Celebrating 80 Years of Alam Ara

Mar 14, 2011

alam ara 1931
Theatrical release poster
Alam Ara was the first Indian talkie or first indian sound film released on March 14, 1931 - exactly eighty years ago at the Majestic Cinema in Mumbai. It was so popular that police aid had to be summoned to control the crowds.
Alam Ara (The Light of the World) was directed by Ardeshir Irani.
The film was inspired by the first movie version of Jerome Kern's Show Boat (1929), released by Universal Pictures.

Both the movie and its music were widely successful including the hit song De de khuda ke naam per, which was also the first song of the Indian cinema, and was sung by actor Wazir Mohammed Khan who played a fakir in the film. As playback singing had yet to start in Indian cinema, it was recorded live with musical accompaniment of a harmonium and a tabla.
alam ara 1931
A scene from Alam Ara
 The film also marked the beginning of filmi music in the Cinema of India, as noted film director Shyam Benegal said, "It was not just a talkie. It was a talking and singing film with more singing and less talking. It had a number of songs and that actually set the template for the kind of films that were made later"
Ardeshir Irani handled the sound recording department, using the Taran Sound System. It was shot with the Tanar single-system camera, which recorded sound directly onto the film. Since there were no soundproof studios available at the time, the shooting was done mostly at night, to avoid daytime noises, with microphones hidden near the actors.

alam ara 1931
Ardeshir Irani recording Alam Ara
The film is a love story between a prince and a gypsy girl, based on a Parsi play written by Joseph David. David later served as a writer at Irani's film company. The story centers on an imaginary, historical royal family in the kingdom of Kumarpur. The main characters are the king and his two warring wives Dilbahar and Navbahar. Their rivalry escalates when a fakir predicts that Navbahar will bear the king's heir. Dilbahar, in revenge, attempts to have an affair with the kingdom's chief minister Adil. The affair goes sour and a vengeful Dilbahar imprisons him and exiles his daughter, Alam Ara (Zubeida). In exile, Alam Ara is brought up by Gypsies. Upon returning to the palace at Kumarpur, Alam Ara meets and falls in love with the charming young prince (Master Vithal). In the end, Adil is released, Dilbahar is punished and the lovers marry.

After the fire at National Film Archive of India, Pune, in 2003, which destroyed the last surviving prints of several classics such as Raja Harishchandra and Achhut Kanya, this film is no longer available in its original format.

The film had music by Ferozshah M. Mistri and B. Irani, and had seven songs:
alam ara 1931
Newspaper advertisement for Alam Ara
  • De de khuda ke naam pe pyaare, taaqat ho gar dene ki, kuch chaahe agar to maang le mujhse himmat ho gar lene ki: Wazir Mohammed Khan
  • Badla Dilbayega Ya Rabb tu Sitamgaron se: Zubeida
  • Rutha Hai Asman gum ho gaya mahatab: Jillu
  • Teri Katili nigahon ne mara
  • De dil ko aaram aye saki gulfam
  • Bhar bhar ke jam pila ja sagar ke chalane bala
  • Daras bina mare hai tarse naina pyare



alam ara 1931
Alam Ara still
  • Abhijit Dey
  • Apurba Goswami
  • Ami Saha
  • Shilabati Soren
  • Subhajyoti Jana

    alam ara 1931
    Master Vithal and Zubeida in Alam Ara
     A quick view of Alam Ara:
    Directed by:Ardeshir Irani
    Produced by:Imperial Movietone
    Written by:Joseph David
    Urdu: Munshi Zaheer
    Starring:Master Vithal
    Jilloo, Sushila,
    Prithviraj Kapoor
    Music by:Ferozshah M. Mistri
    B. Irani
    Cinematography:Wilford Deming
    Adi M. Irani
    Editing by:Ezra Mir
    Release date:March 14, 1931
    Running time:124 mins