Gujarati cinema or Gujarati film industry, informally referred as Dhollywood or Gollywood, is one of the major regional and vernacular film industries of the cinema of India associated with the Gujarati language. The industry dates back to 7 April 1932, when the first Gujarati film, Narsinh Mehta, was released. After flourishing through the 1960s to 1980s, the industry saw a decline. The industry is revived in recent times. The film industry has produced more than one thousand films since its inception. The Government of Gujarat announced a 100% entertainment tax exemption for Gujarati films in 2005 and a policy of incentives in 2016.
Bollywood, the sobriquet for the Hindi language film industry based in Mumbai, inspired the sobriquet Dhollywood for Gujarati film industry due to profuse use of Dhol, a purcussion drum. It is also referred Gollywood, a portmanteau derived from Gujarat and Bollywood.
Silent films era (1913–1931)
There were several silent films which were closely related with Gujarati people and culture before advent of talkies. Many film directors, producers and actors who are associated with silent films were Gujarati and Parsi. There were twenty leading film company and studios owned by Gujaratis between 1913 and 1931. They were mostly located in Bombay (now Mumbai). There were at least forty-four leading Gujarati directors during this period.
The silent film Bilwamangal (Bhakta Surdas, 1919) was directed by Parsi Gujarati, Rustomji Dotiwala and it was based on the story by Gujarati writer, Champshi Udeshi. This full length (12000 feet) film was produced by Elphinstone Bioscope Company, Culcutta so the film is considered Bengali but it did not featured any Bengali characteristics. Suchet Singh established Oriental Film Manufacturing Company of Bombay with the help of Hajimahamad Allarakha, an editor of popular Gujarati magazine Visami Sadi, in 1919. The silent film Narsinh Mehta (1920) produced by Oriental featured Gujarati song, "Vaishnav Jan To" which was sung by audience and musicians in cinema halls with relevant scenes on screen. Dwarkadas Sampat had bought projector and had shows in Rajkot. He established Patankar Friends & Company with Patankar. Raja Sriyal was the first film produced by Patankar Friends but was not released due to defective print. Kach-Devyani (1920) was directed by S. N. Patankar which featured Garba in films marking entry of Gujarati culture in films. Dwarkadas later founded Kohinoor Film Company. Kohinoor produced its first film Sati Parvati (1920) depicting Gujarati culture. It was directed by Vishnupant Divekar featuring Prabha, an actress from Rajkot, in lead role of Parvati. Bhakta Vidur (1921) produced by Kohinoor and directed by Kanjibhai Rathod was implicitly political film. The film featured Dwarkadas Sampat in lead role of Vidur who donned Gandhi cap which referred to Indian independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. The film had Gujarati song, "Rudo Maro Rentiyo, Rentiyama Nikle Taar, Taare Taare Thay Bharatno Uddhar" which referred to Rentio used by Indian National Congress in its symbol. It was the first film banned in India by British authorities. It was later re-released under Dharm Vijay title in 1922. Pavagadhnu Patan (The Fall of Pavagadh, 1928) was directed by Nagendra Majumdar and produced by Indulal Yagnik. Yagnik was an independence activist who later headed the Mahagujarat Movement demanding a separate Gujarat state. Yagnik produced ten films under various banners.
Dwarkadas Sampat's Kohinoor film Company produced large number of films in the silent film era. It produced social films in era dominated by mythological films. Katorabhar Khoon (1920) was its first social film. It produced Manorama (1924) which was directed by Homi Master and was based on Hridaya Triputi, an autobiographical poem by Gujarati poet Kalapi. Gul-E-Bakavali (1924) written by Mohanlal G. Dave and directed by Kanjibhai Rathod successfully ran for fourteen weeks in cinema. Manilal Joshi was an experimental Gujarati director. He directed Abhimanyu (1922) produced by Star Film Company and later Prithivi Vallabh based on novel by Gujarati author K. M. Munshi of same name.
Krishna Film Company established in 1924 and owned by Maneklal Patel produced forty-four films between 1925 and 1931. Sharda Film Company was established in 1925 which was financed by Mayashankar Bhatt and run by Bhogilal Dave and Nanubhai Desai. Mayashanked Bhatt also financed Dadasaheb Phalke's Hindustan Cinema Film Company.
Early talkies (1932–1947)
Before the first full length sound film of India Alam Ara (1931) released, a short Gujarati sound film Chav Chavno Murabbo was released on 4 February 1931 in Bombay. This film had song Mane Mankad Karde (A bug bites me) which was the first sound in any Indian film. The lyrics and dialogues were written by Natwar Shyam and was produced by Maneklal Patel. The title of film did not have any specific meaning but was the confection of apophthegms.
Before the first full length Gujarati sound film, Narsinh Mehta (1932), two short sound films were released with Hindi talkies. The two-reel short film Krishna–Sudama produced by Imperial Film Company was released with Hindi talkie Nek Abala. Another two-reel short film Mumbai ni Shethani was premiered along with Madan's Shirin Farhad on 9 January 1932 at Wellington Cinema, Bombay. It was produced by Theatres of Calcutta and was based on the story written by Champshi Udeshi. The film starred Mohan, Miss Sharifa and Surajram which also had Gujarati song, Fashion ni Fishiari, Juo, Mumbai ni Shethani.
The first full length Gujarati talkie Narsinh Mehta was released on 9 April 1932 marking the beginning of Gujarati cinema. It was directed by Nanubhai Vakil and produced by Sagar Movietone. 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.
It was followed by Sati Savitri (1932) based on epic story of Savitri and Satyavan. In 1935, Ghar Jamai directed by Homi Master was a comedy film. The film starred Heera, Jamna, Baby Nurjehan, Amoo, Alimiya, Jamshedji, and Gulam Rasool. It featured a 'resident son-in-law' and his escapades as well as his problematic attitude towards the freedom of women.
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. It was remade again in 1948 by Ratilal Punatar. 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.
There were 12 films released between 1932 and 1946. No Gujarati films were produced in 1933, 1937 and 1938. From 1941 to 1946, the films were not produced due to raw material rationing due to World War II.
After independence of India in 1947, there was surge in production of Gujarati films. Twenty six films were produced in 1948 only. Between 1946 and 1952, seventy four films were produced including 27 films related to saint, sati or dacoit stories. These stories were targeted at rural audience familiar with such subjects. There were several films produced in this period were associated with mythological or folktales which people are familiar with.
Vishnukumar M. Vyas directed Ranakdevi (1946). Nirupa Roy made her debut as an actress in Ranakdevi who later succeed in Hindi film industry for her roles of mothers. Ranakdevi was the queen of Junagadh. Meerabai (1946) was remake of Hindi film directed by Nanubhai Bhatt starring Nirupa Roy. Punatar also directed Gunsundari (1948) starring Nirupa Roy. Kariyavar (1948) directed by Chaturbhuj Doshi, introduced Dina Pathak to film industry. Doshi also directed Vevishal (1949), an adaptation of the novel of same name by Jhaverchand Meghani. Punatar's Mangalfera (1949) was remake of Hindi film Shadi (1941) produced by Ranjit Movietone. Other popular Gujarati films were Vadilona Vanke (1948) directed by Ramchandra Thakur; Gada no Bel (1950) directed by Ratibhai Punatar and based on play of Prabhulal Dwivedi's play; and Leeludi Dharti (1968) directed by Vallabh Choksi and based on the novel of same name by Chunilal Madia. Leeludi Dharti was the first colour film of Gujarati cinema. The problems of modernisation are the underlying concern of several films. The films like Gada no Bel had a strong realism and reformism.
Between 1951 and 1970, there was decline in film production as only 55 films were produced during these period. Malela Jeev (1956) was directed by Manhar Raskapur. It was based on novel by Pannalal Patel and was scripted by novelist himself. Director Raskapur and producer-actor Champshibhai Nagda produced several films including Jogidas Khuman (1948), Kahyagaro Kanth (1950), Kanyadan (1951), Mulu Manek (1955), Malela Jeev (1956), Kadu Makrani (1960), Mehndi Rang Lagyo (1960), Jogidas Kuman (1962), Akhand Saubhagyavati (1963) and Kalapi (1966). Akhand Saubhagyavati was the first Gujarati film financed by Film Finance Corporation (now National Film Development Corporation) and starred Asha Parekh in lead role. Kanku (1969) directed by Kantilal Rathod was based on short story by Pannalal Patel originally written in 1936 which was later expanded into novel in 1970. Kanku won the national award for the best Gujarati film and its actress Pallavi Mehta won an award at the Chicago Film Festival.
Sanjeev Kumar, a popular Hindi film actor, acted in Ramat Ramade Ram (1964), Kalapi (1966) and Jigar ane Ami (1970). Jigar ane Ami was adapted from novel of same name by Chunilal Vardhman Shah. Vidhata (1956), Chundadi Chokha (1961), Ghar Deevdi (1961), Nandanvan (1961), Gharni Shobha (1963), Panetar (1965), Mare Jaavu Pele Paar (1968), Bahuroopi (1969) and Sansarleela (1969) were adapted from Gujarati literary works.
Rise and decline (1970–2000)
Following the Mahagujarat Movement, the separate linguistic states of Gujarat and Maharashtra were formed from Bombay State on 1 May 1960. It had great impact on Gujarati film industry as Bombay, the centre of film production, fell in Maharashtra. There was a lack of major film production houses and studios in Gujarat resulting in decline in quality and number of films.
In 1970s, the Government of Gujarat announced subsidies and tax exemption to Gujarati films resulting in spurt in film productions but the quality of films declined substantially. The studio was established in Vadodara in 1972. The state policy benefited producers. The state lost the large amount of exchequer such as Rs 80 million in 1981-1982 from 39 films produced in a year. The entertainment tax exemption was announced and Rs. 3,00,000 was announced to producer who complete the film. The policy resulted in the influx of people interested in monetary benefits who did not have any technical and artistic knowledge. Thus the quality of films declined substantially. Following 1973, there were production of large number of films focused on deities and dacoits. In 1980, the tax exemption reduced to 70% but remaining 30% were given to producers for assistance or other ways.
Feroze A. Sarkar directed Janamteep (1973) adapted from the novel of same name by Ishwar Petlikar. Kanti Madia adapted Vinodini Neelkanth's short story Dariyav Dil in the film Kashi no Dikro (1979). Babubhai Mistry directed a dozen films between 1969 and 1984. Dinesh Raval directed several films including Mena Gurjari (1975), Amar Devidas (1981) and Sant Rohidas (1982). Actor-director Krishna Kant directed about dozen Gujarati films including Kulvadhu (1977), Gharsansar (1978) and Jog Sanjog (1980). Mehul Kumar directed several hits including Janam Janam na Sathi (1977), Ma Vina Suno Sansar (1982), Dholamaru (1983) and Meru Malan (1985). Jesal Toral (1971) directed by Ravindra Dave was one of the biggest hits of Gujarati cinema. He also directed over twenty five films popular in audience. Chandrakant Sangani directed musical film Tanariri (1975) highlighted the little-known side of Akbar who is usually presented as a consistently benign ruler. He also directed Kariyavar (1977) based on the novel Vanzari Vaar by Saida. Sonbai ni Chundadi (1976) directed by Girish Manukant was the first Gujarati cinemascope film. Mansai na Deeva (1984), directed by Govind Saraiya, was based on the novel of same name by Jhaverchand Meghani. Subhash J. Shah directed several popular films; Lohi Bhini Chundadi (1986), Prem Bandhan (1991), Oonchi Medina Ooncha Mol (1996), Parbhavni Preet (1997), Mahisagarna Moti (1998).
From 1973 to 1987, Arun Bhatt produced several films matching production values of Hindi films. He made several films with urban backgrounds such as Mota Gharni Vahu, Lohini Sagaai (1980) based on the novel by Ishwar Petlikar, Paarki Thaapan, Shetal Tara Oonda Paani (1986) which were commercially as well as critically successful. His 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.
Bhavni Bhavai (1980) directed by Ketan Mehta was produced by NFDC and film cooperative Sanchar Film Cooperative Society and a district bank in Ahmedabad. Though the film was not folk theatre form of Bhavai, it incorporated several elements of it in the film. 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. Hun Hunshi Hunshilal (1991), directed by Sanjiv Shah, was the allegory film inspired from the political environment of the time and was sought to be post-modern. In 1998, Desh Re Joya Dada Pardesh Joya directed by Govindbhai Patel became very successful and went on to become a super-hit. The film grossed more than ₹ 10 crore. Vipul Amrutlal Shah produced Dariya Chhoru in 1999.
Upendra Trivedi was one of the most successful Gujarati actor and producer. He also produced Jher To Pidhan Jaani Jaani (1972) based on epic novel of the same name by Manubhai Pancholi 'Darshak'. He also produced, acted and directed Manvi ni Bhavai (1993) based on the novel of the same name by Pannalal Patel. The film was widely appreciated and went to win the national award. Arvind Trivedi, Naresh Kanodia, Mahesh Kanodia, Rajendra Kumar, Asrani, Kiran Kumar, and Hiten Kumar had long and successful career. Ramesh Mehta and P. Kharsani were popular for their comic roles. The popular Gujarati film actresses were Mallika Sarabhai, Rita Bhaduri, Aruna Irani, Jayshree T., Bindu, Asha Parekh, and Snehlata.
Avinash Vyas was one of the major music composers of the Gujarati cinema who composed music for 188 Gujarati films and 61 Hindi films. His son Gaurang Vyas was also music composer who composed music for Bhavni Bhavai. Mahesh-Naresh composed music of several Gujarati films including Tanariri. Other notable music composer was Ajit Merchant.
Some 368 Gujarati feature films and 3562 Gujarati short films were produced by 1981. The Gujarat Film Development Corporation (GFDC) established for promotion of Gujarati films was closed down in 1998.
The quality of the films declined due to focus on recovery of finances and profit and due to not adapting to changing times, technology and demographics. Low budget films with compromised quality targeted rural audience while urban audience moved to television and Bollywood films with quality content as they understand Hindi language fairly.
There were few films, less than twenty a year, were produced around 2001. In 2005, the Government of Gujarat announced 100% entertainment tax exemption and ₹ 5 lakh as subsidy for Gujarati films. There was a spurt in the number of film productions after 2005 due to the tax exemption and the rise in demand of rural films in North Gujarat especially Banaskantha district. The demand was fueled by working class population demanding local musical and linguistic styled films which were mostly released in single screen cinemas. The number of films produced in year crossed sixty in 2009 and 2010. The number of films touched 72 in 2012, the highest in the history of Gujarati cinema. Maiyar Ma Manadu Nathi Lagtu (2001) directed by Jashwant Gangani, starring Hiten Kumar, was commercially successful. The sequel of the film was released in 2008. Dholi Taro Dhol Vage (2008) directed by Govindbhai Patel, was produced by Reliance BIG Pictures. Vikram Thakore starred in several films like Ek Var Piyu Ne Malva Aavje (2006), Radha Tara Vina Gamtu Nathi (2007), Vaagi kalje Katari Tara Premni (2010), Premi Zukya Nathi ne Zukshe Nahi (2011) and Rasiya Tari Radha Rokani Rannma (2014). His six films for rural audience earned Rs 3 crore and considered the current superstar of Gujarati cinema in various media. Chandon Rathod, son of writer-director Keshav Rathod, is popular among rural audience appeared in Dhudki Taari Maya Laagi (2003). Other notable films were Mota Gharni Vahu (2008) directed by Rajendra Patel and Dukhda Haro Ma Dashama (2008) directed by Utpal Modi. Hiten Kumar, Hitu Kanodia, Mamta Soni, Roma Manek and Mona Thiba are popular among rural audience.
The Better Half (2008) directed by Ashish Kakkad was targeted for urban audience. It failed commercially but drew attention of critics and urban audience. It was the first Gujarati film on super 16 mm format and the first released in multiplexes. Love Is Blind (2005), starring Sandip Patel and Sonali Kulkarni, was released but failed commercially.
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. Muratiyo No. 1 (2005) and Vanechandno Varghodo (2007), both starring Devang Patel, were big budget films but had moderate success commercially. In August 2011, the Gujarati film industry crossed the production of thousand films. Veer Hamirji (2012) was historical film which was short listed for Indian representation at the Oscars.
Kevi Rite Jaish (2012) and Bey Yaar (2014), both directed by Abhishek Jain, became commercially and critically successful drawing urban audience. Kevi Rite Jaish and Bey Yaar ran for 16 and 50 weeks respectively in cinema. Both films were released worldwide. The Good Road (2013), directed by Gyan Correa, won the Best Gujarati film at the 60th National Film Awards and was later became the first Gujarati film ever selected to represent India at the Oscars. The film won the Best Feature Film Jury Award at the Indian Film Festival, Houston in October 2013. The success of these urban films drew new actors, directors and producers to Gujarati film industry which was stunted for long time. The digital and social media helped the film industry by expanding their reach. There was spurt in film productions targeted at urban audience. Some of such films are Mohanna Monkiz, Chaar (2011), Bhale Padharya (2012), Saptapadii (2013) produced by A.B.Corp, Happy Family Pvt Ltd (2013), Aapne To Dhirubhai (2014), Whiskey Is Risky (2014), Aa Te Kevi Duniya (2015), Canvas (2015), Jo Baka (2015), Premji: Rise of a Warrior (2015), Bas Ek Chance (2015), Hu Tu Tu Tu (2016), Romance Complicated (2016), Polampol (2016) and Fillam (2016). Gujjubhai The Great (2015) starring Siddharth Randeria and Chhello Divas (2015) were commercially successful. Some upcoming films are Patel vs Patrick, Tu To Gayo, Thai Jashe! and Vitamin She. Meghdhanushya (2013) was focused on LGBT community. The box office collection of Gujarati films increased from ₹ 7 crore in 2014 to ₹ 55 crore in 2015.
The ₹ 5 lakh subsidy by Government of Gujarat was discontinued in August 2013. Three years later, in February 2016, the new incentive policy was announced which was focused on quality of films. The films are graded in four categories, A to D, based on technical aspects, production quality, film components and commercial success. The producers are provided with assistance of ₹ 50 lakh for A grade, ₹ 25 lakh for B grade, ₹ 10 lakh for C grade and ₹ 5 lakh for D grade films or 75% of production cost whichever is lower. The film also receives additional incentives for performance at film festivals and awards. The multiplexes are also directed to at least have 49 shows of Gujarati films per year.
The scripts and stories dealt with in the Gujarati films are intrinsically humane. They include relationship and family oriented subjects with human aspirations and deal with the Indian family culture. There were large number of films based on mythological narratives and folklore were produced in early years of cinema. The life of popular saints and sati of Gujarat are made into films such as Narsinh Mehta and Gangasati. They were targeted at rural audience familiar with the subjects. There were social films associated with family life and marriage such as Gunsundari and Kariyavar. Several Gujarati films were adapted from Gujarati novels such as Kashi no Dikro. There was spurt in 1970s again for saint-sati films. In early 2000s, the films were chiefly targeted at rural audience demanding local narratives with local linguistic style. Following 2005, there was introduction of urban subjects with revival of the Gujarati cinema.
About one thousand and thirty Gujarati films are made between 1932 and 2011 but very few are archived. At the National Film Archive of India (NFAI), only twenty Gujarati films including two Parsi-Gujarati films, Pestoneei (1987) directed by Vijaya Mehta and Percy (1989) directed by Pervez Merwanji, are archived. No silent films or talkies of 1930s and 1940s survived.
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