Narayan Hari Apte

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Dadasaheb Phalke stayed with me for some days at my village Koregaon. He had come for rest and relaxation due to the discord with his partners in teh cinema industry. As he was senior to me in age, I would talk with him discreetly. Due to his being hot-headed, nobody tried to advise him. However, as I was associated with him a a writer, I would tell him what I thought in connection with writing.

I wrote for him the play Rangbhoomi, as also the script for the film Gangavataran.This brought us closer. But I must say that as far as the play Rangabhoomi was concerned, we could not see eye to eye. For writing Rangabhoomi, I stayed with Dadasaheb for a year at Durgaghat in Banaras. After having done really excellent work in silent movies, he intented to make some concrete contributions to the Marathi stage. However, due to some special conditions he had in mind, his ambition was not fulfilled. His main intention was to show that when a capitalist dominates an artist, art is destroyed. This premise is good from the point of view of creating situations in the play, but when putting them into words, Dadasaheb had no sense of proportion as to how much the villain should be maligned. My stand was that tehre should be no objection to depicting the good qualities of the villain too. However, as he always felt that he had to suffer a lot of injustice, he made the villain of the play the target of all sorts of unfounded charges. One would say that his own nature deserved the blame for this.

Because of these excesses, the play stretched on to about 12 acts and was very diffused. Nobody could have liked this long winded play. However, the obstinate Dadasaheb cut the play in two parts. He often remarked that just as people came to see his silent movies, they would throng the theatre to see his plays. I placed before him Deval's play Sharda and said that we should write our play on the lines of that play. He did not agree. Others supported him. He was prompted to write this play because of the alleged misbehaviour of his partners in the cinema business. But, truly, we did not think they did anything wrong.

His achievements went to Dadasaheb's head. As he went from one success to another, his studiousness diminished. Before writing Rangabhoomi, we called for George Bernard Shaw's plays. He did not, however, read them. I had complete faith in his abilities, but there was no remedy for his nature. Not that he was not conciliatory at all, sometimes he was, but then without rhyme or reason he would get queer. Because he was so renowned in his field, we had great respect for him. He lived in a world of his own creation so that he rubbished everything else. He liked Baburao Painter's movies, but he did not treat him well as an artist. Upto the time of Lankadahan, Dadasaheb would have new ideas, but later he changed a great deal. A feeling got hold of him that whatever he said or did was correct, that nobody could hold a candle to him. We got books on stage direction, but they remained untouched. His eccentricity, idiosyncrasy, was on the rise. There were instances to bear that out. Baburao Painter were both great artists, both pioneers. I worked as a writer with both of them. Dadasaheb was lazy, but calm. Dadasaheb was industrious, but peppery. What a contrast in the disposition of two born artists!

from Bapu Watve's Dadasaheb Phalke published by the National Book Trust


look up 1939 when Dadasaheb has to go to Pune to recuperate after Gangavataran's failure.

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