Gangavataran

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Ganga

GANGAVATARAN Thinking that if a world-renowned film director like Dada¬saheb Phalke produced a talkie for his Kolhapur Cinetone it would benefit both, the Maharaja of Kolhapur state, Rajaram Maharaj, extended an honourable invitation to him in De¬cember 1934. However, Dadasaheb was such a terror that not only in his own company, but even in Hindusthan Film Company, no one dared approach him chewing paan or smoking a cigarette or bidi. Not being sure that in the princely state he would be able to maintain such a strict code of dis¬cipline, Dadasaheb declined the invitation. The Maharaja of Kolhapur did not, however, give up. At last, Dadasaheb agreed somehow to the proposal. A deal was negotiatedbetween the two. For writing the story, script etc., Dadasaheb was to get Rs 1500, for direction 10% sanad, and Rs 450 per month for his expenses. It seems that this deal was not reduced to writing. Dadasaheb had intended to take up the subject of Gangavataran for Hindusthan Film Company and had written the story too for the purpose. It was decided to take up the same story for Kolhapur Cinetone. For writing the script and the dialogues Dadasaheb took the help of his close friend N.H. Apte. As in the case of his play Rangabhoomi, he composed the musical score too along with the music expert Vishwanathbuwa Jadhav. Of particu¬lar interest is the fact that Dadasaheb also wrote the lyrics for this movie. There were, in all, 17 songs. Leela Mishra, who later made a name in the world of Hindi films, did the role of Parvati. Shanta Hublikar, who did a memorable role in Prabhat's Maanus (Admi), had a very insignificant role in this film. Kalamaharshi Baburao Painter lent a helping hand. Gangavataran was produced in both Marathi and Hindi. There were trick scenes galore. Much of the credit for it goes to Babarai Phalke. A horse flying in the sky, ghosts disappearing in a pitcher, two heads severed from their bodies praising god Shankar in songs, the river Ganga de¬scending to earth from heaven, a man drinking from a wa¬terfall while floating in the air, some four hundred persons coming out of a pitcher singing, the river Ganga which de¬scended from heaven to earth going around Shankar's mat¬ted hair and then the matted hair surrounding the flow of Ganga-the movie was full of scenes like these.

At the age of 65-66, Dadasaheb's enthusiasm was un¬diminished. He was not lacking, at the time of this movie, in putting in tireless effort. At the time of the filming of the Girsappa Falls, he filmed the Falls and climbed the steep mountain ahead of all with the vigour of a young man for deciding from where and how the surroundings should be filmed. He did the shooting till the evening and descended the difficult slope quite speedily. Dadasaheb's lack of foresight was glaringly evident at the time of this movie too. He wanted to shoot some epi¬sodes in the Himalayas. It was not possible to afford a trip to the Himalayas, so Dadasaheb came up with an impracti¬cal idea. He visited the hills around Kolhapur and found the Ramling hill suitable for his purpose. He then ordered the art department to paint the whole hill white in order to get the effect of snow-clad Himalayas. Kalamaharshi Baburao Painter as well as other technicians advised him that this shooting could be done in the studio by erecting a set as required. Dadasaheb, however, was of the firm view that the grandeur of the scene that he wanted could not be had in a studio set and he had his way. The whole hill was painted white. It was decided to shoot the film there the next morning at sunrise. But oh! It rained heavily during the night and the painted hill looked as it was before. It was impossible to speedily repaint the hill soaked in the rain. Ultimately, the shooting had to be done in the studio with sets. I had only heard this story. The venerable art direc¬tor of Kolhapur, Bapnusaheb Pawar, who worked in the art department of Kolhapur Cinetone at the time of Gangavataran, told me that the story was true. He was one of the workmen who painted the hill. This indiscretion of Dadasaheb later be¬came the butt of a joke. Vishram Bedekar's autobiography Ek mad, don pakshi, contains a wrong statement: "In one movie Baburao Painter had painted a whole hill for the scene of Hima¬layas". I have brought it to his notice.

When Dadasaheb experimented in this manner in his own company, nobody could question him. Because of his temper, no one dared advise or suggest anything to him. But later, although he was a partner in the company, the other partners would question him about such wasteful ex¬penditure. It did lead to quarrels. The same thing happened in Kolhapur Cinetone. There was a lot of hot arguments in connection with the painting of the hill. Besides, due to the ways of working of a princely state, there were needless obstructions in Dadasaheb's work. He completed the film¬ing of Gangavataran somehow and returned to Nashik even before a copy of it was ready. He had no regrets for the wasteful expenditure he in¬curred on translating into reality the Himalayas of his vi¬sion. He never minded the waste of any amount of money spent on trying to materialise his ideas. It must be remem¬bered that it was because of this mindset that he often actu-alised what appeared impossible. He showed on the screen several trick scenes, which would lead anyone to appreciate his sharp intelligence and imagination. Gangavataran took two years to complete and cost two and a half lakhs in those days. It was screened at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai on 6th August 1937. It was the first Indian talkie screened there. Maybe because relations between the princely state and Dadasaheb had gone awry, he did not get the agreed amount. After the movie was screened, Dadasaheb was once walking past Royal Opera House. The compound of the theatre was full but Dadasaheb's pocket was empty. After Gangavataran was exhibited, Sir Rahimtullah met Dadasaheb and offered to spend any amount of money for film production. Any prac¬tical man would have immediately accepted the offer, but a frustrated Dadasaheb declined it on the ground that he was not keeping good health.

excerpted from Bapu Vatve's Dadasaheb Phalke published by National Book Trust.


[1] credits of the film

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