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Alam Ara platinum jubilee

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mumbai(UNI): It was on March 14, 1931, Imperial Movietone released 'Alam Ara', the first full-length Indian talkie film at Majestic cinema in Mumbai (then Bombay), but yesterday when it completed 75 years, there was not a single programme in Bollywood to mark the historic occassion.Alam Ara, directed by Ardeshir Irani, laid a milestone that marked the stepping into the new talkie era. The cast of 'Alam Ara' comprised Master Vithal, Miss Zubeida and Prithviraj Kapoor among others. It had music by Ferozshah M Mistri, B Irani. The movie, when released, set box office on fire, literally.

In those days, the queue system was not known to filmgoers and the booking office was literally stormed by jostling, riotous mobs, hankering to secure a ticket to see a talking picture in the language they understood. All traffic was jammed and police aid had to be sought to control the crowd. For weeks together tickets were sold out and blackmarket vendors had their day.

Though sound era had been launched few years ago by the Warner Bros with 'Don Juan' (1926) starring Mary Astor with synchronised musical score and sound effects and followed by Jazz Singer. But it was 'Lights of New York' (1928) that was the first talkie film followed closely by Hitchcock's 'Blackmail' (Britain) and Rene Clair's 'Sous Les Toits Paris' (France). Meanwhile, India's first synchronised film was 'Melody of Love' by Madan Theatres in 1929.

The talkies era silenced a whole generation of artistes, film-makers and technicians. Many studios unable to switch over to sound closed down. Anglo-Indians who did not speak fluent Hindi or Urdu were the worst hit. Those who could not sing were also badly hit as there was no playback and direct recording meant artistes had to sing their own songs.

On the other side, the box-office returns were so fabulous that they came to be known as mortgage-lifters, enabling those cinema houses that had shut down during the depression to reopen. Also, it gave a temporary respite from pressing foreign competition. Foreign films now suffered a reversal as English dialogue limited the audience to European and a small number of English-speaking Indians.

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