90 years of Alam Ara: why no one today watched the first walkie-talkie in Indian cinema
Ardeshir Irani’s ambitious project, Alam Ara, has ushered in a new wave in Indian cinema. He brought sound to celluloid, ending the era of silence. First Indian walkie-talkie, Alam Ara is now 90 years old. But beyond that, most of us don’t have much idea about the pioneering film. Sadly, most of us haven’t even watched it.
Director Ardeshir Irani was inspired to make India’s first talk-and-song film, after watching the American film Show Boat in 1929. It was here that Bollywood’s overall impression of making films began. exuberant musicals.
Alam Ara was revolutionary, for reasons other than just having sound. Before its release, India only produced silent films (starting with Raja Harishchandra in 1913), on the theme of mythology. Irani risked everything to choose a popular piece. He was also convinced that he had chosen a mixture of Hindi and Urdu in Alam Ara to ensure he reached a wider audience.
Alam Ara, translated as “The Ornament of the World”, was adapted from a Parsi play written by Joseph David. Its basic plot revolved around the love story between a prince (Adil Jahangir Khan) and a gypsy (Alamara). The actors Master Vithal and Zubeida played the central roles. Due to Vithal’s poor diction, his character has been rewritten and mostly shown half-conscious or in a trance to make sure he doesn’t have any dialogue. Yes, the prince here, the main man of Alam Ara, was silent!
Interestingly, the patriarch of the Kapoor family, Prithviraj Kapoor played the role of General Adil Khan in Alam Ara.
With no recording equipment at the time, Alam Ara had to be shot with real sound, with actors carrying microphones in their pockets to capture their dialogue. Another noteworthy fact is the way Alam Ara was filmed at the Majestic Talkie in Bombay, after midnight between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. while the filming studio was next to a train track, and it was the only time train traffic was at its lowest.
The film had songs created on the Tanar Sound System, which used the Tanar single system camera, which recorded sound directly to the film. His song “De Kuda Ke Naam Pe Pyaare” was recorded using only a tabla and a harmonium, making it the first playing song in Indian cinema. In fact, the background music and songs were created using real sound, with musicians hiding behind trees and corners of the ensemble.
Just the fact that moviegoers will be able to see the actors “speak” with their own voices, the price of Alam Ara tickets has soared beyond imagination, from four aanas (25 paisa) to 5 rupees.
Alam Ara was released on March 14, 1931. During promotions and publicity for the film, the directors used the slogan – “All Alive.” Breathing. 100 percent talk. “In Hindi, we read -” 78 murde insaan zinda ho gaye. Unko bolte dekho? This, because 78 actors recorded their voices for Alam Ara.
Alam Ara’s enormous success led Ardeshir Irani to direct many other films, including India’s first color feature film, Kisan Kanya in 1937.
Unfortunately, today, according to the National Archives of India, there are no copies of Alam Ara available. Filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur previously told PTI: “It’s a sad comment that we as a country have not been able to keep even one print of Alam Ara, even not in poorly maintained condition. Alam Ara was the pioneer of something extraordinary and it should have been preserved as the majestic Taj Mahal.
Even though there was little hope for moviegoers, film students, and even moviegoers to dig up Alam Ara and watch it, there is no room today, with no print run.
But that doesn’t mean we can refrain from acknowledging how Alam Ara set the tone for Indian films, leaving behind a legacy and making music, sound and song a necessity in our films.
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