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Alam Ara: The First Indian Sound Film

Alam Ara, which means Ornament of the World, is a 1931 Indian Hindustani-language historical fantasy film directed and produced by Ardeshir Irani. It is based on a Parsi theatre play of the same name written by Joseph David. The film revolves around a king and his two wives, Navbahaar and Dilbahaar, who are childless; soon, a fakir tells the king that the former wife will give birth to a boy, later named Qamar, but the child will die following his 18th birthday if Navbahaar cannot find the necklace he asks for. Meanwhile, the king finds out that Dilbahaar falls for the senapati Adil, leading the king to arrest him and evicts his pregnant wife, who later gives birth to Alam Ara.


Alam Ara is widely considered a major breakthrough for the Indian film industry and Ardeshir Irani's career with its status as the country's first sound film. It was made on a budget of 40,000 (equivalent to 12 million or US$150,000 in 2023) and was filmed mostly during the nighttime to avoid noise from the active trains near the studio. The film featured seven songs, including "De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe", which is regarded as the first song in an Indian film. The film was released on 14 March 1931 at Majestic Cinema in Bombay (present-day Mumbai) and performed well at the box office. Critics were appreciative of the film, especially the performance and songs, though some of them criticised the sound recording.

Unfortunately, no print or gramophone record of the film is known to survive, making it a lost film. However, some artefacts such as stills and posters are still available. In 2017, the British Film Institute declared it as the most important of any lost films produced in India.


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