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These films expressed social themes mainly dealing with working-class life in India, particularly urban life in the former two examples; Awaara presented the city as both a nightmare and a dream, while Pyaasa critiqued the unreality of city life.
Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957), a remake of his earlier Aurat (1940), was the first Indian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, which it lost by a single vote.
It combined the dacoit film conventions of Mother India and Gunga Jumna with that of Spaghetti Westerns, spawning the Dacoit Western genre (also known as the "Curry Western"), which was popular in the 1970s.
However, the 'art film' bent of the Film Finance Corporation came under criticism during a Committee on Public Undertakings investigation in 1976, which accused the body of not doing enough to encourage commercial cinema.
Dating back to 1932, "Tollywood" was the earliest Hollywood-inspired name, referring to the Bengali film industry based in Tollygunge (in Calcutta, West Bengal), whose name is reminiscent of "Hollywood" and was the centre of the cinema of India at the time.
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.
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.