Early Indian movies in Trinidad

Early Indian movies in Trinidad

Whenever we talk about Indian movies of the Golden Era, it always evokes deep sentiments among those who grew up looking at those movies. I hope as you read through these few lines it would bring back hidden memories of a bygone but not forgotten era. In this article I look briefly at some movies of the Early and Golden era released in Trinidad.

The first Indian movie shown in Trinidad was Bala Joban. It was brought to the country by Ranjit Kumar and Sayed Mohammed Hussain in 1935. All Indian films released in Trinidad, up to the late 1950s were in black and white. In India after Mehaboob Khan's opus magnum color movie Mother India, (1957) there was a definite shift to color film and by the 1970s, the transition to color films in Indian movies was almost complete.

After the release of Bala Joban in Trinidad there followed movies such as Bharat ki Beti (1935, India’s Daughter), Achut Kanya (1936, The Untouchable Girl) and other movies such as Toofan Mail (1934), Devdas (1936), Pukar (1939, The Call), Hunter Wali (1935, Hunter with a Whip) Noor-E-Yaman (1935) and Veer Ka Badla (1935, Vengeance is Mine). These movies with popular stars of the era such as Devika Rani, Rattan Bai, Ashok Kumar, Fearless Nadia (Mary Evans), Naseen Banu (mother of Saira Banu), Shorab Modi, Durga Khote, Shanta Apte, Zubeida, Ashok Kumar, Kanan Devi, Pahari Sanyal, K.L Saighal, K C Dey, Uma Devi and Kedar Sharma received tremendous support from the East Indian community and paved the way for the importation of other Indian movies.

In the decade of the 1940s movies such as Kismet (1943, Fate), Hamari Betiyaan (1936, Our Darling Daughters), Matlabi (1948, Selfish Man), Bhakta Prahalad (1946, Devout Prahalad), and Tansen were released locally and were very popular among fans. Some of the other top Indian film releases of that era in Trinidad included Rattan (1944) Vijay Kumar ( 1940), Kiran (1944)[Ray], Jwar Bhata(1944)[ High and Low Tides], Shaheed (1948) [ The Martyr], Barsaat (1949)[Rain], Mahal (The Mansion), Andaz (1949)[ The Gesture] Shikari (1946) [The Hunter}, Dr.Kotnis ki Amar Kahani (1946) [The Immortal Story of Dr. Kotnis ], Sandesa (1940) [The Message], Ram Rajya (1943) [Reign of Lord Rama], Punar Milan (1940) [The Reunion).At that time, stars such as Ashok Kumar, Devika Rani, Prithviraj Kapoor, Nargis, Dilip Kumar, Nimmi, and Raj Kapoor dominated the industry.

However, it was the 1950s, with the start of the Golden Era (1949-1969) of Indian cinema that saw some of the finest Indian movies released in Trinidad. Many of those movies are still spoken of lovingly and adoringly by local Indian movie fans of that period. Many people recall the Golden Era (fifties and the sixties) of Indian films as the best and most beautiful of any period of Indian movies in this country. Some of the movies that stood out locally in that decade were Awara (1951, The Vagabond ), Mother India, Shri 420 (1955, Mister 420), Mela, Bhagwat Mahima and Do Bigha Zameen. Other popular movies of this period in Trinidad included Aan (1952) [Savage Princess], Sindoor (1949) [Vermilion] Deedar (1951) [The Meeting], Jagriti (1954) [The Awakening], and Har Har Mahadev (1957) [Hail Lord Shiva]. Bugunah (1958) [ The Innocent];  Babul ( 1950 ) [Father ]  Miss Mary (1957) ,Mere Sanam ( 1965 )  [My Beloved ], Sati Anasuya (1957) [ Saint Anasuya], Nau Raatri (1955) [ Nine Nights], Hatim Tai ( 1956) [ Hatim of Tai], Lakshmi Pooja (1957) [The Worship of Goddess Laxmi ]. The popularity of stars such as Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand,Kishore Kumar, Guru Dutt, Manoj Kumar, Devika Rani, Suraya, Viyanti -mala, Mala Sinha, Nutan, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Sadhna, Jeetendra, Mumtaz, Asha Parekh, Bharat Bhushan, Pradeep Kumar, Ashok Kumar, and Rajishree. Coupled with the versatility of playback singers such as Hemant Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Mahendra Kapoor, Soriya, Mukesh,  Noor Jahan, Geeta Dutt and Suman Kalyanpur and music directors such as Lakshmikant Pyarilal, Shankar – Jaikishan, S. D. Burman and Hemant Kumar, they all helped to create a magical mass appeal for the local filmi audience that was unprecedented in the history of Indian cinema in Trinidad. Through the local mike men and the later local radio stations the songs were released in the country months before the movie was shown, helping to create the desire among Indian movie fans to see the movie.

The great movies of the 1950s received rigid competition from the movies of the 1960s as producers sought to satisfy the audience's penchant for romantic musical type movies. During the second part of the great Golden Era of Indian cinema, movies such as Mughal-E-Azam (1960) (Emperor of the Mughals), Guide (1965), Aradhana, Dosti, Upkaar, Padosan, Bandini, and Hamraaz (1967, My Secret) were released on the silver screen in Trinidad. Some of the other great movies of that period included Arzoo  ( 1965, Desire ),  Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963 ) [ It's the Same Heart Again], Kashmir ki kali ( 1964 ) [The Girl from Kashmir] , Paigam ( 1959 ) [ The Message ], Bhakta Raj ( 1960 )[The Kingdom], Solva Saal ( 1958 ) [Sixteenth Year ], Neel Mani  ( 1957 ) [The Blue Diamond ], Do Phool ( 1958) [Two Flowers] , Chota Bhai (  1966 ) [Younger Brother], Waqt (1965) [Time ],Sangam( 1964) [ the Union ],Daag ( 1973) [The Stain],Mere Bhaabi ( 1969) [ My Sister-in law], Do Badan ( 1966) [Two Bodies], Mohabaat Zandagi hai ( 1966 ) [Love is Life ], Dadi Maa ( 1966 ) [Grandmother], Pooja ki Phool (1964)[ Flowers of Devotion ], Hamrahi ( 1963 ) [The Companion ], Milan ( 1964 ) [ Union ], Shikar (1968 ) [Hunter ], Aayee Milan Ki Bela ( 1964 ) [The Time has Come to Unite,  ],Baiju Bawra (1952 ) [Baiju, The Poet  ],Sasural ( 1961 ) [The  In-Laws  ], Mere Mehaboob ( 1963 ) [My Beloved], Harishchandra Taramati ( 1963 ) [Harishchandra and Taramati],Teesri Manzil (1966) [The Third Floor], Anarkali ( 1966 ) [Love of a Moghul Prince],Ek Phool Do Mali (1969) [One Flower, Two Gardeners]. Some of the popular stars of the time were Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Sharmilla Tagore, Asha Parekh, Vijayanthimala, Jitendra, Saadhna, Raj Kapoor, Balraj Sahani, Rajesh Khanna, Manoj Kumar and Dharmendra.

This era may be considered as belonging to the great playback singers of the silver screen. Without those playback singers, it is difficult to conceive of any successful Hindi film during that period that did not achieve success because of its songs and music. Almost every film released in Trinidad during that period contained songs that became popular with the audience and contributed to the financial success of the film.