On March 14, 1931 – exactly eighty years ago – the police had to be summoned to the Majestic cinema hall in Mumbai (then Bombay). The reason for the feared stampede was the uncontrollable response of movie-goers to the first Indian talkie, Alam Ara.
Celebrated by a Google Doodle on the homepage of the search engine in India to commemorate the arrival of sound to Indian cinema, Alam Ara also included the first song in Hindi films – setting off an endearing and enduring tradition. The song, De de khuda ke naam par, was performed on screen by actor Wazir Mohammed Khan – this, of course, was before the days of lip-syncing to playback tracks. The film, in fact, had seven songs, scored by Ferozshah M. Mistru and B. Irani.
The tragedy, however, is that the film may be lost forever. In 2008, an Information and Broadcasting ministry official revealed that no prints are now available with the National Archives of India. The last existing prints were destroyed in a fire at Pune’s National Film Archives in 2003. A search was conducted across the country but no print of Alam Ara could be found.
Here’s the Google Doodle giving a tribute to Alam Ara.