Greatest Individuals in the History of Bollywood

Greatest Ever Personalities of Hindi Cinema
Greatest Ever Personalities of Hindi Cinema

The Greatest Personalities of Bollywood

As Bollywood moves closer to a century of its existence, it is time to look at the men and women who carved its destiny by their sheer talent, genius, hard work and creativity. From an industry, where working was hardly considered admirable, Bollywood today has become the centre of glamour, art and popularity in India.

In two parts, we take a look at a dozen most influential personalities in the history of hundred years of Bollywood's existence, their contributions which inspired many generations of stars and artistes and salute them for being the torch bearers of Hindi Cinema. This does not mean that these were the only great contributions or that others who are not in this list were not important. It is only that these dozen men and women influenced Bollywood more than many other greats, who of course, made Bollywood what it is today.

This Hub lists six such personalities. Remaining six are listed in Part 2 of this Hub.

KUNDAN LAL SAIGAL (1904-1947) Actor - Singer

Kundan Lal Saigal - The man who inspired Lata, Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar
Kundan Lal Saigal - The man who inspired Lata, Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar

The First Superstar of Bollywood

As an actor and singer, Saigal's influence can be gauged from the fact that Lata Mangeshkar broke the radio that she had just bought with all her savings when she heard the news of Saigal's death and never bought a radio again. Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore - all began by imitating him. He was the first superstar of Bollywood, dictating the success of movies even though employed on a salaried basis.

Saigal, who began his acting career by doing the role of Sita in his childhood days, reached Bollywood by a stroke of destiny, through a friend that pushed him to Calcutta, where Hindi Film Industry was centred in those days. He became famous with bhajans he sang in Puran Bhagat (1933) and became an icon with Devdas (1935) as an actor-singer. Even after playback was introduced in Bollywood, he used to sing in front of camera - as in Babul Mora... from Street Singer (1938) . His singing was a greater factor in his stardom. His classical perfection is still admirable and his unique voice is still charmful. He remained the biggest name in Bollywood till his death in 1947.

A great song by K L Saigal from the movie STREET SINGER (1938)

SURAIYYA (1929-2004) Actor - Singer

Suraiyya - The first female star of Bollywood, who preceded both Madhubala and Lata Mangeshkar
Suraiyya - The first female star of Bollywood, who preceded both Madhubala and Lata Mangeshkar

The First Female Superstar of Bollywood

Even though her reign at the top was short lived, Suraiyya remains the first female heartthrob of Bollywood. Her singing talents were her greatest advantage during those days - giving her an adge over great actors like Nargis and Kamini Kaushal, while her looks and acting put her ahead of singing stars like Noor Jehan, Shamshad Begum and Lata Mangeshkar. Even though not trained in Hindustani classical, she could sing songs based on raagas to perfection. Her rendering of songs in Mirza Ghalib (1954) made Nehru, the Indian PM, commend her for "bringing Ghalib back to life".

Suraiyya, referred to as the 'Mallika - e - tarrannum', began as a child artiste in 1937. She began singing for movies at the age of 13 years in Sharda (1942) and became a star in 1946 with Anmol Ghadi. Two of her movies with Saigal, Omar Khayyam and Parwana were also released the same year. Her seven films with Dev Anand between 1948 and 1951 were very successful, but the credit was given to Suraiyya who was a bigger star those days. Dev Anand, who once saved her after their boat capsized during shooting of film Vidya (1948) fell in love with her and proposed her with marriage, but that could not happen due to her grandmother's opposition. She decided to remain a spinster all her life, making her life a tale of tragic love story.

Suraiyya (actor-singer) in the movie MIRZA GHALIB (1954)

RAJ KAPOOR (1924 - 1988) Actor - Director - Producer

Raj Kapoor - His was always ahead of his time and showed the way for future. Also lead in showcasing Bollywood to the Box Office.
Raj Kapoor - His was always ahead of his time and showed the way for future. Also lead in showcasing Bollywood to the Box Office.

The Greatest Showman of Bollywood

Raj Kapoor is considered the greatest showman of Bollywood. His greatest asset was his excellent understanding of mass preferences and taste, which he often catered to perfection, in the process, creating many box office blockbusters. However, that does not in any way, undermine his directive genius and great acting skills, with which he created some of the greatest milestome movies of Hindi cinema like Awara (1951), Shri 420 ( 1955) and Jaagte Raho (1956). His movies in the fifties bacame popular in many countries outside India.

Raj Kapoor also perfected the art of depicting his female leads in the most glamorous way, far ahead of his time, even evoking accusations of exploitation and catering to the instincts. However, his depictions remain classical masterpieces with movies like Jis Desh Me Ganga Behti Hai(1960), Bobby (1973) and Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985). In Mera Naam Joker (1970), he attempted an abstract autobiographical masterpiece that did not suceed at the box office. Thereafter, his later movies were more oriented towards commercial success.

This song became a rage in many countries - movie Shri 420 (1955)

GURU DUTT (1925 - 1964) Actor - Director - Producer

Guru Dutt - A Creative genius who was also a Director and Actor. His movies are eternal masterpieces.
Guru Dutt - A Creative genius who was also a Director and Actor. His movies are eternal masterpieces.

The Maverick Genius who took Bollywood to a different plane

If there is one man in the history of Bollywood, who changed the character of the industry, it is Guru Dutt. Born as Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone and having faced a difficult childhood, Guru Dutt made his way into Bollywood with a small role in Chand (1944) and became assistant director in 1946. He developed a frienship with Dev Anand during early days where both promised to help each other. It was Dev who offered his first movie as Director for Baazi (1951), starring Dev Anand, which became a rage and established Guru Dutt.

After a string of lighthearted masterpieces that showcase his mastery, it was a string of eternal classics like Pyasa (1957), Kagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Saheb, Bibi aur Ghulam (1961), which reserved his place among the all time greatest directors of the world (Time, 2002; Sight & Sound, 2002). These movies blend art, techniques, creativity, story-telling, picturisation and music with a deep underlying philosophy and depictions of human feelings and emotions in a way that remains unparalleled till date, making Guru Dutt, arguably, the greatest all time director of Bollywood. His untimely death at the age of 39 years, deprived the world of a maverick genius, but his achievements in his short life also became an evidence of his greatness.

A great song, a milestone in lighting and an illustration of directive genius of Guru Dutt - Kagaz Ke Phool (1959)

DEV ANAND (1923 - 2011) Actor - Director - Producer - Writer

Dev Anand - The man who introduced, elaborated and mastered the art of romance in Bollywood
Dev Anand - The man who introduced, elaborated and mastered the art of romance in Bollywood

The Evergreen Romantic Star of Bollywood

The extent of influence Dev Anand had on Bollywood is reflected from his 65 years long career as actor, director and producer in addition to writing scripts for 11 of his movies. He may not have been an acting genius in the category of Dillip Kumar or a Directing genius like Raj Kapoor, but his acting and direction had sufficient originality to have enriched the Bollywood. With 104 movies, he is only second to Rajesh Khanna (106) in the number of lead roles, and 82 of these were commercial hits.

Dev Anand began his career with Prabhat Films in Pune, where he was selected because of his looks and confidence, with Hum Ek Hain (1946). His movies with Suraiyya were hits and their love story remains a tragic tale of Bollywood. His first great success came in Ziddi (1948) with co-star Kamini Kaushal. His succeses span from Baazi (1951) to Hum Naujawan (1985), though he kept making movies and acting in them till his death. His best moment came in form of GUIDE (1965), which remains one of the best movies made in Bollywood till date. Another aspect of Dev Anand's great influence in Bollywood was in giving break to new names that later became the who's who of Bollywood, inclduing the likes of Guru Dutt, Kishore Kumar, Raj Khosla, Waheeda Rahman, S.D. Burman, Jaidev, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Yash Johar, Shekhar Kapur, Zeenat Aman, Tina Mumin, Zarina Wahab, Jackie Shroff and Tabu.

A scintillating Dev Anand song from movie SOLVAA SAAL (1955)

DILIP KUMAR (b - 1922) Actor

Dillip Kumar - The real Devdas of Bollywood - the man who glamorised tragedy
Dillip Kumar - The real Devdas of Bollywood - the man who glamorised tragedy

The Tragedy King of Bollywood

Just like K L Saigal can be credited for having inspired greats like Lata, Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore, many great actors of Bollywood have looked at Dilip Kumar for inspiration and imitation, a fact that many like Amitabh Bachchan acknowledge, while others do not. Among the trio of Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar was probably the best as far as acting skills were concerned. Even the 8 filmfare awards (the most - along with Shahrukh Khan) do not do justice to that telent. His acting style was a school in itself, and practically changed the whole concept of acting in Bollywood. Unlike other great actors like Balraj Sahni and Sanjeev Kumar, Dilip Kumar was also a star who could ensure commercial success of any film.

Dilip Kumar, born as Muhammad Yusuf Khan got into Bollywood by a sheer stroke of destiny, when he was spotted in Pune in a Military Canteen by Devika Rani and her husband, who were visiting the place. She offered him a lead role in Jwar Bhata (1944) as Dilip Kumar. His career really took off with Jugnu (1947) and after Mela (1948), he never looked back. His best performances came in Andaz (1949), Devdas (1955), Naya Daur (1957), Madhumati (1958), Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Ram aur Shyam (1967).

Dillip Kumar in a great tragic song in movie FOOTPATH (1953)

The MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONALITY OF BOLLYWOOD's HUNDRED YEARS ?

Who do you think is the most influential perosnality during the hundred years of Bollywood ?

See results without voting

© 2012 V Kumar

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