Exactly on this day, precisely 100 years back, a certain Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, a small town photographer from Maharashtra, showcased something to this country that made him the founding father of Indian cinema. And today, as we celebrate a century of our glorious film industry’s existence, it is time to salute the man who gave us our first feature film – Raja Harishchandra.
Never would anyone in their wildest dreams have imagined that Phalke’s dream to make the first Indian movie will see the birth of an industry that will one day churn out thousands of films every year and provide millions across the world their bread and butter. For that reason alone, DG Phalke aka Dadasaheb Phalke and his creation Raja Harishchandra deserves a thunderous applause.
The film revolved around the noble and righteous king, Harishchandra, who first sacrifices his kingdom, followed by his wife and eventually his children to honour his promise to sage Vishwamitra. But, in the end, pleased by his high morals, the Gods restore his former glory and further bestow him with divine blessings.
The 40-minute long film took seven months and 21 days to complete. It was first premiered on April 21, 1913, at the Olympia theatre in Grant Road, Mumbai for a selected audience comprising famous personalities and editors of prominent newspapers.
On May 3, 1913, the movie was shown to public at Coronation Cinema, Girgaon, Mumbai. Needless to say it was a commercial success and paved the way for India cinema’s enviable flourish.
Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke born in 1870 in Trymbakeshwar in Nasik.(30 April 1870 – 16 February 1944) was an Indian producer-director-screenwriter, known as the father of Indian cinema. Starting with his debut film, Raja Harishchandra in 1913, now known as India’s first full-length feature, he made 95 movies and 26 short films in his career spanning 19 years, till 1937.
Palke work includes Mohini Bhasmasur (1913),Satyavan Savitri (1914), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri Krishna Janam (1918) and Kaliya Madan (1919). Due to changing tastes of movies and extreme commercialised atmosphere in film world, Phalke retired.
Later in 1937 he produced Gangavataram (1937), but he had lost his magic. He died in Nasik, a forgotten man. But “The Dadasaheb Phalke Award”, for lifetime contribution to cinema, instituted in his honor by the Government of India in 1969. The award one of the most prestigious awards in Indian cinema and is the highest official recognition for film personalities in the country.
Veteran Marathi theatre artist and filmmaker Paresh Mokashi was fascinated with Phalke’s journey as an artist and decided to make a film on it.“Since I was born and raised in a Marathi family, Dadasaheb Phalke was a known name to me. But even then, much like most of us, I did not know more than the two key facts about him – that a coveted award is instituted after Phalke and he is the father of Indian cinema,” says the 44-year-old filmmaker.
“I was thrilled by the adventure this man had in spite of facing all financial odds to make India’s first feature film. Dadasaheb Phalke’s excitement and the incredible support he got from his wife to make this film happen instantly caught my fancy. His shear enthusiasm to take the imagination to a level where it could produce a result that was India’s first film is so inspiring. After doing much research about what had gone into making of Raja Harishchandra, I was clear in my mind that I had to do a film on it”.
“My film Harishchandrachi Factory therefore depicts the real personality traits Phalke had – his sense of humour, his scientific approach towards the craft and his ability to see positives even in a situation and his never-say-die spirit – which continues to inspire us all even today. In that way, Raja Harishchandra stands testimony to the perseverance Dadasaheb Phalke had and how his efforts eventually culminated into the birth of a gigantic film industry had to be told,” says Mokashi.
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