What Defines An ‘Era’ In Bollywood?

So, another era in Bollywood is over with the death of Dilip Kumar at the age of 98. Although he did his last film ‘Qila’ in 1998, he had obviously not stopped mattering in the film industry and the generation of actors after him continued to revere him and uphold his histrionics, with many openly admitting to even copying his style.

Rajesh Khanna’s death in 2012 was also referred to as the end of an era and so were the deaths of other stalwarts before him. Some also referred to the death of Rishi Kapoor last year as the end of an era. So, what defines an era in Bollywood?

The dictionary defines an ‘era’ as a long and distinct period of history.

The Indian film industry has seen several eras since the Father of Indian Cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke released the first full-length silent feature film ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913.

The early 1920s were dominated by films based on mythological and historical facts and episodes from Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Then came the first talkie ‘Alam Ara’ by Ardeshir Irani in 1931. It was the first sound film in India. The release of Alam Ara started a new era in the history of Indian cinema.

There was a lull during World War II. Around 1947, filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, and Bimal Roy made movies that focused on the survival and daily miseries of the lower class. These films were based on themes such as prostitution, dowry, polygamy and other malpractices which were prevalent in our society.

The 1960s saw the emergence of new directors like Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen who drew attention to the real problems of the common man.

The 1950s and 1960s were what is called the Golden Age in the history of the Indian cinema and saw the rise of some memorable actors like Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari, Madhubala, Nargis, Nutan, Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman.

Coming back to individual acting careers being referred to as eras, Dilip Kumar and Rajesh Khanna were eras unto themselves just as living legend Amitabh Bachchan is. Such actors ushered an era with their distinct style that left a mark in the film industry, Dilip Kumar as the ultimate tragic hero who excelled in bringing to the fore the pathos of the character and Rajesh Khanna, the romantic who could win hearts with the twinkle of his eyes and his charming style. They stayed long enough to make a place for themselves in the history of Indian cinema.

The future will perhaps look back at the careers of Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir as the era of the Khans. They will also be eras as individuals because of their distinct styles. Amitabh Bachchan will always be remembered for his long innings in the film industry. For actors may come and go but only some leave their mark. Therefore eras.



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