Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Ghost Who Talked

Ardeshir’s ardent dream, or the story of India’s first talkie

The Ghost Who Talked
The Ghost Who Talked The Ghost Who Talked

List Of Silent Movies

  • 1913 Raja Harish-chandra
  • 1917 Lanka Dahan
  • 1916 Keechaka Vadham
  • 1920 Shankuntala
  • 1921 Bhakt Vidur
  • 1921 Bilat Ferat
  • 1922 Pati Bhakti
  • 1925 Prem Sanyas
  • 1928 Devdas
  • 1929 Gopal Krishna


Indian cinema, having found its voice in silent reels, was still enjoying its burgeoning, hypnotic pull, when sound turned it on its head in the year 1931; in a stroke, its euphoric silence was relegated to a past age. The man who initiated the revolution was an enterprising 46-year-old Parsi by the name of Ardeshir Marwan Irani (1886-1969), who, it seemed, breathed films for a living! The night he saw Universal Picture’s Show Boat (a 40 per cent talkie) at Bombay’s Excelsior Cinema sometime in 1930, he had resolved to bring into being India’s own ‘talking-singing’ film, though, as he admitted later, he had no clue how! Interestingly, it was not Irani who was the earliest to think of making a talkie in India, but Jeejeebhoy Jamshedji (J.J.) Madan of Madan Theatres, Calcutta. During a visit to New York, he had watched Warner Brothers’ talkie Jazz Singer (a film which heralded the emergence of a new phase in filmmaking across the world) and was so impressed by the audience’s overwhelming response to it that he decided to launch a talkie on his return to India. In preparation, he even visited Hollywood to understand the logistics of making a talkie. In fact, Madan Theatres had been the first to release a talkie in India—Universal Studio’s Melody of Love—in 1929 at Calcutta’s Elphinstone Picture Palace, which was the only cinema hall in India at the time equipped to screen a talkie. (By the end of 1930, 30 cinema halls could screen talkie films).