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Where is Alam Ara – the first Indian sound film


The first Indian film was released in 1913 – ‘Raja Harishchandra’ – but it was only 18 years later that India’s first sound film ‘Alam Ara’ could mesmerize the audience at the Majestic cinema premier in Mumbai (then Bombay)… that was 1931.

Now 80 years later, this film cannot be seen or heard. Then, it was dismissed as a passing fad much like 3D in the recent times. Today, it is quoted everywhere for it changed the way we started seeing movies. And what a change it was.

Alam Ara’ put an end to silent cinema and opened up language cinema as well, the ones we call regional films. This 1931 invention also had seven songs – first time ever in Bollywood to feature a song for that matter. The convention of putting songs has stayed with us since then. Can you believe there were seven beautiful songs ………….!!!!!!!!

The seven songs featured in Alam Ara

  1. De de khuda ke naam pe (first song in Indian cinema)
  2. Badla dilwayega ya rabb
  3. Rutha hai aasman gum hogayamahatab
  4. Teri qaatil nigahon ne mara
  5. De dil ko aaram aye saki gulfam
  6. Bhar bhar ke jam pila ja sagar ke chalane bala
  7. Daras bina mare hai tarse naina pyare

Sadly, I am informed that there is no trace of the film today. Even the National Archives of India says that the last known prints, in Pune’s film archives, were damaged by a fire in 2003. However, according to P.K. Nair, founder director of the National Film Archives of India (NFAI), Pune, “The report that Alam Ara print was destroyed at the NFAI is incorrect. Alam Ara was lost long before the NFAI started functioning from Pune in 1964.” But all media channels, news portals, newspapers and even Wikipedia mention that fire at the NFAI in 2003 destroyed the last surviving prints of Alam Ara.

At the same time, G Caffe is yet to see any positive results of the announcements made by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry that it would locate a print of ‘Alam Ara’, to preserve it. [And did you hear recently that the National Archives also does not have any record about the ‘Father of the Nation’ title having been conferred on Mahatma Gandhi, ever.) Is that funny……………!!!!!!!!!!!!

Has ‘Alam Ara’ just been missing or its stock crumbled into dust? Is there anyone who could make an effort to locate the missing talkie? Or is there anyone you know who had seen ‘Alam Ara‘?

About Alam Ara: This first Indian sound film was directed by Ardeshir Irani. Alam Ara debuted on 14 March 1931. The two hour four minute-film was shot with a single-system camera, which recorded sound directly onto the film. In the absence of soundproof studios, the shooting was done mostly at night to avoid noise, with microphones hidden near the actors. The film had music by Ferozshah M. Mistry and B. Irani. The film ‘was’ a love story between a prince and a gypsy girl and was based on a Parsi play. ‘Alam Ara‘ is also known to be inspired by the movie ‘Show Boat’ directed by Jerome Lerm in 1929.

Today, what remains is only the echoes of Alam Ara…. aaaaaaah! What a tragedy …. that the film which broke the silence (in 1931) has now itself gone into silence! And have we taken any lessons from this catastrophe – are we restoring other classics?