Mayashankar Bhatt

From PhalkeFactory

For floating a new company, Dadasaheb called on Mayashankar Bhatt, a former partner of Hindusthan Film Company, and apprised him of his intention to form a new company under the name and style of 'Phalke Diamond Company'. Mayashankar Bhatt had no doubt about Dadasaheb's ability but everyone knew well that his ex¬penditure had no limits. Everyone also knew that the money was never spent on luxuries, that every paisa was spent solely on film production. Dadasaheb was firm, insistent, even obstinate in ensuring that his movies should be spec¬tacular, the atmosphere should be realistic. In view of all this, Mayashankar Bhatt agreed to provide a capital of Rs 50,000, but an important condition was that the movie must be completed within that amount. Dadasaheb accepted it and made preparations for producing a film on the Setubandhan story in the Ramayan. Dadasaheb brought about half a dozen well-built wres¬tlers from Wadi Bundar in Mumbai for the roles of giants and selected a big-bodied wrestler named Wagh from a gym¬nasium at Dadar for Maruti's role. (Later, Haribhau Lonari did this role.) He could not, however, get a suitable woman for the role of Sita. In the meantime, the shooting 6f differ¬ent sculptures at Humpi and other places near Madras was completed. Earlier, a good-looking young woman had called on Dadasaheb. She wanted to do the role of Sita. Dadasaheb too thought her suitable for the role. She, however, asked Dadasaheb, "If you give me Sita's role, will I get brocade sarees and lots of jewellery to wear?" Dadasaheb explained, "The Sita in my movie is staying in a jungle. She will wear rough clothes. How can Sita wear jewellery when living in a jungle?" Hearing this, the lady declined to do the role. Although ladies had started acting in films by that time, it was difficult to get a suitable female artiste for a particular role. The joke regarding the lady who came for Sita's role is yet to be told. She asked Phalke, "Will you give a role to my elder sister? She is cast in a big mould, can ride a horse, is an expert swimmer and climbs trees swiftly". Dadasaheb asked, "What role can I give to your sister?" She replied immedi¬ately, "What role? Maruti's wife's, of course! She will be quite fit for that role". Dadasaheb thumped his forehead in dis¬gust and sent her away saying, "Okay, I'll let you know." (Everybody knows that Maruti was a celibate.) On his way back from Madras, Dadasaheb had brought with him a young lady from Belgaum, named Malati, pass¬ably handsome, for the role of Sita. He was determined to make magnificent, artistic sets, appropriate to the period of Ramayan. He had planned to make the sets in the image of the temples and sculptures he had photographed in the south. The whole staff was busy erecting the sets. There was no system then for the staff to do only specific work. The work was going on at full blast. Something big was taking shape. Dadasaheb laboured hard and could scarcely get three or four hours of sleep. However, he lost sight of the fact that the whole show had to be accommodated within the given amount and the capital got exhausted while the movie was only half finished. Mayashankar Bhatt was not prepared to invest more capital. All activity came to a standstill. The work accomplished so far by boundless efforts was on the verge of being wiped out. Efforts to get more capital did not succeed. Workers' salaries slid into arrears. Once again, Phalke had to face a financial crisis.

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