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NEW DELHI — Google users in India were given a surprise cinema lesson Monday with a “Google Doodle” on the search engine’s India homepage, celebrating the March 14, 1931 release of Alam Ara, India’s first talking picture.
Based on a play, Alam Ara was a fantasy tale about an aging king and the rivalry between his two queens as to who would bear the king’s heir.
Director Ardeshir Irani raced to complete Alam Ara before several other planned sound films to create history as the first Indian talkie.
Among the film’s stars was iconic actor Prithviraj Kapoor, whose family members are still an integral part of today’s Bollywood such as his great-grandchildren, actor Ranbir Kapoor and actress Kareena Kapoor.
But not a single print of Alam Ara is in existence after a fire destroyed India’s National Film Archives in 2003 in Pune city near Mumbai.
Alam Ara received a massive response, with police called in to control the stampede at Mumbai’s Majestic Theatre. The movie ran for two hours and four minutes and used a Tanar Sound System to record the dialogue.
The film was historic for spawning the first soundtrack and first song of Indian cinema, unfurling Indian filmdom’s strong tradition of featuring music, a tradition that is as vibrant today in the age of MTV.
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