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The angst a common man had in him, was beautifully portrayed by the then generation of film makers and Hindi cinema made way to classics like Sholay, Deewar, Trishul, Zanjeer. This was the same era when film makers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee showcased the struggles of an underdog in a light humorous way.

Bollywood smashed box office records in this era. Legends like Amitabh Bachchan were born, and the world had begun to take notice of cinema from the east. The era of the seventies can be best summed up by this awesome dialogue ‘Mogambo khush hua’!

Its quite an Irony when it comes to Bollywood in the eighties. Back then when India won the cricket world cup in 1983, or when Delhi hosted the Asian games in 1982, or for the matter of fact when our hockey team won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, our cinema saw a huge slump. The period between 1980 and 1988 is considered the darkest hour of Hindi cinema.

The old order was still adamant then, be it the actors or the directors or the musicians hence the end result of the movies were tacky and useless. Legendary directors like Manmohan Desai who had popularized Kumbh melas in the seventies did not find takers of his brand of cinema in the eighties. Legends like Amitabh Bachchan were the only who still managed return on investments; otherwise mostly films were a dull affair.

The advent of the nineties brought a sea change in Bollywood. The Chopras, Barjatyas and Johars dominated proceedings. Stars like Salman, Aamir and Shahrukh Khan were born. The new order of technicians and actors managed to erase the dark era of the eighties. Romance as a genre helped Bollywood make its mark in European and American markets. This was also the decade where Bollywood stars made rapid strides in the world of publicity and advertising.

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“Dekho 2000 zamana aa gaya” the dawn of the new millennium saw the birth of two sons of legendary actors, the Khans continued to dominate the decade. But some very inspiring comebacks made the difference. Bachchan Sr, Sanjay Dutt made a comeback of sorts, so did Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit. This was the era when new age cinema found their calling. Our movies went to prestigious fests and made a mark.

The copyright act meant plagiarism wasn’t a choice anymore and yet adaptations of western classics were made. Directors like ‘Vishal Bhardwaj’ captured literature from the world beautifully. Dark cinema was equally entertaining. But the decade of 2000 will be best remembered for ‘Lagaan’. A movie that made it to the academies final five. There is a section of society that thinks Oscars are equivalent to our Filmfare, but that has never been the case. They respect and celebrate cinema of the world, we have narrowed it down to just Hindi cinema.

Today as we enter sixty-six years of independence, Bollywood is ready to cut its hundredth cake, many milestones have been achieved, some have been missed, some legends have transcended into a better world, some are still wielding magic. One line that defines the spirit of Bollywood is “The show must go on”.

Disclaimer by the author: Editors have a way of thinking. He gave me just 600 words to cover 66 years of cinema. His expectations is for another day. Today I just want to say ‘there have been several names that do not make the write up, but their contribution to our cinema is equally important.

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