Alam Ara (lost Indian talkie film; 1931)

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Alam Ara.jpg

The theatrical poster of the film.

Status: Lost

Alam Ara or Ornament of the World is a 1931 Indian historical fantasy film directed and produced by Ardeshir Irani. It is the first Indian sound film and was widely acclaimed before becoming lost to the general public.


Irani was inspired to make this film after watching the 1929 American part-talkie show “Show Boat”. Even though he didn’t have experience creating any film, he was determined to make it and decided to not follow any precedential sound film.


Irani produced the film for Imperial Film Company or IFC, an entertainment studio he co-founded. The story was adapted from Joseph David’s Parci Play of the same name while the screenplay was done by Irani. Zubeida was cast in the title role after Ruby Myers was unable to join the film because she couldn’t speak the film’s language, Hindustani. Irani wanted Mehboon Khan to play as the lead male before deciding to give the role to Master Vithal, who already ended his ongoing contract with Saradhi Studios and was trying to be sued. Alam Ara was funded for ₹40,000 or $130,000 in the U.S. As the film was near a train station, the film had to be shot at 1:00 to 4:00 AM to avoid noise. Irani and Rustom Bharucha, a lawyer, and manager for Imperial worked as sound technicians for the film, and before shooting, they had to learn the basics of sound recording by Wilford Deming. They used “Tanar”, a single system recording in which sound is recorded at the same time of the shooting. The film was then finished and edited by Ezra Mir with its length at 10,500 ft (3,200 ft).


The soundtrack of Alam Ara was released by Saregama and has a total of seven songs.

  • De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe Pyaare
  • Badla Dilwayega Yaar Ab Tu Sitamgaroon Se
  • Rootha Hai Aasmaan
  • Teri Kateelee Nigaahon Ne Mara
  • De Dil Ko Aaram Aey Saaki Gulfaam
  • Bhar Bhar Ke Jaam Pila Ja
  • Daras Bin Morey Hain Tarse Nayna Pyare

They were all sung by Muhammad Wazir Khan and was the first song in Hindi Cinema.


After the film was released, it became a huge success, Critics were generally positive to the film while some criticized the audio recording. It has been described as the rise of India films, and a turning point for Irani’s career. The film is listed in

  • 40 Firsts in Indian Cinema[1]
  • 100 Filmfare Days[2]
  • 70 Iconic Films of Indian Cinema[3]

Google even made a doodle for its 80th anniversary in March 14, 2011.


The only surviving print of Alam Ara was destroyed in a fire at National Film Archives of India in 2003, along with a copy of the first Marathi sound film Ayodhyecha Raja[4]. The only availability we have is stills and posters of the movie. It’s considered completely lost and declared as India’s most important lost film.


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