Alam Ara

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Alam Ara
Alam Ara poster, 1931.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArdeshir Irani
Produced byImperial Movietone
Written byJoseph David Penkar
Munshi Zaheer (Urdu)
StarringMaster Vithal
Music byFerozshah M. Mistri
B. Irani
CinematographyWilford Deming
Adi M. Irani
Edited byEzra Mir
Release date
14 March 1931
Running time
124 mins
CountryBritish India (Now India)
Budget390 million (US$5.6 million)(Adjusted)
Box office2.89 billion (US$42 million) (Adjusted)
Master Vithal and Zubeida in Alam Ara, 1931.

Alam Ara (translation: The Ornament of the World) was a 1931 Indian[2][3] film directed by Ardeshir Irani. It was the first Indian sound film.[4][5]

Irani recognised the importance that sound would have on the cinema, and raced to complete Alam Ara before several contemporary sound films. Alam Ara debuted at the Majestic Cinema in Mumbai (then Bombay) on 14 March 1931.[6] The first Indian talkie was so popular that "police aid had to be summoned to control the crowds."[7] The film was houseful for the next 8 weeks of its release. It was advertised with the tagline "All living. Breathing. 100 per cent talking".[8]

The film has long been lost and was not available as far back as 1967 according to the National Film Archive of India, Pune.[9]


Alam Ara still
Newspaper advertisement for Alam Ara, 1931

The film is a love story between a prince and a gypsy girl, based on a Parsi play written by the Bene Israel of India member, Joseph David Penkar. David later served as a writer at Irani's film company. The story centers on an imaginary, historical royal family in the kingdom of Kumarpur. The main characters are the king, Sultan Saleem Khan (L. V. Prasad), and his two warring wives, Dilbahar Begum (Shushila), and Navbahar Begum (Zillu). Their rivalry escalates when a fakir (W. M. Khan) predicts that Navbahar will bear the king's heir.

Dilbahar, in a fit, attempts to have an affair with the kingdom's chief minister, General Adil Khan (Prithviraj). The affair goes sour and a vengeful Dilbahar imprisons him and exiles his daughter, Alam Ara or Alamara (Zubeida). In exile, Alamara is brought up by Gypsies. Upon returning to the palace at Kumarpur, Alamara meets and falls in love with the charming young prince, Jahangir Khan (Master Vithal). In the end, Adil is released, Dilbahar is punished and the lovers marry.



Both the movie and its music were widely successful,[11] including the hit song "De de khuda ke naam per", which was also the first song of the Indian cinema. It was sung by actor Wazir Mohammed Khan who played a fakir in the film.[11][12] As playback singing had yet to start in Indian cinema, it was recorded live with musical accompaniment of a harmonium and a tabla.[13][14]


In 1929 Irani was prompted to make India’s first talking and singing film after he saw the part-talkie American film Show Boat (1929). At that time, there were no soundproof stages and technicians were unaware of how to make a film that had sound.[15] He then decided to make a screen version of a popular stage play written by Joseph David, who agreed to adapt the play for the silver screen. Irani handled the sound recording department, using the Tanar Sound System. It was shot with the Tanar single-system camera, which recorded sound directly onto the film.[11]

A scene from Alam Ara

The film was mostly shot at night, between 1am and 4am with microphones hidden near the actors. The studio was near the railway tracks, and the noise of the trains disturbed the shooting during the day.[15] Since Alam Ara was the first Indian sound film, the makers needed actors who knew the language. Ruby Myers was considered for the title character but Zubeida was cast instead. It was because Ruby Myers was an Iraqi Jew and was not fluent in Urdu or Hindustani language.[15] The then newcomer Mehboob Khan, who later went on to make Mother India (1957), was considered for the male lead. But, they decided to cast a more commercially viable actor and chose actor-stuntman Master Vithal.[15]


Ardeshir Irani recording Alam Ara, 1931

The film had music by Ferozshah M. Mistri and B. Irani, and had seven songs:

Songs List of Alam Ara (1931)[16]
Song Heading Singer(s) Music Director Actor(s) Category
De De Kuda Ke Naam Pe Pyaare Wazir Mohammed Khan Pherozeshah M Mistry Wazir Mohammed Khan Prayer
Badala Dilawaaega Ya Rab Tu Sitamagaaron Se Zubeida Pherozeshah M Mistry Zubeida
Bhar Bhar Ke Jaam Pilaa Ja Zubeida Ferozshah M Mistri, B Irani
De Dil Ko Aaram Aye Saaki Gulfaam Zubeida Ferozshah M Mistri, B Irani
Teri Kateeli Nigaaho Ne Maara Zubeida Ferozshah M Mistri, B Irani
Rutha Hai Aasman Gum Ho Gaya Mahtaab Zillu Ferozshah M Mistri, B Irani Zillu
Daras Bina More Hain Tarase Naina Pyaare Zubeida Ferozshah M Mistri, B Irani


There is no known copy of the film today. The National Archives of India says that they do not possess a print and couldn't locate one as far back as 1967.[9] It was incorrectly reported that the last known prints, in Pune's film archives, were damaged by a fire in 2003 when in fact no copy was ever possessed by the film archive. 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."[4]


Alam Ara recorded as the first Hindi film of Bollywood. A total of 78 actors for the first time recorded their voices for the film. Google celebrated 80th anniversary of the film's release by means of Google Doodle on 14 March 2011.[17] A 2015 calendar was released exhibiting posters of some of the first Indian films, including Alam Ara.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alison, Arnold (1992). "Aspects of Production and Consumption in the Popular Hindi Film Song Industry". Asian Music. 24 (1): 122–136. doi:10.2307/834454. Following the commercial success of India's first talkie feature film Alam Ara ("Light of the World", 1931, in Hindi-Urdu)
  2. ^ Naficy, Hamid (16 September 2011). A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Volume 1: The Artisanal Era, 1897–1941. Duke University Press. ISBN 082234775X.
  3. ^ Malik, Iftikhar Haider (2006). Culture and Customs of Pakistan. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313331268.
  4. ^ a b Goddard, John. "Missouri Masala Fear not, St. Louisans: You don't need to go to Bombay to get your Bollywood fix" Riverfront Times, St. Louis, Missouri, 30 July 2003, Music section.
  5. ^ Gokulsing, K.; Wimal Dissanayake (2004). Indian popular cinema: a narrative of cultural change. Trentham Books. p. 24. ISBN 1-85856-329-1.
  6. ^ "Alam Ara: A milestone in Indian cinema". 14 March 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  7. ^ Quoted in Chatterji (1999), "The History of Sound."
  8. ^ "India's first Talkie, 'Alam Ara' missing From National Archives". Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  9. ^ a b Alam Ara long lost, was never with NFAI: founder-director Indian Express, 17 March 2011, Retrieved:2013-04-26
  10. ^ "Saving India's cinema, one film at a time". ForbesIndia. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  11. ^ a b c Talking images, 75 years of cinema The Tribune, 26 March 2006, Retrieved:2008-08-04
  12. ^ "Preview: Indian cinema's first talkie completes 80 years". Ticket Please News Desk. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ a b c d Bali, Karan (15 August 2015). "India's first talkie 'Alam Ara' and Jinnah's role in it". Dawn. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Alam Ara : Lyrics and video of Songs from the Movie Alam Ara (1931)". HindiGeetMala. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  17. ^ "Google Doodle : Alam Ara". Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  18. ^ "A New Year calendar with film posters of yesteryear". The Indian Express. 15 December 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2017.

External links[edit]