The first screening of motion pictures in India was in the year 1896, when Lumiere Bother's Cinematographe unveiled six soundless short films at Watson Hotel in Bombay(present Mumbai) on July 7th. The first Indian to expose a celluloid in camera was Harishchandra Bhatvadekar and the subsequent screening took place in 1899.
During the first decade of 20th century, India witnessed the screening of only silent short films. The first indigenous feature film, Raja Harishchandra was made by D.G.Phalke in 1913. By 1920 film production has grown into a regular industry in India.
Hindi talkies had its birth with the release of Alam Ara on March 14 1931 , which was also the first Indian sound film. The man behind Alam Ara was Ardeshir Marwan Irani. Budget of the film(10,500ft long) was Rs 40,000. Both the film and its music were so successful that police aid had to be summoned to control the crowds.
Hit song of the movie was "De de khuda ke naam per", which was also the first song in Indian cinema. This song was sung by actor Wazir Mohammed Khan whose character was that of a fakir's in the movie. The sound was recorded on a Tanar Single system, on the picture strip itself. Alam Ara thus marked the begining of filmi music in Indian Cinema. Alam Ara had Zubeida, Master Vithal, W.M.Khan, Prithvi Raj Kapoor and Yakub in pivotal roles. Prithviraj Kapoor was the patriarch of the Kapoor family of bollywood films.
Social protest was the main theme of hindi cinema in the thirties. Notable films of the thirties were Mehboob's Watan, Ek hi Raasta, Aurat, V. Shantharam's Duniya Na Maanae, Aadmi and Padosi, Franz Osten's Achut Kanya etc. Ardeshir Irani's Imperial Pictures produced Kisan Kanya, the first indigenous color film of India in 1937.
Fourties had period films and films with social protest as the main genre. Notable films of the fourties were Sohrab Modi's Sikandar, Pukar and Prithvi Vallabh, Kidar Sharma's Chitralekha, Madhu Bose's Raj Nartaki, Mehboob's Roti and Andaz, S Mukerji's Kismet, Abbas's Dharti Ke Lal, Shantaram's Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, Raj Kapoor's Barsaat and Aag, Bimal Roy's Humrahi and Vijay Bhatt's Bharat Milap and Ram Rajya.
Fifties was the most propitious decade in the history of hindi cinema. Hindi movies found their unique style and formula in the fifties and also attained creative heights. Notable films of the fifties were Raj Kapoor's Shri 420, Boot Polish and Jagte Raho, Mehboob's Mother India, Guru Dutt's Pyaasa and Kagaz Ke Phool, K.A.Abbas's Munna, Shantaram's Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje, Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin, Devadas & Madhumati and B.R.Chopra's Kanoon and Sadhna.
Fifties were significant for hindi film industry in other aspects too.The first ever International Film Festival was held in Bombay in 1952. Indian entry in the festival was Raj Kapoor's Awara. Sohrab Modi's Jhansi Ki Rani introduced technicolor process in indian movies in the year 1952. Mirza Ghalib, another venture by Sohrab Modi won the President's Gold Medal in 1954, which was the first national award for a hindi film. Mother India was India's first ever entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in the year 1958.
In 1960 K.Asif's Mughal-E-Azam was released. It went to become one of the biggest grossers in the history of Indian cinema. Mughal-e-Azam held the record for the highest grossing hindi film until Sholay broke the record in 1975. Considering inflation Mughal-e-Azam's net revenue is more than that of any bollywood film realeased till 2009.
Other notable films of the sixties were Dev Anand's Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai and Guide, Yash Chopra's Dharm Putra, Dilip Kumar's Gunga Jumna, Guru Dutt's Sahib Bibi aur Gulam, Sunil Dutt's Mujhe Jeene Do, Subhodh Mukherji's Junglee, Bimal Roy's Bandini, Raj Kapoor's Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai and Sangam, B.R.Chopra's Waqt, Ramanand Sagar's Arzoo and Raj Khosla's Do Raaste. Compared to the creativity of fifties, film of the sixties were box office oriented and had greater dependance on stars.
Prominent actors of the fifties and the sixties were Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Guru Dutt, Balraj Sahni, Bharat Bhooshan, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Raaj Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra and Jitendra. Prominent among the heroines of this period were Nargis, Madhubala, Meenakumari, Kamini Kausal, Suraiya, Geetabali, Waheeda Rahman, Nutan, Asha Parekh, Vijayanthimala, Mala Sinha, Sadhana, Saira Banu and Mumtaz. Noted playback singers of this period were Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Talat Mohammed, Lata Mangeshkar and Asah Bhonsle.
By the end of sixties and in early seventies, the 'new wave' started in Hindi cinema. This 'new Indian Cinema' is often called Parallel cinema or Art Cinema. This new wave started with Mrinal Sen's Bhuvan Shome which had Utpal Dutt and Suhasini Mulay in lead roles. Notable among the parallel cinema of the late sixties and early seventies were Basu Chatterji's Sara Akash, Rajinder Singh Dedi's Dastak, Mani Kaul's Uski Roti, Duvidha and Ashad Ka Ek Din, Avatar Krishna Kaul's 27 Down, Basu Bhattacharya's Anubhav, Kumar Shahani's Maya Darpan, M.S.Sathyu's Garam Hawa, Kanthilal Rathod's Kanku, and Shyam Benegal's Ankur. Ankur was Shyam Benegal's debut venture as well as Shabana Azmi's first film to be released.
Commerical movies of the seventies were usually action packed revenge stories. Commercial hits of the seventies were Vijay Anand's Johny Mera Naam, Kamal Amrohi's Pakeeza, M.A.Thirumugham's Haathi Mere Saathi, Raj Kapoor's Bobby, Prakash Mehra's Zanjeer, Hera Pheri and Muqadder Ka Sikander, Manoj Kumar's Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Ramesh Sippy's Seeta Aur Geeta and Sholay, Brij's Victoria No.203, Yash Chopra's Daag:A Poem of Love, Deewar and Kabhi Kabhie, Nasir Hussain's Yaadon Ki Baaraat and Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, Manmohan Desai's Amar Akbar Anthony and Dharamveer and Rakesh Kumar's Khoon Pasina. Sholay held the record for the longest running Indian film(more than 5 years) until it was broken by Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge in 2000 and helped Amitabh Bachchan to become the biggest superstar of bollywood of all time.
Popular heroes of the seventies were Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna and Feroz Khan. Dharmendra and Jeetendra continued their good run in the seventies also.Popular among the heroines of seventies were Hema Malini, Rekha, Sharmila Tagore, Jaya Bhaduri(Bachchan), Rakhee, Shabana Azmi, Zeenat Aman and Dimple Kapadia. Versatile actors Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Amrish Puri entered hindi film industry in the seventies.
New wave cinema or Parallel Cinema attained great heights by the late seventies and eighties. Shyam Benegal's Manthan, Bhumika, Nishant, Junoon , Kalyug and Trikal, Govind Nihalani's Aakrosh, Aaghat, Arth Sathya and Tamas, Saeed Mirza's Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan and Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hai, Muzaffar Ali's Gaman, Rabindra Dharmaraj's Chakra, Biplab Roy Chowdhari's Shodh, Prakash Jha's Damul, Ketan Mehta's Mirch Masala, Vijaya Mehta's Rao Saheb and Pestonjee and Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay were the foremost among the films with new wave style.
The late eighties saw bollywood returning to musical love stories from action packed revenge stories of the seventies and early eighties. Bollywood once again returned to melodious tunes from the disco and breakdance influenced soundtracks of the early eighties. Mansoor Khan's Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak marked the begining of this change in trend. Other notable films of the late eighties and early nineties were Mr.India, Tezaab, Tridev, Maine Pyar Kiya, Ram Lakhan, Chandni, Saudagar, Ghayal, Dil, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Saajan, Damini, Roja, Krantiveer, Khiladi, Mohra, Baazigar, Aankhen, Yeh Dillagi, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, Darr, Andaz Apna Apna, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Anjaam and Karan Arjun.
New wave trend continued in the late eighties and early nineties with the release of films like Govind Nihalani's Drishti, Mani Kaul's Nazar, Gulzar's Lekin and Libaas, Arun Kaul's Diksha, Sudhir Mishra's Dharavi, Vinod Chopra's Parinda, Kalpana Lajmi's Rudaali, Shyam Benegal's Suraj Ka Saatwan Khoda and Mammo, Shekhar Kapoor's Bandit Queen etc.
Prominent among the commercial film directors of this time were Subhash Ghai, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Sooraj R. Barjatya, Mansoor Khan, Mehul Kumar, N.Chandra, Rajiv Rai, Rajkumar Santoshi, David Dhawan, Abbas Mustan, Kundan Shah, Rakesh Roshan and Indra Kumar. Yash Chopra and Mahesh Bhatt continued their magic during this period also.
Eighties and early nineties saw the emergence of a new breed of actors like Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff, Govinda, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Ajay Devgan and Suneil Shetty. Versatile actors Anupam Kher, Paresh Rawal and Nana Patekar rose to fame in the eighties. Leading actresses of this period were Madhuri Dixit, Sri Devi, Divya Bharti, Juhi Chawla, Meenakshi Seshadri, Raveena Tandon, Manisha Koirala, Pooja Bhatt, Karishma Kapoor, Tabu, Kajol, Mamta Kulkarni, Urmila Matondkar and Shilpa Shetty.
The mid and late nineties witnessed the three Khans, Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir ruling bollywood. Shahrukh Khan starred in a number of hits during this period like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Yes Boss, Pardes, Dil To Pagal Hai and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Salman Khan had hits with Judwaa, Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai, Biwi No.1 and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Aamir Khan starred in the hits Rangeela, Raja Hindustani, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Ishq, Ghulam, Sarfarosh and Mann. Aishwarya Rai, Prieta Zinta and Rani Mukerji rose to fame in this period.
The early 2000's witnessed many talented actors like Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham, Vivek Oberoi, Emraan Hashmi and Shahid Kapoor reaching fame. Actresses like Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta, Amisha Patel, Bipasha Basu and Malika Sherawat also entered hindi films during this period.
Commercial hits of the 2000's include Kaho Naa Pyar Hai, Hera Pheri, Mohabbatein, Lagaan, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, Dil Chahta Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Devdas, Raaz, Chalte Chalte, Koi Mil Gaya, Kal Ho Na Ho, Tere Naam, Munnabhai M.B.B.S, Hum Tum, Aankhen, Main Hoon Na, Veer-Zara, Dhoom, Black, Bunty Aur Babli, Salaam Namaste, Rang De Basanti, Fanaa, No Entry, Krrish, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Dhoom 2, Don-The Chase Begins Again, Partner, Guru, Namastey London, Chak De India, Jab We Met, Om Shanti Om, Taare Zameen Par, Welcome, Jodhaa Akbar, Jannat, Race, Singh Is Kinng, Dostana, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Ghajini and Raaz - The Mystery Continues. etc.
By this time the term "parallel cinema" began to be applied to off-beat films also. Films in this genre during the 2000's include Madhur Bhandarkar's Chandni Bar, Page 3, Corporate, Traffic Signal and Fashion, Aparna Sen's Mr. and Mrs.Iyer, Anant Balani's Joggers' Park, Sudhir Mishra's Chameli and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday, Dev.D and Gulaal.
The leading directors at present are Ashutosh Gowariker, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Anees Bazmee, Vipul Shah, Rajkumar Hirani, Priyadarshan, Anurag Basu, Madhur Bhandarkar, Farah Khan, Shaad Ali, Kunal Kohli, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Sanjay Gadhvi, Mohit Suri and Sanjay Gupta. Along with the veterans Subhash Ghai, Rakesh Roshan, Ram Gopal Varma, David Dhawan, Rajkumar Santoshi, Abbas Mustan, Anil Sharma, Aziz Mirza and Satish Kaushik a new breed of directors like Rohit Shetty, Imtiaz Ali, Siddharth Anand, Sriram Raghavan, Shimit Amin and Abbas Tyrewala are making it big at the box office.
Bollywood is currently ruled by Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Ajay Devgan and Sanjay Dutt. In the recent past youngsters like Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, Harman Baweja, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Adhyayan Suman had made promising debuts. Currently the leading heroines of bollywood are Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Kartrina Kaif, Bipasha Basu, Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut.