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14 | Filmi Funda BHUBANESWAR THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2011 With the centenary celebra- tions of Indian
14 | Filmi Funda BHUBANESWAR THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2011 With the centenary celebra- tions of Indian

Filmi Funda


With the centenary celebra- tions of Indian Cinema round the corner (2012-13), Orissa Post begins
With the centenary celebra-
tions of Indian Cinema round
the corner (2012-13), Orissa
Post begins an introduction
series to 100 Landmark Indian
Movies that celebrate the cin-
ematic diversity of a nation
that produces nearly 1000 fea-
ture films a year in over 21 lan-
guages. And what better a
beginning than the story of
the making of the first Indian
feature film Raja
Harishchandra (1913), as told
by the contemporary Marathi
comedy Harishchandrachi
Factory (2009)
Phalke observing the projection as his family is watching a film
in a still from Harishchandrachi Factory
HARISHCHANDRACHI FACTORY (Marathi, 2009) Rating: **** Director: Paresh Mokashi Cast: Nandu Madhav, Vibhavari Deshpande
Rating: ****
Director: Paresh Mokashi
Cast: Nandu Madhav, Vibhavari Deshpande

Saraswati shoots Phalke in a still from Harishchandrachi Factory

The Iconic
The Iconic



Synopsis/ Story: Set in early 20th century

Bombay (1911-1913), the film is an en- gaging slice of life story from the amazing life of Dhundiraj Govind Phalke or Dadasaheb Phalke, who has since come to be known as the father of Indian cinema.

It depicts his endeavours at making the first

Indian feature film Raja Harishchandra in 1913. Though another Indian feature film titled Pundalik (1912) on a Marathi saint did release a year earlier, Raja Harishchandra enjoys the distinction of being the first wholly Indian or Swadeshi venture in sync with the patriotic sentiments of its times, vis-à-vis Pundalik, which was a Indo-British joint production. Post a quarrel with a business partner, Phalke (Nandu Madhav) leaves a thriving career in an establishedprinting press to dip his depleting sources into the fascinating idea of movie making, after a chance screen- ing of the iconic silent film TheLife of Christ. Envisioning Indian gods on screen, he chooses the story of Ayodhya’s pious king Harishchandra for the subject’s familiarity with the Indian audience and a desire to pop- ularise the stories of Hindu gods and kings on the screen like the Christ biopic he had seen earlier. Phalke, his family and film unit however

have to struggle very hard to realise his dream. Phalke’s prolific writings in Marathi, which form the basis of the film’s screenplay apart from interviews with some of his family mem- bers, reveal the inspiring journey of a dar- ing adventurer whose humble quest a cen- tury ago has ended up as the world’s largest film industry today. Phalke’s curious nature is best evinced in

a scene where when everyone is looking at the screen, he is looking in the opposite di- rection towards the source of those mov- ing images or ‘halti chitra’ as he calls the new medium of cinema. He battles doubters from kin and friends and mortgages his in- surance policy to travel to England alone to learn about the new medium and get the material to make films with the address in

a magazine as his only point of contact in the city. At London he meets Mr. Cabourne, the Editor of a film weekly, Bioscope. Cabourne helps him buy the right gadgets and introduces him to pioneering British filmmaker Cecil Hepworth. Phalke trains on job in his studio. Returning to India with the train- ing and equipment however don’t solve his financial prob-

Dadasaheb Phalke
Dadasaheb Phalke

lems or the doubts of financers. So he first shoots and shows them a trick short film, From Peanut to Plant, which was mostly shot by his wife. The trick works and in- vestors turn up to fund his promising busi- ness idea. But the actual process of shoot-

ing is still bogged by struggles, the biggest being convincing women to act in cin- ema. The film provides an interesting peak into then social attitudes to women work- ing in cinema, with even prostitutes refusing to act in Phalke’s film terming it a job of lesser virtue than their ‘despised’ calling. So India’s first feature film actually has a guy (a male cook named A Salunke) play the

heroine Queen Taramati opposite DD Dabke’s Harishchandra with Phalke’s elder son Bhalchandra enacting the role of Harishchandra’s son Rohidas. Post the film’s release, Phalkehowever gets a rousing reception in India and abroad. He pays another visit to London with three more films, where old friend Cabourne arranges a trade show with rave advance notes in Bioscope, followed by praise in British papers. The film ends with

Poster of Harishchandrachi Factory
Poster of Harishchandrachi Factory
The film ends with Poster of Harishchandrachi Factory Dabke & Salunke in a still from the

Dabke & Salunke in a still from the original Raja Harishchandra

Phalke returning to India to start the Indian film industry, declining many irresistible- offers to settle down and make films in Britain. Phalke went on to make 100 more films, though his fortunes and popularity started dipping with the advent of the talkie era. Review: Harishchandrachi Factory is a re-

markable achievement in the post millen- nium Marathi cinema revival story that’s been mostly led by young, debuting directorial voices. The beauty of the film lies in the sim- plicity of its telling, perhaps an echo of the ‘simple’ times it depicts. Passing mention is made to the social turmoil of the then

on-going struggle for independence in oc- casional references to Lokamanya Tilak, though thankfully director Paresh Mokashi refrains from succumbing to this attract be- cause at heart his story is one of achieve- ment of creativity, dreams and entrepre- neurship. Comedy may be the tone used to depict the Yeoman struggle of the pro- tagonist, but for an empathetic viewer the sacrifice of Phalke and his family will not go unnoticed. The film’s Chaplinisque narrative, while providing another facet to Phalke’s per-

sonality (an ability to laugh in the face of odds) almost echoes Charlie Chaplin’s quote, ‘I like

to walk in rain, so no one can see my tears.’

In the processes of the making of Phalke’s film, ample hints are made to narrative underpinnings that would be guiding main- stream Indian cinemasubsequently. For in- stance, when Phalke’s cinematographer objects to the presence of a jackfruit tree (a much later western import into India) in a shot depicting events from ancient India, Phalke over rides the technicalities arguing that the story is important, not the details. Detailing and concern for authen- ticity still elude a majority of popular Indian cinema, or else how do we account for song situationssuddenly transporting desi characters to alien lands. In another scene

Phalke can be seen extoling his actors to get more ‘dramatic and emotional.’Little won- der melodrama went on to become such

a major narrative cornerstone in many

Indian films. The film’s technical finesse and scale may not be at par with mainstream Bollywood fare, often seeming to unfold like a set piece, but the film’s gripping, un- predictable story line and felt acting by talented actors from the Marathi theatre more than compensate for its overall technical la- cunae. Nandu Madhav’s Phalke is a man possessed, yet convincing enough to endear himself to his viewers. TV actress Vibhavari Deshpande’s Saraswati Phalkeliterally lives up the saying that behind every successful man is a woman through her selfless, un- questioning dedication to and sharing of her husband’s dream. Here is life story that can almost inspire another film in itself. Savour the scene where Phalke gets their kids to engage Saraswati in a game of blindfolds as he picks up one more household item to sell for much needed funds to get going his exotic career. Expecting the obvious, she states with un- usual equanimity, ‘At least tell me what you are taking next to sell so that I don’t worry about why it’s missing…’ The critical success of the film also is an

endorsement of the vibrant story telling tra- ditions of a regional language industry like Marathi cinema, which may not be as hugeas its immediate Bollywood counter- part in spite of happening out of Mumbai, but it more than makes up its lack of the grandiose by telling some unique, rooted to the soil real stories. Harishchandrachi Factory is a welcome addition to the spurt of social comedies and satires that have been coming out of Marathi cinema of late. Mokashi does paint a be- lievable portrait of early 20th century Mumbai through a script that tells you as much about the society of those times as

it does about its pioneering hero’s mis- sion. While as a biopic, Harishchandrachi Factory’s ability to look for irony and laugh even in the darkest places make it a mem- orable ode to the human mettle, it also is

make it a mem- orable ode to the human mettle, it also is Director Paresh Mokashi

Director Paresh Mokashi

an important film that should not be missed for its chronicling of an important event in the Indian film history that for many has come to be limited to just two names – Raja Harishchandra and Dadasaheb Phalke. Highlights/Honour Roll:

Harishchandrachi Factory bagged the Best Film, Best Direction and Best Art Direction (Nitin Chandrakant Desai) awards at the 46th Maharashtra State Film Awards (2009). It was India’s official entry to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category in 2009 and is the second Marathi film, after Shwaas (2004) to receive the honour.

Marathi film, after Shwaas (2004) to receive the honour. TAYLOR SWIFT IS BILLBOARD WOMAN OF THE


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