The Era of Mythological Films in Indian Cinema

Find out how popular ancient stories were translated on silverscreen to captivate audiences

By Ultra Media & Entertainment

Mythological films produced by Homi Wadia

Hanuman Chalisa by Homi WadiaUltra Media & Entertainment

Mythology has been a part of Indian culture since ancient times. The earliest versions of Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata date back to 7th and 8th Century BC. Ever since then, these stories have been refurbished and passed on through generations.

Shree Ganesh by Homi WadiaUltra Media & Entertainment

The transition 

Every chapter, every character from these mythological tales talk about universal virtues, human nature and emotions which are relevant in contemporary times as well. They had characters, adventures, morals and even climax, that it became natural for filmmakers to explore these stories through the medium of Cinema. 

Shree Krishna leela by Homi WadiaUltra Media & Entertainment

The trend of Mythological Films in India began in the 1920s, which was capitalised greatly by various film production companies. One of them was founded by the great visionary of Indian Cinema, Homi Wadia.

Veer Ghatotkach by Homi WadiaUltra Media & Entertainment

Indian Gods have supernatural powers and recreating their epics was next to impossible!

TilottamaUltra Media & Entertainment

However, these stories were already extremely popular, which created a potential for a large audience base. They were already filled with action, romance and drama. Moreover, retelling mythology did not require any copyrights.

ChandrasenaUltra Media & Entertainment

Production design

Right from designing grand sets to exquisite costumes, it was a big challenge to make these mythological tales believable, especially when filmmakers did not have the leverage of using tools and technology that the modern-day director enjoys.

Maya BazaarUltra Media & Entertainment

The kind of effort that went into creating sets for royal palaces at that time is quite unimaginable.

Special artists and set designers were hired to maintain consistency and include every minute detailing that was possible.

Swayamvar Jhale SitecheUltra Media & Entertainment

Costumes were designed separately for every important character of the film to create a fantasy world.

Accessories and props were also chosen with utmost care, keeping in mind the character hierarchy, relevance, and intricacies.

Mahabali Hanuman PosterUltra Media & Entertainment

With meticulous production design, costume-design and make-up, these mythological films managed to recreate larger then life characters and gave a face to Indian Gods in the minds of audiences.

Pavanputra Hanuman by Homi WadiaUltra Media & Entertainment

Prosthetic make-up was used to great effect, especially where hybrid characters were introduced with animal characteristics, to give life to these larger than life characters.

Be it the mighty monkey God, Hanuman...

Shree Ganesh by Homi WadiaUltra Media & Entertainment

...or the Elephant-headed God, Ganesha!

Maha Sati SavitriUltra Media & Entertainment

Means of marketing

Songs, posters and word-of-mouth were the only means of marketing in those days, when filmmakers did not have the comfort of using the power of digital media. 

Sampoorna Ramayan SongUltra Media & Entertainment

Indian Cinema has always been known for using melodious lyrical songs. Here is one such song from the film 'Sampoorana Ramayan'.

Maha Sati SavitriUltra Media & Entertainment

These sequences might look gimmicky today, but a lot of effort went into implementing these special effects with limited resources and technology to improve word-of-mouth publicity.

Hanuman Chalisa by Homi WadiaUltra Media & Entertainment

The artistically designed posters caught the attention of movie-goers.

The main characters of the poster were mostly photographs of them...

...painted over lightly to match the tonality of the design...

...while the remaining portions were hand-painted using oil colours.

Shree Krishna leela by Homi WadiaUltra Media & Entertainment

With time, a saturation level was reached as all types of mythological stories were done and dusted on Big Screen. The audience looked for something new, which paved the way for contemporary stories in Bollywood, starting early 70s

TilottamaUltra Media & Entertainment

Nevertheless, these Grand-scale films, captivated the minds of people during its time and showed us a whole new world of Gods, Goddesses, Fairies, Demons and Sages in a fascinating way.

Now, with the advent of new technology such as CGI and spectacular special effects, the genre is making a comeback in Indian Cinema in the 21st century.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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