Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022
Outlook.com
Opinion

The Ghost Who Talked

Ardeshir’s ardent dream, or the story of India’s first talkie

The Ghost Who Talked
The Ghost Who Talked
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

List Of Silent Movies

  • 1913 Raja Harish-chandra
  • 1917 Lanka Dahan
  • 1916 Keechaka Vadham
  • 1920 Shankuntala
  • 1921 Bhakt Vidur
  • 1921 Bilat Ferat
  • 1922 Pati Bhakti
  • 1925 Prem Sanyas
  • 1928 Devdas
  • 1929 Gopal Krishna

***

Indian cinema, having found its voice in silent reels, was still enjoying its burgeoning, hypnotic pull, when sound turned it on its head in the year 1931; in a stroke, its euphoric silence was relegated to a past age. The man who initiated the revolution was an enterprising 46-year-old Parsi by the name of Ardeshir Marwan Irani (1886-1969), who, it seemed, breathed films for a living! The night he saw Universal Picture’s Show Boat (a 40 per cent talkie) at Bombay’s Excelsior Cinema sometime in 1930, he had resolved to bring into being India’s own ‘talking-singing’ film, though, as he admitted later, he had no clue how! Interestingly, it was not Irani who was the earliest to think of making a talkie in India, but Jeejeebhoy Jamshedji (J.J.) Madan of Madan Theatres, Calcutta. During a visit to New York, he had watched Warner Brothers’ talkie Jazz Singer (a film which heralded the emergence of a new phase in filmmaking across the world) and was so impressed by the audience’s overwhelming response to it that he decided to launch a talkie on his return to India. In preparation, he even visited Hollywood to understand the logistics of making a talkie. In fact, Madan Theatres had been the first to release a talkie in India—Universal Studio’s Melody of Love—in 1929 at Calcutta’s Elphinstone Picture Palace, which was the only cinema hall in India at the time equipped to screen a talkie. (By the end of 1930, 30 cinema halls could screen talkie films).

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