How did cinema commence?

The history of world cinema dates back to 1895 when the first motion picture was produced and exhibited in Paris and since then cinema has never looked back. Recently in 1995, it completed a hundred years and this occasion was celebrated all over the world with much pomp and ceremony. Cinema originated in its raw form only as moving pictures but with the gradual passage of time, it steadfastly kept on improving its form and presentation to reach its present status. The primary reason for its continuous progress and tremendous technical advancement was the mass popularity it achieved as a major source of entertainment till the advent of television.

To go back to the birth of cinema, the root can be traced to a machine called kinetoscope which was invented by Thomas Edison in 1891. This machine showed moving pictures for the first time. But a little later, two French brothers called Auguste and Louis Lumiere built a similar machine called cinematographe. This machine could project pictures from a piece of film onto a screen as this had a camera as well as a projector. The pictures were shown one after another in rapid succession and the images on the screen appeared to move. The Lumiere brothers produced the world’s first motion picture in 1895 and gave the world’s first public show in Paris in the same year.

The early films were in black and white, the movements were very jerky and they had no sound. They are called ‘silent cinemas’ as the images did not produce any sound effects on the screen. In the initial days, only news items and real events were shown in the films but the later film-makers made films with their own stories. The actors played the role of the imaginary characters in the stories. The Lumiere brothers made the first story film ‘Watering the Gardener’.

The silent cinema proved to be a great success though tickets were very expensive and as a result huge profits were earned. Consequently large investments were made to improvise and upgrade the technology which gave rise to the use of various types of special effects in the movies. Dance and song sequences, lavish costumes and specially designed sets or background were gradually added to make the scenes more impressive and glamourous.

The phenomenal growth in popularity of the films laid the foundation of a star system even in those days. An unknown girl named Florence Lawrence (later renamed Mary Pickford) became the world’s sweetheart and the first star to earn a million dollar from acting. After the First World War the American films became grand successes when they cheered the war-torn world and entertained the people thus enabling them to forget their miseries and bitter memories of the war. Hollywood city in California became the film city of the world.

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What is show-jumping?

          These days we often watch this sport in television where a horse, with its rider, is seen jumping and crossing over several hurdles on a specially prepared course. This event is known as show-jumping. In this competition, a horse and its rider are supposed to overcome a series of walls, fences and other obstacles as neatly as possible to gather maximum points to win the competition. Bonus points are also awarded to those who complete the course successfully in the fastest time. Horses, one after another, attempt to clear them to earn the points.

          It is very interesting to know how points are won and lost during the course of the competition. For example, when a horse jumps a brick-wall and kicks any of the bricks off the wall then it would lose points. Also while crossing the wooden poles, care should be taken that none of the poles is displaced by the horse so that full points can be scored in this part. There are also other types of obstacles like mounds, and ditches filled with water etc. and the horses must be able to clear them. There are also cases which lead to a serious loss of points, e.g. when the horse refuses to jump a fence. A participant also incurs a heavy loss of points when a horse throws its rider out of the saddle.

          Over the years, show-jumping has acquired a wide popularity as people now watch the competition on their TV screens. The event is full of adventure and hence thrilling.


Did Sherlock Holmes really exist?

          One of the most famous detectives of all times, Sherlock Holmes has become a legendary figure in the minds of people through the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. People all over the world know him as an eccentric person, with amazing powers of concentration and brilliance. He was a detective par excellence with a superb analytical mind that smoked a pipe and played a violin - typical traits as portrayed by Sir Doyle. Sherlock Holme’s character and lifestyle are so interestingly depicted in Doyle’s novel that many of Holme’s fans have searched for his house at 221 B, Baker Street, London, which infact, did not exist. 

          Sherlock Holme’s house did not exist because he himself never existed in reality. He was only a fictious character born out of the imagination of the novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, making his first appearance in 1887 in one of Doyle’s works. He appeared as a detective in other subsequent works of Doyle and became a household name. But Doyle projected this character so brilliantly and vividly that people often wondered if he existed in reality. Children mistake him to be a character in flesh and blood and consider him to be their ideal whenever they aspire to be a detective.

          In the novel, Sherlock Holmes used to be assisted by Dr Watson, another character in Doyle’s novel, who was rather dim and slow in comparison to Holme’s brilliance. Among these stories of Doyle, which are set in London at the end of the 19th century, the most famous is The Hound of Baskervilles.


What is Jazz?

          Though, with the rise of pop music in the 1960s, jazz started fading from the public eye yet its contribution to the world of occidental music can never be under-mined. In fact, pop owes much to jazz as a source of its origin. But what is jazz and how did it originate?

          Jazz is a kind of music which was first played by the Black American musicians in the 1800s and enjoyed much popularity in the western world till the 1960s. It was greatly influenced by the musical traditions of the black slaves of Southern USA. Their musical traditions mainly consisted of the traditions of their West African ancestors as well as their own distinctive style of spirituals.

          In jazz, the players use unexpected rhythm. They can play any notes they like but such changes must fit the music played by the rest of the band. This implies that one or more of the players can create new musical ideas and play them as they go along. These way most jazz musicians express their feelings and ideas which, therefore, permit them to improvise while performing. Jazz players often manage to get a personal tone which distinguishes them from others. ‘Swing’ is another important feature of jazz which means that emphasis is laid on the off-beats in the music.

          The earliest jazz was played in New Orleans, USA, but later Chicago became the centre of jazz from where it developed into an international music. Now many new jazz styles have arisen as musicians of different countries have added their own ideas and traditions to the music to create their own variety. Jazz greatly enriched itself through its inherent flexibility and being receptive enough to accommodate new elements.

          Among the few outstanding players of jazz of the earlier times, Joe ‘King’ Oliver and Louis Armstrong were well-known.


What is Ballet?

          Ballet is a theatrical form of dance based on a strict technique. The dancing form is very beautiful and precise which, generally, presents an idea or tells a story and is accompanied by music.

          The origin of ballet can be traced to a kind of dance which appeared in Italy in the 1400s. But the present form of ballet, as it is danced today, started in France during the 1500s. Ballet was officially recognized as a form of art in France during the reign of King Louis XIV in the 1600s.

          In Ballet, a ballerina is a female dancer and the chief female dancer is called the prima ballerina. The person who plans and arranges the dancing is called a choreographer. The whole group of performers is called corps de ballet.

          Strict rules and traditions are followed in classical ballet. There are standard positions for the arms, legs and hands, as well as special movements that allow the dance a smooth flow. Classical or traditional ballet is accompanied by orchestras, elaborate scenery and splendid customs. The dancers do not speak a word though the dance itself communicates an idea or tells a story. The performers convey the story through their body movements.

          Incorporation of more modern and liberal dance steps have changed the colour of classical ballet as we find in modern ballets of present times. Though the dance originated in Italy and later developed in France, yet Russians are considered to have excelled others in performing this art. Among the most famous ballets composed, ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ by Tchaikovsky are the all time favourites. Ballet has also produced a number of great stars - Anna Pavlova occupies a prominent place among them.

          Rigorous training and hard work are necessary to become a good ballet dancer and for this reason some students prefer to learn it at a very young age.