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Dadasaheb Phalke - The man who opened the floodgate for multi-billion film industry died in penury!

April 30, 2016 12:05:20 PM IST
By Mansoor Khan, Glamsham Editorial
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Today is the birth anniversary of The Pioneer of Indian Cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke, who made India's First Full Length Motion Picture RAJA HARISHCHANDRA in 1913 and showed the world that India was competent to make what the west could! Ironically though the film industry regards the award in the name of the legend ‘The Dadasaheb Phalke Award' with esteem the tragedy is that the legend himself is unsung. Glamsham.Com pays tribute to Dadasaheb Phalke on his 146th birth anniversary.


Born as Dhundiraj Govind Phalke in a small town Tryambakeshwar at Nashik, Phalke's tryst with cinema is both miraculous and patriotic. Miraculous because Phalke had virtually lost his eyes in his early 30's after suffering huge losses in printing press business as his partner cheated him and Phalke had to abandon the firm. However thanks to eye specialist Dr. Prabhakar and his caring wife Saraswatabai he was able to regain eyesight. On receiving his vision Phalke felt an inner voice knocking his conscious as if to tell that the vision has been regained for a momentous purpose.

Phalke thus began his quest to hunt the purpose and one day happened to watch a Hollywood film THE LIFE OF CHRIST. The movie had an immense impact on him and he began dreaming that such movies based on Indian mythological God and Goddess could do great business. He thus ventured to London to learn the craft of film making and borrowed loan for the journey from his Rs 12,000/- Insurance policy.
During his stay in London he watched another Hollywood movie DAUGHTER OF INDIA that ignited his patriotic nerves because the movie depicted distorted version of India and this annoyed Phalke to no limit. He thus pledged to make an Indigenous movie. Then and there he purchased a film camera and came back to India to make a movie and show the world – The real India!!!

Phalke experimented with his first short film 'GROWTH OF A PEA PLANT' and gained confidence. Further his knowledge in film making at London and his zeal to make India shine in the world led to the production of India's First Indigenous Full Length Silent Film HARISHCHANDRA in 1913. The movie was of four reels i.e. 50 minutes duration.

Was it easy for Phalke to make the film? Well No!!
The society laughed at his initiative. Financers turned him off mocking at his crazy business proposal. Female artists and even prostitutes denied acting in his film. Eventually Phalke fought all odds tooth and nail. He arranged finance selling his wife's ornaments and literally sold every utensil of his house to make his dream come true.

Finally on 3 May, 1913, after a rigorous seven months and 21 days laborious work Phalke's RAJA HARISHCHANDRA saw the light of the day and was a huge hit! In those days a movie was considered hit if it run for just four days but Phalke's RAJA HARISHCHANDRA run for 23 days and created history.

In career spanning 24 years Phalke made 95 movies and this included his only ‘Talkie' movie GANGAVATARAN (1937). Unfortunately the new technology of ‘Sound' invention proved disastrous for Phalke and in utter depression Phalke took retirement.
With the passage of time the Dadasaheb Phalke was forgotten. Forget younger generation or film buffs what is painful is that the even the film industry meted out step motherly treatment to Dadasaheb Phalke. A grim picture of this humiliation was witnessed during a film function when top film personalities of Bollywood came together in the early 40's. Top film celebrities occupied the stage but none noted the absence of Dadasaheb Phalke, who was ‘Alive' and very much present in the auditorium!!

It was courtesy legendary film actor Prithviraj Kapoor, who called Dadasaheb Phalke on stage and felicitated him.

Towards his end he became a patient Alzheimera and Diabetes. He died unsung with none from the film industry attending his funeral!

Isn't it paradoxical that the man who opened the floodgate of multi-billion film industry died in penury!  

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