It was the time when we were still under British rule and people were pre-occupied with the Indian politics when the unheeded seed of Indian Cinema was sown. The story starts with the screening of an imported silent film “The Life of Christ” when a local photographer and stage magician had eureka moment! Moved by the sheer brilliance of the cinema, he wondered, “Could we, the sons of India, ever be able to see Indian images on the screen?” The local photographer was none other than our ‘Father of Indian Cinema’ – Dadasaheb Phalke, aka Dhundiraj Govind Phalke!
On the 146th birth anniversary of Dadasaheb, we brings to you some lesser known facts about this legendary film-maker:
1. Birth and early life
Born on 30th April 1870, he comes from a Maharashtrian Brahmin family who lived in Tryambakeshwar. His father was a Sanskrit scholar.
2. Art Connoisseur
Though we know him as a film-maker, very few of us know that he was a great artist as well! After passing out from the Sir J. J. School of Arts in 1890, he further went to Baroda to learn engineering, sculpture, photography, painting, and drawing at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda.
3. Local photographer, Magician, and Businessman
His career as a local photographer began at Godhra. He became adept at magic after meeting Carl Hertz, a well-known German magician who worked for Lumiere Brothers.
For a few years, he also worked as a draftsman with Archaeological Survey of India, however, the job constraints made him restless and he left the job to start a printing business.
4. Bumping into cinema
Later, when he became a known filmmaker, Phalke wrote about his first experience with the moving pictures – “While The life of Christ was rolling fast before my eyes I was mentally visualising the Gods Shri Krishna, Shri Ramchandra, their Gokul, and Ayodhya.”
The result was ‘Raja Harishchandra’, the first film of Indian Cinema, and the important milestone of Indian Cinematic history was premiered on 9th May 1913.
5. First studio – A borrowed bungalow
This legendary film-maker had to travel to London to learn more from Cecil Hepworth, the famous English Film Director and Editor of the Bioscope (the trade magazine).
When he returned from London with the first movie camera, he set up a studio in a borrowed bungalow.
6. First short film – Growth of pea plant
Very few know that in the year 1910, his first movie was released, a time-lapse short film called Growth of a Pea Plant. However, it turned out to be a useful experiment while producing ‘Raja Harishchandra’.
7. Ugly faces need not apply
Well, finding a good cast in those days was a real task. Phalke had put out advertisements to seek good-looking actors for the lead role. To his surprise, the ads got several interested in applying; most of them were amateurs and had pathetic talent! So, he was compelled to add a line in the ad – “Ugly faces need not apply.”
8. First crew – Phalke’s family
Dadasaheb had his entire family supporting him while making the legendary film Raja Harishchandra. His wife provided food and water to the entire crew, managed the actors’ costumes, the ads, and posters, and gave a helping hand in the production of the film as well. His son also played a significant role of Raja Harishchandra’s son in this movie.
9. He never understood profit making aspect
The agenda of his business partners behind starting Hindustan films was to earn profits, however, Phalke was more concerned about the creative aspects and quality of the movie. Due to the differences in the opinions, Dadasaheb soon resigned from Hindustan films in the year 1920.
10. First and last sound film – Gangavataran
After the advent of sound in the films, he directed the first sound film (Indian) – Gangavataran, which also happened to be his last film. With the introduction of new diversified ways of filmmaking, Dadasaheb’s films lost the admiration, leading him to retirement.
11. 95 movies and 26 short films in 19 years
He made 95 movies and 26 short films during his 19 years of film-making career. He took his last breath on 16th February 1944 in Nashik.
12. Remembering Dadasaheb
In the honour of the legendary director and screenwriter, Government of India started Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1969. It is the most coveted award in Indian cinema presented to any person who has given outstanding lifetime contribution to the Indian cinema. In his memory, Indian post also released a Phalke’s postage stamp in the year 1971.