From PhalkeFactory


Phalke looks for a subject for his first feature film, and decides to make ‘Raja Harischandra’. beauty has been my obsession for the last thirty years, every since I took to visual arts like painting, drawing, photography, theatre and cinema.

Although my art is flawless scientifically, yet, to create on the screen a faultless visual image of a physically defective actor is beyond my power.

Photography reveals what exists in reality, and artificial devices like retouching cannot be done in photography.

This is because the picture is very small i.e. ¾ of an inch, and the faces on it are often smaller than a pulse grain. If one would keep a pencil on it, every point of the pencil mark will be enlarged on the screen. The face will thus come on the screen as though pierced with nails.

So I advertised. ‘Wanted, fair looking actors’

To my surprise, most of the applicants flocking to my door were ignorant even of the meaning of the word ‘good looking’.

The very next day, a man came to me with this new advertisement in his hand. His normal complexion was very dark, which could at best be improved to bluish after soaping the face. And this blue-black person told me he had enacted the role of Mahashveta, the lady in white, in ‘Shapa Shambhrama’ for a famous company!

After two hours descended another gem of an actor.

He gave an impression of looking at the boxes in the inner room while he was talking face to face with me of his experience of acting. In a afternoon, a man with a 40-inch waistline came to claim the role of Taramati in my ‘Harischandra’. As if this person, who looked like a woman in the advanced stages of pregnancy, or even as a walking advertisement for some health tonic, was the power actor to portray the character of Taramati, an unfortunate, dejected and resigned person.

They were an ugly lot, with gloomy faces, visible protruding teeth, with malformed eyes and noses, with hollow cheeks scarred with pox i.e. faces which were created by the god Brahma at the end of the working day, when he had run out of material. O India, what a terrible state you are in!

Sometimes, some candidates used typical womanish expressions as refrains while describing their acting experience, in order to prove that they had been portraying female characters. I was even scared that one of them would put his arms around me in embrace!

I was very surprised to see that the changed advertisement did not bring any different kinds of applicants.

The truth dawned on me when I looked at a mirror in a betel leaf shop. Any man chewing betel leaf in front of a shop would look at the shop mirror and indulge in a play of his eyes. Only when he is convinced, after seeing from all angles, that there is not the slightest flaw in his total appearance will he move off with a smile of content.

In India herself, there will be 30 x 2 crore mirrors. But how many faces will there be which can really grace these mirrors, and how many of these are likely to come to my films?

A person may appear beautiful simply because we like that person or love him. We may have a sensation of happiness because we are in a mood of love or joy or intimacy or youthful exuberance. This sensation of happiness is quite different from the happiness derived from looking at a person with a beautiful, healthy form.

Even the women of the red-light areas are reluctant to work in the film.

Finally one day, in a restaurant at Grant Road, he notices a young man at work, Salunke, a cook with delicate features and slender hands.

Phalke asks him how much is making as a cook. ‘Five rupees a month’, Salunke replies. ‘I will give you fifteen to act in my film.’

So Salunke is hired to play the role of Taramati in ‘Raja Harischandra’.


By-Ways of Bombay, by S. M. Edwardes [1] read online

1912 in phalke's journey

[2] [3] [4] [5]


Bhakta Pundalik exhibited, a shot play, shot from a single static position in the audience. Chitale and Datta Torue

पालकी में पडा शिशु मन्दा के कहीं पास होने पर उसे आँखें घुमा घुमा कर देखता रह्ता जैसे दुनिया भर में उसे वही सबसे अद्भुत आश्चर्यजनक लगती हो. मंदा शिशु के तरफ देखती भी नहीं, देखती तो किसी बात पर एक छोटी डांट देते हुवे वहां से नाक चढ़ा कर निकल जाती। पर सच यह भी था की उसको शिशु की आतुर आँखों से लगाव हो गया था, या शायद मंदा को उन गुड़ियों जैसे पावों को देख कर खेलने का मन करता था. शिशु सोता तो वो कटोरी गिराकर उसे उठाने की कोशिश करती। माँ की हर नक़ल करते वह अक्सर रसोई में भाकरी थपथपाती ही थी, अब शिशु के गाल भी बार बार चूमने लगी थी, उसे गोद में उठाने की कोशिश करती । सरस्वती माँ बन चुकी थी . मंदा के प्यार की तरल तारों में बिजली सा जलता रोष पहचानती थी . पर घर के कामों में उलझी कहाँ तक उसे पालकी से दूर रखती?