Phalke seated on a chair with a small roll of film in his hands
|Born||Dhundiraj Govind Phalke|
30 April 1870
Trimbak, Bombay Presidency, British India
|Died||16 February 1944 (aged 73)|
Nashik, Bombay Presidency, British India
|Occupation||Film director, Producer, Screenwriter, Editor, Art director, Costume designer, Make-up artist|
Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke (pronunciation (help·info)) (30 April 1870 – 16 February 1944), was an Indian producer-director-screenwriter, known as the Father of Indian cinema. His debut film, Raja Harishchandra, which was the first Marathi cinema, was the first Indian movie in 1913, and is now known as India's first full-length feature. He made 95 feature-length films and 27 short films in his career, spanning 19 years, until 1937, including his most noted works: Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), Satyavan Savitri (1914), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri Krishna Janma (1918) and Kaliya Mardan (1919). The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, for lifetime contribution to cinema, was instituted in his honour by the Government of India in 1969. The award is one of the most prestigious awards in Indian cinema and is the highest official recognition for film personalities in our country. A postage stamp bearing his likeness was released by India Post to honour him in 1971. An honorary award from the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Mumbai was introduced in the year 2001, for lifetime achievement in Indian cinema.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Selected filmography
- 3 In popular culture
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 External links
1870–1892: Early life and education
Dhundiraj Phalke was born on 30 April 1870 at Trimbak, Maharashtra (then Bombay Presidency) into a Marathi-speaking Chitpavan Brahmin family. His father, Govind Sadashiv alias Dajishastri, was a Sanskrit scholar and worked as a priest conducting religious ceremonies and his mother, Dwarkabai, was a housewife. The couple had seven children, three sons and four daughters. Shivrampant, the eldest, was twelve years elder than Phalke and worked in Baroda. He briefly worked as the Dewan (Chief Administrator) of the princely state of Jawhar and died in 1921, at the age of 63. Phalke's second brother, Raghunathrao, also worked as priest and died at a young age of 21. Dajishastri taught Phalke to conduct religious rituals like yajna and dispensing of medicines. When he was appointed as a professor of Sanskrit in the Wilson College, Mumbai, the family shifted its base to Mumbai (then Bombay). Phalke completed his primary education in Trimbakeshwar and matriculation was done in Mumbai.
Phalke joined the Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1885 and completed a one-year course in drawing. At the beginning of 1886, he accompanied his elder brother, Shivrampant, to Baroda where he got married to a girl from Marathe family. Later, he joined Faculty of Fine Arts at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and completed a course in Oil painting and Watercolor painting in 1890. He also achieved proficiency in architecture and modelling. In the same year, Phalke bought a film camera and started experimenting with photography, processing, and printing. He was awarded a gold medal for creating a model of an ideal theatre at the 1892 Industrial Exhibition of Ahmedabad. While his work was much appreciated, one of his fans presented him a "costly" camera, used for still photography. In 1891, Phalke did a six-months course to learn the techniques of preparing half-tone blocks, photo-lithio, and three-colour ceramic photography. Principal Gajjar of Kala Bhavan sent Phalke to Ratlam to learn three-colour blockmaking, photolitho transfers, colotype and darkroom printing techniques under the guidance of Babulal Varuvalkar.
1893–1910: Early career
In 1893, Gajjar allowed Phalke to use the photo studio and laboratory of Kala Bhavan where he started his work under the name of "Shri Phalke's Engraving and Photo Printing". Despite his proficiency in various skills, he did not have a stable family life and had difficulties in making a living. Thus, in 1895, he decided to become a professional photographer and relocated to Godhra for doing business. His business did not do well in Godhra and he lost his wife and a child in the 1900 plague epidemic in the city. Phalke returned to Baroda and started photography business. It did not run well because of the myth spread across the city that the camera sucks up the energy from a person's body which leads to their death. He faced similar resistance from the Prince of Baroda who refused to take photographs with the assumptions that it would shorten his life. Though, the Prince was later convinced by Phalke who went on to advocate the benefits of photography in his court, it did not help Phalke's business. He started the business of painting the stage curtains for the drama companies. This got him some basic training in drama production and fetched him a few minor roles in the plays.
Phalke learned magic tricks from a German magician who was on a tour in Baroda that time. This helped him use trick photography in his filmmaking. At the end of 1901, Phalke began to hold the public performances of magic using professional name of Professor Kelpha with letters of his last name in reverse order. In 1902, Phalke remarried to Saraswati Karandikar, niece of proprietor of Kirloskar Natak Mandali. In 1903, he got a job as a photographer and draftsman at the Archaeological Survey of India. However, not satisfied with the job, Phalke resigned in 1906 and set up a printing press at Lonavla under the name of "Phalke Engraving and Printing Works" with R. G. Bhandarkar as a partner.
The press majorly worked for making photo-litho transfers for Ravi Verma Press, owned by painter Raja Ravi Varma. Later, it also started the work of halftone blockmaking and printing and tri-colour printing. With the growing business, the press was shifted to Dadar, Mumbai. Later in 1908, Purushottam Mavji replaced Bhandarkar as a partner and the press was renamed as "Laxmi Art Printing Works". Phalke went to Germany in 1909 to buy the necessary colour printing machinery.[a] Though the printing business grew exponentially, the partners had increasing differences about the running of the press. Soon, Phalke decided to abandon the partnership, without availing any monetary benefits.
1911–1917: Filmmaking struggle, debut, and success
Initial struggle and London visit
After quitting "Laxmi Art Printing Works", Phalke received multiple offers from various financiers to start another printing press but he did not accept any offers. On 14 April 1911, Phalke with his elder son Bhalchandra went to see a film, Amazing Animals, at the America India Picture Palace, Girgaon, Mumbai. Surprised at seeing animals on the screen, Bhalchandra informed his mother, Saraswatibai, about his experience earlier that day. None of the family members believed them, so Phalke took his family to see the film the next day. As it was Easter, the theatre screened a film about Jesus, The Life of Christ (1906) by the French director Alice Guy-Blaché instead. While watching Jesus on the screen, Phalke envisioned Hindu deities Rama and Krishna instead and decided to start in the business of "moving pictures".
For the next one year, Phalke started collecting various film related material like catalogues, books, and movie making equipment from Europe. He bought a small film camera and reels and started showing movies at night, by focusing candle light on a lens and projecting the pictures on the wall. He watched movies every evening for four to five hours and was deprived of sleep. This put strain on his eyes and he developed cataract in both eyes. He continued working against the advice of taking rest and lost his sight completely. Ophthalmologist Dr. Prabhakar treated Phalke with the aid of three or four pairs of spectacles which helped him restore the eye sight. Phalke wished to go to London to get technical knowledge of filmmaking but had difficulties getting finances for his trip. With the help of Yashwantrao Nadkarni and Abasaheb Chitnis, he secured a sum of ten thousands by mortgaging his insurance policies worth twelve thousands. On 1 February 1912, he boarded a ship for London.[a]
At London, Phalke saw a nameboard of "Bioscope Cine-Weekly" near Piccadilly Circus. He was a subscriber of the weekly in India. He met its editor, Mr. Kepburn, and explained the purpose of his visit. Kepburn advised Phalke against the idea of filmmaking in India based on the unsuccessful attempts in England and suggested that the Indian climate might not be suitable as well. However, he was impressed with Phalke's dedication and introduced him to the film director, producer, and screenwriter Cecil Hepworth of Walton Studios. Hepworth allowed Phalke to visit all the departments of the studio and their workings along with the demonstration of filming. At the advice of Kepburn and Hepworth, he bought Williamson camera for fifty pounds and placed an order for Kodak raw film and a perforator. Phalke stayed in London for two weeks and returned to India on 1 April 1912. He founded "Phalke Films" on the same day.
Film debut with Raja Harishchandra
After coming back from London, Phalke started looking for a spacious place for shooting the films. Soon, the family shifted from Ismail Building, Charni Road to Mathura Bhavan Bungalow, Dadar. He constructed a small glass room at the compound of the bungalow and prepared a dark room and arrangements for processing the film. Imported filmmaking equipment reached Mumbai in May 1912 and Phalke set it up within four days with the help of sketch provided. He also taught his family to perforate and develop the film. To test the working of camera and projector, Phalke filmed the boys and girls in the surroundings to the satisfactory results. To demonstrate the filmmaking techniques and get financier for the feature film, Phalke decided to make a short film. He planted some peas in a pot and placed a camera in front of it. He shot one frame a day for over a month producing a film just over one minute, of the seed growing, sprouting, and changing into a climber. The short film titled Ankurachi Wadh (Growth of a Pea Plant) and was showed selective individuals. Some of them, including Yashwantrao Nadkarni and Narayanrao Devhare, offered Phalke a loan.
Phalke decided to make a film based on the legends of Harishchandra and wrote the script for it. He published advertisements in various newspapers like Induprakash calling for the cast and crew required for the film. As no women were available to play female leads, male actors performed the female roles. Dattatraya Damodar Dabke played the lead role of King Harishchandra and Anna Salunke as Queen Taramati. Phalke's elder son Bhalchandra was assigned the role, Rohitashva, son of Harishchandra and Taramati. He was in-charge of the scriptment, direction, production design, make-up, editing, and film processing and Trymbak B. Telang handled the camera. The filming was completed in six months and 27 days producing a film of 3,700 feet, about four reels.
The film premiered at the Olympia Theatre, Mumbai on 21 April 1913, and had its theatrical release on Saturday, 3 May 1913 at the Coronation Cinema, Girgaon, Mumbai. It was a commercial success and laid the foundation for the film industry in the country. The film is often considered the first full-length Indian feature film with its status debated with historians considering Dadasaheb Torne's silent film Shree Pundalik, released on 18 May 1912, the maiden Indian film. The Government of India recognises Raja Harischandra as the first Indian feature film.
- Hindustan films
Phalke formed a film company, Hindustan Films in partnership with five businessmen from Mumbai, in the hope that by having the financial aspect of his profession handled by experts in the field, he would be free to pursue the creative aspect. He set up a model studio and trained technicians and actors but, very soon, he ran into insurmountable problems with his partners. In 1920, Phalke resigned from Hindustan Films, made his first announcement of retirement from cinema, and he wrote Rangbhoomi, an acclaimed play. Without him in charge, Hindustan Films ran into deep financial losses, and he was finally persuaded to return. However, Phalke felt constrained by the business and, after directing a few films for the company, he withdrew from it.
- Sound film
The times changed and Phalke fell victim to the emerging technology of sound film. Unable to cope with the talkies, the man who had fathered the Indian film industry became obsolete. His last silent film Setubandhan was released in 1932 and later released with dubbing. During 1936–1938, he produced his last film Gangavataran (1937) which was the only talking movie directed by Phalke, before retiring to Nashik, where he died on 16 February 1944.
- Raja Harishchandra (1913)
- Mohini Bhasmasur (1913)
- Satyavan Savitri (1914)
- Lanka Dahan (1917)
- Shri Krishna Janma (1918)
- Kaliya Mardan (1919)
- Buddhadev (1923)
- Setu Bandhan (1932)
- Gangavataran (1937)
In popular culture
In 2009, the Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory, which was directed by theatre veteran Paresh Mokashi and depicts Dadasaheb Phalke's struggle in making Raja Harishchandra in 1913. It was also selected as India's official entry to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
- Vilanilam, J. V. (2005). Mass Communication in India: A Sociological Perspective. New Delhi: Sage Publications. p. 128. ISBN 81-7829-515-6.
- "Pran chosen for Dada Saheb Phalke award". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 12 April 2013.
- "Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Award for Yash Chopra, Rajesh Khanna". The Times of India.
- "Google doodle marks Dadasaheb Phalke birth anniversary, Amitabh Bachchan pays homage". Hindustan Times. 30 April 2018. Archived from the original on 1 May 2018. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
- Jain, Kajri (16 March 2007). Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art. Duke University Press. p. 151. ISBN 0-8223-8973-8.
- Watve 2012, p. 13.
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- Dhiman, Kuldip (30 April 2000). "Great Minds: Dadasaheb Phalke (1870–1944)". Tribune (India). Archived from the original on 16 August 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
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- Sharma, Sachin (28 June 2012). "Godhra forgets its days spent with Dadasaheb Phalke". the Times of India. Vadodara. Archived from the original on 14 July 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- Watve 2012, p. 17.
- Pinney 2013, p. 110.
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- Mukherjee, Sumita (16 December 2009). Nationalism, Education and Migrant Identities: The England-returned. Routledge. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-135-27112-1.
- Watve 2012, p. 33.
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- Kosambi 2017, p. 320.
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- Watve 2012, p. 34.
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- "मुलाखत: सरस्वतीबाई धुंडिराज फाळके" [Interview: Saraswatibai Dhundiraj Phalke]. Dhanurdhari (in Marathi). Nashik. 16 February 1946.
- "मुलाखत: धुंडिराज गोविंद फाळके" [Interview: Dhundiraj Govind Phalke]. Kesari (in Marathi). Pune. 19 August 1913.
- Watve 2012, p. 36.
- Watve 2012, p. 37.
- Jha, Subhash K. "10 pre-release big ones". Rediff.com. Archived from the original on 20 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
- Watve 2012, p. 38–39.
- Watve 2012, p. 41.
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- Watve 2012, p. 46.
- Gulzar, Nihalani & Chatterjee 2003, p. 29.
- Goldsmith, Melissa U. D.; Willson, Paige A.; Fonseca, Anthony J. (2016). The Encyclopedia of Musicians and Bands on Film. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4422-6987-3.
- Chakravarty, Sumita S. (2011). National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 1947–1987. University of Texas Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-292-78985-2.
- "Dada Saheb Phalke Award Overview". Directorate of Film Festivals. Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- PTI (20 September 2009). "'Harishchandrachi Factory' India's entry for Oscars". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- Express News Service. "Harishchandrachi Factory to tell story behind making of India's first feature film". Express India. Archived from the original on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- "Dadasaheb Phalke's 148th Birthday". www.google.com. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- Gulzar; Nihalani, Govind; Chatterjee, Saibal, eds. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5.
- Kosambi, Meera (2017) . Gender, Culture, and Performance: Marathi Theatre and Cinema before Independence. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-351-56590-5.
- Pinney, Christopher (2013). Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs. Reaktion Books. ISBN 978-1-78023-152-5.
- Watve, Bapu (2012) . Dadasaheb Phalke, The Father of Indian Cinema. Translated by Virkar, S. A. National Book Trust. ISBN 978-81-237-4319-6.
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