Indian film from 1970 to present
Contemporary Indian cinema started in the mid-1970s. This was the time when a new superhero was born - the angry young man, in Prakash Mehra's Zanzeer filmed in 1973. Amitabh Bachchan became the new idol of the young population, a character whose attributes opposed those of earlier Bollywood heroes. In 1975 Deewar by Yasha Chopra and Ramesh Sippy's Sholay confirmed this new successful formula. The political situation in India also gave rise to this modern phenomenon in Bollywood. The darkest period of Indian democracy, i.e. the ”state of emergency” that lasted for 21 months, was proclaimed on June 26, 1975. The voice of the people was brutally silenced. Cinema became the only gathering place of intellectuals, a place where all dreams could come true. Even the typically religious low budget film, Jai Santoshi Maa (1975), became one of the top blockbusters of all time. Prakash Mehra made another hit film, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, with Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha in leading roles, confirming the formula for the success of contemporary Indian film once again.
The 1980s and 1990s gave another dimension to the expansion of the Bollywood market, due to new film content and approach. The films Mr. India (1987), Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), Tezaab (1988), Chandni (1989), Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), Baazigar (1993), Darr (1993), Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge (1995) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) raised a lot of interest, both locally and overseas. In the South, Mani Ratnam filmed Roja (1992) and Bombay (1995). Mani Ratnam's Nayagam (1987) made the Time magazine's list of "100 best films of all time", filmed in Tamil language, placing South Indian film in the centre of international attention. The same magazine published the "10 best examples of film music" of all time, which listed A. R. Rahmana's Oscar winning album debut for Roja (1992). This era left enough space for older great film makers to continue with their work, and a new generation of young and talented directors who found their place in the sun. Shaji N. Karun's film debut Piravi (1989) was awarded Camera d’Or in Cannes. Indian film has received many other prestigious awards and recognition. Due to commercial success and critics' praise, low budget films by Ram Gopal Verme Satya (1998) and Company (2002) formed a separate genre known as ‘Mumbai Noir’. The genre deals with urban problems of Mumbai, and it includes Chandni Bar (2001) by Madhur Bhandarkar, Traffic Signal (2007), Black Friday (2004) by Anurag Kashyap, and several others. In 1995 Bollywood's commercial success grew by 15%, becoming a key element in Indian economy.
Outside Bollywood, an important role in Indian cinema was played by films made in other languages of the Indian subcontinent – Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Assamese, Oriya and Marathi. Telugu cinema, based in Andhra Pradesh, is second in size right after Bollywood, with more than 3,700 theatres, over 200 of which are in its capital Hyderabad. Over 150 films are made here annually, and 2008 was a record year with 275 films. Tamil film has influenced Indian cinema significantly. The capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai, is the centre of South Indian cinema, even of that in Sinhala language, and it includes Tamil films from Sri Lanka.
India is the world's biggest producer of films, resulting in over a thousand feature length films a year. The most important recent films include: National Award winner Konikar Ramdhenu (Assamese, 2003) by Jahnu Barua; praised political film Govinda Nihalanija, Drohkaal (Times of Betrayal, Hindi, 1994); M. S. Sathyu's internationally recognised Garam Hava (Scorching Winds, Hindi and Urdu, 1973), nominated for Palme d'Or at Cannes Festival in 1974; exceptionally admired Daasi (Telugu, 1988) by B. Narsinga Rao, which apart from winning five National Awards, won Diploma of Merit Award at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1989; Thaneer Thaneer (Water Water, Tamil, 1981) by K. Balachander, the winner of a National Award, based on political corruption regarding water supply; praised Train to Pakistan (Hindi, 1998) by Pamela Rooks, adaptation of a novel that talks about the Partition of India; unusually funny silent dark comedy Pushpaka Vimana (1987) by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, starring Kamal Haasan, winning a National Award as best comedy film; successful Bollywood ghost comedy by Shahrukh Khan, starring many famous actors, Paheli (Hindi, 2005), which competed at many international festivals; National Award winner and predecessor of a whole film genre, feature length debut of Farhan Akhtar, Dil Chahta Hai (The Heart Desires, Hindi, 2001), which won a few film industry awards; National Award winner by K. Viswanath Swarabhishekam (Telugu, 2004); Bollywood's blockbuster by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (I Have Given my Heart, Darling, Hindi, 1999), which has also won a number of significant film industry awards; Uttara (The Wrestlers, Bengali, 2000) by Buddhadeb Dasgupta; Koormavatara (2012) by Girish Kasaravalli; Amu (English, 2005) by Shonali Bose; Shwaas (Marathi, 2004) by Sandeep Sawant; Sengadal: The Dead Sea (Tamil, 2011) by Leena Manimekalai; Bijukumar's Akasathinte Niram (Malayalam, 2012); Kathantara (Oriya, 2007) Himanshua Khatue; K. N. T. Sastry's Thilaadanam (Telugu, 2002); Laaj (Assamese, 2005) by Manju Borah; a documentary by Haobam Paban Kumar filmed in Manipuri, AFSPA-1958 (2006) and others. (Premendra Mazumder*, Indian film society activist and critic)
*About the author:
Mazumder is a film critic who writes for publications worldwide, a book author and an editor of a few magazines. He collaborated on Dictionary of Asian cinema published by Nouveau Monde Editions in Paris. He is a member of the International Federation of Film critics »FIPRESCI« and official correspondent of Cannes Festival's »Critics Week« for India. He was on the jury of many international film festivals, acting as an advisor or selector at some. Currently he is the Vice President of Film Federation of India and Secretary for Asia International Federation of Film Societies.