Ramchandra Gopal or Dadasaheb Torney

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Once upon another time or An idle wish on an internet highway

A young man of 22 made a feature film in 1912 and had it released on the 18th of May, 1912, at the Coronation Cinema. Before Phalke's Raja Harishchandra. Ramchandra Gopal, or Dadasaheb Torney made a filmrecording called Pundalik which was released in May 1912. Pundalik was named after the man who brought Vithal to the shrine at Pandharpur, it was a staging of his story. Today Torney is quite forgotten.

Meanwhile, as Phalke is venerated, with reason, he is also assigned an absolute position, of "The beginning', 'The father' . Like with all such absolute declarations, I imagine it would leave a smarting in the hearts and minds of many who feel they might be more rightful contenders.

The following is an imagination of a film screening, organised by the archivists -scholars- hoarders against the forgettings of history ( and therefore the mentors of many a talented film maker who trusted them to save a print of their fine, forgotten film), PK Nair and Satish Bahadur, and the space they created- the National Film Archives of India). Students from the Film and Television Institute, down the road, would often come there to watch films alongside film lovers from the city.


There was a day in the future when the (unfair) results of the shabby race over coming first, (unfortunately one of the crucial ways of making it to the history that you deserve) was more forgotten, when film programmes were re arranging other slivers of information in their pamphlets. This afternoon, Dhundiraj Phalke' s Tukaram and Ramachandra Gopal' s Pundalik were part of a busy afternoon screening programme at the Film Appreciation course in Pune. The posters were not emphasising dates.

The smell of the rain has seeped into the air and seed pods are everywhere on the roads around NFAI. Satish Bahadur is lifting the rims of his white pajama cylinders. Mr. Nair, dressed in blacks and greys, (with the rich black at his sideburns of a man in his prime), is all ready, waiting by the main screening room gate. Students are moving in, talking, opining, not sure of what they think or feel, the corners of their young eyes tinged with a brush dipped in romance, affected by each cool kiss of the breeze at their ears. Older people are easier: the heart tossing wind is an old acquaintance, they recognize her and find themselves laughing in despair at her familiar ways.

The young really talk a lot as they stand about, waiting, their many words like noisy pebbles trying to hold down the sensation of being carried along like leaves.

Ramachandra Gopal gets a small smile watching Satish Bahadur walk in with those lifted pajamas. He feels in his body how his smile loosens many threads that are pulling at his mind, taut with the decades old choking feeling of an unfairness done. The smile lets him breathe. He tells himself- even if only in this land which is at some unknown juncture of possibilities, these people before him at the Archive gate are lovers of the medium and he should be happy for that. He concentrates on the approaching archivist, staring at the now soaked ends of Mr. Bahadur's pajama legs to keep himself from thinking further.

He lets his mind think of what he hopes for .. yes, he is hoping some regular locals will brave the rains and join the audience of film students and that they will appreciate what he did, more than these students with their sharp judgements.He hopes he will not be asked to make a generous preliminary speech that will suggest that much can be forgiven, he thinks he might refuse if they make that cruel demand, he thinks he will go and say things as he felt them. He wonders if Phalke might come, he might not, he is gone senile, is old, ailing, says mad things, he has heard. Maybe he, Ramachandra should feel sorry for Dhundiraj today. The rain is coming down in sheets of mist now, it is difficult to see, everyone has moved into the theatre, Ramachandra turns towards the gate and stops as he sees a silhouette of a large balding head in the pouring rain, an old man in a limp dhoti, a face made of furrows. Ramachandra's breath catches, the indrawn breath vibrates a delicate string in his body which launches a small pulley: his eyes open wider.

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