Bollywood's Golden Era Architects
Raj Kapoor: Producer, director, actor, editor, Raj Kapoor was the greatest entertainer known to Indian films. Awara, made by him set the agenda for popular cinema and was a hit within India as well as overseas. At the age of 23, Raj Kapoor made his directorial debut with Aag (1948). His next film Barsaat (1949) was a runaway super hit. The fifties saw Raj Kapoor’s greatest work as a producer-director besides establishing himself as one of India’s biggest ever film stars along with Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar. With Awara Raj Kapoor created the Chaplinsque tramp. This image was used once again in Shri 420 (1955) tracing the corruption of an innocent soul who comes to the city to make his living. This film too was a great hit. In fact, most of the movies that Raj Kapoor made became big box-office hits besides winning him critical acclaim: Boot Polish (1954), Jagte Raho (1956), Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960), Sangam (1964), Mera Naam Joker (1970), Bobby (1973), Prem Rog (1982) and Ram Teri Ganga Maili Hai (1985).
B. R. Chopra: Journalist-turned-producer, his first film Afsana (1951), a tale of mistaken identity with Ashok Kumar in double role was an astounding commercial success and B.R. Chopra was on his way. With Ek Hi Raasta (1956) he launched his production company B.R.Films. Chopra has always endeavored to make socially relevant films, yet his films have always catered to popular sentiments. He has also done several films that were regarded as bold and ahead of time. He dared to try a song less film with a hard-hitting suspense courtroom drama in Kanoon and made it a success. In another hit film Gumrah, he showed a woman resuming her affair with her lover after she is married. One of the most celebrated movie mavericks of the Indian celluloid scene in the golden era, B.R.Chopra created immortal classics like Ek Hi Raasta, Naya Daur, Sadhna, Kanoon, Gumrah, Humraaz, Pati Patni Aur Woh, Insaaf Ka Tarazoo and Nikah.
Bimal Roy: One of the most successful directors of Hindi cinema, Bimal Roy was famous for his romantic-realist melodramas that took on important social issues while still being entertaining. He was a filmmaker of great and in-depth understanding of human strengths and weaknesses. The most awarded director of the golden era, Bimal Roy’s ponder-worthy yet crowd-pleasing cinema did not rely on big budget grandeur. Awarded the first three Filmfare awards for Best Director over three consecutive years for Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Parineeta (1954) and Biraj Bahu (1955), he continued to win awards and acclaims for most of his films that followed: Devdas (1955), Madhumati (1958), Sujata (1959), Parakh (1960) and Bandini (1963).
Guru Dutt: Sensitive, poetic, magical, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut Baazi (1951) was not only a super hit but also a trend setter of the urban crime films that followed in the fifties. Aar Paar, released in 1954, established Guru Dutt as a director to reckon with. The film, a crime thriller, stands out amongst the best in the genre. Followed some of his best work: Mr. And Mrs. 55 (1955), Pyaasa (1957), Kagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) and Chowdhvi Ka Chand. Pyaasa won President’s Silver Medal, besides going to Berlin Film Festival and being India’s official entry for the Oscar.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee: Known for a number of classic hit films, Hrishida’s films were realistic and did not have crime, violence and vulgarity. He directed about 50 films, most of which were valued by audiences and critics alike because of their heart-warming themes and literary sensibilities. Besides Anand, a masterpiece, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s other famous films include Abhimaan, Guddi, Golmaal, Ashirwad, Bawarchi, Satyakam, Namak Haraam, Anari, Asli Naqli, Anupama, Mili, Chupke Chupke, Khubsoorat and Bemisal.
Yash Chopra: Writer, director and producer, Yash Chopra is regarded as one of the hippest and trendiest directors of Indian cinema who has successfully moved with the times right from his first film Dhool Ka Phool (1959) to his latest hit Veer Zaara. Though he has done films with different themes, it is when he is tackling love and its various elements that he has been at his best. Highly acclaimed and awarded director-producer, Yash Chopra has the distinction of winning nine Filmfare awards for Best Director or Best Producer: Waqt (1965), Ittefaq (1969), Daag (1973), Deewar (1975), Lamhe (1991), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and Veer Zaara (2004). His other famous films include Trishul, Kabhi Kabhie, Joshila and Silsila.
Nasir Hussain: Famous for making hit formula movies, Nasir Hussain was one of the most successful filmmakers of the golden era of Hindi cinema. His phenomenon track record of entertaining, romantic, musical super hits are ample testimony to his fine filmmaking skills and understanding of what the audiences want. His hit movies include: Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961), Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Pyar Ka Mausam (1969), Caravan (1971), Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973) and Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin (1977). He also produced the musical cult hit Teesri Manzil, starring Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh.
Manmohan Desai: Renowned producer and director of Hindi films, Manmohan Desai’s string of hits with Amitabh Bachchan made him one of the most successful directors of the golden era. He started direction with the 1960 Raj Kapoor starrer Challia. In 1970 he directed the Rajesh Khanna hit Saccha Jhoota. He also directed Randhir Kapoor in Rampur Ka Lakshman. His innings with Amitabh included Amar Akbar Anthony, Suhaag, Naseeb, Desh Premi, Coolie, Mard and Ganga Jamuna Sarswati. All except the last one were huge hits. 1977 was an exceptional year for him when four films were big blockbusters – Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Chacha Bhatija and Dharam Veer.
Prakash Mehra: He started in the late 1950s as a production controller. In 1968 he directed Hasina Maan Jayegi with Shashi Kapoor in the lead. Followed the hit movie Mela (1972) starring Feroz Khan and Sanjay Khan. In 1973 he produced and directed Zanjeer. The movie was a super hit and established Amitabh Bachchan as a solo actor and started an association that spawned six more movies – Hera Pheri, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Lawaris, Namak Halal, Sharabi and Jadugar. All except Jadugar being big hits. The hero in Zanjeer typified the raw seething anger of the youth of time – the angry young man.
Manoj Kumar: The patriotic face of Indian cinema, Manoj Kumar established his identity as “Mr. Bharat” with his unforgettable flick Upkaar (1965). Around the same year with Shaheed, a film based on the legendary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, and all the films he produced and directed always carried his trademark stamp of nationalism and patriotic ferver. In Purab Aur Paschim (1970) he successfully pitted the occident and the orient in a trans-cultural drama. Roti Kapda Aur Makan (1974) was a terse commentary on the modern dilemma of morality and making both ends meet. Kranti (1981) was the high point of his career when he not only co-acted with his life-time idol, Dilip Kumar, but also had the opportunity to direct him.
Apart from the above listed filmmakers who mainly worked during the golden era, some of the pre-independence Icons of the Hindi cinema also contributed with their wonderful creations to add to the glory of the golden era: Vijay Bhatt (Baiju Bawra – 1952), Sohrab Modi (Mirza Ghalib - 1954), V. Shantaram (Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje – 1955, Do Aankhe Bareh Haath – 1957), Mehboob Khan (Mother India – 1957), K. Asif (Mughal-E-Azam – 1960), Chetan Anand (Haqeeqat – 1964) and Kamal Amrohi (Pakeeza –1971). Besides, there were some other brilliant directors-producers whose creativity during the period cannot be overemphasized – Bhagwan (Albela –1951), Satyan Bose (Jagriti – 1954, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi – 1958), Nandlal Jaswantlal (Nagin –1954), R. K. Nayyar (Love in Simla –1960), I. S. Johar (Johar Mehmood in Goa –1965), Vijay Anand (Guide – 1965), Mehmood (Padosan – 1968), Brij (Victoria No. 203 –1972) and of course, Ramesh Sippy (Sholay –1975).