The era of silent cinema in India is over, and dialogue is an important part of any movie. But silent films were highly popular in the beginning of the twentieth century, when lack of technological innovations prevented the use of voice in films. But that did not take away from the glitz and glamour of cinema. Back in the days, people were drawn to moving pictures on screen, which was unlike anything they had seen before. Then came in Dadasaheb Phalke with the first feature film, which took the country by storm. Other filmmakers followed his example and silent films thrived before movies with sound took over. Here are some of the best silent films of the era:
This was Dadasaheb Phalke and India’s first full-length feature film. The 40-minute movie was based on the legend of Raja Harishchandra, as recounted in Indian mythological texts and premiered in Coronation Theater in Bombay (now Mumbai) on May 3, 1913.
Another Dadasaheb Phalke production, this 1917 movie was based on the mythology of Ramayana. The special effects used in the film, with its trick photography, were well-received by the audience.
This was Dadasaheb Phalke’s sixth movie, and was based on the life and childhood of Hindu god, Krishna. Even though it was a silent film, the movie featured Marathi subtitles.
This 1921 movie was the first Indian film to be banned. The main character Vidura is loosely based on Gandhi, who was an important and controversial figure in India at that time. There were also references to the political situation of India of that time, which led to its ban.
This 1921 Bengali silent film was directed and produced by Dhirendra Nath Ganguly (pictured above). The Padma Bhushan recipient also starred in the movie, making his debut as an actor. Bilat Ferat was the first movie in India to portray intimate kissing scenes.
The first adaptation of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novella, Devdas, was the 1928 silent film of the same name. The screenplay of the film was written by the author himself.
A Throw of Dice
This 1929 venture was made in India by a German director – Franz Osten – and Indian producer, Himanshu Rai. One of the many movies made by Osten and Rai, A Throw of Dice was digitally restored in 2006, to be shown at the Luminato Festival in Toronto.
Another Osten and Rai production, this 1925 film was adapted from the book, The Light of Asia by Edwin Arnold and was based on the life of Gautam Buddha. The film was later restored by a French-German TV network, and was re-released in 2001.
Probably one of the last silent films to be made in India, this Kamal Haasan-starrer is listed among CNN-IBN’s hundred greatest Indian films of all time. Needless to say, the film received great reviews and was a box office hit, with a 35-week long run in Bangalore (now Bengaluru).