The facts about the making of films in India, before independence from the British make interesting reading. Those were the days when film making was at its infancy. Technology was at a very low level and the talking movies had just started making waves.
Song and dance sequences have been the crucial part of Indian movies from the very beginning. This trend has continued to this day. The number of songs has come down drastically. But those were the days when films were watched eagerly for their song content and whether a film will become a hit or not, depended almost exclusively on the popularity of the songs. Those were the times when you did not have the facility of playback singers. This meant that the lead characters, who, had to sing, had to be professional singers. They also had the additional burden in that they also had to have a good looking personality. Around twenty songs in a film was not an uncommon occurrence.
The role of the comedy
In fact the early films were the ones who introduced the concept of the comedian in the films. Every film had to have a comedy track. To introduce some kind of integration into the theme, the comedian usually turned out to be the friend of the hero of the film. Those days, the comedy was enacted by a male-female pair. While the concept of the role of the comedy has continued to this day, the pairing of the comedians has been done away with by and large. Since the hero and the heroine could not sing all the songs in a film, the comedy pair also got a chance to get into the song and dance routine.
All the sound recording was done on site as dubbing facilities were not available. Hence the sound quality was not exactly top of the drawer. Since the recording had to be done while delivering the dialog, the actors had to shout at the top of their voices. This meant that voice modulation, which is an important part of acting, was not possible.
As making a film was a tedious process, there were only a small number of films, but the films ran for record number of days. The exhibiting halls were also small in number. Let us consider the example of a Tamil movie. This movie titled ‘’ manonmani’’ was made in 1942. It was produced by T.R. Sundaram at a cost of Rs.200000/- (around $4500), which was an exorbitant sum at the time. The producer hit upon the idea of seeking the idea of the public regarding the female and male leads. He put out advertisements to this effect. The choice of the public was unequivocally in favour of T.R. Rajakumari as the princess and P.U. Chinnappa as the prince. This probably is the only such incident and initiative in the Indian cinema. The film, the story of which revolved around kings, princes, princesses and scheming ministers was a box office hit.