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At this time, lavish romantic musicals and melodramas were the staple fare at the cinema.
Prior to the 1947 partition of India, which was divided into the Republic of India and Pakistan, the Bombay film industry (now called Bollywood) was closely to the Lahore film industry (now the Lollywood industry of Pakistani cinema), as both produced films in Hindi-Urdu, or Hindustani, the lingua franca across northern and central India.
Some of the most critically acclaimed Hindi films of all time were produced during this period.
Examples include Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) directed by Guru Dutt and written by Abrar Alvi, Awaara (1951) and Shree 420 (1955) directed by Raj Kapoor and written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, and Aan (1952) directed by Mehboob Khan and starring Dilip Kumar.
Though the movement was mainly led by Bengali cinema, it also began gaining prominence in Hindi cinema. Early examples of films in this movement include Dharti Ke Lal (1946) directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and based on the Bengal famine of 1943, Dutt is now regarded as one of the greatest Asian filmmakers of all time, alongside the more famous Indian Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
The 2002 Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll of greatest filmmakers ranked Dutt at No. and with both Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) tied at No.
Key to this was the emergence of the masala film genre, which combines elements of multiple genres (action, comedy, romance, drama, melodrama, musical).
The masala film was pioneered in the early 1970s by filmmaker Nasir Hussain, directed by Manmohan Desai and written by Kader Khan.
The term "Bollywood" itself has origins in the 1970s, when India overtook the United States as the world's largest film producer.Most Bollywood films were unabashedly escapist, but there were also a number of filmmakers who tackled tough social issues, or used the struggle for Indian independence as a backdrop for their plots.In 1937, Ardeshir Irani, of Alam Ara fame, made the first colour film in Hindi, Kisan Kanya.Successful actors at the time included Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, and Guru Dutt, while successful actresses included Nargis, Vyjayanthimala, Meena Kumari, Nutan, Madhubala, Sadhana, Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha.The three most popular male Indian actors of the 1950s and 1960s were Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, and Dev Anand, each with their own unique acting style.