The first Indian talkie was Alam Ara, which debuted at the Majestic Theatre in Bombay on March 14th, 1931. The crowds were so vast that police had to be called in to control them. The director was Ardeshir Irani and it was immensely successful. The first ever Bollywood song starting a tradition that has lasted lifetimes was ‘De de khuda ke naam par’ and it was sung by the actor Wazir Mohamed Khan — the first of the King Khans! As Shyam Benegal has 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.” The story is essentially a love story between a prince and a gypsy girl and encompasses kings and courts, prisons, exile and two warring wives. Regrettably the fire at the National Film Archives at Pune in 2003 destroyed the last surviving full print and all that remains now are memories. It’s worth seeing what you can of it, however, if only to glimpse the breathtaking Zubeida as the gypsy girl. Zubeida was a real life princess, the daughter of the Nawab of Sachin and she had the courage to enter the movies at a time when it was not really considered a respectable thing to do — especially if you were of royal blood.