Raja Harishchandra – India’s first silent film was the brainchild of the father of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke. Today is Dadasaheb’s 148th birth anniversary and Google has honoured the man with a Doodle in his name today.
The film was first shown publicly on May 3, 1913 in Mumbai’s Coronation Cinema. Imagine how our lives would be if Dadasaheb had not produced, directed and written the first silent film that enthralled the audiences in the 20th century. It was the first indigenous silent film.
1. Dadasaheb Phalke is not his real name:
Dadasaheb was born as Dhundiraj Govind Phalke in Trimbakeshwar, Nasik in 1870. His father was a Sanskrit scholar. His family was a Marathi-speaking Deshashtha Brahmin family.
2. He began his career as a photographer:
Dadasaheb studied sculpture, drawing, painting and photography. At first, he joined J.J School Of Art in Mumbai and then went to Kala Bhavan in Vadodara, Gujarat. He used to work as a small-time photographer in Godhra, Gujarat in the start of his career.
3. His wife and child died:
Phalke’s first wife and child were the victims of the bubonic plague (one of the three kinds of plagues that is passed on to humans from rodents). After their death, Dadasaheb quit his job as a photographer and began working as a draftsman with the Archeological Survey of India.
4. He had his own printing press:
After he was not happy with his job as a draftsman, he started his own printing press, specialising in lithography and olegraphy. Before he started his own business, he worked with painter Raja Ravi Varma and it was his first trip abroad to Germany, that made his resolve stronger. But when a dispute ensued with his partners, he left his printing business.
5. He was inspired to make a film after watching another movie:
Phalke was inspired by watching the movie ‘The Life of Christ’. This movie was a French silent film based on the Bible. He later wrote, “While the life of Christ was rolling before my eyes I was mentally visualising the gods Shri Krishna, Shri Ramchandra, their Gokul and Ayodhya. Could we, the sons of India, ever be able to see Indian images on the screen?”
6. In Raja Harishchandra, he also built the sets:
Apart from producing, directing and writing the silent film, Phalke also build the sets and shot it – for seven months and 21 days! Also, his family was fully involved in the project. His second wife, cooked food and designed costumes for the crew. His son, played a role in the movie as Raja Harishchandra’s son.
7. Phalke suffered from vision loss:
It is said that Dadasaheb was not interested in profits. He was inclined towards creativity and excellence. His obsession with perfection and constant use of filming equipment led to temporary blindness.
Phalke’s last silent film was Setubandhan in 1932 and his last film was Gangavataran. He passed away in Nasik on 16 February 1944.
Preview Photo: Express Archive Photo (indianexpress.com)