In pictures: tribute to a century of Bollywood
May 19, 2013
Baburao Painter Baburao Mestri, to give him his real name, was a Renaissance man. His company Maharashtra Film was one of the most sophisticated of its time. He experimented with filters and with backdrops of red and yellow that would give him the ???
Dhundiraj G Phalke He came from a family of priests but when D G Phalke watched a film on the life of Christ, he decided that he was going to turn this new medium into a vehicle for the stories of the subcontinent. And he did exactly that, going t???
Gohar She was billed as "Glorious Gohar" but she was not just a pretty face who could look like the drunkard's wife in Typist Girl. Like so many of the women of the silent era, she had a shrewd sense of business and went off to form Jagdish Films a???
Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar Bhatavdekar sold cameras and camera equipment but he is also, almost certainly, the first of the Indian filmmakers. Like George Melies, he took his cues from what he saw around him, shooting the antics of monkeys ???
Jehangir Framji Madan By 1905, J F Madan had two prominent theatre companies, the Elphinstone and the Khatau-Alfred, which he had bought down to the rights to their repertoires. This meant that when he got into the motion picture business — by 19???
Ardeshir Irani He is credited with the making of Bollywood’s first sound film, Alam Ara, in 1933 and with the making of its first indigenous colour film, Kisan Kanya, in 1937. He was an old-style movie mogul who is said to have made 250 movies. H???
Himanshu Rai Himanshu Rai came from a wealthy family in Kolkata who had their own private theatre; he studied with the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, got a law degree and went to England, where he did some theatre and became a consultant on fi???
Patience Cooper One of the quintessential products of the silent era, Patience Cooper was an Anglo-Indian whose first brush with fame was when she worked with J F Madan in one of his theatre companies. She probably didn’t speak any Hindi, but d???
Sulochana Her screen name was Sulochana but her real name was Ruby Myers. Of Eurasian parentage, she entered the world of films as a stunt actress but soon became one of the highest-paid actors of her time. She worked with Irani’s Imperial Studi???
Zubeida Zubeida, it is said, was born into Muslim royalty. But she became screen royalty soon enough. She made her debut in Kohinoor at 12 and worked through the silent era and into sound because she could speak the Hindustani-Urdu mix that was to ???
Devika Rani When India gained independence in 1947, there was an unwritten rule that stars couldn’t kiss on screen. Devika Rani would have laughed; she kissed her husband, Himanshu Rai, on screen in Karma for a legendary four minutes. But, then, ???
Fearless Nadia Bollywood’s B-Grade cinema queen was an Australian-born woman who could barely speak Hindi. But that didn’t stop her because her fan base only wanted to see their heroine exercise with clubs, put on leather chaps and a mask and ???
P C Baruah One of the great tropes of Hindi cinema is that of Devdas, the young man who loses his love because of his inability to assert himself against his father, his social position and the decadence of society. P C Baruah was the first to s???
Shobhana Samarth One of the great stars of the 1930s, Shobhana Samarth played Sita, the wife of Rama, in several cinematic versions of the great Indian epic, the Ramayana. She thus “became” Sita and generations of calendar and comic-book artist???
V Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre Shantaram set up the Prabhat film company with Sheikh Fattelal and V S Damle who, like him, were highly regarded directors. Prabhat made magnificent films on socially relevant issues such as communal harmony and the c???
Ashok Kumar He didn’t want to be an actor. Legend had it that he was conscripted into a film career and, in protest, shaved his head bald. But a wig was found and a career was born – and with it another film family. His brother Kishore Kumar wo???
K L Saigal Bollywood reserves the term superstar for a handful of men. The first of these was Kundan Lal Saigal, who was also the last of the great male singing stars. He was the first Devdas, playing the lover emasculated by society, patriarchy ???
Lata Mangeshkar When she began her career, the playback singer Lata Mangeshkar was sniffed at because she came from the wrong part of India. “Her voice will smell of dal [lentils],” said Dilip Kumar. She didn’t take offence; she took lessons ???
Leela Chitnis The advertisements in the local newspapers described her as “the first graduate society-lady on the screen from Maharashtra”. Leela Chitnis’s career as an actor spanned 45 years, and during that time she went from playing a fine???
Naushad Ali His tunes are still hummed by millions of Indians and are now being remixed by DJs and record companies, but Ali was also one of the first Indian music composers to introduce sound mixing. He is said to have put Lata Mangeshkar – who ???
Dilip Kumar The second superstar after K L Saigal, Kumar was one of 12 Pathan siblings from Peshawar. His birth name was Yusuf Khan but he adopted a Hindu pseudonym – a common practice in the day – and became Dilip Kumar. Devika Rani claimed ???
Guru Dutt Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa was nominated by Time magazine as one of the 100 best movies of all time, and by Richard Corliss as one of the 10 most romantic movies. Romantic, in its literary sense, also defines Guru Dutt’s oeuvre.???
Mehboob Khan One of Hindi cinema’s defining moments is Mother India, directed by Mehboob Khan. It is the powerful story of an Indian peasant who sacrifices maternal love for honour. Khan made the film twice. In 1940, he told the story as Aurat wi???
Raj Kapoor His father, Prithviraj Kapoor, started the dynasty but it was Raj Kapoor who defined it. He was the Great Showman, but as long as he had Khwaja Ahmed Abbas writing his scripts, his films also showed a connect with the problems of India. ???
Waheeda Rehman She was already an actor in Telugu cinema when Guru Dutt discovered her and brought her to Bombay. He first cast her in the somewhat unlikely role of a woman running a crime syndicate but she went on to become his muse and they starr???
Dev Anand By his own reckoning, Dev Anand was a star on the day he died in 2011; but that may have been because his greatest talent was self-deception. In the glory days however, between the 1950s and the 1970s, he was one of the great stars. The ???
Helen In most cinemas, female stars have a short shelf-life – and dancers? Perishable commodities. Helen bucked that trend. She was The Dancer for nearly 30 years. It wasn’t just her smile, her innate rhythm and her ability to look at home in s???
Manmohan Desai Manmohan Desai was the neglected genius of classic Bollywood: the three-hour / six-song /catch-all action melodrama. His way was made smooth by his father and brother, both of whom were in the industry, but neither of whom made it o???
Mohammed Rafi The 1960s were the cotton-candy decade of chiffon saris and romantic songs in the moonlight. And the man behind the hero, the man at the microphone was Mohammed Rafi, whose voice brought thousands of songs alive. He was a devout Musli???
Shammi Kapoor He was the man in the white tuxedo, the nightclub musician, the lost heir to the fortune. But most of all, Shammi Kapoor was known as the “Yahoo” guy, who brought a brand of irrepressible energy to his portrayals of young lovers w???
Amitabh Bachchan The son of a noted poet, Amitabh Bachchan arrived in Mumbai with a letter of introduction from Indira Gandhi. It didn’t even get him a job at the government-controlled All-India Radio. But when Dev Anand turned down Zanjeer — b???
R D Burman The son of a legendary music composer, Sachin Dev Burman, and thus royalty from the north-eastern state of Tripura, Rahul Dev Burman was the sound of the 1970s. He defined its revolutionary tone, its devil-may-care attitude, the beginnin???
Rekha Rekha was the daughter of the South Indian film star Gemini Ganesan and Pushpavalli. When she started out, she was overweight and the caked-on make-up couldn’t conceal her bad skin and facial hair. But nothing could conceal the joy with whi???
Shabana Azmi There was another show in town, the alternative cinema, and Shabana Azmi was the face of that cinema along with Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. She too was the daughter of a poet, Kaifi Azmi, and had grown up, at least for s???
Yash Chopra Last year, dengue claimed Yash Chopra, who made some of the most powerful films of the 1970s, many of them starring Amitabh Bachchan. His Deewaar was said to be based on the life of a gangster, Haji Mastan, who had by then reformed and ???
Gulshan Kumar This is the man who reinvented the music industry. He took the music cassette out of the hands of the old guard company, HMV, and set it down in the souq with Super Cassettes. He churned out thousands of cheap tapes and insisted that ???
Naseeruddin Shah It is said that François Truffaut once described Amitabh Bachchan as “a one-man industry”. If there ever was the equivalent for Indian art cinema, that title must go to Naseeruddin Shah. He has played blind school teachers and???
Prakash Mehra When you want the kind of film in which a woman in a catsuit shares a nightclub floor with a large acrylic porcupine, you turn to Prakash Mehra’s cinema. He was one of the men who created the Amitabh Bachchan phenomenon with Zanjeer???
Smita Patil Along with Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil defined art cinema. She was discovered by the filmmaker Shyam Benegal. She was reading the news and her “fiery eyes” made the auteur seek her out and cast her in several film???
Sridevi When Sridevi came to Bollywood from south India, she was described as Miss Thunder Thighs. She could not speak any Hindi and had to be dubbed. This did not prevent her from becoming one of the stars of the 1980s, appearing in a series of mo???
A R Rahman Allah Rakha Rahman is known to the international community as the guy who made the music for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. At home, he’s the go-to guy for the New Sound – the A R Rahman sound, a bottom-feeder sound that re???
Aditya Chopra Yash Chopra had two sons: Aditya and Uday. Uday has had a rather problematic career as an actor, but Aditya Chopra ensured his place in Bollywood’s cinematic history with his first directorial outing – Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jaayen???
Karisma Kapoor There was an unspoken rule in Bollywood: my son can become an actor, my daughter cannot, will not, over my dead body. It took Karisma Kapoor to defy her grandfather, the redoubtable Raj Kapoor, who had first publicly formulated this ???
Shah Rukh Khan None of the great superstars have had any nepotistic support systems in the industry. Not Saigal, not Dilip Kumar, not Bachchan, not Shah Rukh Khan. His appeal is an odd, androgynous one. He is the only male actor to have appeared in???
Sooraj Barjatya The Big Fat Indian Wedding? Sooraj Barjatya invented it in Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! and put “wedding planner” on the career list of the middle-class Indian. Barjatya came from a well-respected film family that had specialised in ???
Aamir Khan Aamir Khan used to be your standard Bollywood star: his father was in the movies before him, he had a runaway hit to begin with, he did terrible films without thinking too much about what suited him or what the film was about. Then somew???
Anurag Kashyap There was a time when it seemed that Kashyap was jinxed. He made movies that didn’t get released. That time seems to be part of history now as he takes his place as one of the biggest hopes of Bollywood: he is the go-to man who wil???
Katrina Kaif Her ethereal beauty is perhaps her only asset: she can’t act and doesn’t even speak the language. However, that hasn’t stopped Kaif from becoming one of Bollywood’s most sought-after stars. Some part of her success must go to t???
Priyanka Chopra She’s pretty, can dance and has all it takes to be a star, so it’s likely Chopra is going to dominate the industry for the next few years. Women actors in Bollywood tend to have a short shelf-life but Chopra has it all worked ou???
Salman Khan Salman Khan was another standard Bollywood star: his father was in the movies, he had a huge hit to begin with, he did terrible films without thinking too much about what suited him. He then turned out to be the Bad Boy of Bollywood: he???