80 Years of ” Alam Ara ” : India’s First Talkie


NIGHT……………………………….11.00

On March 14 , 1931 Indian cinema created history . First Hindi talkie ” ALAM ARA “ made by Ardeshir Irani was released on this very day in the Majestic cinema of Bombay [ now Mumbai ] Though , ” RAJA HARISCHANDRA ” , first ever full – length silent feature film of India was made by Dada Saheb Phalke , the pioneer of Indian cinema , in 1913.

scanned from personal collection Removed from ...

Dada Saheb Phalke - Father of Indian Cinema

A scene from indian movie

A scene from Indian movie Raja Harishchandra

A still of a scene from the first full-length ...

A scene from Indian movie Raja Harishchandra

It took almost 18 years to produce a talkie film and Ardeshir Irani became the pioneer. ” ALAM ARA ” made under the banner of Imperial Movietone had Master Vithal and Zubeida as the leading stars of the film and the movie had 7 memorable songs including DE DE KHUDA KE NAAM PAR sung by Wazir Mohammad Khan , who also played a faqir in the film . In those early years of talkie era there were no system of recording the song , Ardeshir Irani recorded it live with harmonium and tabla . This particular song is considered as the first ever song of not only Hindi films but Indian films as well. Music of ” ALAM ARA “ was given by Ferozshah M. Mistri and B. Irani .When released in the Majestic cinema hall of Bombay [ now Mumbai ] it created history . Public frenzy was to be seen to be believed , and finally police had to be summoned to control the crowd .

Director, Ardeshir Irani recording, Alam Ara f...

Ardeshir Irani recording a Song of Alam Ara

Alam Ara poster, 1931.

Alam Ara poster, 1931.

The film is a love story between a prince and a gypsy girl, based on a Parsi play written by Joseph David. David later served as a writer at Irani’s film company. The story centers on an imaginary, historical royal family in the kingdom of Kumarpur. The main characters are the king and his two warring wives Dilbahar and Navbahar. Their rivalry escalates when a fakir predicts that Navbahar will bear the king’s heir. Dilbahar, in revenge, attempts to have an affair with the kingdom’s chief minister Adil. The affair goes sour and a vengeful Dilbahar imprisons him and exiles his daughter, Alam Ara (Zubeida). In exile, Alam Ara is brought up by Gypsies. Upon returning to the palace at Kumarpur, Alam Ara meets and falls in love with the charming young prince (Master Vithal). In the end, Adil is released, Dilbahar is punished and the lovers marry.

A rare still from Ardeshir Irani's Alam Ara, t...

A rare still from Ardeshir Irani's Alam Ara

Description: Low-resolution reproduction of pu...

A Scene fron Alam Ara

After the fire at National Film Archive of India, Pune, in 2003, which destroyed the last surviving prints of several classics such as Raja Harishchandra and Achhut Kanya, this film is no longer available in its original format.

Master Vithal and Zubeida in Alam Ara, 1931.

Master Vithal and Zubeida in Alam Ara, 1931.

Newpaper advertisement for first Indian talkie...

Newspaper advertisement for Alam Ara

The name of the actors , who played major role in ” ALAM ARA ” , is worthy of notice for the today’s film connoisseurs. Apart from Master Vithal and Zubeida Begum Dhanrajgir [ known as Zubeida ] , it had singer Wazir Mohammad Khan as a faqir. Three prominent actors , who were part of the cast of ” ALAM ARA ” and who played major role in the talkie era and are known to today’s generation also , were Prithvi Raj Kapoor , Jillo Bai and L. V. Prasad .

Prithvi Raj Kapoor went on to play major roles in many films , won many awards and created an empire. His legacy was carried forward by his sons ; Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kpoor. Later on legacy was carried forward by his grandsons ; Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Rajeev Kapoor. Now fourth generation of Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s family is working in films. They are Kareena Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor. Shashi Kapoor’s daughter manages Prithvi Theatre , made to commemorate  Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s memory.

Jillo Bai was seen as Madhubala’s mother in ” Mughal – E – Azam “ and as mother – in law of Nargis in ” Mother India “ .

Case of L. V. Prasad is more curious. He worked as an actor in first Hindi talkie ” ALAM ARA ” , first Tamil talkie ” KALIDAS ” and first Telugu talkie ” BHAKT PRAHLAD ” , all released in 1931. Later on he stablished a major production company named as Prasad Productions and made hits like ; ” SHARDA ” , ” CHHOTI BAHAN ” , ” BETI BETE ” , ” DADI MAA ” , ” MILAN ” , ” JEENE KI RAH ” , ” RAJA AUR RANK ” ,  ” KHILONA ” and ” EK DUJE KE LIYE ” .

It is sad that no print of the epic movie ” ALAM ARA “ is available today. This part of our history is lost for ever and no one is bothered . Ardeshir Irani’s path-breaking film is lost forever.

Ardeshir Irani, (1886 - 1969)

Ardeshir Irani, (1886 - 1969)

Ardeshir Irani died in 1969 , when I was studying in intermediate and Zubeida Begum Dhanrajgir a.k.a. Zubeida died in 1988, one year before I came to Mumbai to make a career in films.

Zubeida, a silent era actress in Indian Cinema...

Zubeida, a silent era actress

[ Synopsis of ” ALAM ARA “ is taken from Wikipedia. I have not seen the film , so for the story I have to rely on Wikipedia. I express my gratitude . ]

VIDUR

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA

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