Originally Posted:- www.longlivecinema.com
Opening credits often set the narrative and formal tone of a film. Long Live Cinema lists the 7 memorable opening credits sequences in Indian Cinema. As is the case with list making, this one is too entirely arbitrary and subjective. Feel free to agree, disagree or better still add to this list in our comment column.
Bombay Talkie (1970), dir. James Ivory
James Ivory’s Bombay Talkie is sort of a meta film-it functions as a commentary on the Bombay Film Industry. The film stars Shashi Kapoor as a famous Bollywood actor and Jennifer Kendall as a novelist who is researching on the Bombay film industry and falls in love with Shashi Kapoor’s character. The opening sequences of the film set to a lovely score by Shankar-Jaikishan is striking and original.
The city in the film is treated as a gallery where the credits are put up in poster/billboard form. These are placed against iconic Bombay places such as Marine Drive, Nariman Point skyline and streets with double decker buses. One of the most captivating opening sequences I have ever seen.
Don (1978), dir. Chandra Barot
Chandra Barot’s action thriller Don featured Amitabh Bachchan in a now iconic double role. This stylized film has quite a groovy opening credits sequence. This sequence is in negative where major events are taking place as the credits are rolling. This psychedelic sequence is set to an electronic music score.
Sholay (1975), dir. Ramesh Sippy
Arguably one THE most iconic Hindi film, it also has quite a neat opening credits sequence. It begins with an extreme long shot of two men on a horse traversing across a vast arid landscape that instantly evokes the genre of the western. In this sequence, Ramlal is guiding the policemen on horseback from the railway station to Thakur’s haveli. The route consists of the riverlet, the village, shots of villagers going through their daily routine, a journey across the bridge and finally it ends at Thakur’s haveli.
The opening credits establishes the spatially important places in the film’s narrative. It is set against a brilliant score by R.D Burman that evokes the sound of both the Wild West and the very Indian setup of the film courtesy the use of guitar chords, French percussion and horn, tabla tarang and taar shehnai.
Taare Zameen Par (2008), dir. Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan’s directorial debut explores the life of Ishaan and through him the issue of dyslexia. In the film, Ishaan’s imagination is depicted through animated sequences. Stylistically, the opening credits are also done in the animation style to foreshadow Ishaan’s world.
Here is also a great link on the making of the opening titles and animation done for it.
Charulata (1964), dir. Satyajit Ray
I must admit I was quite torn between Charulata and Mahanagar, eventually I went with the former as I find it more poetic. Cited by Ray himself as his finest film, the story was adapted from Rabindranath Tagore’s novella Nastanirh (The Broken Nest). The opening sequence of the film shows a woman embroidering what we will find out later, her husband’s initials onto a handkerchief.
Later the camera slowly zooms out to show the viewers the setting of the room where she is doing her work. The camera then unobtrusively follows her as she wanders alone in her big and magnificent house observing the outside world through the window blinds using her opera glasses. This wordless sequence, establishes the loneliness of the central character and gives a viewer a glimpse into her world.
Bhuvan Shome (1969), dir. Mrinal Sen
Mrinal Sen’s first Hindi film, Bhuvan Shome is based on short story by Balai Chandra Mukhopadhyay. It is about a bureaucrat, Mr Shome, a senior employee in the railways department, who goes off to a hunting trip and undergoes a minor transformation after meeting a village girl. Considered a landmark film and one of the first Indian New Wave films, it is marked by formalist experiments such as freeze frames, extreme close ups, eccentric scene transitions and jump cuts.
The striking opening sequence of the films gives a clue to the viewers about the formal experiments. A freeze frame is followed by a shot of the railway tracks taken from the front juxtaposed with title cards featuring credits. All this is set to classical music. An interesting bit of trivia, the Amitabh mentioned in the credits is actually Amitabh Bachchan who gave a voiceover for this film and earned Rs. 300- his first earning from films.
Luck by Chance (2009), dir. Zoya Akhtar
A satirical albeit an affectionate gaze trained at the Bombay film industry, Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance has one of the most memorable opening credits sequences of recent times. The central conceit of this film revolves around an actor who arrives in Bombay to make it big as a movie star.
The opening credits are a montage of shots featuring old security guards, projectionists, dilapidated buildings that serve as make-up rooms etc. In an interview, Akhtar mentioned that her film is about people ‘waiting for things to happen’. The opening credits focus on not the main people (such as the cinematographer, music director, costume designer, production designer), but the team behind them. In a way this sets the narrative tone for the film. Here is a great interview Zoya Akhtar talking about the opening credits.