Dada Saheb phalke made the first Indian film exactly 100 years back on 3rd. May 1913. Though he had started a career unconnected with film industry, the fate was literally taking him to making films. It is as if he was born to do that duty and depart after a short rest. Phalke was born in a Marathi family
on April 30, 1870 at Tryambaakeswar, 30 KMs away from Nasik. His father was a priest and Sanskrit scholar.
Phalke had a mind of an artist, so, after his school education joined the J J School of art in Bombay and later at Kalabhavan at Baroda
discarding the traditional work of a priest.
Phalke studied architecture, painting and photography and after the studies he started landscape painting and later worked in a studio at Godhra as a professional photographer. As he was a born artist anything that needed art and imagination suited him well and the trait made him choose such varied jobs like portrait photographer, make up-man, assistant to a illusionist ( Magician, broadly) and to full-blown magician. He also worked in the Archaeological Survey of India as Draftsman.
But he did not stick up with none of those works and leaving them all, took up printing work and specialised in Lithography and Oleograph thinking to choose Printing as a profession. It was during that period that he met Raja Ravi Varma and worked for him. Then an offer was made to him by some sponsors to help him go to Germany to learn latest Printing technology provided he would remain with their Press. Thus Phalke went to Germany. After the return he worked in the Press.
The work in the press was not giving him any creative satisfaction and he was thinking to quit. A difference of opinion with his partners however gave him a chance to leave the printing profession for good. At that time he was a qualified person in the Printing technology and a normal person would have chosen to remain in that profession till the end, making a fat income. There lies the difference between an artist and a layman.
While he was working with the German Magician he had heard about the work of Lumiere Brothers, pioneers in the technology of moving photography or Cinema, and was fascinated by it. By the time he had quit the Press the moving photography had decisively developed in to Cinema and producers were making films commercially in countries like America.
Phalke had seen a film depicting the life of Jesus Christ and while watching it he had longed to produce a film based on Indian mythology. The thoughts of making an indigenous cinema haunted him always. Thus Phalke decided to learn more about the production of films in serious pursuit of making an Indian film. He had not that kind of money to go to England to study about it and purchase necessary equipments. But his passion for it overtook him and made enough money by raising loan from friends and premature withdrawal of insurance amount.
In England, he met a fellow Marathi who helped him find a vegetarian hotel and introduced him to an editor of a Newspaper and they together helped him to find his way in England for both getting in touch with film making and buying necessary equipments.
Phalke returned to India as soon as his mission finished. That was in the year 1912.
It was a taboo to act in films during that time and women would not even think of acting in films. It was such a puritanical society that people would not have hesitated to stone the actress to death if any woman found acting in films and the cinema itself was viewed as a sort of black magic and one who ventured in to it was sure to be ostracised from the society. It was then that Phalke began to make his cherished film. The production work was called as ‘ Harischandrachi factory’ and considered it like a factory work and no one was aware except Phalke that they were making history.
As Phalke was highly talented the picture ‘ Raja Harischandra ‘ was made artistically and people loved it. It was a silent film and a man narrated the story line during the show. The film was released on this day hundred years back at the Coronation theatre, Bombay. People welcomed it and it was a box-office success.
He made several other films like ‘Lanka Dahan’ ‘ Sri Krishna Janma’’Kaliya Mardan’ Savitri Satyavan’ etc., all mythological stories. The films made him rich also. He travelled in a Ford car at that time. Phalke did not stop at making films and in order to establish film industry in India he started a film company in Bombay in partnership with five other business men named ‘Hindustan Films’ The partnership ran into trouble and he resigned from the company. Later he was called back to the company when the films made by them without Phalke were flopped. However he retired from there after making a few more films for the company.
It seems the ‘Hindustan films’ sucked both his energy and money. He had to sell his beloved car and live in a rented house. However the film industry he had kindled carried on from silent ones to Talkies. Later Santharam. famous director presented Phalke with a purse containing 5000 Rupees hoping that he would buy a house with the amount and when his friends and well wishers also compelled him, he bought a house. He spent his last days in that house.
He died on 16th February 1944.
What made Phalke a legend was his passion for film, his overwhelming desire to make a film as India’s own and to remain in India for the growth of film industry despite fabulous offers from England. He could have chosen to live in England luxuriously but he preferred to use his talent and energy for Mother India. He is rightly the father of Indian film industry.
Image : Google