The huge success Hrithik Roshan‘s Jodhaa Akbar, Ranveer Singh‘s Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat and the recent hit Kangana Ranaut‘s Manikarnika have revived the era of historical films. Soon Ajay Devgn‘s Tanhaji is to be released. But readers’ do you know which is the first Historical film of India? And which filmmaker started the trend of historical films in India?
Well, the present generation may not know hence Indian Film History (IFH) is enlightening our readers with the great history of Indian cinema. The First Historical film made was Pukar (1939) made by actor-filmmaker Sohrab Modi! Interestingly, as a student Sohrab Modi hated history but when he began making films on historical subjects he was so fascinated by History that after Pukar he made almost all his films based on History. His last film was ‘Guru-Dakshina’ on the historical tale of Guru Dronacharya and Eklavya. But due to health problems, he could not complete the film and the film was shelved after its Muhurta.
Sohrab Modi started as an actor and later took to direction. However after making three films on social subjects he was disheartened and decided to quit direction. Later, after encouragements by friends and relatives, he decided to switch to historical movies, a genre which was not explored in Indian cinema. He made the film Pukar, a film depicting the justice for which the Mughal emperor Jehangir was renowned.
The film had an engrossing tale when the emperor is in a tight spot after his wife kills an innocent fisherman erroneously and repents. However, Justice demanded the queen to be hanged, however, how the emperor conquers the heart of the people by giving a landmark judgment formed the climax of the film.
The film was huge hit. Later Sohrab Modi gave a row of hit historical movies like Sikandar (1941), Prithvi Vallabh (1943), Ek Din Ka Sultan (1945), Jhansi Ki Rani (1953), Mirza Ghalib (1954), Raj Hath (1956), Nausherwan-E-Adil (1957). The success of these films established Sohrab Modi, as the Cecil B. De Mille of India and the pioneer of historical movies. Modi made movies under his Home Production Minerva Movietone‘s and his banner had a roaring Lion as its emblem – symbolizing the actor’s forte in delivering his dialogues in a rhetorical and dramatic style. Dialogues that were with laced with punches of paradoxes, synonyms, and puns, a characteristic that was the hallmark of Sohrab Modi movies!!
Sohrab Modi had made Jhansi Ki Rani (1953) in technical color. The film was dubbed in English as The Tiger and the Flame, and released in 1956 in London! Unfortunately, both the Hindi and English version failed! Sohrab Modi was hurt but he continued his love for history and made Mirza Ghalib (1954), a film on the life of historical poet Mirza Galib. The film proved a big hit and fetched Modi a National Award for Best Film!
Sohrab Modi won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1980 and died on 28 January 1984 at the age of 86 due to cancer.