The Influence of Early Parsi Theater

The early influences of Parsi Theater on the film scene today…

The dominance of Urdu has a lot to do with the origins of the film industry in Bombay. There were roughly two major influences — the first influence was from Bengal. Movies made under The New Theatre seemed more like Bengali movies with Hindi dialogues. The second and the one with a long-lasting influence was of the Parsi theatre. The likes of Ardeshir Irani, Sohrab Modi and Prithviraj Kapoor brought the traditions of theatre into cinema.

It is noteworthy that the first Indian talkie, Alam Ara, was a Muslim social with completely Urdu dialogues. Later, Sohrab Modi’s Pukar (1939) laid the foundation of a Parsi-theatre based historical in Hindi cinema. The influence of Parsi theatre went beyond the use of Urdu. The song-and-dance formula owes its popularity to the Parsi theatre to a great extent. When the Bombay film industry grew, Urdu, by default, became the language of cinema. The sophisticated diction and intonation that came with Urdu lent the dialogues a class that was difficult to reproduce in other dialects.

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