Kaliya Mardan

From PhalkeFactory
images from Kaliya Mardan

When Dadasaheb was in Pune, he was chatting with his friend, the owner of Aryan cinema, Gangadharpant alias Bapusaheb Pathak. The question of Dadasaheb’s next movie came up casually during the conversation. The movie Shileding Shadow was then on at the Aryan. It had a scene showing a mammoth creature of the ocean breaks the ship into pieces. It was a thrilling scene. Bapusaheb Pathak suggested that Dadasaheb should show some such scene in his picture. Dadasaheb therefore, saw the picture and the idea of Kailamardan occurred to him. Besides, the like of Shrikrishna was Dadasaheb’s favourite subject. Mandakini Athavale (Mai) recounted her memories of the time:

I was about six years old. I had just returned from school. The table was laid. I was sitting next to Dada. While we were eating, Dada started telling me the story of Kaliamardan. He told the episode of Krisha leaving the house getting angry with his mother, bowing to the house while leaving and starting for the river Yamuna. He narrated it so interestingly that I started weeping. After a while he asked me, “Sonu, will you do Krishna’s role?” I joyfully agreed immediately.

Thus Mai got the role of Baby Srikrishna. She was the first child artist doing a leading rold in the world of Indian Cinema. Other roles were done by: Nanda- Purushottam Parchure, Yashodha-Yadav Gopal Takle- Pendya- Narayan Pache.

The shooting of Kaliamardhan started with the incident narrated by Mai above. Seeing Mai’s realistic emotional acting, all those present on the set had tears in their eyes. Dadasaheb was very appreciative of his daughter’s acting and was confident she would give a good account of herself:

Outdoor shooting was on at the Gharpure ghat near Nashik. I was afraid of jumping into the deep water when Dada said, “ Sonu, our livelihood is dependent on this cinema business. If you think your father should get enough to eat, jump into the river without fearing for your life”. Hearing this I was so much worked up that I said, “ Baba, if I have your permission, I am ready even to jump from the bridge instead of from the back of this man”.

And the girl really did jump. Dadasaheb did not, for a moment, worry about what would happen to her. Mai continued, “ I jumped into the water and continued down and down. Fish entered my clothes, but I was not afraid. As soon as the shot was okayed, I was quickly taken out of the water. Really a dummy could have been used, but Dadasaheb made his own daughter do it”.

Krishna and Kalia are struggling under water. Krishna tightly squeezes Kalia which gives rise to bubbles in the water. Dadasaheb wanted to achieve this effect. For that purpose he got made a tank of glass. It broke and a shard entered Dadasaheb’s foot. He started bleeding profusely, but he bandaged the wound temporarily and resumed work.

I got to read in one place that when outdoor shooting was going on at Vishali Depths on the Panchganga river near Shingarpur, an English curator was going to the residency by special aeroplane. As he was a cinematographer, he came over to see the shooting. Dadasaheb requested him and took a shot from his aeroplane showing that a mammoth Kalia comes up from the depths of the river with Krishna dancing on top of his hood. There is no one now living to confirm this story. All those who saw the scene in those days were astonished.

Excerpted from Bapu Watve’s Dada Saheb Phalke, published by the National Book Trust.

Kaaliya was a poisonous snake, a venomous submarine that shot fire from its mouths, an imperialist conquerer that threw the long shadow of its many hooded head over the land.

It was a hot afternoon and children were playing ball by the river, oblivious to the apparition that lurked beneath the waters that flowed beside them

The ball went into the water and Krishna, the saviour, the redeemer in the form of a naughty child, went after it, and took the imperialist-submarine-snake by all its hoods and danced innocently on them while the dumstruck villagers watched from the banks, and realised their land was free again.



Early pioneer of Indian cinema D.G. Phalke directs this tale about the hijinks of child god Krishna. After getting splashed by a group of woman villagers, Krishna (played by the director's daughter, Mandakini Phalke) and the young deity's playmates vow revenge by swiping the women's butter. When the women respond by disciplining them, the children strike mischief again. Later, Krishna sneaks into the house of a rich man and ties his beard to his wife's hair. The eventual result is a crowd of angry villagers bitterly complaining about Krishna to his mortal caretakers. This film is the most extant of Phalke's early films.

Director : D.G. Phalke

The image of Kaliya Mardan in a child's life. The image of a child's life in Kaliya Mardan बचपन