Bombay already boasted a thriving film industry, making up to 200 films a year, by the time India became independent

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The year India got Independence, the Hindi film industry, now popularly known as Bollywood, was already vibrant. In fact, by the 1930s, the industry was producing 200 films a year.

Before the partition of India, the Bombay film industry was linked to the Lahore film industry. In the 1940s, many actors, filmmakers and musicians from Lahore migrated to Bombay.

Prominent among them were actor-singer Kundan Lal Saigal, Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. Singers who migrated were Mohammed Rafi, Noorjahan and Shamshad Begum. All of them enriched the Bombay film industry.

There were many important films made in 1947, like Mehboob’s ‘Elan’, Kardar’s ‘Dard’ and Sohrab Modi’s ‘Manjhdar’.  V Shantaram’s Matwala Shair Ramjoshi left an impression of its own. It has Manmohan Krishna playing the title role of a Brahmin who becomes a tamashgir (performer of tamasha or spectacle) and is ostracised by the community. The lavnis composed by Vasant Desai for heroine Hansa Wadkar had an appeal of their own.

Each actor has a speciality reflecting the conditions of the times. Swaran Lata was known for her emotional tragic roles and moving dialogue delivery. Munawar Sultana’s speciality was playing the selfless woman, enduring the rough treatment meted out by her husband and family, and eventually bringing her erring husband back home.

Prem Adib, a top actor of this era, embodied traditional values. He was paired with Shobhana Samarth in Ram Rajya (1946), said to be the only film seen by Mahatma Gandhi.

The year of Independence marked the last film of actor-singer K L Saigal. His film Parwana in which he co-starred with Suraiya, was released a month after his death. It was one of the top films of 1947.  His played a man from a well-to-do family who is considerate towards the poor and needy, and so causing jealousy and misunderstanding in the process.

A 1947 film of social significance was Kishore Sahu’s ‘Sindoor’, dealing with the controversial theme of widow remarriage. The climax, in which Kishore Sahu accepts widow Shamim as his bride, was so powerful that an older generation still remembers it. Incidentally, the film has three songs by Amirbai Karnataki, actor-singer who hailed from Bijapur (now Vijayapura) and was famous as Kannada Kokila.

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