Right from the early years, Hindi cinema has played an important role in the Indian film industry. In the last 77 years the Hindi film industry has grown in leaps and bounds. The first talkie film in India was released in 1931, Alam Ara. It starred Prithviraj Kapoor, Master Vithal, Zubeida, Jagdish Sethi and others. The film was based on a play written by Joseph David and directed by Ardeshir Irani. Raja Harishchandra was the first one though a silent one. Alam Ara was followed by Indra Sabha directed by J.J Madan..
After Alam Ara it was Devdas directed by Pramatesh Chandra Barua that had set a cult in the Hindi film industry. The film had an impressive star cast that included KL Saigal in the lead role. Devdas epitomized the agony of love and in a way introduced the first anti-hero of the Indian cinema. The film was remade twice in Hindi; once by Bimal Roy and the latest was made by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Love for the first time was treated aesthetically. Sanjay Leela Bhansali said in an interview that the love of Paro and Chandramukhi resemble that of Radha and Meera respectively. And truly enough every time Devdas was made love was redefined.
Mehboob Khan's Mother India dealt with several social issues. But it was also one of those earliest films that were women centric. The superb performances by Nargis, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar made the flick a landmark in the Hindi film industry. Andaaz by the same director was also an unforgettable movie with huge sets in Hollywood style, a casting coup (Nargis, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor) that no other film could ever possibly repeat and their outstanding performances.
Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zameen once again dealt with common man and exploitation. It was this film that bagged the first Filmfare Award for best film in 1953. Madhumati by Bimal Roy was probably the first film dealing with reincarnation. It set a trend that was followed by several later films. Some of them include Bees Saal Baad, Karz, Karan Arjun, Om Shanti Om and several others.
Guru Dutt's films have to be appreciated for their superb blend of both commercial and creative aspects. Films like Pyaasa and Kagaz ke Phool are timeless classics. Such films are seen as the cult films of Guru Dutt.
Mughal-E-Azam by K. Asif carved a niche for itself because of its panache. The extravagant sets, the captivating Mughal Romance, the thrilling war scenes, gorgeous Madhubala, striking Dilip Kumar and soulful music left an indelible mark on the audience. Till date Mughal-E-Azam is hailed as one of the greatest classics of Bollywood. Then there was Do Ankhein Bara Hath by V.Shantaram, the greatest asset being simplicity, innocence, idealism, realism. The biggest hit of Dilip Kumar's career was Ram aur Shyam. For the first time the double role of an actor was introduced that would remind one of Comedy of Errors. Later a lot of films were made on being inspired from this film: Seeta aur Geeta, Chaalbaaz, Kishen Kanhaiya, Duplicate, Judwa, and others.
Pakeezah was released in 1972. It made way for later films like Umrao Jaan and Jodha Akbar. With Raj Kapoor romance was given a completely different treatment. His movies like Awara, Shree 420, Mera nam joker. He brought back the teenage love stories with Bobby. It starred Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Pran and Premnath. The film was a national craze and received rave reviews. Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia became overnight stars. A fresh script, good songs and deft handling of the script made the film successful.
Along this time a number of films released, such as, Aradhana, one of the landmarks of Rajesh Khanna, as well as Sharmila Tagore, that was a huge box office hit, followed by Amar Prem, a tale of two souls, eternally drenched in love. Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan were again the favourite pair of Bollywood, their onscreen chemistry highlighted in Avimaan. The film was directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Bachhan clan was formed like deewar, Similar films on this vein were made later too, such as, Piya ka Ghar, Ghar, Saathiya, Chalte Chalte, Ijaazat, Masoom, Hum Tumhare Hain and others.
The biggest landmark film in the history of Hindi movies is Sholay starring Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri and Hema Malini. It was the ideal commercial film with all kinds of ingredients or "masala". The audience loved it so much so that even today it is appreciated by the audience. In the interim period several films were released. Some dealt with serious issues while some were completely action based. The 1970s also belted out movies like Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Amar Akbar Anthony, Yadoon Ki Baraat and several others.
Mahesh Bhatt explored the theme of extra marital affair with élan in Arth and brought to the forefront one of those social realities that has been taboo for long. Arth was in many ways a landmark film because it deals a real problem in a realistic way. The film brought together Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi. It was one of Smita Patil's last films. Even Mahesh Bhatt created ripples of mass hysteria with his mind boggling films like Woh Lamhe, Zakhm, etc. Both Arth and Woh Lamhe concerns the real life crescendo of relation of Mahesh Bhatt with Parveen Babi, and her tendencies of Scyzophrenia, and Bhatts unadulterated version of the truth. Even Zakhm digs up Mahesh Bhatts past tinged with the hue of her forlorn mother and her unsung love for her husband. Umrao Jaan by Muzaffar Ali is once again a classic film that preceded the films on courtesans from Lucknow. It was one of the greatest costume dramas in Indian cinema.
In 1989 Sooraj Barjatya came up with Maine Pyar Kiya with Salman Khan and Bhagyashree. The film was a super hit. It once again revived the romance genre in the Hindi film industry. What followed was a string of romantic movies. Sooraj Barjatya went ahead and made several family dramas which were top grossers: Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. 1990s was also the year when romantic comedies were successful. Hum Hain Raahi Pyar Ke was one of them. The film's star cast included Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla.
Shahrukh Khan's Baazigar and Darr changed the way people looked at anti heroes. The superstar paved the way for the other actors to try out these roles. So John Abraham or Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom and Dhoom 2 are no more villains, rather they are anti-heroes.
Love stories came back with a bang under the Yash Raj banner. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge created unprecedented records. The lead pair, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol became overnight stars. Love was intermingled with Indian values and the audience loved the way in which the hero wins his lady. Till date this flick is one of the most popular romantic films of all ages in Hindi.
With changing times the face of Bollywood changed. Experiments were done with all kinds of genre. The films in comic genre worked for the audience. Hera Pheri starring Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Paresh Rawal rocked the box office. This was followed by a number of comedy films where the lead actors played the protagonists. One of the top grosser in this genre is Munnabhai MBBS and its sequel, Lage Raho Munnabhai.
In the 21st century the films were no more melodramatic. Within the parameters of commercial cinema real emotions were portrayed. While Sholay venerated male friendship Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hain portrayed camaraderie more in a more realistic vein; rather it is more today. The film became a cult for the youth and many directors followed suit and explored the theme.
Koi Mil Gaya was India’s first big commercial superhero film and Krrish took it a step forward. The technical efforts and the superb thrills made these two films immensely successful at the box office.
Apart from these romantic films, patriotic movies and thrillers had ruled the box office. Films like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Dil Se, Dil To Paagal Hain, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Taal, Kal Ho Na Ho, Rang De Basanti, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Black, Chak De India, Bhool Bhulaiya and others are the top Bollywood films. As long as films will be made such lists will be never-ending.