The first cinema ad appears in the Times of India, Bombay, on July 7, 1896, with details of the “Living Photographic pictures in life-size reproductions by Messrs Lumiere Brothers”
Between 1913 and 1934, as many as 1,288 silent films are made, peaking at 200 in 1931, the year of the first talkie Alam Ara, and dropping to just 7 in 1934
In 1919, Mandakini, daughter of Dadasaheb Phalke, becomes the first female child star, featuring as the child Krishna in Phalke's Kaliya Mardan
In 1938, Bombay Talkies makes what is probably the first officially commissioned ad film for Lever's Dalda cooking oil. The ad agency: Lintas.
In 1952, actor Jagdish Raj dons the police uniform for the first time in CID, something he repeats in 144 films, holding the world record for wearing the cop's uniform in films.
1987: First modern silent film. Kamalahaasan-starrer Pushpaka Vimana (called Pushpak in Hindi) reinvents the silent movie as a black comedy.
- 1896 First cinema show in India Marvel of the Century, arranged by agents of Louis and August Lumiere, at Bombay's Watson Hotel on July 7
- 1899 First use of cine-camera. H.S. Bhatavdekar imports a cine-camera from London. He films a wrestling bout at Hanging Gardens in Bombay, the first documentary.
- 1902 First bioscope show. J.F. Madan launches his bioscope show in a tent at Calcutta Maidan.
- 1907 First Indian cinema hall J.F. Madan opens the Elphinstone Picture Palace in Calcutta, the first of his cinema chains.
- 1913 First heroine A young boy, Salunke, who plays Taramati in Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harischandra. The first true heroine is Kamalabai Gokhale.
- 1913 First hero. Dattatraya Damodar Dabke becomes the first hero, as Raja Harischandra, in the eponymous film, India’s first full-length feature
- 1915 First animation. Agkadyanchi Mouj, made by Phalke, is the first animation film after his earlier unreleased attempt of 1912, called The Growth of the Pea Plant
- 1918 Indian Cinematograph Act The terms of censorship and licensing are spelt out. In 1920, censor boards set up in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras
- 1921 First censorship controversy Kanjibhai Rathod's Bhakt Vidur, released around the time of the Rowlatt Act, is seen as “politically subversive” and banned in Madras and Karachi
- 1923 First film poster Baburao Painter creates a poster for his film Maya Bazaar, also known as Vatsala Haran
- 1929 First lip-lock Seeta Devi and Charu Roy lock lips in the silent film Throw of Dice. Some say Lalita Pawar was the first to kiss in Pati Bhakti, made in 1922.
- 1931 First film song De De Khuda Ke Naam Par Pyare, sung by W.M. Khan for Alam Ara; its composer Phiroz Shah Mistry, the first music director
- 1931 First talkie Ardeshir Irani's Alam Ara releases on March 14 at Bombay's Majestic Cinema. Audiences actually hear a film for the first time.
- 1935 First stunt film With Hunterwali, starring Fearless Nadia, the stunt film is accepted as a respectable big-budget genre
- 1937 First international recognition Sant Tukaram, released at Central Cinema, Bombay, in 1936, receives Special Jury mention at the 5th Venice International Film Festival
- 1937 First colour film Kisan Kanya, by Moti B. Gidwani, is the first colour film processed in India. The earlier colour effort, Sairandhri, was processed in Germany.
- 1938 First camera crane Wadia Movietone uses the camera crane, built in its own workshop under B.M. Tara’s supervision
- 1943 First certified blockbuster Gyan Mukherjee's Kismet has leading man Ashok Kumar play an anti-hero; incorporates themes like pre-marital pregnancy.
- 1945 Rafi’s first screen appearance Mohd Rafi makes an appearance in Laila Majnu; music director Madan Mohan tries out his acting chops in Parda, 1947
- 1946 Lata Mangeshkar's Bollywood debut Paa Laagu Kar Jori Re in the film Aap Ki Sewa Mein is her first Bollywood song
- 1946 Cannes Grand Prize Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar wins Grand Prize at the first Cannes Film Festival
- 1948 RK Films set up Raj Kapoor starts RK Films, builds his studio in 1950. Its iconic logo is based on the famous Raj Kapoor-Nargis clinch from Barsaat (1949).
- 1950 First 'A' film Akash Chitra's Hanste Aansu is the first Hindi feature film to get an ‘A’ certificate. Social Evil, a 1929 docu-drama, got an ‘A’ tag.
- 1951 First comedy film Bhagwan Dada's Albela, a musical featuring Shola Jo Bhadke...Dil Mera Dhadke, Bholi Soorat Dil Ke Khote, is arguably the first comedy film
- 1952 IFFI The first International Film Festival of India is organised by Films Division (set up in 1949) in Bombay, Madras and Calcutta
- 1954 First National Awards The Marathi film Shyamchi Aai, directed by P.K. Atre, and Jagat Murali's short film Mahabalipuram win the very first National Awards
- 1957 First Academy Awards entry Mother India releases. It is India's first submission for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958, and is nominated
- 1959 First film in Cinemascope Guru Dutt's Kaagaz Ke Phool is the first widescreen film, shot with Cinemascope lenses from 20th Century Fox. Bombs at the box office.
- 1960 Lavish production Cost of K. Asif's magnum opus Mughal E Azam touches $330,000 in the twelve years of its making
- 1962 First Bhojpuri film Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo is the first film made in Bhojpuri
- 1964 Switzerland The snowy slopes of Switzerland make their debut in Bollywood with Sangam. Triggers the trend of shooting songs abroad.
- 1967 First 70-mm film Pachhi's romcom Around the World is shot in 70 mm using blow-up method and stereophonic sound. Later, in 1975, Sholay too is shot in 70-mm format.
- 1969 New wave Mrinal Sen's Bhuvan Shome and Mani Kaul's Uski Roti usher in an all-new experimentation in technique, form and narrative
- 1971 Cup runneth over India makes 433 feature films, making it the world’s biggest film producer
- 1972 First horror film Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche sees the Ramsay Brothers spearhead the genre. Earlier films dealt with reincarnation and ghosts, but weren’t gory.
- 1973 Indie, love story Bobby boosts the love story genre. At the other end of the spectrum, Shyam Benegal's Ankur paves the way for middle-of-the-road cinema trend.
- 1973 Angry Young Man Bottled-up anger, exploding into action, takes centrestage with Inspector Vijay in Zanjeer
- 1975 Sholay breaks all records Becomes the first film to celebrate a silver jubilee in more than 100 cinemas; runs for over five years at Mumbai's Minerva theatre
- 1977 First actor CM MGR is the first actor to become a chief minister; is CM of Tamil Nadu from 1977 to 1987
- 1982 Colour TV Enters living rooms. One of the earliest colour film to be seen in colour on TV is Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi
- 1983 First Oscar for India Bhanu Athaiya becomes the first Indian to win the Academy Award for Costume Design for her work in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi
- 1983 Rajnikanth's Hindi debut The southern superstar is seen in Andha Kanoon, with Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini
- 1984 First 3D film Malayalam film My Dear Kuttichathan uses 3D technology. It is later dubbed in Hindi as Chhota Chetan. The first Hindi 3D movie is Shiva Ka Insaaf.
- 1989 Salaam Bombay! Mira Nair’s gritty, heart-wrenching film becomes the second Indian film to make it to the Oscar’s Best Foreign Language category
- 1992 Honorary Oscar Days before his death, Satyajit Ray gets the Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement “in recognition of his mastery of the art of motion pictures….”
- 1994 Musical megahit The 14-song musical Hum Aapke Hain Koun is declared the biggest hit in the history of Indian cinema
- 1995 ‘Item’ number Sonali Bendre’s Humma Humma dance in the film Bombay is the first item song in Indian cinema, though the term is not used yet
- 1996 First film on homosexuality Deepa Mehta’s Fire creates a furore over its open depiction of lesbianism and is banned
- 1997 First multiplex PVR Anupam, with four screens, opens in Delhi
- 1999 First insured film For Taal, Subhash Ghai's Mukta Arts took an insurance policy worth Rs 11 crore against shooting schedule disturbances or accidents
- 2002 Lagaan's Oscar nomination Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan makes it to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars
- 2009 Double Oscar A.R. Rahman wins two Oscars for Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. Resul Pookutty bags an Oscar for best sound mixing.
- 2010 Digicam film Dibakar Banerjee's Love Sex Aur Dhokha is shot on a handheld digicam, in the found footage style
- 2011 Most expensive At $30 million, Shahrukh Khan's ambitious superhero flick Ra.One becomes the most expensive film till date
- 2012 World's largest film studio The 2,700-acre Prayag Film City at Chandrakona, West Bengal, is unveiled. When it becomes fully operational next year, it will become the world's largest film studio complex, taking the crown away from Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad.
From: Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema —Ashish Rajadhyaksha & Paul Willemen; The Essential Guide to Bollywood—Subhash K. Jha & Pavan Jha; and online information sources
- 1918: First Hollywood-trained Indian Suchet Singh trains in cinema techniques in America, working with Charlie Chaplin
- 1926: First woman producer Fatma Begum becomes the first woman producer and director, setting up her own production house, Fatma Films, and debuting as director with Bulbul-e-Parastan
- 1935: First playback music Nitin Bose’s Dhoop Chaon, with R.C. Boral as the music director, makes playback singing standard practice, precluding the need to find actors who could sing. This widens the field, while keeping the ‘musical’ spirit intact. The song Main Khush Hona Chahun has the first all-woman chorus led by Parul Ghosh with Suprova Sarkar and Harimati.
- 1948: First all-India hit from South Made at Gemini Studio, S.S. Vasan’s bombastic Chandralekha is the first Madras production to become an all-India hit
- 1951: First Helen number Awaara and Shabistan saw cabaret queen Helen shake a leg for the first time as a chorus dancer. Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo came 7 years later.
- 1960: First film institutes The Film Institute starts in Pune, at the premises of the former Prabhat Studio; the Institute for Film Technology starts in Madras
- 1964: First one-actor, one-set film Sunil Dutt makes Yaadein with just himself emoting on one set
Compiled by Arpita Basu