From PhalkeFactory


The Phalke story 1

By Kamal Swaroop

Who am I? A father adding to the thirty crore population of India? My wife’s husband? A servant of India who has not paid his dues to his motherland? A victim to the desires of moneylenders? A man bereft of worldly wisdom, obsessed by only one aim, and thus ruining his family life?

Who am I, then?

(Thinks for a while)

Or perhaps it is true that I don’t know this concept of ‘I’, I don’t claim anything to be mine. I am beyond the perception of happiness and suffering. So, enough of this prolixity.

O my fellow beings! O learned men! O appreciative men who know all the arts! O pioneers of this new era of reforms! Your

appreciation of my works has not decreased inspite of the stories of my misfortune. It is only through your grace that I have been able to establish this beautiful art of the motion pictures for the entertainment of the people. Kindly appreciate the analysis of this art. 1870-79 - THE FATHER Charting the child’s horoscope at Trymbakeshwar in Nasik district on 30 April 1870 at 8.30 p.m., the father foretells that he will deal in something white...

At this time, the professor of English at Elphinstone College who is studying Vedic astronomy from Phalke’s father invites him to join the college as a Sanskrit teacher.

The family, consisting of the child Phalke and his parents, leaves for Bombay. 1879 - 86 - BOMBAY The train moves on.

After a time, it enters a cave-like Victoria Terminus, almost as though entering a camera obscura, and halts.

A crowd gets off.

Phalke is separated from his family and gets lost.

Darkness descends.

He is alone in a deserted Victoria Terminus, bewitched by the carvings of gargoyles, lizards, lions, tigers, flora and fauna, like in a fairyland.

Suddenly it starts to rain, and everything comes to life.

Streams of water pour out of the stone mouths of mythical monsters, frothing at the jaws.

Phalke is shaken, shivering with cold, crying for his father in the dark.

But it is in a still unreal twilight outside VT station that a group of boys from the JJ School of Arts sits with hammers and knives, carving out figures on the terraces and the tops. The cotton loaders are teasing a Victoria look-alike, a mad woman at the fountain outside.

Picking up leaves as if to build a nest, small birds move above.

A Victoria enters and drags the woman away by the hair.

A mad dog chases Phalke through a backdrop - streets, railway lines, ships and factories.

He enters a palace and finds the princess stretching her arms and calling his name, and then metamorphosing into a frightening old woman.

With a jerk, Phalke comes awake.

He is fifteen years old. And he has to run for his examination at the Sir JJ School of Art.

As he sketches the live model sitting nude, the hands and toes of the drawing keep disappearing.

As in the peeling frescoes of Ajanta, where we see the same students taking photographs of the frescoes, or tracing through the cross hairs of the camera obscura prints being enlarged.


Mr. Griffith, the Principal, and Mr. Tarry, the Vice-Principal, present their annual report on the institution.

Mr. Tarry announces that they have been able to manufacture glazed pottery that can hold liquids, and have been commissioned to make ceramic insulators for the telephone company, that drawings have been made of all the caves of Ajanta, and that future jobs entrusted to them include building of the telegraph office, and the wood carving for the new station of the BCC&I railway line. Following this, he introduces Raja Ravi Verma, and invites the students to view his paintings.

The students leave for the exhibition hall. Phalke is accompanied by a young friend who is skeptical of art schools, opining that these schools are basically established to produce aluminum utensils for the Mission hospitals.

Later, while discussing their future prospects after graduation with his friends, Phalke discloses his intention to go to Baroda where his brother works with Romesh Chandra Dutt, the eminent scholar from Bengal.

After the ceremony, Phalke walks from the JJ School to Elphinstone College, where his father teaches Sanskrit.

When he gets there, there is a commotion in his father’s classroom. Phalke’s father is objecting to the presence of a non-Hindu in his Sanskrit class.

Impulsively, he resigns his post and leaves the premises, taking his son with him.

He decides to return to Trymbak and resume his old job of kathavachak.

Phalke’s brother from Baroda is at home, paying the family a visit, and Phalke prevails upon him to take him back to Baroda with him.

1886- 1890 THE MASTER click to read further