Gujarati cinema or Gujarati film industry is one of the largest regional and vernacular film industry of Cinema of India, dating back to 9 April 1932, when the first Gujarati language film titled, Narsinh Mehta was released. After flourishing through the 60s, 70 and 1980s, the industry saw a decline, in 2005 the Government even announced 100% tax exemption for Gujarati film.
Gujarati cinema started in year 1932 when the first Gujarati film, Narsinh Mehta, was released. It was directed by Nanubhai Vakil. The film starred Mohanlala, Marutirao, Master Manhar, and Miss Mehtab. It was of the 'saint' genre and was on the life of the saint Narsinh Mehta. The film was matchless as it avoided any depiction of miracles. In 1935, another movie Ghar Jamai was released, directed by Homi Master. The film starred Heera, Jamna, Baby Nurjehan, Amoo, Alimiya, Jamshedji, and Gulam Rasool. It featured a `resident son-in-law` (ghar jamai) and his escapades as well as his problematic attitude towards the freedom of women. It was a comedy-oriented movie and was a major success in the industry. The Gujarati movies such as Kariyavar, directed by Chaturbhuj Doshi, Vadilona Vanke directed by Ramchandra Thakur, Gadano Bel directed by Ratibhai Punatar and Leeludi Dharti, which was inspired by the novel of same name by Chunilal Madia, was directed by Vallabh Choksi. The problems of modernisation are the underlying concern of several films. Movies like Gadano Bel had a strong realism and reformism.
Gunasundari was thrice made from 1927 to 1948. The film was such a success in its first appearance in 1927, that director Chandulal Shah remade it in 1934. The film was again remade in 1948 by Ratilal Hemchand Punater. In its last version Hindi films’ eternal Mother Nirupa Roy made her debut as its heroine.
Gunasundari is the story of a poor Indian woman who is disliked by her husband for her moral stand. The woman finally lands in the street where she meets a person who is just like her — a social outcast. The story ends here. The three versions, however, have made some changes here and there to meet the demands of the time.
In a filmdom which was theatrical and melodramatic and often shunned by the audience, Akhand Saubhagyabati, that starred Bollywood queen Asha Parekh, made a success in 1963. Asha also has immense contribution to Gujarati television serial making. Her TV production Jyoti was a household show for a long time.
In the year 1975 Tanariri, directed by Chandrakant Sangani, highlighted the little-known side of Akbar who is usually presented as a consistently benign ruler. The first cinemascope film of Gujarati cinema was Sonbai ni Chundadi, directed by Girish Manukant released in '1976. Besides these, Bhavni Bhavai released in 1980 was directed by Ketan Mehta. It boasted of superlative performances, fine camerawork and won awards like National Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration, National Film Award for Best Art Direction for Meera Lakhia and another award at the Nantes festival in France. In 1992, Hun Hunshi Hunshilal, directed by Sanjiv Shah was sought to be post-modern.
From 1973 to 1987, Arun Bhatt gave the industry a totally different outlook by creating films that matched production values of Hindi Cinema. He took the risk of making films with urban backgrounds such as Mota Gharni Vahu, Lohini Sagaai, Paarki Thaapan etc. and proved that films without rural themes could not only be successful but become Jubilees. Arun Bhatt's "Pooja na Phool" made in the early 80s won him an award for the Best Film from the Government of Gujarat and was also telecast on Doordarshan in the Sunday slot for Regional award winning films.
In 1990s, Upendra Trivedi produced, acted and directed the movie-Manvi ni Bhawai based on the novel created by famous Gujarati writer-Pannalal Patel. The movie was widely appreciated and went to win the national award. In 1998, Desh Re Joya Dada Pardesh Joya became very successful and went on to became super-hit.
The scripts and stories dealt in the Gujarati films are intrinsically humane. They include relationship and family oriented subjects with human aspirations and deal with the Indian family culture. Thus, there can be no turning away from the essential humanity of these Gujarati cinema.
Many famous actors have worked in Gujarati film industry like Sanjeev Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Bindu, Asha Parekh, Kiran Kumar, Upendra Trivedi, Arvind Trivedi, Aruna Irani, Mallika Sarabhai, Asrani, Naresh Kanodia, Sneh Lata, Jayshree T. etc. The decades of 1970 and 1980 should be considered the golden era of industry. Many famous actors including Upendra Trivedi, Naresh Kanodia, Kiran Kumar, Arvind Trivedi, Rajiv, Asrani gave many famous movies with heroins like Aruna Irani, Sneh Lata. Ramesh Mehta has worked as a comedian in most of the movies along with this actors. In the present generation, the most famous actors are Hitu Kanodia (the son of Naresh Kanodia), Hiten Kumar, Vikram Thakor and Chandan Rathod along with the heroines like Roma Manek, Mona Thiba.
Gujarati people in other film industries
Actors like Arvind Joshi, Sanjeev Kumar, Aruna Irani, Arvind Trivedi, Achalkumar, Prachi Desai, Jackie Shroff, Paresh Rawal, Deepshikha, Darshan Jariwala, Pooja Bhatt, Sharman Joshi, Nirupa Roy, Satish Shah, Dina Pathak, Ratna Pathak, Supriya Pathak, Tina Ambani, Parveen Babi, Dimple Kapadia, Ameesha Patel, Tulip Joshi, Ayesha Takia, Anang Desai, Deepika Chikhalia, Neelam Kothari, Upen Patel, Himesh Reshammiya, Shruti Seth, Farooq Shaikh, Manav Gohil, etc. are well known personalities who have contributed to Hindi film industry popularly known as Bollywood.
Directors and producers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Jiten Purohit Vijay Bhatt, Nanabhai Bhatt, Manmohan Desai, Ketan Desai, Mehboob Khan, Mahesh Bhatt, Mukesh Bhatt, Vikram Bhatt, Chandra Barot, Nariman A. Irani, Sanjay Gadhvi, Indra Kumar, Hiralal Khatri, Dhirajlal Shah,A A Nadiadwala, Sajid Nadiadwala, Abbas-Mustan, Mehul Kumar, Vipul Shah, Rahul Dholakia, and famous entrepreneur Chandubhai Faldu Patel who is also Chairperson of Gujarati Cinema and owns a Bollywood film production house called WhiteHouse Productions are also inseparable part of Bollywood.
Alisha Chinai, Alka Yagnik, Manhar Udhas, Pankaj Udhas, Falguni Pathak,Himesh Reshammiya are well known singers of this industry.Kalyanji Anandji, Ismail Darbar and Jaikishan (a famous pair of Shankar-Jaikishan who made many great compositions for R.K.Films) are known for their music.
Kalpen Modi,popularly known as Kal Penn is known name in Hollywood.Dev Patel is world famous name for his work in Slumdog Millionaire movie. Ben Kingsley, a winner of Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in title the role of the film Gandhi (film), is also Gujarati origin.
From the year 1965 to 1990 can be considered as industry's golden era.
Bad economics has stunted Gujarati cinema
Recently the Gujarati film industry crossed the magic figure of 1,000 films. Although this was a milestone, the eighty-year-old film industry has failed to reach the heights that other regional cinema has. Associate professor of economics in Pilwai college in Mehsana, Kartik Bhatt, 43, decided to research the economics of Gollywood, as Gujarati cinema is popularly known. Bhatt's preliminary findings show that the popularity of Bollywood curtails the regional film industry.
"Directors of Gujarati cinema are forced to target audiences living in villages so the whole economics of producing a film prohibits a producer from spending much money.
In the end quality suffers and it fails to attract urban audience. It is a vicious circle," says Bhatt. According to Bhatt, there are only 80 theatres showing Gujarati films in the state presently. He says that even with a government subsidy of Rs five lakh one cannot earn much.
A major chunk of recovery of the money depends on the film's performance in the market. Also, "Most of the talent is moving to Bollywood or television serials because there is more money and glamour", Bhatt says. Bhatt who collected the data on the Gujarati film industry over the last ten years is now doing his PhD on "Economics, Problems of Regional Film Industry: A Case Study of Gujarati Film Industry". He feels that the Gujarati film industry has also failed to take advantage of the media.
"Unlike Bollywood films, Gujarati films are not released on a profit sharing basis, theatres charge Gujarati film producers for showing a film," says Bhatt. Bhatt firmly believes that the whole problem with Gujarati cinema lies in its economics. "There are many issues that ail the Gujarati film industry, one is theatres, the other is service charges of theatres and lack of theatres in the whole state.
Bhavni Bhavai released in the year 1980 was directed by Ketan Mehta. It boasted of superlative performances, fine camerawork and won awards like National Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration, National Film Award for Best Art Direction for Meera Lakhia.
Recently Little Zizou, a 2009 film in Hindi, Gujarati, and English, written and directed by Sooni Taraporevala won the "Silver Lotus Award" or "Rajat Kamal" in the National Film Award for Best Film on Family Welfare category at the 56th National Film Awards.
The state has also thrown up formidable acting talent of the calibre of late Sanjeev Kumar (his actual name was Haribhai Jariwala), Dina Pathak, Urmila Bhatt, Manoj Joshi, Paresh Rawal and Asha Parekh. Says Bhuta,
“One of the main reasons why Upendra Trivedi, better known as the Dilip Kumar of the Gujarati film industry, has been relegated to relative anonymity on the national film scene is the fact that he was not able to adapt well to the Hindi film industry because of language handicap.”
Given the scenario it's not surprising that Dhollywood has little to show in the quantity and quality of films which have been produced in the 75 years of its existence. Compared to Bollywood which has been churning out movies at amazing speed with more than 10,000 films to its credit so far, a minuscule 762 Gujarati films have been made thus far.
“For instance, while an average of 5,000 to 8,000 shots are taken for an 80 to 100 scene Hindi film, for a Gujarati film, a mere 500 to 800 shots are taken as the film maker can neither afford the cost of camera or the feet of raw stock required for such footage. Further, a Gujarati film is made in 16 mm as the producer cannot afford the 35 mm format,” Bhuta elaborates.
It remains to be seen after the Gujarat government decided to give 100 per cent tax exemption to the film industry in the state. It has also announced a Re one rise in the service charge per cinema ticket to encourage theatre owners to screen Gujarati films. Whether the incentives from the state government will do any good to the Gujarati film industry, it is perhaps passing through its worst patch ever.
Perhaps its only then that it will be able to rise from serving pedestrian fare to cinemagoers to providing quality cinema.
“There’s no dearth of brilliant regional novels which are churned out year after year. These can be made into films. Why should we have to depend on a Shyam Benegal to take the story of Operation Flood to the masses through his cine classic Manthan when it could so easily have been made by a Gujarati. And why should a Sanjay Leela Bhansali weave celluloid magic out of the vibrant beauty of Gujarat only for his Bollywood blockbuster Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam when he can so easily do that for regional cinema of the state as well?” ruminates Harshadbhai Shah, chairman of GFDAC for the fifth successive year.
- "NEWS: Limping at 75". Screen (magazine). 4 May 2007.
- "‘Dhollywood’ at 75 finds few takers in urban Gujarat". Financial Express. 22 April 2007.
- "As studios pack up, govt offers sop: Tax exemption for Gujarati films". Indian Express. 2 May 2005.
- K. Moti Gokulsing; Wimal Dissanayake (17 April 2013). Routledge Handbook of Indian Cinemas. Routledge. pp. 90–96. ISBN 978-1-136-77284-9.