Indeed, actions do speak louder than words, and when films are as silent and soothing as the night sky, it is bound to create huge waves of popularity among the audience. But what happened when a film came with a unique tagline- ‘All living. Breathing. 100 percent talking’? Well, aren’t all humans supposed to do that? Then what was so different?
Died on 14th October 1969
“. . . theatre was mobbed. Tickets were unavailable for weeks and the police were called in to control a riotous mob,” writes film historian B.D. Garga in his book, Art of Cinema.
In short, Indian cinema got its biggest transformation through Ardeshir Irani’s Alam Ara. The legendary director Irani started the movie with a mere amount of Rs. 14,000 in his pocket that he had won in a lottery. Deciding to satisfy his passion for movie-making, he invested the entire amount to finance the initial costs of the movie. Time had to come to weave a plot that would astound the audience and make them stick to the movie screens as long as possible.
The story revolves around two queens named Navbahar and Dilbahar from the kingdom of Kumarpur. It is seen that both the queens are childless initially. But the plot twist starts when Navbahar gets pregnant with the child of army chief Adil. Out of jealousy, Dilbahar tries to destroy their lives. Finally, Dilbahar’s vicious intentions are exposed when a baby boy named Alam Ara (The Ornament of the World).
Made in Hindustani language with a touch of Joseph David’s playwright, this movie was a contrast to the usual movies that were made during these times. The shooting was quite tedious as it took place from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM. With the constant sound of trains that went by, it was quite difficult to record the sounds. The actors had to hide huge microphones in their clothes and had to act and talk while carrying the mic. Since there were no such sound-recording studios or sound editors, table and harmonium players hid behind the trees and bushes to play the background song.
The hard work did pay off when people came to know that that they would be able to hear the voices of the actors and the price of the tickets skyrocketed from four annas to Rs 5. All the credit goes to the amazing director, Ardeshir Irani who meticulously planned the entire movie, keeping in mind all the nitty-gritty of the film.
The life of Ardeshir Irani started in the City of Dreams, Bombay. He was the person who found pleasure in spreading knowledge, thus, he kickstarted his career as a school teacher. As days went by, Irani found himself getting attracted to his father’s footsteps. Though he thoroughly enjoyed his profession, he always felt that he was meant for something bigger where cameras would bring out his hidden passion.
Teaching himself the nuances of film-making, Ardeshir also equipped himself with the business of phonographic equipment and various musical instruments. Along with the famous exhibitor and businessman Abdulally Esoofally, he started showing films in ‘tent cinemas.’ Finally, Irani established his own production company that he named Star Films Limited.
His journey to the world of films started with the release of his first silent film Veer Abhimanyu. After a few years, he set up two more film production companies, Majestic Films, and Imperial Film Company, under whose banner Alam Ara was released. Initially, Indian cinema saw silent yet meaningful films, but with the release of Alam Ara with a unique tagline- ‘All living. Breathing. 100 percent talking’, it had “set a template for the films that were to be released in the future.”
Though Alam Ara was a huge buzz, Irani’s contribution to the film industry was far beyond this. He made the first-ever Persian sound film named The Lor Girl. This film revolved around a young teahouse girl, Golnar, and the love triangle between her, her lover, Jafar, and her kidnapper, Goli Khan.
Throughout his illustrious career, Ardeshir made one hundred and fifty-eight films. From starting the era of the first-ever sound film and color film, he went on to create masterpieces every time that his brain brewed a plot. With twenty-five years in the film industry, he finally took his permanent leave on 14 October 1969. With him, the legacy of meaningful films and innovations came to an end.
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