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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

This multifaceted personality chose and started film-making in India; with a central belief of economic development !!!

Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke (30 April 1870 – 16 February 1944) was an Indian producer-director-screenwriter, known as the father of Indian cinema. He was born in a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin family at Tryambakeshwar, 30 km from NasikMaharashtraIndia, where his father was an accomplished scholar. Dadasaheb joined Sir J. J. School of ArtMumbai in 1885. After passing from J.J. School in 1890, he went to the Kala Bhavan in Baroda, where he studied sculpture, engineering, drawing, painting and photography. Central in Phalke's career as a filmmaker was his fervent belief in the nationalistic philosophy of swadeshi, which advocated that Indians should take charge of their own economy in the perspective of future Independence.

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, including his most noted works: Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), Satyavan Savitri (1914), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri Krishna Janma (1918) and Kaliya Mardan (1919). His first short film was 'Growth of a Pea Plant' in 1910. Dadasaheb's entire family took part in the making of Raja Harishchandra. His wife handled the costumes of the actors, the posters and production of the film and provided the whole crew with food and water. His son too, played a major role of Harishchandra’s son in the film. 
 
The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, for lifetime contribution to cinema, was 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. A postage stamp, bearing his face, was released by India Post to honor him in 1971. A variant, honorary Award from The Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Mumbai was Introduced in the year 2001, for life time achievement in Indian cinema.

He began his career as a small town photographer in Godhra but had to leave business after the death of his first wife and child in an outbreak of the bubonic plague. He soon met the German magician Carl Hertz, one of the 40 magicians employed by the Lumiere Brothers. Soon after, he had the opportunity to work with the Archeological Survey of India as a draftsman. However, restless with his job and its constraints, he turned to the business of printing. 


He specialized in lithography and oleograph, and worked for painter Raja Ravi Varma. Phalke later started his own printing press, made his first trip abroad to Germany, to learn about the latest technology, machinery and for art also. Following a dispute with his partners about the running of the press. 

He gave up printing and turned his attention to moving pictures, after watching a silent film, The Life of Christ and envisioning Indian gods on the screen. Phalke's first film, Raja Harishchandra, made in 1912 was first shown publicly on 3 May 1913 at Mumbai's Coronation Cinema, effectively marking the beginning of the Indian film industryPhalke's immersion in intense viewing and experimentation led to ill health and temporary blindness. There is a metaphorical aspect to the loss and recovery of sight in a man who declared that he would bring images of revered Indian deities to the screen, just as Christ's image had been presented in the West.


Around one year before, Ramchandra Gopal (known as Dadasaheb Torne) had recorded on film a stage drama called Pundalik and shown recording at the same theater. However, the credit for making the first indigenous Indian feature film is attributed to Dadasaheb Phalke as it is said that "Pundalik" had British cinematographers.