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The Phalke story

By Kamal Swaroop

Who am I? A father adding to the thirty crore population of India? My wife’s husband? A servant of India who has not paid his dues to his motherland? A victim to the desires of moneylenders? A man bereft of worldly wisdom, obsessed by only one aim, and thus ruining his family life?

Who am I, then?

(Thinks for a while)

Or perhaps it is true that I don’t know this concept of ‘I’, I don’t claim anything to be mine. I am beyond the perception of happiness and suffering. So, enough of this prolixity.

O my fellow beings! O learned men! O appreciative men who know all the arts! O pioneers of this new era of reforms! Your

appreciation of my works has not decreased inspite of the stories of my misfortune. It is only through your grace that I have been able to establish this beautiful art of the motion pictures for the entertainment of the people. Kindly appreciate the analysis of this art. 1870-79 - THE FATHER Charting the child’s horoscope at Trymbakeshwar in Nasik district on 30 April 1870 at 8.30 p.m., the father foretells that he will deal in something white...

At this time, the professor of English at Elphinstone College who is studying Vedic astronomy from Phalke’s father invites him to join the college as a Sanskrit teacher.

The family, consisting of the child Phalke and his parents, leaves for Bombay. 1879 - 86 - BOMBAY The train moves on.

After a time, it enters a cave-like Victoria Terminus, almost as though entering a camera obscura, and halts.

A crowd gets off.

Phalke is separated from his family and gets lost.

Darkness descends.

He is alone in a deserted Victoria Terminus, bewitched by the carvings of gargoyles, lizards, lions, tigers, flora and fauna, like in a fairyland.

Suddenly it starts to rain, and everything comes to life.

Streams of water pour out of the stone mouths of mythical monsters, frothing at the jaws.

Phalke is shaken, shivering with cold, crying for his father in the dark.

But it is in a still unreal twilight outside VT station that a group of boys from the JJ School of Arts sits with hammers and knives, carving out figures on the terraces and the tops. The cotton loaders are teasing a Victoria look-alike, a mad woman at the fountain outside.

Picking up leaves as if to build a nest, small birds move above.

A Victoria enters and drags the woman away by the hair.

A mad dog chases Phalke through a backdrop - streets, railway lines, ships and factories.

He enters a palace and finds the princess stretching her arms and calling his name, and then metamorphosing into a frightening old woman.

With a jerk, Phalke comes awake.

He is fifteen years old. And he has to run for his examination at the Sir JJ School of Art.

As he sketches the live model sitting nude, the hands and toes of the drawing keep disappearing.

As in the peeling frescoes of Ajanta, where we see the same students taking photographs of the frescoes, or tracing through the cross hairs of the camera obscura prints being enlarged.


Mr. Griffith, the Principal, and Mr. Tarry, the Vice-Principal, present their annual report on the institution.

Mr. Tarry announces that they have been able to manufacture glazed pottery that can hold liquids, and have been commissioned to make ceramic insulators for the telephone company, that drawings have been made of all the caves of Ajanta, and that future jobs entrusted to them include building of the telegraph office, and the wood carving for the new station of the BCC&I railway line. Following this, he introduces Raja Ravi Verma, and invites the students to view his paintings.

The students leave for the exhibition hall. Phalke is accompanied by a young friend who is skeptical of art schools, opining that these schools are basically established to produce aluminum utensils for the Mission hospitals.

Later, while discussing their future prospects after graduation with his friends, Phalke discloses his intention to go to Baroda where his brother works with Romesh Chandra Dutt, the eminent scholar from Bengal.

After the ceremony, Phalke walks from the JJ School to Elphinstone College, where his father teaches Sanskrit.

When he gets there, there is a commotion in his father’s classroom. Phalke’s father is objecting to the presence of a non-Hindu in his Sanskrit class.

Impulsively, he resigns his post and leaves the premises, taking his son with him.

He decides to return to Trymbak and resume his old job of kathavachak.

Phalke’s brother from Baroda is at home, paying the family a visit, and Phalke prevails upon him to take him back to Baroda with him.1886 - 90 - THE MASTER

The next day, Phalke is taken to meet Prof. Gujjar, Principal of Kala Bhuvan, the technical institute under the royal patronage of HH the Gaekwad of Baroda. Forty years ago, I was a student of Kala Bhuvan when Prof. Gujjar was the Principal.

Being pleased with my work in drawing, painting, photography and modeling, Prof. Gujjar not only gave me a scholarship, but was also kind enough to allow me free use of Kala Bhuvan laboratory and studio The product of such facilities and the knowledge I gained in Kala Bhuvan was ‘Phalke’s Photo-engraving and Photo-printing Works.’ The work of this firm was highly appreciated even by foreigners. Mr. W. Ray was the only other person to have a studio of this sort in India at the time.

Let me tell you, my young Kala Bhuvanians

Seeing extraordinary talent in Phalke, Prof. Gujjar puts him in charge of Kala Bhuvan’s photography studio where Phalke makes several experiments in photochemical processes.

He spends days and nights at the Sir Sayaji Rao library, reading 'Photography depends upon two basic operations - the formation of an image on a flat surface by an optical device, and a chemical method of sensitizing that surface to light so that the image can be captured permanently.

‘The first requirement was met by camera obscura, known since the 16th century and used by artists as an aid to sketching.

‘Wedgwood was the first one to make a light-sensitive material when, in about 1800, he treated white leather and paper with silver salt. He used this technique to make prints of leaves and transparent paintings.

‘The first permanent image produced directly by light was made by Nicephore Niepce in 1823 on a bitumen-coated pewter plate exposed for eight hours. ‘In 1839, Daguerre demonstrated the Daguerrotype in which silver surface on a copper plate was sensitized with iodine vapor.

‘Now Daguerre, when he took over Niepce’s invention, was running the Panorama Theatre animated by light shows and movements in the Place du ----- ‘In 1839, Daguerre demonstrated the Daguerrotype in which silver surface on a copper plate was sensitized with iodine vapor.

‘Now Daguerre, when he took over Niepce’s invention, was running the Panorama Theatre animated by light shows and movements in the Place du -----

‘The camera obscura had generated at one and the same time painting, photography and the diorama.

The wet plates require speed, the luck of an alchemist, and the dexterity of an acrobat. Having shot the picture, you return to the dark room, prepare the dark plate, clean it with cotton and brushes, coat it with viscous collodion, immerse it in silver nitrate solution, recover the exposed plate from the camera, and immerse the plate in developer

Phalke also comes into contact with Shankar Moro Ranade, a dramatist who is about to perform ‘Winter Tales’ and his own play ‘Veni Samhar’ at the Maharaja’s palace.

To train his voice, Ranade sends Phalke to the Maulabux Musical School for training in music. Baroda was the place where I could get the technical and fundamental appliances for film production. The great Marathi dramatist, Mr. Shankar Moro Ranade, was my preceptor in the dramatic art. The inquisitive and far-reaching eye of the late Babasaheb (Mr. Ranade) marked out my genius as a poet and an actor, and he

The work of the director of the ‘Veni Samhar’ drama performed by the Baroda College had naturally fallen to my lot. I had a sweet melodious voice, and received full scientific instruction in the Maulabux Musical School of Baroda. I had some interest in magic also. The pursuit of these arts did cause a gap of some years in my study of photography. My magical feats were, however, highly appreciated by all and I used to perform them in the presence of thousands of spectators. On a darkened stage, a large blank canvas was illuminated by limelight.

As he made passes with his right hand, the canvas gradually and mysteriously gave birth to a brighter and brighter painting, Raja Ravi Verma reproduction. I had, however, never intended to be Prof. Phalke the Magician, and soon returned to my original work. The results are announced at Kala Bhuvan.

Dada stands first and is offered a scholarship.

After consulting Prof. Gujjar, he buys his first still camera with the first installment of his scholarship.


He was nineteen years old.

He was lying on his back on a hill, looking up at the sky.

His camera stood on the tripod to one side.

Suddenly, mist began to creep towards the field.

A cloud of mist enveloped him and hid him from view.

All he could see was white mist.

White blindness, as if he was buried in a cloudbank of mist.

Then a snake slithered through the mist, crawled over his chest and stood above his face with fanned hood.

Rubbing itself against his chest, the snake began to slough off the skin covering its eyes.

Understanding, Govind picked up a cloth on which his head was resting and wiped the snake’s eyes clean.

Having regained its sight, the snake went quietly away.

When the mist cleared, the surrounding hills had turned into the white, snow-covered Himalayan Mountains.

The infinite sun peeped out from behind the infinite mountains.

On all sides the multicolored tree barks of autumn…

Govind was exhilarated by this vision.

This was the source of the Godavari…

He captured many beautiful visions in his camera, finally understanding why they painted the Sahyadri Mountains white in the backdrops at Nasik.

Joyously he began to descend the steps of the fort.

Suddenly, a group of monkeys materialized from thin air and blocked his way.

Seeing their boldness and aggression, Govind became a little fearful.

The monkeys snatched his camera and disappeared again.



Friend, I hear you dabble in photography. Where’s your camera?


The monkeys stole it from me.


Have you traced them?


The investigation’s still on.


Can I be of any assistance?

But in whichever age the picture comes to life, I must be given the credit for it.

What is photography?


The formation of an image on a flat surface by an optical device and a chemical method of sensitizing that surface to a light source so that the image can be captured permanently is photography.


Like tombstones.


Friend, these are my monkey friends. I’ve been talking to them about our friendship for many years.

But I wanted to give you a surprise before you all met.

This is my gift to you.

Telang takes a photograph of Phalke with the monkeys.

As Phalke’s education continues, he often visits his brother at the palace.

He watches the Prince ride his horses, play cricket, shoot crows, wrestle.

He cannot comprehend palace intrigue, and the changes occurring in the state of Baroda.

At home at night, amongst his Maharashtrian relatives, he sings kirtanas.

When he comes home, there is a surprise waiting for him. His father has arrived from Nasik, bringing Phalke’s wife, Kamala, with him.

Phalke is shy as well as nervous. His father asks about his prospects.

1890 - 95 - ORIENTAL TOOTHPASTE Meanwhile, Phalke receives a letter from his wife She urges him once more to set up a separate home.


Godhra is a railway junction surrounded by small tribal kingdoms.

Phalke hangs a sign outside his house. ‘Photographer Phalke’ it reads.

A horse cart drives through the narrow lanes of a temple town bathed in silver moonlight.

The town is deserted.

The horse cart comes to a stop outside a ruined four-story building.

Dhundiraj stops to feed the horse before he enters the house.

He searches inside the labyrinthine house, calling ‘Panditji! Panditji!’

Shastriji is busy making gold in the darkness of his underground alchemical laboratory.

Suddenly a small bubble comes to the surface of one of the boiling liquids and explodes.

It bursts into Shastriji’s face, turning it black with soot.

Green smoke begins to fill the room.

Dhundiraj bursts into laughter on seeing Shastriji’s face.


Have we been introduced? What can I do for you?

Dhundiraj takes out a small purse from inside his clothes, removes five rupees and places the money at the other man’s feet.


What is the meaning of this?


I wished to speak to you.


You must be joking. Why would I spill my guts for five bucks?


This is but a token of my esteem. After I have told you my problem, I will shower you with gold coins.


Gold coins! Real gold coins! It is true I desire gold, but only that which I can make with my own hands.

Wisps of smoke of many colors escape from the mouths of the alchemist’s crucibles.

Panditji checked one of the brass utensils, but there was no gold yet.

Flinging the vessel away in a rage, he wipes his hands.


All right, let’s talk. God, it’s hot!


I hear you have a whole library of Sanskrit books and manuscripts?


I used to, but I fed them to the white ants. They were everywhere, curse them! Instead of letting them eat away my wooden doors, I fed them on those thankless, useless books. How hot it is! Sit, sit.


A foreigner has arrived from abroad. He has a book. I’ve seen with my own eyes that he took out a small bottle from his pocket and dropped just two drops onto a large bowl of copper. Then he told his servant to wash the bowl. The bowl began to sparkle when it had been washed. Then he said, ‘The English government buys all this gold from me. I have a fortune in savings abroad. But I need at least fifty gold coins before I can leave here. So I said, ‘Why don’t you sell the bowl you just made? It’ll fetch you a good sum.’ He said, ‘No. The Resident made me swear on the bible that I would sell my gold only to the British government.’ So I said, ‘So sell it to the British government.’ The foreigner replied, ‘I make the gold here, then they write to the laath saab in Calcutta. Then the laath saab writes to the head of the company in England, who sends the money.’ But this poor chap gets nothing, because he’s known as a drunk. So the company sends his salary to his wife. He’s hoping that someone will buy his book on alchemy for fifty gold coins, because he remembers all the formulas by heart.


Such a book is possible only in Arabic.


You’re absolutely right.


These Western empires might conquer and loot us, but they’ll never crack the Arabic language.


Actually, this foreigner’s father is of the English race, but his mother is Arabic. In spite of being a Christian, he brought his son up like a devout Muslim. I suspect he got this book from his mother.

Panditji (leans towards Dhundiraj):

Have you seen this book?


With my own two eyes. For just fifty gold coins, we can buy it from the old drunk.


He’s a fool to sell such a priceless book.


He’s ready to sell it because he remembers it by heart.


But how will I get hold of fifty gold coins? Where will I live if I sell the house?


I’ll give you fifty gold coins for all your books.

Panditji breaks out in a sweat. Thoughtfully, he heads towards another room. He opens a door, picks up a lit oil lamp, and enters within, followed by Dhundiraj and a small mouse.

There are about 3,000 or 4,000 books inside.

The books turn to dust at the merest touch.

Their titles are in gold leaf lettering and they are filled with colorful illustrations.

Dhundiraj picks up the oil lamp. Every book he has ever heard of is here.


How much for the lot?


They’re not worth toilet paper. I hate the sight of them. Your gods and goddesses, your myriad religions - I hate all the religions of the world. All I want to do is make gold with my own hands just once.


Are fifty gold coins acceptable to you?


No. It’s got to be either fifty-one or one hundred and one. I want an auspicious amount. Take it or go away.

Panditji comes out of the room and bolts the door behind him.

Phalke takes out his money and counts it.

Then he loads the books into the cart outside and comes inside again.

Panditji is making a green paste out of some herbs.

Phalke is holding a photogun in his hands.


Sir, are you a hunter too?


No Panditji, this is a gun to take pictures only - flying birds, running horses…


Stop, I think you can help me. I have one herb that can turn a man into a tiger and another that can turn tigers into men. I want you to photograph me as I metamorphose into a tiger. So stay ready and shoot me. I also want to see what happens to me. Then give me this other herb.


But suppose you eat me?


Son, you have a gun in your hands. And after I turn into a tiger, how will I know that it’s a photogun? It’s an experiment, a service to science. Here, don’t be afraid.

Panditji gives one packet to Dhundiraj and swallows the other.

He begins to turn into a tiger at the end of Dhundiraj’s gun.

He roars and jumps onto Dhundiraj.

Dhundiraj clutches his gun and flees for his life.

While he is developing the pictures in the dark room, someone opens the door by mistake, and the pictures evaporate from the paper.

The large numbers of rats that are dying around them frightens Phalke’s wife.

7th July 1896 -

After a quiet start, the Bombay exhibition soon gathers momentum.

There is such a bustle and hurry. Over the living picture craze. Rivals rushing, full of worry, In their advertising days. Each the first and each the only, Each the otherworldly. But it is a wonder really, How the constant flood of life O’er the screen keeps moving freely, Full of action, stir and strife.

At the party after the show are, among others, Harischandra Bhatwadekar, or Save Dada, a photographer who later turns exhibitor and filmmaker, Raja Ravi Verma, HH the Maharaja of Baroda, the famous sculptor Mhatre, Pestonjee, who traced the Ajanta frescoes under the supervision of the Englishwoman Lady Hardinge, Mr. Havell of the Calcutta School of Art, Sir Jeejeebhoy Jagannathshankar Seth, Framjee Cawas, Ibrahim Magba, all nascent industrialists.

Somebody winds the recently acquired phonograph.

Outside the windows, at Flora Fountain, Queen Victoria’s bonfires burn.

Inside, people converse.

‘Freud has begun psychoanalysis…’

‘Kipling’s “Jungle Book” has won the Nobel Prize for Literature…’

‘The best reproductions of Raja Ravi Verma have arrived from Germany. They reach distant homes, and set a style. Mr. Slasher…runs his lithopress at Bhatwadi, Bombay,’

‘Mhatre is exhibiting his sculpture, “To the Temple”’.

‘How did Socrates escape the plague?’

‘When we define the photograph as a motionless image this does not mean that the figures it represents do not move. It means that they do not emerge, do not leave…they are anesthetized, fractured, broken down like butterflies.’

‘Why has Bal Gangadhar Tilak been imprisoned?’

‘Why is there famine in Bombay?’

Someone sees and comments on a photograph of the first train arriving at Victoria Terminus.

Two gentlemen debate the use of aluminum for cooking utensils.

‘Yes, it was a matter of chance which phase of the horse’s movements was captured when the shutter was fired. Muybridge was still using wet plates as the news of the gelatin dry plates had yet made little impact in America.’

‘Shall you be at the Poona races tomorrow?’

‘What’s this new thing they’re calling radium?’

‘What is cinema?’



Later there is a shadow-puppet show by Anandrao Patwardhan, in which the hearth becomes a theatre.

The figures are manipulated from inside the chimney, in which the operator is concealed by green baize.

All goes well until a large bird tumbles down the chimney, covers everything with soot, bursts its way through the cloth, flaps its great wings and claws at everything within reach.

The women shriek and flee, sure that the Devil himself has come for them.


Toward midnight, that night, there was another function. This was a Hindoo wedding - no, I think it was a betrothal ceremony. Always before, we had driven through streets that were multitudinous and tumultuous with picturesque native life, but now there was nothing of that. We seemed to move through a city of the dead. There was hardly a suggestion of life in those still and vacant streets. Even the crows were silent. But everywhere on the ground lay sleeping natives-hundreds and hundreds. They lay stretched at full length and tightly wrapped in blankets, beads and all. Their attitude and their rigidity counterfeited death. The plague was not in Bombay then, but it is devastating the city now. The shops are deserted, now, half of the people have fled, and of the remainder the smitten perish by shoals every day. No doubt the city looks now in the daytime as it looked then at night. When we had pierced deep into the native quarter and were threading its narrow dim lanes, we had to go carefully, for men were stretched asleep all about and there was hardly room to drive between them. And every now and then a swarm of rats would scamper across past the horses' feet in the vague light - the forbears of the rats that are carrying the plague from house to house in Bombay now. The shops were but sheds, little booths open to the street; and the goods had been removed, and on the counters families were sleeping, usually with an oil lamp present. Recurrent dead watches, it looked like.

But at last we turned a corner and saw a great glare of light ahead. It was the home of the bride, wrapped in a perfect conflagration of illuminations, - mainly gas-work designs, gotten up specially for the occasion. Within was abundance of brilliancy - flames, costumes, colors, decorations, mirrors - it was another Aladdin show.

The bride was a trim and comely little thing of twelve years, dressed as we would dress a boy, though more expensively than we should do it, of course. She moved about very much at her ease, and stopped and talked with the guests and allowed her wedding jewelry to be examined. It was very fine. Particularly a rope of great diamonds, a lovely thing to look at and handle. It had a great emerald hanging to it.

The bridegroom was not present. He was having betrothal festivities of his own at his father's house. As I understood it, he and the bride were to entertain company every night and nearly all night for a week or more, then get married, if alive. Both of the children were a little elderly, as brides and grooms go, in India - twelve; they ought to have been married a year or two sooner; still to a, stranger twelve seems quite young enough.

A while after midnight a couple of celebrated and high-priced nautchgirls appeared in the gorgeous place, and danced and sang. With them were men who played upon strange instruments which made uncanny noises of a sort to make one's flesh creep. One of these instruments was a pipe, and to its music the girls went through a performance which represented snake charming. It seemed a doubtful sort of music to charm anything with, but a native gentleman assured me that snakes like it and will come out of their holes and listen to it with every evidence of refreshment And gratitude. He said that at an entertainment in his grounds once, the pipe brought out half a dozen snakes, and the music had to be stopped before they would be persuaded to go. Nobody wanted their company, for they were bold, familiar, and dangerous; but no one would kill them, of course, for it is sinful for a Hindoo to kill any kind of a creature.

We withdrew from the festivities at two in the morning. Another picture, then - but it has lodged itself in my memory rather as a stage-scene than as a reality. It is of a porch and short flight of steps crowded with dark faces and ghostly-white draperies flooded with the strong glare from the dazzling concentration of illuminations; and midway of the steps one conspicuous figure for accent - a turbaned giant, with a name according to his size: Rao Bahadur Baskirao Balinkanje Pitale, Vakeel to his Highness the Gaikwar of Baroda. Without him the picture would not have been complete; and if his name had been merely Smith, he wouldn't have answered. Close at hand on house-fronts on both sides of the narrow street were illuminations of a kind commonly employed by the natives-scores of glass tumblers (containing tapers) fastened a few in inches apart all over great latticed frames, forming starry constellations which showed out vividly against their black back grounds. As we drew away into the distance down the dim lanes the illuminations gathered together into a single mass, and glowed out of the enveloping darkness like a sun.

Then again the deep silence, the skurrying rats, the dim forms stretched every-where on the ground; and on either hand those open booths counterfeiting sepulchres, with counterfeit corpses sleeping motionless in the flicker of the counterfeit death lamps. And now, a year later, when I read the cablegrams I seem to be reading of what I myself partly saw - saw before it happened - in a prophetic dream, as it were. One cablegram says, "Business in the native town is about suspended. Except the wailing and the tramp of the funerals. There is but little life or movement. The closed shops exceed in number those that remain open." Another says that 325,000 of the people have fled the city and are carrying the plague to the country. Three days later comes the news, "The population is reduced by half." The refugees have carried the disease to Karachi; "220 cases, 214 deaths." A day or two later, "52 fresh cases, all of which proved fatal."

The plague carries with it a terror which no other disease can excite; for of all diseases known to men it is the deadliest - by far the deadliest. "Fifty-two fresh cases - all fatal." It is the Black Death alone that slays like that. We can all imagine, after a fashion, the desolation of a plague-stricken city, and the stupor of stillness broken at intervals by distant bursts of wailing, marking the passing of funerals, here and there and yonder, but I suppose it is not possible for us to realize to ourselves the nightmare of dread and fear that possesses the living who are present in such a place and cannot get away. That half million fled from Bombay in a wild panic suggests to us something of what they were feeling, but perhaps not even they could realize what the half million were feeling whom they left stranded behind to face the stalking horror without chance of escape. Kinglake was in Cairo many years ago during an epidemic of the Black Death, and he has imagined the terrors that creep into a man's heart at such a time and follow him until they themselves breed the fatal sign in the armpit, and then the delirium with confused images, and home-dreams, and reeling billiard-tables, and then the sudden blank of death:

"To the contagionist, filled as he is with the dread of final causes, having no faith in destiny, nor in the fixed will of God, and with none of the devil-may-care indifference which might stand him instead of creeds - to such one, every rag that shivers in the breeze of a plague-stricken city has this sort of sublimity. If by any terrible ordinance he be forced to venture forth, be sees death dangling from every sleeve; and, as he creeps forward, he poises his shuddering limbs between the imminent jacket that is stabbing at his right elbow and the murderous pelisse that threatens to mow him clean down as it sweeps along on his left. But most of all he dreads that which most of all he should love - the touch of a woman's dress; for mothers and wives, hurrying forth on kindly errands from the bedsides of the dying, go slouching along through the streets more willfully and less courteously than the men. For a while it may be that the caution of the poor Levantine may enable him to avoid contact, but sooner or later, perhaps, the dreaded chance arrives; that bundle of linen, with the dark tearful eyes at the top of it, that labors along with the voluptuous clumsiness of Grisi- she has touched the poor Levantine with the hem of her sleeve! From that dread moment his peace is gone; his mind for ever hanging upon the fatal touch invites the blow which he fears; he watches for the symptoms of plague so carefully, that sooner or later they come in truth. The parched mouth is a sign - his mouth is parched; the throbbing brain - his brain does throb; the rapid pulse - he touches his own wrist (for he dares not ask counsel of any man lest he be deserted), he touches his wrist, and feels how his frighted blood goes galloping out of his heart. There is nothing but the fatal swelling that is wanting to make his sad conviction complete; immediately, he has an odd feel under the arm - no pain, but a little straining of the skin; he would to God it were his fancy that were strong enough to give him that sensation; this is the worst of all. It now seems to him that he could be happy and contented with his parched mouth, and his throbbing brain, and his rapid pulse, if only he could know that there were no swelling under the left arm; but dares he try? - in a moment of calmness and deliberation he dares not; but when for a while he has writhed under the torture of suspense, a sudden strength of will drives him to seek and know his fate; he touches the gland, and finds the skin sane and sound but under the cuticle there lies a small lump like a pistol-bullet, that moves as he pushes it. Oh! but is this for all certainty, is this the sentence of death? Feel the gland of the other arm. There is not the same lump exactly, yet something a little like it. Have not some people glands naturally enlarged? - would to heaven he were one! So he does for himself the work of the plague, and when the Angel of Death thus courted does indeed and in truth come, he has only to finish that which has been so well begun; he passes his fiery hand over the brain of the victim, and lets him rave for a season, but all chance-wise, of people and things once dear, or of people and things indifferent. Once more the poor fellow is back at his home in fair Provence, and sees the sundial that stood in his childhood's garden - sees his mother, and the long-since forgotten face of that little dear sister - (he sees her, he says, on a Sunday morning, for all the church bells are ringing); he looks up and down through the universe, and owns it well piled with bales upon bales of cotton, and cotton eternal - so much so that he feels - he knows - he swears he could make that winning hazard, if the billiard-table would not slant upwards, and if the cue were a cue worth playing with; but it is not - it's a cue that won't move - his own arm won't move - in short, there's the devil to pay in the brain of the poor Levantine; and perhaps, the next night but one he becomes the "life and the soul" of some squalling jackal family, who fish him out by the foot from his shallow and sandy grave."

Stopping by the crest of a hill, he is stunned by the tableau at his feet.

Vultures are wheeling in the sky.

Their hungry cries echo in a landscape of carts pulling the dead from Godhra.

‘The plague came soon after you arrived with your camera, Baba,’ the driver spits, fear on his face.

In a frenzy, Phalke runs from cart to cart, snapping open the shrouds, praying that he will not find the faces he seeks.

Bewildered, he makes his way home.

An empty house yawns at him.

Three women in the white robes of widows whimper at the gate.

A dog appears at the door and runs back inside.

‘Your camera imprisoned our soul. You’ve brought the black plague upon us,’ the neighbors wail.

A sound comes from his house.

Phalke rushes inside, calling for his wife and child.

The house has been ransacked.

The fire in the kitchen is cold. Even the cupboards are empty.

Only a few of his photographs have survived.

He runs into the child’s room. It is dark.

He strikes a match. Many matches later, he spots the bed. A rat scuttles away.

On the bed is a slate with a child’s drawing. His child’s last game.

By the flickering light of the match we see a stick man with a camera.

Phalke roams from camp to camp with photographs of his wife and child, looking for their bodies.

Wandering desolate after their death, a paranoid Dada meets Nicephore Niepce, one of the Lumiere Brothers’ 40 magicians.

Phalke travels with Niepce and learns the history of chemistry and mechanics.

They become popular figures in north and central India.

They play trick slides.

A large mirror in a carved frame is on the stage.

Phalke is invited onstage, where he is asked to walk around the mirror and examine it to his satisfaction.

Niepce asks him to don a hooded red robe.

He then positions him some ten feet from the mirror, where the vivid red reflection is clearly visible to the audience.

The theatre is darkened, except for a brightening light that comes from within the mirror itself.

As Phalke waves his robed arms around and bows to his bowing reflection, his reflection begins to show signs of disobedience.

It crosses its arms over its chest and starts waving them about.

Suddenly, the reflection grimaces, removes a knife and stabs itself in the chest.

The reflection collapses onto the reflected floor - it is he himself.

Now a ghost-like white form rises from the dead reflection and hovers in the mirror.

All at once, a ghost emerges from the glass. It looks towards the startled, terrified spectators.

The masterful illusion mystifies even professional magicians who agree only that the mirror was a trick cabinet with black lined doors in the rear and an assistant hidden inside.

The lights were probably concealed between the glass and the lightly silvered back.

As the lights grew brighter, the mirror grew transparent, and a red-robed assistant showed himself in the glass.

The ghost was more difficult to explain, despite a big tradition of stage ghosts.

It was said that concealed magic lanterns produced the phantom, but no other magician was able to imitate the effect.

Even in these early years, there was something uncanny about the illusions.

But some said that Nicephore was not a showman at all, but had sold his soul to the devil in return for unholy powers.

As the guru and his disciple traveled across the country, Nicephore made him paint the backdrops with his chemical jugglery.

Phalke is a changed man when he returns home to Baroda. The family welcomes the prodigal back with love.

After hearing his story, they arrange his marriage to the daughter of Shankar Vasudev Karandikar. Phalke used to know his son during his theatre days.

So Phalke marries Saraswati. She is 13, he is 32. But the face of his first wife haunts him. POONA & TRAVELING FOR THE ASI

In Poona, Phalke’s job requires him to travel across the country, leaving his young wife behind.

His job is to make sketches of excavated sites, drawings that will later help him to design the sets for his films.

For him, it is still a state of recourse. He still has not been able to reconcile the memories of his first wife Kamala, with the reality of his second wife, Saraswati.

But in Prof. Bhandarkar he sees and father figure, and they spend hours in conversation.

They discuss Lord Curzon and his new policies.

During a trip to Karla caves, Phalke again meets Raja Ravi Verma, who has set up a printing press in Lonavala.

On Prof. Bhandarkar’s advice and inspired by the Swadeshi movement, Phalke also decides to set up a printing press at Lonavala, to make reproductions of Raja Ravi Verma paintings.

Malavali was the ideal place to set up a press for Raja Ravi Verma. This was when people were leaving Bombay and running for shelter from the plague.

Phalke and his wife set up their small printing press at Karla caves, engraving the visionary images of Ravi Verma on the stores, from where they multiply on calendars and become household gods.

Friday, June 28, 1907That day, Raja Ravi Verma dies.

Dada’s father also dies the same day.

Bhalchandra is born.

A full moon shines in the sky. Phalke walks around with his infant in his arms, under the incandescent light, helped by Chance, a lady called Nanny with a child in her arms.

A second son, Mahadev, is born to Phalke.

Seth Purushottamdas Mavji comes to Lonavala to ask Phalke to open the Laxmi Printing Press at Dadar, Bombay.

He offers Phalke a trip to Germany for training in advanced printing technology.

Phalke returns to India and starts Swarnmala, a Marathi monthly printed in the 3-color process of Gutenberg. 1910

The unrelenting round-the-clock work that Phalke puts in over the 3-color processes of the Swarnmala monthly without caring about food and sleep affects his system and his eyesight.

Differences with Seth Purushottamdas grow day by day and also take their toll on his health. Their relationship becomes bitter over the running of the press. In order to find a new profession for himself, Phalke wanders around Bombay. As the conflict between Seth Purushottamdas and Phalke grows, he decides to leave Laxmi Printing Press. ‘His association with Laxmi Art Printing Press came to an end.

‘The hard, round-the-clock work he had put in over the 3-color process, the Suvarnamala monthly, and so on, without caring for proper food or sleep, seriously affected his system and his eyesight.

‘We had come to stay at Ismail Building, at Chowpatty, and two of our children were still very small. We were in great difficulties.

‘Medical treatments, and even fasts and rituals on my part, were of no avail in curing his eyesight.

All his friends, like the erstwhile mayor, Nagindas Master, and a few Gujarati businessmen try to persuade him to start a new printing press, naming it Saraswati Printing Press. But Phalke is reluctant to compete with his own earlier creation.

The Phalkes shift to Ismail building at Chowpatty with their two children.

Phalke’s eyesight is deteriorating fast. He is almost blind. All kinds of medical treatment and ritual offerings fail to effect a cure.

During his blindness, his brother-in-law, Anandrao Karandikar, and a playwright, Vitthalrao Shanthalkar, visit him and organize kathas and kirtans. 1912 - ‘RAJA HARISCHANDRA’, THE PLAY

The whole family is at the theatre, watching the play.


Beloved, why is your beautiful face so unhappy today?


Last night I dreamed bad dreams that leave me restless today. I am filled with foreboding…


Dearest one, women have timid natures. But you are the bravest of women. Why, then, are you laid so low?


Lord, I fear for my dear ones.


I, too, have had bad dreams.

By his efforts, an enraged Brahmin has acquired the power to control all the divine goddesses of knowledge.

And when I took pity on the women and went to rescue them, the Brahmin turned his rage on me.

And when I tried to pacify him, he demanded my whole kingdom in return.


Lord, why does such a small thing bother you so much?


Where will I find him now? How will I eat my daily meal without thinking of his plate?


Lord, are you going to embrace the world of dreams as the truth now?


The world of dreams is untrue in reality. Who can prove this? I gave away my kingdom, even if only in a dream.


Forgive me, my lord, we women are ignorant.


Send out the town crier. Announce that from this day the kingdom belongs to a Brahmin of unknown origins.


Your Majesty, an enraged Brahmin is at the door.


So, do you recognize me or not?


Lord, I feel that we have met somewhere.


True! You of the warrior caste! Why would you remember me? Cheat! Do you remember whom you gave the world away to last night? Wait! You’ll pay for your lies! As my right arm is raised to curse you in anger, the memories of my race tempt me to take my sword and kill you myself. Where is my kingdom?


What’s the problem? Even before you arrived, I had already transferred to you all that I possess.


And my fee for accepting this grand charity of yours?


Whatever you want. Chief Minister, bring me a hundred gold coins at once.


Is the treasury still yours, that you order the minister around?


Forgive me. What if I no longer have any gold. Do I not still have my body?


If I do not receive my fee within a month’s time, I will curse you with the most unbearable suffering.


I am not as afraid of your wrath as I am of the wrath of righteousness. ‘Then Dr. Prabhakar came like an angel, and restored his eyesight after a year’s treatment.

‘But our economic state was even worse now.

‘The doctor had forbidden him to do reading, photography, etc. for some time, but his temperament would never allow him to sit at rest.

‘He kept writing letters, calling for catalogs, reading photography journals, etc.

By sheer luck, the surgeon Dr. Prabhakar later visits Phalke, and like some ministering angel, restores his eyesight. ‘Big people again began visiting our house, and there were talks of business. ‘Many of our visitors were Gujaratis.’


‘Sister, do not worry that Laxmi Art has been lost. If Phalke seth wishes, we can raise a Saraswati Art in one day.’


‘Many of us tried to persuade him but he was completely determined.

As he slowly recovers his sight, he takes daily walks on the beach with his young son, Babaraya.

With four annas in his pocket, he goes for his walks and returns late in the evening.

On Easter day, he sees that next to the Girgam Bank Road, at the America-India tent theaters a film is being shown, ‘The Life of Christ’.

It shows the birth, miracles, trials, sufferings, burial, resurrection and the ascension of Christ.

While the film is unspooling before his eyes, he mentally visualizes the gods, Shri Krishna, Shri Rama, their Gokul and Ayodhya.

He finds himself in the grip of a strange spell. He buys another ticket and sees the film again.

Later, Phalke meets the theatre manager, Mr. Mehta and sees the projection machine.

Then he and Babaraya go home.

(BA’s impressions of Bhalchandra.)

Babaraya is excited and clings to his mother saying, ‘Today we saw pictures that move.’

Saraswati asks Phalke, ‘What is cinema?’

He promises to take her to see it the next day.

He spends a restless night, reading his reference books one more time.

The next day, the whole family goes to see the picture.

The hall is crowded with Christians and Europeans.

On the way home, Phalke tells his wife that he is going to enter the picture business, and make films on Rama and Krishna.

The next morning he goes back to the theatre and finds a discarded strip of film.

He brings it home and studies it under a magnifying glass.

He buys a toy cinema and a piece of film from a British company.

At home that night, with a candlelight projector, he screens the film on a wall.

Like a madman, at the age of 40, he is absorbed in his plan to make a picture, with no thought for the future.

Phalke starts to liquidate all his assets and possessions, collects price lists, and sleeps 3 hours a day for the next 6 months.


‘I used to see various cinematograph shows regularly after a stroll on the beach.

‘The art of cinematography is the next stage of the photographic art, and since I had been an artist photographer for the last fifteen years or so, I was particularly attracted towards these cinematograph shows, and I seriously began to think why this profession could not start in India as well.


‘He was very fond of dramas, and our Sunday afternoons were mostly spent in seeing Marathi or Gujarati plays, then being staged at Elphinstone Theatre by Belgaokar Sangeet Mandali of which my brother, A. Karandikar, was a partner and lead player, since he was also an expert at music.

‘In this period, his daily walk on the beach with our son Babaraya (Bhalchandra) was a regular affair.

‘Keeping four annas in his pocket, my husband would go for a walk and return late in the evening. In 1910, I happened to see the film ‘The Life of Christ’ at the America-India Picture Palace, Bombay. While the life of Christ was rolling fast before my physical eyes, I was mentally visualizing the gods Shri Krishna, Shri Ramachandra, their Gokul and Ayodhya. I was gripped by a strange spell.

I bought another ticket and saw the film again.

This time I felt my imagination taking shape on the screen. Can this really happen? Will we, the sons of India, ever be able to see Indian images on the screen?

‘One day, on their return, Babaraya clung to my hand and said, ‘Today we saw a wonderful thing! All the pictures on the screen were moving. There were training tigers, elephants, and a fat man!”

‘“What did you show him?” I asked.


‘“What is Cinema?’

‘“Come with me and see for yourself.”

‘That night he remained very restless. He would open books and refer to them.

‘The next day, we both went to see the ‘cinema’.

‘We came to an illuminated tent on Sandhurst Road where a band was playing. It was called the America-India Cinematograph. The first class tickets were priced at eight annas.

‘It was the Christmas of 1911. The hall was crowded with Europeans and Christians.

‘The lights were switched off, and there appeared the picture of a cock moving on the screen (this was the trademark of the Pathe company).

‘Then, a comic picture started, featuring an actor called Foolshead.

‘After every part of the film, the lights were switched on and stage items of magic or physical feats were performed.

‘The main picture that day was on the life of Jesus Christ.

‘People were weeping on seeing the sufferings of Christ and the Crucifixion.

‘The film was colored in the Kinemacolor process.

‘After the show I asked, “How did these pictures move?” Then he took me near the projection room and said, “It was all done by that machine.”

‘On the way back he said, “Now you will automatically know everything, since we are going to take up this very business. Like the life of Christ, we shall make pictures about Rama and Krishna.”

‘I was not at all happy to hear that, and kept quiet.

‘The next morning, he brought home some discarded pieces of film and studied them with a magnifying glass.

‘The following day, he bought a toy cinema from an English company and also a reel of some film.

‘And that night, by putting a candle in the machine and making its light fall on the lens, he held his first cinema show on the walls of our house.’


Light is born from darkness, and darkness (shadow) from light.

Phalke shines the lamp into BA’s eyes. BA is blinded. He cannot see. Everything becomes white.

Phalke turns off the light and in the darkness BA can see many colors and thickening lights.

‘Where did all these colors come from?’

‘From your mind.’

When Phalke turns on the light BA sees the room anew, bright and sharp and jumping on him, closing in…


All the international companies are competing for the Indian market.

The great Madans are the first to release ‘King George and Queen Mary’s Visit to India’.

Phalke realizes that to begin the business he needs at least ten thousand rupees.

He visits his friend, Yeshwantrao Nadkarni, who runs a photography and sports shop at Dhobi Talao. He tells him of his intention to set up a factory that will make Swadeshi films.

The next day, they both go to Nadkarni’s father-in-law, the solicitor Annasaheb Chitnis.

Nadkarni agrees to loan Phalke the money.

To raise the rest of the money, Phalke takes out a life insurance policy for 12,000 rupees.

He then buys a ticket to England from Thomas Cook, and on 1 February 1912, Phalke sets sail for England.

Back home, on 3 February 1912, his daughter, Mandakini, is born.


Seeking a vegetarian diet, Phalke locates a hotel run by a Maharashtrian Muslim, Mr. Abdul.

He reaches the offices of the ‘Bioscope’, a cinema weekly, next to Piccadilly Circus.

At first, Mr. Cabourne, the manager, tries to dissuade Phalke from taking up the profession. I went to see the editor of the ‘Bioscope’, an important film weekly, and sought his advice on equipment. He was really astonished when he came to know that I had acquired so much knowledge on this subject only through book It appeared to me that he even developed some regard for me when he realized that I was a vegetarian and a teetotaler and even a non-smoker.

When he learned that I planned to make films myself, he said that I was indulging in a hazardous adventure. Apart from many other things, he thought that the very climate of India would be unsuitable for this craft.

But when I had explained to him how I had anticipated difficulties and also my plans for overcoming them, he was distinctly pleased.

Promptly, he telephoned the manager of the Hepworth Cinema Company, some thirty to thirty-five miles from London, and arranged for me to see the factory in detail.

Mr. Hepworth comes to Walton station to receive Dadasaheb Phalke.

Eager to test his theories against the actual practice of filmmaking, Phalke visits the Hepworth studios and observes their shooting methods. Phalke: The natural action of human beings or other animate beings is photographed with a specific speed and when these are projected with the same speed, the impression of natural action is created.

However, it is possible to achieve special effects by reducing or increasing the speed of photographing or projection.

For instance, the movement of a bullet being fired from a gun cannot be seen by the naked eye.

But the quick photographic camera can record even the movements of a bullet in motion.

Now, suppose the photographs of a moving bullet are projected at a lower speed, all the movements of a bullet, like its penetrating a wall, can be shown as naturally as the actions of a human being. The lens of a camera is opened and closed sixteen times a second. Thus, in every second, there are thirty-two movements in the camera.

The photographic base on which these pictures are recorded must move on continuously, with a specific speed.

Thus, the cinematographic camera is a machine with numerous hidden wheels working in the dark, but it has a glass opening. What is the basic principle involved in moving pictures?

But we can place a camera in front of a growing sprout for a specific period of time, and photograph continuous pictures.

When these pictures are projected faster, we can create the illusion of the sprout growing right in front of our eyes.

Then, on the recommendation of Mr. Hepworth, Phalke buys a Williamson camera for 50 pounds sterling and a printing and perforating machine.

1st April, 1912

Mandakini is 3 months old, and a bundle of joy.

Phalke shifts his family to the bungalow of Seth Mathuradas Vanjee Valjee at Dadar, formerly the premises of the Laxmi Printing Press.

Once home, the precious camera is guarded jealously from the children by Phalke’s wife, Saraswati.

The camera is mounted before a pot of earth.

Phalke works out the mechanism of intermittent photography, and shoots a capsule history of the growth of a pea plant into a pea-laden plant.

He shows the film to friends and financiers with the help of Seth Umashankar, owner of an electrical shop at Kalbadevi.

Solicitor Chitnis and Yeshwantrao Nadkarni congratulate Phalke on his success. 1912

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 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 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’.


Kashi is staged in Trymbakeshwar.

The whole unit lives there like a family. Phalke’s wife Saraswati looks after them.

Shooting by day and developing by night, the work progresses. PHOTOGRAPHY AND DIRECTION

It is well known that every illusion that is seen on the screen takes place before the camera or is recreated for it. Mountains, rivers, oceans, houses, human beings, animals, birds - everything on the screen is real. This is the magic of the filmmaker.

A film must have good photography.

The moon and the stars will not shine brightly if the sky is cloudy and foggy.

How would the audience react if the inauspicious maroon color of a widow’s sari were seen on the screen as a ‘Chandrakala’, a gorgeous black sari with silver print?

If a Subhadra or a Shakuntala comes before the camera chewing a betel leaf, how would it appear if her lips appeared black like those of a chain smoker?

The rouge applied by actors will look black, creating the impression of hollow cheeks.

The red and gold embroidered shawl will appear like a rough black rug because red as well as gold photograph as black for the screen.

The scarlet blanket of a mendicant will appear blackish, and a gold embroidered violet will be white.

If a scene is taken at noon, the beautiful lady will appear to have a moustache due to the shadow under her nose.

Even her fair legs will appear dark like those of a Bhila woman, due to the shadow of the sari.

A snub nose will appear all the more snubbish if the light comes from the front.

An oval face looks more oval if the light comes from the sides.

Even healthy and graceful hands look thin if there is too much contrast of light and shade.

We who are known for our dark complexions have to do our make-up even more carefully.

The outdoor scenes are shot at a village on the Pune railway line.

The villagers mistake the actors’ swords for the real thing.

Requiring a dancer for one sequence, Phalke trains and hires a dancing girl.

But her patron arrives and forcefully takes the girl away.

Saraswatibai, shy of appearing on the screen, refuses to play the Nati.

‘Raja Harischandra’ is completed.

21 April 1913, 6. 45 p.m.

A charity show of ‘Raja Harischandra’ is being held for the Catholic Hospital at Olympia Theatre.

The guests of honor include Sir Balachandra Krishna Bhatwadekar, Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Sir Manmohandas Ramji, Jayant Madan, Vima Dayal and Judge Mr. Donald.

Everybody present knows that they are watching history being made.

Mandakini has been left at home with a high fever.

At the end of the show, a jam-packed house gives a standing ovation to the modest unpretentious pioneer of the Swadeshi film, DG Phalke.

Mr. Donald, judge of the Small Causes Court in Bombay, praises Phalke. ‘Europeans have hardly any chance to see such instructive plays and films on Hindu mythology. It is not possible to acquire this knowledge through books, as the Europeans do not know the Sanskrit language. Hence, the work of Mr. Phalke is invaluable to the Europeans. Apart from this, the film itself is very well made.’

Dr. Vimadlal says, ‘The film of the play “Harischandra” is especially instructive from the religious point of view.’

‘Raja Harischandra” receives fantastic publicity in the manufacturing papers in India. The reason why harishchandra faild to draw crowd in surat Waas that the famous wakaner theatre group was staging plays in surat ‘ourtown is commercial to the bone.every body here means business.look at what wakener peopleare doing?they charge two annas for six hours of entetaintment.this film of yours is too

expensive to see.start charging two paisa per show . or make it a longer show.Phalke ignored the advice

Seefifty thousand pictures in two annas .don’t miss your chance to see the wonderfull pictures which are two miles threeinch in size It worked 6th May 1913 - Mr. Phalke’s moving pictures - a Newsletter from Bombay - Kesari, Poona

To the Editor, Kesari

Cinematograph shows have become so numerous in our city of Bombay these days that people have almost given up visiting stage shows and the circus.

But most of the cinematographs were foreign and had foreign images in them. But Mr. Phalke has changed all that in making his film.

The images in his film are Indian and are drawn from the Puranas, and thus are familiar to all.

Mr. Phalke has made a complete film of 3,000 feet, in which he has shown the entire play ‘Harischandra’.

Such a play on film was presented by Mr. Phalke at the Olympia Theatre in Bombay on the 21st of April. All the movements and expressions of the characters on screen were so realistic that the spectators felt that those moving characters were also speaking.

They have come out so well that Harischandra and Taramati of the screen bring tears to the eyes of the spectators.

This would perhaps not happen if one saw them in the flesh and blood on the stage.

The scene of the forest, the fire, the river, the hangman’s house, the hen pecking around - all these are unrivalled and Mr. Phalke has displayed to the world his great skill in showing these on the screen.

No amount of praise for his skill would be adequate.

Saturday, 13th May, 1913 - Bombay Chronicle

An advertisement for ‘Raja Harischandra’:

‘An instructive subject from Hindu mythology, sure to appeal to our Hindu patrons.

‘The program continues throughout the week with four daily shows.

‘Double rates of admission.’

15th May 1913 - Bombay Chronicle

An advertisement for ‘Raja Harischandra’:

Since the art of the Cinematograph was first introduced, the above has been the first Indian film manufactured for the first time by M/s Phalke and Company, the only first manufacturers of cinema films in India.

17th May 1913 - Bombay Chronicle

An advertisement for ‘Raja Harischandra’:

A special opportunity offered for ladies and children.

With the object that the poor class of people should have an opportunity to see this marvelous film, we will give an extra show when women and children will be admitted at half rates.

Last night of ‘Raja Harischandra’ Sunday 18th May 1913. Look out for grand change of program from Monday.

Coronation Theatre advertisement

From 26th May, Itala’s tragic drama, ‘Father’

19th August 1913 - Kesari, Poona

Swadeshi Moving Pictures

Kesari: But what did you do about the practical knowledge that is so essential for the true mastery of any art?

Phalke: Since this knowledge could only be had abroad, I had necessarily to go to England. While purchasing the equipment there, I had a great deal of first-hand knowledge. The equipment dealers demonstrate to clients how to operate the machines.

Kesari: But apart from equipment, there would be many other things that would be required for the production of a perfect film, and these would be more important. How did you get training in those things?

Phalke: The manufacturing process is usually kept secret, but I happened to see all this, through the courtesy of a big film manufacturer near London.

Kesari: It is said that the owners of factories in foreign countries do not show them to foreigners. How far is it true?

Phalke: The charge is generally correct. If you are really a knowledgeable person, you are admired everywhere, and this was my experience too.

The Hepworth factory is immense, perhaps involving a capital of forty million rupees. All the eighteen workshops of the cinema are located on the premises.

The manager of the factory came personally to the railway station to receive me. Not only did he show me the entire factory, but he also arranged for me a special rehearsal demonstrating the shooting on the sets.

Kesari: How big really is this moving picture industry?


There may be about fifty thousand cinematograph machines showing films all over the world.

In London alone, there are five hundred theatres showing films.

But once the film is made, it is possible to have as many copies as desired, and since an exhibitor only needs a projector and a small electric generator, the film-showing companies are numerous.


Kesari: What is the standard speed of taking photographs?


Kesari: Generally, what are the dimensions of each picture?

Phalke: It is one inch long and three-quarters of an inch wide, about the size of a thumb.

The film ‘Harischandra’ is 3,700 feet long.

That means it contains about 40,000 different pictures.

When these pictures are shown one by one within an hour or so, the illusion of the story becomes convincing.

Kesari: Would you continue to make pictures in the future?

Phalke: Yes.

Kesari: On what subjects would you specially like to make films?

Phalke: On all subjects. old Sanskrit plays, and new Marathi plays, on manners and customs in different parts of India, on genuine Indian humor, on holy places and pilgrimages, on social functions as well as on scientific and educational subjects.

Phalke travels everywhere with the film, and meets Baburao and Anandrao Painter, who are exhibitors of the film.


Phalke tries to tell BA about how the screen shows only what you want to see.

BA does not understand. He goes in to the kitchen, unable to comprehend Phalke’s concept of the screen, which is illusion and at the same time charming and innocent.

Mandakini comes in, playing grown ups in her mother’s clothes, mimicking Saraswatibai.

At that moment, Mandakini signifies both woman and child, childlike and charming, yet coquettish and mature.

Like Krishna, the child-god.

Show multiple faces of Krishna moving around the frame.

3rd October 1913

Phalke Films shifts to Nasik to set up the studio. Phalke rents Howdacha Bangla, an outhouse in Phule Market, from Balakrishna Dadajee Vaidya, a Gujarati landlord, for seventy-five rupees a month. The Chitakarshak Theatre Company owned by Rambhau Daji Gokhale visits Nasik with their Shakespeare plays. Dadasaheb invites their actresses Kamlabai and her mother Durgabai to act in ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’.

The film progresses.

A fountain in Phalke’s backyard is used as a developing tank by night.

At night Saraswatibai, Phalke’s wife, perforates and develops the film, and by day plays the role of cook and mother to the unit.

Neelkanth, Phalke’s fourth child, is born.

‘Mohini Bhasmasur’ gets a fantastic reception all over India.

He continues to correspond with Mr. Cabourne of ‘The Bioscope’, London, and thinks about upgrading his equipment.

Accordingly, on 1 August 1940, Phalke sets sail for London on a German liner.

On the ship he misses his family and writes a letter asking them to forgive him for being an uncaring father.

3 days later, the Second World War breaks out.

He reaches London and arranges for trade shows to be held of his film with the help of Mr. Cabourne.

He receives an order for 200 prints of his film from Warner Bros. and Vitaphone

The Hepworth factory offers him a partnership to make Indian films in England.

Phalke refuses, believing that Swadeshi films must be made with indigenous resources and money.

He goes about placing orders for the latest equipment and raw materials.

While it is business as usual in England, in India, the war panic is on.

His financier has stopped paying any salaries to his workers.

It is Saraswati who, in Dada’s absence, skillfully avoids the total shut down of the studio and the dismissal of all the trained staff by pleading with the financier to wait till her husband returns.

Empty-handed, Phalke returns to India.

Upon his return, the orthodox Nasik Brahmins insist that he perform prayaschit since he has crossed the seas.

With great difficulty he manages to convince his financier to offload his equipment when the ship arrives in port.

But troubles never come singly.

His photographer falls sick.

His electrician dies of cholera.

His generator falls to pieces.

His manager is falsely implicated by the police in a case.

In spite of all these setbacks, he collects petty funds from various sources and starts to work on the film, ‘The Life of Shriyal’.

But the actor playing King Shriyal falls sick, and the actress playing the role of Chaguna sprains her ankle.

Phalke begins to suffer from attacks of migraine.

Once again, Saraswatibai comes to his rescue. She offers to play the role of Chaguna on two conditions - that her name will not be publicized, and that Phalke himself should play Shriyal.

The child Chilaya is to be played by theirs eldest son, Bhalchandra.

But ‘The Life of Shriyal’ has to be abandoned.

Phalke is on the verge of despair.

Phalke advertises for loans and funds, but there is no response.

He contacts Lokmanya Tilak for help in his Swadeshi film movement.

Tilak immediately agrees to arrange for the loan through the Paisa Fund Scheme, but it fails.

Phalke issues another circular for funds in which he appeals, ‘Do not let this institution die.’

He meets various heads of state for funds.

The princess of Indore gives him five thousand rupees, through Shrimant Talcherkar Mamasaheb.

Phalke returns to Nasik.

Another child, Prabhakar, is born.

Phalke is invited to deliver a lecture to the workers in the factory of Laxmanrao Kirloskar.

One worker, overwhelmed by tears, touches his feet and says, ‘You showed us the moving image.’

At the station, a man sells mechanical toys, calling these moving images ‘Phalke for four annas’.

Hanuman's Prank

One day as Hanuman and his men searched for Sita, they saw a great bird on a mountainside. This bird was the brother of Jatayu. Hanuman told the bird about his search. Then he asked, "Do you know where Sita is?" "Yes," the bird said, "She is in the Asoka garden near Ravana's palace." "How do I get to her?" asked Hanuman. "You must cross a great ocean," the bird said. Hanuman's army marched to the mighty ocean. There was no way they could cross this great body of water. "We must return," said one of the monkey warriors. "How can we get to the other side?" In a loud voice, Hanuman declared, "I will cross this ocean and rescue Sita." Hanuman prayed for strength. He saw the unhappy image of Rama. Hanuman prayed to Rama. Then incredibly, he began to grow. He grew so huge that the ground began to shake. With a great cry, "Victory to Rama," Hanuman leapt into the sky. The monkey army cheered as their leader flew across the great ocean. The gods smiled down on Hanuman as they admired his courage and devotion. Nothing could stop Hanuman. On the horizon, he could see Lanka. As he approached the city, he changed back to his normal size. Once in Lanka, he set out to find Sita. Soon he came upon Ravana's palace. He looked in each of the palace gardens, but he could not find Sita. How could he return without Sita or some word of her whereabouts. Then he saw a grove of trees. Beneath one of the trees was the most beautiful woman Hanuman had ever seen. She was crying and repeating, "Rama, Rama." "I have found her," Hanuman declared. "Lord Rama will be so happy." Hanuman looked around. He noticed that Sita was surrounded by many she-demons. Just as Hanuman was about approach her, he saw Ravana coming. The king of Lanka was sat on the ground next to Sita. He was saying, "Sita, come with me. Come live in my palace. I will make you my queen. You can have anything you wish." Hanuman hid from view. Sita spoke: "How dare you speak to me this way. You have kidnapped me. I am Rama's wife, King Janaka's daughter. Rama will come for me. He will rescue me and kill you and all you demons. If you let me go, I will try to spare your life." Ravana seemed hurt by Sita's words. Anger and sorrow filled Ravana's heart. He knew at that moment he would never have Sita. "Then you shall remain here," he said as he turned away. Hanuman did not move a muscle. He waited and waited. The she-demons guarding Sita were getting tired. One by one they fell asleep. Here was his chance to speak to Sita. Hanuman approached her and knelt at her feet. "Do not fear. I am Hanuman, Rama's servant and messenger. He has sent me to find you. He cries for your return." "How do I know you are telling me the truth? You may be just another demon in disguise." Sita said. Hanuman reached into his pocket and removed Rama's ring. "Here," he said, "This should prove that Rama has sent me." Sita pressed her hands to her face and cried. "I am sorry I doubted you. Go to Rama and tell him where I am. Tell him I will wait for him to save me." Sita gave Hanuman a jewel. "Here. Take this to my lord as proof of my love." Suddenly the demons awoke. They attacked Hanuman. He killed them with ease. Hanuman was finally taken to the palace. Ravana ordered him killed. One of Ravana's wise men reminded the king, "It is not permitted to kill a messenger." "Then we shall punish him. Set his tail on fire. Let him return home that way," Ravana declared. As the king's men wrapped Hanuman's tail in cloth to set it on fire he grew it longer and longer. The more they wrapped, the longer Hanuman grew his tail. Finally, Ravana ordered, "Set it on fire!" cried Ravana. With his long tail on fire, Hanuman flew into the sky. He decided to set the city of Lanka ablaze to punish Ravana. He flew low over the city and set each building, temple, palace and garden on fire. Flames shot high into the sky. As he flew over Asoka garden he made sure Sita was safe. Then before he headed home, he put his tail in the ocean to put out the fire.

The Great War

Hanuman received a great welcome from his warriors. They hurried back to tell Rama the good news. By now Rama had given up all hope of ever seeing Sita alive again. When Rama saw Hanuman returning, he ran to him. "I pray you have word of Sita." Without saying a word, Hanuman gave Rama Sita's jewel. Rama praised Hanuman for his bravery and said, "You have given me reason to live again." Meanwhile back at Lanka palace, Vibhishana, Ravana's brother, tried to save Sita's life. "Let her go," he said, "so we can save our kingdom from Rama's anger." Ravana responded angrily, "If I return Sita, I will be ridiculed by all the gods and demons." warned again, "Do not underestimate Rama's strength. It is said that Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu sent to earth to destroy all that is unholy. With his powers he will destroy Lanka. Why do you tempt such a fate?" "I fear no one," Ravana roared. "Then," Vibhishana said, "I can no longer remain in Lanka. Save yourself brother." "Then go," shouted Ravana. "I have no place in my kingdom for the weak and timid." Vibhishana left the palace and magically flew to Rama. Arriving at his camp, Vibhishana declared, "I am the brother of Ravana. I tried to convince my brother to return your wife. But he refused and I left Lanka. I wish to join you and fight at your side." Rama responded, "Vibhishana, you have rejected evil for good. You are welcomed here." Now Rama had to make a battle plan. Vibhishana told him that Ravana and his evil son, Indrajit, had great magical powers. His army was made up of millions of demons. For his honesty and bravery, Rama promised Vibhishana that he would become the new king of Lanka. Rama stood on the shoreline of the great ocean and spoke to the ocean god. "Hear me," he called. "I am Rama. I have weapons that are beyond imagination. In an instant I can dry your ocean. If you wish to avoid this fate, show me how to reach Lanka." The ocean said, "Rama, here is Nala, son of the great builder. He will build you a bridge across these waters. I shall support that bridge." With the help of the monkey army, Nala put up a bridge made of wood, rocks, and stones. Every creature helped in its own way. It took five days to complete the bridge to Lanka. Rama, Hanuman, and the monkey army crossed the bridge by nightfall. As they crossed into Lanka they shouted, "Victory to Rama!" Hanuman's army surrounded the city. Rama knew that Sita would soon be safe. Ravana called for two of his demons. "Change yourselves into monkeys. Move among the monkey army and find out what you can."

The United States enters the war.

A revolution takes place in Russia.

Phalke starts shooting ‘Lanka Dahan’.

During the shooting, men dressed as monkeys lose their way to the shooting location.

Passing villagers mistake them for real gods and they are worshipped by the people.

Phalke suspends his four children by wires to give perspective to the flight of Hanuman in the film.

‘Lanka Dahan’ is a thumping success.

The receipts from sales have to be carried away in a bullock-cart guarded by the police.

Phalke’s articles on ‘How to make Films’ start appearing in ‘Navyug’.


During this period, I was constantly occupied with the analysis of every film that I saw, and in considering whether I could make them here.

There was no doubt whatsoever about the utility of the profession and its importance as an industry.

But how was one to realize all this?

I also realized that I had already acquired knowledge of the fundamental crafts like drawing, painting, architecture, photography, theatre and magic, which are necessary for filmmaking. Inspite of my enthusiasm and confidence in my success, I knew very well that nobody would dare to give me the capital unless I had something tangible in hand to attract them.

So I liquidated whatever possessions I had, and directed my efforts towards this end. My friends thought I was mad, and one of them even planned to put me in the lunatic asylum.

I kept on liquidating my little possessions.

The responsibility of maintaining the family, the contemptuous treatment I received from my relatives, and above all, the lurking fear of the possible failure of my plans - all these adversities resulted in complete blindness, as both my eyes were affected by corneal ulcers.

Thanks to the timely treatment of Dr. Prabhakar, the visual world was restored to me again, and I resumed my usual activities with the help of 3 or 4 pairs of spectacles.

Hope, indeed, works wonders!

This was the period of the Swadeshi movement, and there was profuse talking and lecturing on the subject. I took this opportunity to explain my ideas about cinema to my friends and to the leaders of the Swadeshi movement.

Even people who were familiar with me for over fifteen years considered my ideas impractical. And thus, I became a laughing-stock for them.

At last, one of my friends who had been associated with me for ten years and could vouch for my conduct, financial honesty, love for the profession and perseverance, was willing to consider me sympathetically.

This person was capable of arranging about 25,000 rupees if needed.

It is evident that this sum of money is negligible when compared to the capital of 7 crores (1 crore = 10 million) of rupees invested in Pathe and other American and European companies.

I was quite confident that this sum of 25,000 rupees was quite sufficient for the start, and for creating a public interest, which would lead to a willing investment of a lakh or two of rupees. I expected that the studio would grow on the income that I would get on 3 or 4 films.

Later, my friend would be willing to invest more, or alternatively, some other rich investor would come forward to take advantage of the already prospering business.

In the last event, at least my fellow Indians would assist me to complete my work.

I required a very small amount to go abroad to purchase equipment, which were necessary to prove to my friend that I had mastered the art (of cinema), and this additional investment would not be risky.

I was able to get that limited amount of money at an exorbitant rate of interest, and willingly signed an agreement that was very favorable to the moneylenders.

Thus, I laid the foundation of a gigantic profession with very scant capital, sufficient only for an enterprise like a teashop or a barber’s shop

I left for England on 1st February 1912. This was my second trip abroad.

This made me more sure of my work, because my own ideas of filmmaking and the actual details of the process of filmmaking tallied completely.

I purchased some equipment, and was able to see a studio with great difficulty.

After ten or fifteen days, I was ready to return home, having observed the actual process of filmmaking and having done some film work with my own hands.

Within a month or so of my return from abroad, I made some 100-200 foot films for the satisfaction of my friend.

These films were produced with the help of my wife and children only.

However, I badly required further money for employing paid actors.

A moneylender gave me the money against proper security when he was convinced of my success after seeing those films on the screen.

I advertised and brought together my disciples and other employees.

I trained them well, and brought ‘Raja Harischandra’ to the screen within only 6 months.

I got amazing returns on just one print of this film. There was demand for a dozen prints.

But I feared that the income from one film may be short-lived, like the Swadeshi movement, and thought it would not be proper to judge the income on a permanent basis.

With these thoughts, I made the second film, ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’.

I suspended the work for 3 or 4 monsoon months, and shifted my studio from Bombay to Nasik on 3rd October 1913.

This place was convenient from many points of view.

There I made ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’.

This also brought me fortune, like my first film, and encouraged me further.

I brought my third film, ‘Savitri Satyavan’, before the world. This film added to the success and income from the first two films.

I used the incoming flow for equipping the studio.

Moreover, I got more financial help from my friend, now that he was assured that a single print of my film could bring in so much income.

It was indeed remarkable that one print each of the three films brought in more money than the total debt I had incurred in setting up the studio.

By this time, my work had become famous even abroad.

There was a demand for 20 copies of every film.

People in India were prepared to take the sole agency for distribution as 500-700 theatres wanted my films.

So I thought it advisable to invest an additional 25,000-30,000 rupees and buy new electric-driven machines.

So far, the work was being done with hand-driven machines, which were ridiculously slow.

I could also build a studio, and thus give a right lead to the film industry.

I convinced my friend that the investment of this sum was sufficient to make this industry profitable, at least in India, with the help of the people already trained.

So I went abroad to purchase the new equipment and took with me ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’ and ‘Savitri Satyavan’ etc. to ensure the future success of my trip abroad.

This was my third business trip abroad.

What greater tribute could I expect for the employees of our studios than the following comments by experts in their film magazines? ‘From the technical point of view, they are surprisingly excellent.’

But alas! My third trip abroad coincided with the beginning of the war.

The results of this war were more distressing in India, this country of commission agents, than in England itself. I was in London at the time. The street placards read ‘Business As Usual’, while people in India got panicky and ran all over the country, abandoning their houses and property.

In England, when the war bulletin was being published every half-hour, I was quietly buying machinery.

Editors of newspapers like the ‘Bioscope’ were writing about the skill of an Indian.

Efforts were being made to arrange the trade-shows of my films ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’ and ‘Savitri Satyavan’, and to give a place to Indian films in the London market.

Here in India, people had gone to the extent of closing down my studio and driving away my trained technicians!

My financier friend, like any other Indian, was panicky and in my absence he not only stopped paying salaries, but also postponed the studio running expenses.

My men were somehow pulling on with debts until my arrival.

The equipments I had purchased abroad were held up in England in the absence of any confirmation from Bombay, and I had to return empty-handed.

On my return, I implored my financier in all possible ways, and sent a confirmatory telegram for the dispatch of the equipment I had purchased abroad.

I need hardly say that my plans for building a studio remained unrealized.

I requested my financier to continue the expenditure for one year.

With great reluctance, he agreed to half these expenses and that for a few days only, and loyal employees also agreed to serve the studio on half salary during the bitter wartime.

In these circumstances, it was impossible for me to find any working capital.

My financier told me categorically that he would not pay even half the expenses in the future, and thus I had to go literally from door to door of rich people for my working capital.

In short all my hopes and enthusiasm received a severe blow while my financier was haunted by the imaginary phantom of war.

What would happen if materials ceased to come from abroad?

What would happen if people gave up seeing films as a result of depression in all trades?

What would happen if I caught plague and died suddenly? Thus poured forth proper and improper queries of all sorts.

Even in this critical period, some rich people were sympathetic to my hard work and were willing to lend me money on the security of my studio.

However, my financier was caught up in the cowardly and utterly selfish atmosphere prevailing in the country, and was not prepared to risk his investment in the studio. He would rather have the bird in hand than two in the bush, and convert what there was in the studio into ready cash, rather than use it as a gamble for any uncertain incomes in the future.

It was not possible to get my working capital without security, nor was it desirable to dismiss my trained staff, for without my working staff, I could never get the capital.

Hence, there was no alternative but to incur daily expenses.

Old films did not pay, and I was not able to make new ones. Such was the insoluble nature of my problems. The only way open for me was to leave my factory in the custody of my financier and bid goodbye to my employees, and thus put an end to the increasing pressure of the compound interest.

This would mean throttling the business with my own hands, my business for which I had such a tender affection, and leaving the factory in the hands of the auctioneers, and if some outstanding debts still remained, selling the utensils in the house, and leaving everything else to Providence!

Towards the end of 1915, my financier refused to pay even a single pie towards the half salaries of my employees.

Finally, he declared categorically that under no circumstances would he allow his investment in the studio to be used as security for further loans, irrespective of the consequences, whether the studio ran or he lost all his investment.

The time was really so critical that an undaunted soul like me could have been taken to the court, and the factory locked up.

Many industries could languish and die in the towns and villages of India without anybody noticing, but if my Indian film enterprise had died like this, it would have been a permanent disgrace for the Swadeshi movement in the eyes of the people in London.

Was it due to the righteousness of my food, or my unfailing perseverance, or just plain good luck for India, a country which claimed fitness for Home Rule, that my employees, who were looked down upon as mere outcaste entertainers, girded up their loins and offered to work without salary from January 1917?

In these circumstances, I was not at all to be blamed if my factory was closed and my financier ruined. In fact, I would have been perfectly justified in letting the equipment and shooting material be pawned away at this stage, when all my efforts proved futile and when my financier, my partner, the moneylender who was my partner in profits only, was not willing to put up with the slightest inconvenience.

O India, your son, who is a Karmayogi, could be the butt of such adverse criticism as ‘Phalke deceived the financiers’; ‘Artists are such rogues’, etc.

But I had decided to establish in India. Fortunately, I was successful where so many others had failed.

So I decided to establish it on a permanent footing, to provide employment to hundreds of worker-artists like me.

I was determined to do my duty even at the cost of my life i.e. to defend the industry even in the absence of any financial support, with the firm conviction that Indian people would get to see Indian images on the screen and people abroad would get a true picture of India.

Calamities never come singly.

When my pockets were empty, the selfish people left me.

The very few loyal people I had were affected by malaria.

My chief photographer was twice on the verge of collapse, and my electrician died of cholera.

The electric generator fell to pieces.

My manager had some serious ailment, which required a surgical operation, and he was sent to JJ Hospital, like an orphan.

In this very condition, he was implicated falsely by the police in a case. Thus, to my worries were added lawyers’ fees, postponed dates of court hearings, expenses on travel and giving evidence, etc.

Fortunately, my man was declared innocent and the court, of its own accord, allowed him to institute counter-proceedings against the police.

Will not the justice of God’s Court relieve me of my difficulties? Will He always be deaf to my prayers? Will I ever receive His mercy, like the elephant-lord Gajendra?

Even in these circumstances I started directing the film ‘The Life of King Shriyal’.

No sooner had I started this work than the actor playing Shriyal ran 102 degrees temperature.

He never told me about it but continued to act for 3 or 4 scenes.

This resulted in a long illness.

Then the actress playing Changuna sprained her ankle while descending the wooden steps of a set.

Despite my determination, these calamities did affect my physical boy and I had attacks of migraine.

I could not sleep at night due to worry and overstrain.

But I was lucky because even in these critical circumstances, one Divine spirit was protecting me.

Her penance, which was more severe than mine, and her encouragement are really responsible for my present prosperity. But why is my wife not coming on the stage? She really invests me with new life by calming my mind, which is tortured by worldly (physical and mental) worries. In fact, she is the sole architect of my fortunes. Dear one, if you have finished with your work behind the curtains (parada), please do come out on the stage.

Manager’s wife (coming forward) Lord, was it you who was saying ‘Work behind the curtains’, etc? This curtain has created duality everywhere. There is a curtain for women.

There are double dealings in thought and conduct, in case of men, in politics, patriotism, at home and outside too.

In short, this curtain has helped to show one appearance from the inside and another one from the outside, and also to cover up mysterious things, to conceal secret

The more curtains you have, the greater the absence of straight dealings and innocence.


What you say is correct. Who would object to the destruction of curtains which create duality? Who will not support the re-establishment of the era of Truth??

If I am asking for the destruction of curtains that create duality, I am not attacking all curtains - not the stage curtains, to be sure! If I do that it would be as impractical and ridiculous as the action of the Muslims in relation to the coir. No!

Let nobody blame this art of silent motion pictures, which has firmly established itself by entertaining learned men continuously for twenty-four years.

Manager’s wife

But don’t you require the screen even for your motion pictures?


No, this is your misconception.

What you call a screen or a curtain in cinema is the substratum which holds my visual illusion.

Should a water surface be considered a curtain because it reflects? We see our reflection in the mirror- can we, therefore, call it a curtain or screen?

Similarly, this screen of the cinema is a substratum, which holds the vision of my moving pictures.

Although the dramatic art on the screen is still young, it has conquered the world with its charming and child-like purity of gesture.In the olden days, at the beginning of a play, it was the practice for the stage manager to offer worship to the Goddess Saraswati to acquire her blessings for his actors.

, one night, when I was trying to reset my worried head on the pillow, my comforting angel whispered in my ear, ‘Why are you so dejected? Will I not be able to play Changuna? You can even make inanimate matchsticks dance on the screen. I am a human being, and you can teach me how to play Changuna. But you should play Shriyal, and you should not publicize my name.’

My eldest child was to act the role of Chilaya in the film and that good lady was even prepared to draw the sword on her own son although it was before the camera i.e. in imagination only.

In fact, the success in the task I have undertaken is due to the Goddess of my household who was even prepared to get her face painted for the sake of her husband artistes.

Moreover, she had offered her own ornaments on several critical occasions with the unwavering declaration, ‘Let God give Thee long life and I am satisfied with the mangalsutra only. I do not desire any other ornament.’

There are also other reasons for my success.

I have had many stimulants, which strengthened my tired mind.

These are not stimulants, which at the very first gulp, turn human beings into beasts and lead them to the abyss of Hell.

In order to acquire further capital, I had to prove the following points.

The necessary materials for making films would come in from abroad.

People would be willing to see films even in difficult times because this entertainment is simple, harmless and cheap.

If new films are made in a short time, and more prints are made and exhibited, the income will gradually be more than the investment.

Even 3 or 4 studios like mine would be inadequate for producing films for about 500 theatres in India, covering the 300 million population.

The film trade is not limited to Indian markets only. Indian films have a very good demand abroad as well.

If I have the misfortune to die prematurely, my assistants are competent and can run the studio by themselves.

The reason my financier will not give security is undue caution during the wartime, and not because the industry itself is not a paying proposition.

There was no other way but to make a film to prove all this.

But when it was difficult to get loans against gold security at 11% interest, who would loan money to a penniless person like me?

I was on the verge of despair.

I approached all sorts of people, beginning with princely families, state authorities, noblemen, managers, and merchants, even down to ordinary folk, like clerks.

Everywhere, my lack of security was the first stumbling block. The second was the war time conditions.

The first was in the hands of the moneylenders, the second in the hands of God.

I was quite confident that if I could have a production program in hand, I would be able to raise new capital, even during the war.

However, if I could get capital enough to make four or five films, I would soon be free of the clutches of the moneylender, and he would also be free of the worries about his investment.

With firm belief, I published a scheme.

It was a disgrace that on the publication of this scheme, which invited loans from one rupee upwards with proper interest, I got only three supporters from Bombay and Poona, the two most vital cities of Maharashtra, like three diamond chips mixed in the shower of stones flung on me by people who were merely rendering lip service to me.

One of these three also wrote a long article in the ‘Daily Sandesh’ about my scheme, and appealed to the 15000 heroes of Home Rule to give me five rupees each.

Phalke was not a stranger to these people, and his mission was already well known to them.

They were unable to give more and were ashamed of giving less, but they had democracy to justify their not giving at all.

A very prominent leader of the Home Rule League assured me, ‘You should first become a member of the Home Rule League. Then, when we get Home Rule, there will be no problem at all of capital for you.’

Meanwhile, the Paisa Fund had decided to help me.

A town which collected about 150 rupees for the Paisa Fund at the time of the Dassera festival announced in the newspaper that it will contribute Rs. 1,000 instead, if the sum were to be invested in enterprises like Phalke’s films.

Two or three organizers of the Paisa Fund were very favorably inclined towards me, and I do not know what prevented them from giving me the money about which they had already taken a decision.

Or perhaps I could guess the reason viz. Four people working together can achieve results, but if ten people indulge in mere talking, nothing is like to emerge.

But such is my insane obsession with my hopes and ideals for this profession and such is the love for my country that even though I have no hopes whatsoever of getting any capital, I keep on accumulating quarterly compound interest.

In such a fit of obsession, I circulated a handbill, an extract from which would read as follows: ‘Make it a limited liability company or a syndicate or run it in partnership. Do anything you like, but do not let this industry die.

All the profits from this studio may be used by fellow citizens for charitable institutions, like the Paisa Fund, public libraries, orphan homes, and the Seva Sadan.

‘But this industry must be saved.

‘As for my personal requirements, they are unimaginably meager. God will care for the education of my children!

‘But if this institution, which was founded in the expectation of support from my fellow citizens, is to perish due to their false promises, and if, due to financial incompetence, this useful entertainment profession does not prosper, then let us admit, with regret, that India is still unfit to claim Home Rule.

‘What an inauspicious thought!

‘These remarks come out of the depths of my being, but may I be proven false. That is all I have to say.’

Such, then, is the nature of my worries.

I have vowed, in writing, that they will come to Phalke’s rescue only after he has been completely ruined. Such are the engravings of the worldly people on my heart.

At last, two or three people took pity on my efforts and loaned me, disinterestedly, a good sum of money to make a film.

Some other friends added to this capital and with this production in hand, I was able to arrange for the livelihood of my workers.

By making ‘Lanka Dahan’ in the wartime, I have done ‘Shanka Dahan’ (Burning of doubtsCinema theatres are once again about Indian films.

In short, now that all doubts have been cleared, the industry, which involves transactions of lakhs of rupees, has re-emerged before our countrymen.

This tree, which was drying up for lack of water, has found life again.

December 1917 - NAVYUG, BOMBAY, PART 2

A lamp will shine brightly only when it is on the point of being extinguished or when it receives ample oil.

‘Lanka Dahan’ may be my last work and Phalke’s name may no more be heard.

Or perhaps I will be responsible for nobler service to my country and Phalke’s name will be famous the world over.

But, judging from the filth, corruption and disorder that prevail in India, which is claiming Home Rule, the first seems to be a better possibility.

After reading the last article, many people wrote sympathetic letters to me.

So I proceed with the task I have undertaken.

I will write about the importance of cinema in foreign countries and its service to industry and education in due course.

Here I will first refute some irresponsible charges against cinema, which are published in newspapers.

For example, they say that cinema breeds immorality.

Suppose a man comes across a beautiful girl and charms her. He deprives her of her virginity and when she is harassed by gossip and asks for assistance, refuses all responsibility and is not even gentleman enough to give her the fare to go to Pandharpur. Can such a rascal quote ‘Shakuntala’ in justification of his behavior?

A person has a chaste wife from a noble family and a son, but is attracted towards a modest and loving prostitute. Can this person be considered an admirer of ‘Mrchchakatika’?

Those who are susceptible to depravity do not need cinema or theatre to mislead them. There are numerous other factors that lead to immorality.

This is true for all countries and for all times.

It is my firm conviction that the main purpose of cinema and theatre is entertainment; if one also acquires knowledge, that is a bonus, like sugar in the milk.

I intend to disclose some other time the nature of the business contract which has frustrated all my hopes and ambitions.

Whether such agreements are fair or not will be decided by the law, but I heartily wish that my fellow beings take a lesson from my experience and learn something.

Footnote by Phalke

This was in such terms as, ‘Let my ignorant actors be learned; may they speak their lines fluently like Brhaspati, the preceptor of the Gods.’ And such blessings were granted immediately.

By virtue of this blessing, all the actors playing human beings, gods and demons used to shout their speeches so loudly that the spectators had to protect their ears.

As a result of this, stage managers stopped asking for blessings from Saraswati and Ganesha in direct terms.

Consequently, the voices of the actors became less powerful.

If this situation continues, very soon we may see the actors merely miming, and the spectators will be reading the text of the play.

Perhaps in order to avoid this situation, the dramatists of today created the art of motion pictures, which does not require any text at all and can be easily understood even by children.

In a tropical country like India, I get only dark, ugly and emaciated persons for actors.

I may get now (through the blessings) beautiful and handsome artists.

At the beginning of my plays, I shall invoke the god Madan and his wife Rati for the gift of beauty, the Sun god for brightness, and the god Hanuman for health and physique for my actors. Let my visuals be perfect in all respects.


The cinema demands this kind of physical beauty, which gives rise to faultless visuals.

There is always absence of perfect visuals in our country.

This may the effect of a hot climate, or of poverty, or it may be due to satisfaction with very modest requirements, or due to the conviction of the nothingness of the world.

If we are really to follow the principles of Vedanta, we will not have contempt for happiness caused by physical things. On the contrary, we will be the real followers of Karmayoga, and we will be in a very desirable state of detachment.

In order to have a healthy body and beauty, we have to get rid of the ignorance in us. ‘What is the significance of this physical body?’ At least in my view, a good physical manifestation.

My answer to this oft-repeated question is that the current traditional plays are oral, while the silent plays are visual. I would like to explain it further by comparing the two.

An actor may be running a high temperature but can perform very well provided his voice is clear.

At times, a device providing the actor with a voice by connecting an improvised phonograph through rubber tubing and concealed under his clothes would work.

You can very well close your eyes and hear what is going on.

The actor is not necessarily supposed to have good looks if he is a singer with a good voice. For these looks are often turned into bad looks as most people are not able to sing without distorting their lips and faces.

On seeing Shakuntala’s face, the audience decided that the face of the female camel carrying his hunting material was more beautiful.

Krishna and Balaram may look like Subhadra’s younger brothers, but the evocative ‘Dada’ would suffice to show that Subhadra was younger than them. The reference to her being married in the dialog will be adequate for spectators to guess Subhadra’s age.

The scenes on the stage can very well be seen with closed eyes.

The remaining space of a few inches can be made to appear tender, youthful and fair by applying whitening agents.

If the songs and dialog are not audible, these visuals can keep the spectator amused.

These scenes are to be seen with the eyes only.

If the singer’s voice is not good enough, the organ comes to his rescue.

If the songs and dialogs are not audible, there are also the text and song pamphlets to help.

If none of the elements on the stage is able to entertain you, you can very well look around.

A very picturesque description of Kanva rishi’s hermitage is suggested by simply pointing towards the wings.

There are so many other scenes, which are to be appreciated through words only. You might as well use your eyes for picking out bugs in your seat.

It is true that the above description is a rather humorous exaggeration of the reality, but the poor actor of the silent (film) play has only one or two means at his disposal to attract the minds of the spectators. The first means is beauty and physique, and the second is the display of emotions on his face.

A stage actor’s performance is not a simple one. It involves many elements: loud declamation, constant practice, learning the text by heart, identification for four or five hours with the character he is enacting, and studying the author’s thoughts and emotions and conveying them to the spectator’s mind.

Apart from his acting ability, the cinema actor has an additional responsibility.

The success or failure of a film, and the filmmaker’s fortune or misfortune, depend on the space of some inches on the actor’s face.

The stage for a screen actor is not limited to 20 square feet. It extends over acres and miles of the world stage.

He must know how to climb a tree, ride a horse, and swim. He has to run, climb the hills, and move about in the sun.

Such an actor is more suitable for the cinema. If such an actor is healthy and handsome, so much the better.

Only such actors can become ‘cinema stars’, after a period of deep study and long experience.

September 1918 - NAVYUG, BOMBAY - PART 4

, I was in the gloom of despair.

At that time, the flame of self-confidence was flickering due to lack of oil (or affection).

Will this flame of self-confidence get extinguished when this material body is dried up due to the lack of flesh? No.

When Lord Krishna, who is my all in all, the nectar enlightening me, the protector against disease, my future, my life, when my lord is pouring on me showers of affection in the form of the Gita, which flame can get extinguished?

Which hurricane can dare to extinguish it?

The Lord has cast on me a compassionate glance, after I have toiled hard for the last twenty-four years. Now, He feels that He has tested me enough, so he became kind and entered the hearts of other human beings and fondled me through them.

O Mother! Goddess! O Laxmi! Keep me under your protection, and keep me free from blemishes. Do not allow me to lose my innocence. What pleasures lie in being without passions, jealousy and temptations. O God, may I remain a child forever! As I grow my beard and moustaches, let my inner heart always have the purity of a child’s.

My studio, Haudacha Bangla, is not a place of pilgrimage.

A devotee would at least acquire some merit if he visits Panchvati, Tapovan Godavari and Shri Ram (temple).

A large number of people drop in at the studio casually at any time for their amusement, simply because it happens to be on the way.

Obviously, this studio is not public property.

When this author was in difficulty, how many of these gallants came to his help?

If I talk to them, I waste my time.

If I don’t talk with them, they feel let down.

Visitors are certainly welcome if they come in my leisure time and after fixing up appointments by correspondence. I will arrange to satisfy their curiosity.

Other pilgrims cum visitors may drop a gold coin and go away silently.

For all these years, I have constantly been asking for financial assistance and now I am so exhausted that I cannot exert myself further.

This gramophone record (asking for financial help) is so used that it may crack at any moment.

My films are Swadeshi in the sense that the capital, ownership, employees and stories are Swadeshi.

The material and equipment required are simply not available in India at any cost. They are all foreign.

I have read one of my fellow filmmakers advertising his film as ‘Completely Swadeshi’.

I am not able to understand the meaning of ‘Completely Swadeshi’ simply by using higher and higher superlatives.

O India! You have already become the laughing-stock of the world, and the variety of types in the printing press is helping in this.

The same advertisement says, ‘Made by a person who has not gone abroad.’ This phrase fills my heart with admiration for that man.

I have never dared to do that. I have been abroad thrice, yet I have the desire to go there for the fourth time, as it is necessary.

There is no end to observation, education and self-improvement.

In a way, the phrase ‘Made without going abroad’ is serving the national cause.

We, the lowly traders outside Poona, have to be proud of the fact that India has been ready for Home Rule by this sentence, and will have to get inspired!

I never blow my own trumpet.

People admire me for my humble offerings like ‘Lanka Dahan’ and ‘Shri Krishna Janma’. What can I do about it?

Lokmanya Tilak reads the articles in ‘Navyug’.

With the help of Manmohandas Ramjee and Ratanseth Tata, Tilak decides to set up a private film company for Phalke.

Miss Fatima is prepared to put in capital of a lakh of rupees.

Phalke finally accepts an offer from the industrialists of Bombay, who are brokers.

Phalke Films is incorporated into the Hindustan Film Company, with Phalke as working partner, and VS Apte, Mayashankar Bhatt, LB Phatak, Madhavjee Jaisingh, and Gokuldas Damodardas as financing partners.

Phalke gives up Western dress and takes to wearing a dhoti and kameez.

Srikrishna, his sixth child, is born.

Inspired, Phalke decides to make ‘Sri Krishna Janam’.

The first film to be produced under the Hindustan Film Company banner is ‘Sri Krishna Janam’.

After this, Phalke decides to make ‘Kaliya Mardan’ with his daughter Mandakini in the role of the mischievous child-god, Krishna. The shooting begins One day, during the shooting, Mandakini is making faces at herself in the mirror. Dada sees her and slaps her face.

Descriptions of the snake, made of rope. The apparatus with the glass tank for the trick photography showing the serpent in the water explodes, injuring Dada in the leg.

. When Krishna leaves home, Mandakini gets carried away and sheds real tears.

During the shoot one day, she falls into the water, but refuses to allow her father to pack up.

When it is finally released, ‘Kaliya Mardan’ is a huge success.


A doctor visits the studio at 7 every morning, to check that the staff and students are all right.

This is followed by daily exercise and games.

Coaches are specially employed to teach fighting, fencing and the like.

They grow their own vegetables.

There is a library on the premises, and a miniature zoo.

It is an idyllic time, and they all live together like one big happy family.

But the happiness is short-lived.

Differences soon crop up between Phalke and his partners.

To meet the demand for 36 prints, he goes to Bombay to buy another printer.

But the regional office of the Hindustan Film Company declines to pay the bill.

Without Phalke’s knowledge, negatives are sent to America with Bhogilal Dave, nephew of his partner Mayashankar Bhatt.

When he returns to Nasik, Phalke finds that an American householder has been appointed as Studio Manager for the princely sum of Rs. 1700 a month.

Phalke wants to leave the film company, but he is under contract for fifteen years.

If he leaves he has to indemnify the loss to the tune of fifty thousand rupees.

The family prepares to go to Kashi, in the north.


He begins to write a play, ‘Rangabhoomi’, about his own life.

To keep him company, Kirloskar Music Company’s Master Manohar Barve, the company’s owner, Bapuji Majumdar, Prof. Ganpatrao and the famous story writer Narayan Hari Apte, sit for hours in Phalke’s home and discuss art.


Several actors are applying their make-up on stage.

Someone puts on a moustache and beard.

Elsewhere, a man powders his face.

The actors who are playing female characters are tying their sarongs.

To one corner, a man sits, tightening the strings of his tanpura.

A few are lost in drinking their cups of tea.

A female mendicant stands with a cigarette between her lips.

A king lights up his cigarette with a matchstick. A picture of the goddess Kali adorns his matchbox.

There is lightness and disorder everywhere.

As the third bell rings, the curtain begins to rise.

Suddenly, the proprietor, Sangeetrao, appears in the theatre.

He is dressed for travel, with a handbag in one hand and an overcoat in the other.

A porter stands behind him with a holdall on his head.

Sangeetrao parts the curtain and explodes.

‘Ganapati! Pull it up! Let it go to the top.’

Frantically, the actors gesture to Ganapati to bring the curtain down again.


Don’t let it down! The curtain must rise according to the ad we placed in the paper, exactly at 8.30 p.m. Understood? At the exact time, 8.30 sharp!

Actor # 1:

Just give us ten minutes.



Female mendicant:

The narrator will be ready to enter in five minutes.


Won’t do!


I’m almost ready, then I just have to tune the tanpura.


Won’t do!

Actor # 2:

I’ll put on my face in two minutes or the crowd will laugh at me.


I hope they do.

Actor # 3:

As you please.

Actor # 4:

Honor, dishonor, these are private things, and not to be discussed in public. So our scriptures have taught us.


I know hundreds of sayings like that. I don’t wish for you to turn into a joke, because an insult to you is an insult to me. But all the time your whining - what can I do about that? All the major actors are ready, but these bit actors… Lakhu! Why aren’t you ready yet?


I’ll tell you why I’m not ready yet. (Gestures to the make-up man) We just woke him up in the make-up room.


I couldn’t rest in the afternoon.


Why not? What do you mean?


Sir, he’s in the habit of taking a siesta in the afternoon. We had a special session in the afternoon, so instead he fell asleep in the evening.


All right, all right. But Vithoba, why are you not ready?


The clock in the hall has stopped. We want wristwatches.


That’s all I needed. Hey, who’s that? Looks like Balya. O Mr. Balya, Balaji Pant, Balpantrao, Balabhau, Balasaheb, do you own a wristwatch? So why are you late?


I’ll tell you. The teashop owner detained him till eight o’clock about the 7 days’ bill we owe him. Somehow we managed to bring him back for tonight’s show.

Sangeetrao (hands folded)

I am in your debt. Hey Naroba, why did you take the part of Vasisht, you cucumber? (He pulls at Naroba’s white beard and moustache.) Only an elderly actor can play an elderly role. Go, let Vasisht play the part.

Sangeetrao turns his attention to an actor sporting a woman’s blouse and underpants.


Annaji, you’re still like that!


Gopya had worn my sari.


I wore it by mistake, sir, but I returned it long ago.


First you tell me why you’re dressing on stage and not in the make-up room.

Actor # 1:

It’s so hot in there, our clothes and bodies were drenched in sweat.


This looks like a cowshed, not a theatre. Still, it’s better than the others. Now that I’ve decided, I’ll have to do it. We just need to do a few shows, that’s all. Hey, I don’t see our manager anywhere.


He’s sitting eating chivda in the make-up room.


Thank God! And secretary Bhikaji Pant, what is he doing?


He’s tying a sari on Vinu and fondling him.


And he’s kissing him. If he shouts, he puts a coin into his pocket. That’s what they do to me too.

Sangeetrao (shouting):

Pant! O Bhikaji Pant! O Bhikey Nana! Is this management or the total humiliation of Sangeetrao? I went away for just two or three days and left you to manage the theatre, and you’ve screwed everything up. You showed much bravado about being able to manage the theatre without me. (Just then a servant enters dancing, and hands him a letter.) So much love that they want to see me right now, and that too the whole family has come to meet me! This is the love of a friend! Go, throw these two passes at them and throw them out.

Pushed from behind, the other servant falls at his master’s feet.


What do you want?

(Reading his letter.)

What! Applause! Once More Supplying Company…I don’t want it. I don’t want this fake clapping. ‘If you want good reviews in our newspaper…’ I don’t want them. Write what you like. ‘Theatrical Society for Charity…’ Very noble! But I haven’t opened a factory for charity here. They think it’s their father’s property… (Turns to someone else.) What do you want, now?

Servant dressed up like a demon (handing him a note):

Sir, someone’s here to meet you.

Sangeetrao (reads the note):

No chance. They’re parasites on the government. Here, give them half a dozen passes instead. And yes, if anyone else comes to meet me, tell him or her that Sangeetrao is running a temperature of 115 degrees… Looks like I’ll have to give up this world.

But our music master, our playwright, I don’t see them anywhere. Where are all of them?

A boy:

There, sir, they’re peeping at the audience from inside the music pit.


Great! We haven’t even begun the play and they’re watching for the audience’s reaction! Anyway, forget about them.

Narrator! Bado Pant! Khado Pant! Why are you standing like Vithoba with your hands on your hips?

Khado Pant:

Sir, we have to decide today.


Decide? About what? What’s your job as narrator got to do with any decision?

Khado Pant:

We’re fighting over which god to pay obeisance to before starting the play. And in this argument…

Bado Pant:

There’s no connection, but we were discussing stage esthetics and…


Conflicts and envy, whatever your problem may be, I give you one minute to tell me.

Khado Pant:

There’s bound to be conflict. I was just saying that we ought to invoke Vishnu, the Preserver, but Bado Pant has fallen for Shankar.


Let him fall for anyone. But for today’s performance, the poet has invoked the Goddess.

Bado Pant:

Forgive me, sir! I cannot tolerate any insult to Shankar. If Mahadev is enraged, he will destroy the whole universe.

Khado Pant:

You only tell us, sir, according to the scriptures, is not Vishnu the god to be invoked?

Bado Pant:

Sir, this kid’s just come to the theatre. But for the last twelve years, I have grown from a humble servant to this position. I won’t work with him until he agrees with me.

Khado Pant:

He may have more experience than me but only in female roles. He’s just put on his whiskers and begun to play the man. But I’ve been doing for almost three years now. I’ve been king twenty-two times, and nine times I’ve been queen, twelve times I’ve been a servant, I’ve been a murderer four times, I’ve been killed by betrayal nine times, I’ve died in forty wars, I’ve been Shankaracharya three times, twice I’ve been a judge, and I’ve even played Lokmanya Tilak once.


Well done, my heroes! These petty conflicts have led us before into the pit of hell. O Maharashtrian children! Carry on fighting. Go to some quiet spot and continue your argument over Vishnu or Shiv. But why do you crowd the stage? Get out!

Several actors leave the stage.


Today I will start a new way to invoke you, O Goddess of the stage. Rang Devi!

Boy actor:

Sir, she’s sitting upstairs and crying, saying that she mustn’t be touched for three days.


Now I’m in a fix.


Sir, I am here. Order me and give me your blessings and I will play the part.


You are indeed my better half! But you who have never done this work, how will you manage?



Lokmanya Tilak visits Varanasi.

Phalke narrates some scenes from his play to him.

He shows him a matchbox model for a revolving stage, built by his son Mahadev.

Tilak promises to help him financially to stage the play.

The Phalkes live on the top floor of a 3-story building.

There is a school on the ground floor, and the teacher is a tyrant.

The frightened children who have run away from class hide under the stairways.

Mandakini steals roses.

One day, Bal and Prabha, two of Phalke’s sons, go out to buy some cooking oil.

Prabha suddenly finds that he is lost in the midst of a busy bazaar.

A Maharashtrian boy takes him home, where he meets a small doll-like girl with open hair.

The boy’s mother asks him to take Prabha back where he found him.

Prabha manages to find his way home again.

Children are playing on the swings.

Suddenly, due to Mandakini’s mistake, one of the girls falls off and dislocates her hand.

Mandakini is terrorized by guilt.

To make things worse, she steals some roses and is caught by the mali.

Meanwhile, her brother, Mahadev, dies of sunstroke.

Shivram also dies soon after.

Then they receive news of Tilak’s death.

Death is everywhere in Kashi…


Eating off old gold, lodging at Agrechiwadi, paranoid, in tatters, Dadasaheb ties 5 knots in his dhoti, one for each child.

Then he takes the dhoti and burns it to ashes and draws a circle around the children with the ash.

A Marathi journalist, Achyut Balwant Kolhatkar, writes an open letter to Phalke in his paper Sandesh, requesting him to come back and make more films.

Phalke says, at the end of his reply, ‘Dadasaheb Phalke is dead.’

In a scoop in Sandesh, Kolhatkar headlines this letter ‘Dadasaheb Phalke Dead’ and publishes it prominently.

The letter causes a sensation throughout Maharashtra.

Hundreds of his admirers write letters to Phalke requesting him to stage a comeback in cinema.

Phalke leaves for Kolhapur to stage his play.

Baburao Painter screens his ‘Sairandhari’ for Dada.

Phalke is moved by their achievements, surprised at their ingenuity in making their own camera.

There is a fire in the studio, and the camera melts down. Tough competition compels the financing partners of Hindustan Films to recall Phalke to the fold once more.

But the Phalke who rejoins the Hindustan Film Company is now a different man.

His activities are conditioned by budgetary controls and release schedules.

He adopts an attitude of resignation and is satisfied with supervising only the technical side of the studio.

He goes to a movie hall to watch ‘Sant Tukaram’.


Phalke’s second daughter, Malati, is born.

Dadasaheb takes the whole family for an excursion in the Victoria.

Prabha breaks a glass gas lantern.

Dada punishes the child, making him bend over, holding his toes.

He forbids anybody to plead on his behalf, saying, ‘If you want to relieve him, you’ll have to do it instead. The terms of the punishment have to be met.’

Undaunted, Mandakini volunteers on her brother’s behalf.

Within five minutes, Dada lets her go. They look for a suitable match for Mandakini, but nobody is prepared to accept a girl who has acted in the movies… She is in the seventh standard. 1927-2

Athavale, having seen ‘Kaliya Mardan’ prior to the engagement, was happy to accept, despite the stigma attached.

Dada gives Mandakini away in orthodox style.

The whole family misses Mandakini when she goes.

Dada is studying an instruction manual for a German projector, which has continuous movement, no revolving mirrors and no sprockets Neelkanth gets interested, especially in the German letters, and the ‘umlaut’.Appreciating the efforts of a small boy at reading a foreign language, he presents Neelkanth with a book, ‘Hugo’s German in Three Months Without a Master’.

The school children bunk class and watch ‘Gold Rush’ by Charlie Chaplin. Possessed by Chaplin, Prabhakar announces that he too will eat his shoe.

The others challenge him to do this. There is no mango papad to be had in Nasik, so Prabhakar and Neelkanth order a packet from Warlekar Company, Bombay. One afternoon, the postman arrives at the Phalke home with a parcel. The children are petrified that Dada will scold them. But he already knows about it. Instead of scolding the children, he offers to help them to make the shoes. Dada goes to a cobbler and has 2 pairs of shoes made from the mango papad. So Prabha manages to eat his shoes in front of the whole school’s disbelieving eyes.

He comes running home to tell his father of his success.

But Dada has already left for Delhi to appear before the Cinematograph Inquiry Committee.


In Delhi, Phalke is interviewed extensively by a five-man committee consisting of Dewan Bahadur T. Rangacharya, Sir Ibrahim Jaffer, Mr. Green, Col. Crawford, Mr. Courtman and Pandit Hridayanath Kundzru.

Mr. GG Hooper (ICS) is the secretary of the committee.

Phalke and the committee members study every aspect of cinema in minutest detail.


Q. I suppose you started the film industry in the country?

A. Yes. I began the film industry in India in

Q. What was your experience when you began the film industry in this country?

A. I had to do everything. I had to teach acting, I had to write the scenarios, do the photography and the actual projection too. Nobody knew anything in India about the industry in 1911. Q. Was your company well financed?

A. It was almost my self-sacrifice in the beginning.

Q. Is it now a paying concern, the Hindustan Film Company?

A. Yes, it i

Q. How much do you spend on an average film at present, approximately?

A. Say, about 10,000 rupees.

Q. And you get a good return on that investment I suppose?

A. Yes.

Q. How long does it take you to recover the money laid out on each film?

A. Generally a film should last for at least four months, but sometimes they are spoiled owing to bad operation and bad machines, within 3 - 4 weeks.

Q. And therefore you have to make more copies, I suppose?

A. Yes. The usual projection speed should be about 3,000 - 4,000 feet per hour, but sometimes the projectionists even show it at 7,000 - 10,000 feet per hour, with the result that the film is easily spoiled.

Q. Is not the orthodox rate 4,000 feet per hour?

A. Yes, it is a good average. If only 6,000 feet were shown every hour, then the film will last longer.

Q. Can you tell me how long it will take you to get back your capital spent on a film, say an average film? Six months?

A. Yes, it will take about six months.

Q. After that period, all income will be pure profit?

Q. Do you think, if you improve the quality of Indian films, you will have a wider market abroad? Do you think a well-made Indian film will have a good audience if shown in England?

A. Not the present ones produced in India, but well-made ones may command a good audience. I have exhibited some of my own films in London, such as ‘Savitri’, “Harischandra’ and other films, and the press in London remarked, ‘From the technical point of view, Phalke’s films are excellent.’

Q. Why did you not try to market your films there if they were found attractive?

A. I had not sufficient working capital with me to do so. As a matter of fact, there was a big demand for my films. They asked for 25-30 copies of the same. It was then that I formed the Hindustan Film Company.

Q. Do you think, if you can get sufficient capital, you can produce films in India which can command an international market?

A. Yes, I do think so.

Q. Do you think it will be a good idea to have a joint effort by an English and an Indian film company to make Indian films and distribute them abroad as well as in India?

A. Yes, it is desirable.

Q. Is it practicable?

A. I think it is.

Q. Who actually distributed your films?

A. I did it myself.

Q. You said you sent your films to Singapore. Did you have success there?

A. Yes, it was a success. We have sent films to Singapore, Rangoon and other places.

Q. Have you ever tried to send your films to East Africa?

A. Yes, we have sent some of our films to Zanzibar.

Q. You said you have formed a company. Is it a limited company?

A. It is a partnership business.

Q. May I know the capital of the firm?

A. Three lakhs of rupees.

Q. What capital do you think would be necessary to start an up-to-date first-rate film producing concern?

A. Not more than three lakhs is required.

Q. Even for producing films which may have an international market?

A. Then we may have five lakhs of rupees.

Q. Do you keep a permanent staff of actors and actresses at Nasik?

A. Yes, we have a permanent staff.

Q. How many?

A. About 100 permanent people. Exactly 95.

Q. Where did they get their training?

A. I myself trained them. Q. Why did you go to Nasik?

A. Because the climate there is most suitable for photography; there are oriental jungles, historical places, and rivers.

Q. Could you produce enough electricity for arc lights?

A. I make them myself. I have two engines and two dynamos.

Q. Do you ever use arc lights?

A. Yes.

Q. This is the point I wanted to get. Can you produce enough electricity if you want?

A. No. We have only one machine of 5 hp and another of 12 hp. To produce enough electricity for this purpose requires machines of 30 - 40 hp at least.

Q. In the course of your existence as a film producing company, have you amalgamated with any other company?

A. No.

Q. Have you ever made any proposal for amalgamating?

A. Yes, but nobody would hear of them.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t know. I asked Mr. Patankar who is working at Bombay. I also asked Baburao Painter from Kolhapur. But they would not amalgamate.

A. No.

Q. What is the reason for that?

A. Because we have only the Indian market for our films.

Q. What steps can we take to improve India’s market?

A. There should be one cinema for a population of, say, 15,000 - 20,000.

Q. Do you think you can get Rs. 1,500 per month with a population of only 20,000?

A. I don’t think so. It will be something less.

Q. In that case, you will have to count at least Rs. 50 a day?

A. Yes, but we have to pay at least Rs. 40 a day for the film. Rs. 40 is the minimum charge.

Q. I am just trying to find out what you can get from a population of 20,000?

A. We can get about Rs. 1,000 a month and I think that is the highest figure. We must get at least 50% i.e. over what we pay.

Q. Have you seen film posters and advertisements?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you think there is any harm in them? Should they be censored?

A. Only the embracing scenes, or love scenes, should be censored, I think.

Q. Would there be any danger in filming the battle of Panipat?

A. I don’t think there would be any harm in that.

Q. The Mahrattas were defeated there, and so they won’t like it?

A. Yes, but sometimes the Mahrattas may be defeated and sometimes the Muhammadans. But in the case of the Battle of Panipat, of course, the Mahrattas will not like it.

Q. So there is some danger in producing such films?

A. I don’t think so. Practically, there is no danger. There may be some sentimental objection.

Q. Do you think they will insist on stopping that film?

A. I don’t think so. They will see the film and simply go away saying that it is not good.

Q. Just another point. You referred to the fact that kissing scenes should be cut. Will the picture be popular if such scenes are cut out?

A. There will be other scenes in the picture which will be popular.

Q. But if you show on the screen anything that is peculiar, the man on the street will say, ‘Trash, we don’t do that’?

A. I myself have no objection to such scenes. I am used to foreign people and their customs. I, therefore, see nothing wrong in this kissing. But when children and adolescents see such scenes, they will get a bad impression.

Q. I do not suggest that you should make an Indian love scene in the Western method. It would not be true to Indian lovemaking?

A. Yes. We never kiss in public. We do it in private. People will never like that to be depicted on the screen.


Dadasaheb returns from Delhi to Nasik.

His partner, Mayashankar Bhatt, is waiting for him. The Great War

Hanuman received a great welcome from his warriors. They hurried back to tell Rama the good news. By now Rama had given up all hope of ever seeing Sita alive again. When Rama saw Hanuman returning, he ran to him. "I pray you have word of Sita." Without saying a word, Hanuman gave Rama Sita's jewel. Rama praised Hanuman for his bravery and said, "You have given me reason to live again." Meanwhile back at Lanka palace, Vibhishana, Ravana's brother, tried to save Sita's life. "Let her go," he said, "so we can save our kingdom from Rama's anger." Ravana responded angrily, "If I return Sita, I will be ridiculed by all the gods and demons." warned again, "Do not underestimate Rama's strength. It is said that Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu sent to earth to destroy all that is unholy. With his powers he will destroy Lanka. Why do you tempt such a fate?" "I fear no one," Ravana roared. "Then," Vibhishana said, "I can no longer remain in Lanka. Save yourself brother." "Then go," shouted Ravana. "I have no place in my kingdom for the weak and timid." Vibhishana left the palace and magically flew to Rama. Arriving at his camp, Vibhishana declared, "I am the brother of Ravana. I tried to convince my brother to return your wife. But he refused and I left Lanka. I wish to join you and fight at your side." Rama responded, "Vibhishana, you have rejected evil for good. You are welcomed here." Now Rama had to make a battle plan. Vibhishana told him that Ravana and his evil son, Indrajit, had great magical powers. His army was made up of millions of demons. For his honesty and bravery, Rama promised Vibhishana that he would become the new king of Lanka. Rama stood on the shoreline of the great ocean and spoke to the ocean god. "Hear me," he called. "I am Rama. I have weapons that are beyond imagination. In an instant I can dry your ocean. If you wish to avoid this fate, show me how to reach Lanka." The ocean said, "Rama, here is Nala, son of the great builder. He will build you a bridge across these waters. I shall support that bridge." With the help of the monkey army, Nala put up a bridge made of wood, rocks, and stones. Every creature helped in its own way. It took five days to complete the bridge to Lanka. Rama, Hanuman, and the monkey army crossed the bridge by nightfall. As they crossed into Lanka they shouted, "Victory to Rama!" Hanuman's army surrounded the city. Rama knew that Sita would soon be safe. Ravana called for two of his demons. "Change yourselves into monkeys. Move among the monkey army and find out what you can." The demons entered The camp and Vibhishana recognized them. They were brought to Rama. He decided not to punish them. He said, "Send a message to your king. Tell him that I have come to save my wife and kill him." Ravana was angered by his inability to learn about Rama's plans. Enraged he called upon one of his demons. "Make me an exact copy of Rama's head. Then bring it to me," he said. Ravana took the head to Sita. "O, Sita," he said, "Rama has failed in his attempt to rescue you. His army has been destroyed. That is the end of your hope. The time has come to change your mind and become my queen." Sita looked at Ravana and said, "I do not believe any of this." Ravana responded: "I thought you might say that. So I brought the head of your husband, soaked in blood and sand, to prove my words." Sita collapsed wailing, "Alas, O Rama, you have followed your dharma. But I have been widowed. Widowhood is a terrible tragedy in the life of a woman devoted to dharma. You came to save me, but you gave your own life. O Rama you are happy now. You have rejoined your beloved father in heaven. But what shall I do? O Rama, I am the terrible woman who has brought all this upon you. I pray take me too. Take me with you, my love." Angered by Sita's devotion to Rama, Ravana stormed from the garden. When he returned to the palace, he ordered all his troops to march toward the city gates. For four days both armies stood poised. On the morning of the fifth day, the great battle began. Each side suffered terrible losses. Blood filled the streets of Lanka. Bodies of fallen warriors were everywhere. Rama and Lakshmana fought gallantly. Hanuman was injured in a duel. Vibhishana showed great valor. Indrajit, Ravana's son, rained poison arrows upon Rama and Lakshmana. So overwhelming was this attack, that the two brothers suffered many wounds. "I shall send both of you to the house of death," cried Indrajit. Rama and Lakshmana were bleeding heavily, but they fought on. Indrajit hurled even more powerful weapons at them. Each weapon took a new toll. Rama and Lakshmana fell to the ground unconscious. Vibhishana prayed to the gods for their safety. "Protect Rama and Lakshmana while they are hurt." While the monkey warriors stood by grief-stricken, the battle raged on without Rama and Lakshmana. Ravana's demons made themselves invisible and attacked the heart of the monkey army. Ravana's forces were merciless. Thousands were killed by unseen attackers. Seeing his forces in retreat, Hanuman charged on with a great cry. "Victory to Rama! Death to Ravana!"

With his remarkable strength, Hanuman smashed the skull of every visible enemy. He challenged any of Ravana's men to advance. Seeing Hanuman's great courage, the monkey-army rallied behind their leader and fought harder. Ravana's army was losing its advantage. Angered by this news, he decided to join the battle. He climbed in his chariot and soared above Lanka in search of Rama. By now Rama and Lakshmana, having regained consciousness but still dazed, returned to the fight. Ravana viewed the battle scene from the clouds. Then he spotted Lakshmana. He aimed his magic bow and fired. The arrow cut through the air and struck Rama's brother in the chest. He collapsed. Hanuman rushed to Lakshmana's side. He gently lifted the wounded prince and carried him to safety.

Just when things were starting to look up for Rama's warriors, Indrajit returned to the battle. He was now invisible. All the monkey soldiers could hear was the mocking laughter of Indrajit as he soared over them. Indrajit's weapons took an enormous toll on the monkeys. By the time he returned to the palace, every monkey was either wounded or killed. Only Rama, Hanuman, and Vibhishana remained standing. Rama looked upon around and said, "The battle has been lost." Then in a weakened voice, Jambuvan, one of the leaders of the army, said, "No, Rama. There is still a way we can regain the advantage and defeat Ravana. Tell Hanuman to go to Kailasa Mountain. There he will see a blazing hill of medicinal herbs. Have him bring these herbs back before sunrise and our army will be saved." Hanuman rose above the earth and flew off with great speed. When he reached the mountain, he saw the hill that Jambuvan described. But he could not find the herbs. Realizing time was short, he uprooted the entire hill and carried it back to Lanka. Hanuman flew off balancing the hill in one hand. When he returned to Lanka, the monkey warriors began inhaling the healing air of the herbs. One-by-one, they rose to their feet and regained their strength. Even Lakshmana recovered from his near-mortal wound. Hanuman returned the hill to its original place. Rama embraced Hanuman and said, "I know no one who shows your valor and devotion." With that, Hanuman cried out, "Victory to Rama!" Using all their weapons, Rama, Lakshmana, Vibhishana, and Hanuman finally overpowered Indrajit. Ravana's son had fought long and hard, but now he was dead. Hearing of his son's death, Ravana decided now was the time to kill Rama and put an end to this bloodshed. Arming himself with his most powerful weapons, Ravana left Lanka palace. He spotted Rama leading the monkey army toward the city gates. Ravana fired a magic arrow at Rama. Seeing the arrow, Rama split it with his own arrow. Ravana tried everything to overpower his foe. But each time, Rama had an answer.

The fight lasted two days. Rama could feel his strength leaving him. He turned to one of his sages and said, "My spirit is nearly gone. My arms and legs ache. My heart wants to go on, but my body can no longer respond." The sage said to Rama: "Listen carefully to this secret. It is the heart of the sun that will bring you victory and the auspiciousness to destroy Ravana. Worship the sun, O Rama. He alone protects all beings. Pray to him." As Ravana was reloading his weapons, Rama knelt to pray to the sun. Then the sage said, "Rama, you will this very moment conquer Ravana." After looking at the sun, Rama felt his strength return. His heart was filled with joy. Ravana attacked again. Both armies stood by and watched. Rama reached for his most powerful weapon, the Brahma-missile, to be used only when all else had failed. He took it to his hands. As he did so, the earth shook. All the warriors covered their eyes and fell to the earth. Rama stood poised. He aimed the weapon at the on-rushing Ravana. He fired. The missile struck Ravana's chest and exploded. Ravana fell dead. "Victory to Rama!" shouted his men. The gods praised Rama. The earth became steady once more. The wind blew softly. The sun shone brighter than ever. Vibhishana knelt at the body of his dead brother and burst into tears. "Why didn't you listen to my words? Why were you so overcome with Sita and power?" Rama touched Vibhishana's shoulder and said, "Our ancients say that you should not mourn a mighty fallen warrior on the battlefield. Victory is the monopoly of none. Weep not for one who is no more. Rise, for we still have work to do." Vibhishana prepared the funeral rites for his brother. "My brother was so evil, people will try to keep me from giving him an honorable funeral." Rama replied, "No one will stop this rite. Hostility ends with death. He is your brother and he is mine too. You must honor him with this rite." Following the funeral rite, Rama made Vibhishana the new king of Lanka. Vibhishana's wife and maidens took Sita from the garden. A beautiful sari was placed around her. Jewels made her sparkle. A scarlet spot adorned her forehead. Sita could not wait to see her victorious husband. Rama entered the palace and Sita bowed at his feet. He felt both love and sorrow for his wife. "We shall return to Ayodhya," he said.

Period After Coronation

Together, they announce their next film, ‘Setu Bandhan’. I wanted an actress to portray Seeta in my film ‘Setu Bandhan’. I was faced with two dozen cuties. It took me an hour to make one understand the character. After I have given a long discourse, the would-be Seeta tells me, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll play the role fine. But will you give me the best zari clothes to wear?’ The poor soul did not know what hardships one has entails when sent to the forest for suffering (Rama and Seeta are complete paupers, with tree leaves and animal skins for cover.) Further, this ignorant girl says, ‘I have a sister. Shall I bring her to you? She can ride a horse, climb trees, and she swims well. She can play Hanuman’s wife.’ (In fact, Hanuman, the most devoted follower of Rama, was a bachelor all his life.) I just kept quiet and dismissed her.

On an outdoor shooting, his Vanar sena lose their way to the location.

The actors decide to walk to the location, 2 miles away.

The townspeople are not familiar with the movies, and mistake the actors for Lord Rama’s real monkey army.

The excited crowds garland the heroes and make offerings to them.

The actor playing Hanuman is a big hit.

The whole town gathers to see them off.

When they finally reach the location, Dadasaheb is very upset with the actor playing Hanuman and slaps his face.

Tears spring to the unfortunate actor’s eyes.

That night, Dada goes to meet the man and apologizes for being so harsh with him.

1929 Neelkanth fails his Matriculation examination. Instead, he climbs up the Government building at midnight and hoists the Indian tricolor.

Prabhakar swims two kilometers, from the first ghat to the last. Here he finds an Englishwoman drowning, and manages to save her.

Phalke and Ardeshir Irani are delighted to see ‘Showboat’, a talkie, at the Excelsior Theatre.

Phalke consults his partner about producing a talkie, but the partner is reluctant.

The Civil Disobedience movement makes the freedom struggle a truly popular movement.

Khadi-clad nationalists demonstrate in front of cloth shops against the sale of foreign textiles

And a small party of one projectionist and two mechanics cart along their Royal Touring Talkie, screaming ‘Alam Ara!’


To talk about feminine characters in films, it is good if we have female artists to play them. And it is still better if ladies from cultured families do it.

Yet once, when I faced difficulties, I even encouraged my wife to act in films. I was to play King Shriyal, my wife was to portray Changuna and my eldest son was to act as Prince Chilaya.

Brethren! Doesn’t it hurt you when the characters of Seeta and Draupadi are portrayed on the screen with vulgar gestures, fluttering eyes, semi-bare breasts, and swinging hips? Doesn’t it enrage you?

I feel it would be good if such type of actresses vanish from our studios.

Frankly, it would be welcome if some rich playboy lured them away from our studios by offering them thrice of what we can pay. At present they are swarming all over the studios.

By God’s grace, if these vamps are replaced by a few from good families, the whole atmosphere in the film studio will entirely change, and the black spot of its being compared to brothels will be completely wiped off.If at all, because a play is a truthful representation of life, one has to include a dance, it would be so clean and pure that one will not be compelled to watch the vulgarity of swinging hips, skirts flying thigh high and bare breasts bobbing up and down in rhythm with the tune. Then came another jewel of a cutie.

To give her an idea how ladies from good families sit, adjust their pallav, I had myself to act like a lady suffering the separation from her husband, but nothing could be seen from her face. Perhaps her dictionary lacked words like separation, and the resultant loss or sorrow.

After experiencing such cheap models, I became sure in my mind that to portray such a noble character like Seeta, I must have a lady from a noble family.

To become an actress, one should be blessed with many factors, and the primary asset is beauty. And by that I mean real beauty.

Truthful beauty and unreal beauty, now this is new.

Yet, there is nothing new in this thought. It is only a question of looking through the right type of glasses. Actually, beauty is God’s gift.

Beauty is neither love, nor a feeling of belonging. A Sanskrit saying which literally means that even an ass that has come of age looks attractive only proves that a throbbing youth or a girl of that age is also a type of beauty.

Yet the inability to spot beauty is like the inability to know one’s own faults or failings.

That is beauty, appreciated by millions of eyes.

Next to beauty, one should have a shapely figure. Attractiveness should be supplemented by a well-proportioned body.

In addition to these two, the third necessary need is the inborn understanding of drama.

Then come the ability to face an audience, a sweet voice, enchanting way of speech --all hurdles which one must overcome.

The moment these virtuous ladies enter the profession, the chaotic atmosphere in the studios must change.

If, unfortunately, this does not happen and these wolves continue molesting them, I would request my professional sisters that their own look should scare these scoundrels like an electric shock, and they must beat it.

If even this does not suffice, keep a small sharp instrument always with you and be bold to use it in an emergency, to teach these people the lesson of their lifetime.


‘Setu Bandhan’, a silent film, does not do well.

With the dawn of the Talkies, trademarks come alive. MGM’s lion roars. Pathe’s rooster starts crowing.

A film production company called ‘Radio Pictures’ has a very apt symbol - it shows a tall steel tower at the foot of a hill, and sound waves radiate from the top of the tower. The sound track announces that ‘It is a Radio Picture’. One day, Prabhakar meets Mahadev and starts to travel with him. s

‘…As soon as our train steamed into the Madras Central Station, and his eager ears caught our shouts of ‘Talkies! Talkies!’ the manager of the Kinema Central ran towards our compartment in response, shouting above the din of the crowded station.

‘Extreme care was taken by all concerned, wherever we went, to look after our “precious luggage and persons”’.

Wherever they camped, they were given a princely ovation and a hero’s send-off.

The railways gave them travel concessions.

A guard at Trichy Junction delayed a train by four minutes for the latecomers because ‘they are the Talkie people’.

A theatre proprietor in Salem slept by the loudspeaker on the stage to guard it during their stay there.

Every coffeehouse they visited in Tumkur town in Mysore refused payment for food and drink - the cinema proprietor took care of the bill.

In Burhampur, Ganjam, the cinema proprietor who was also the Municipal Chairman took the party around the vegetable market where the best vegetables were presented to the Talkie people.

After all the bouquets, they had their first taste of brickbats at Kumbakonam. The all-important sound machine failed!

An urgent telegram was dispatched to the Head Office, who in turn called for an engineer from Bombay.

The proprietor apologized, and offered refunds.

The audience refused, rightly pointing out that they had come to see and HEAR - not to take any money back.

Three long hours later, the patient audience was rewarded when the ‘silent’ film came back to life.

Members of the party were carried on people’s shoulders to the bazaar.

In Conjevaram, a showman who, at his ‘talkie’ display, hid interpreter, harmonium, and female singer, all behind the screen, beat the Talkie people to the draw.

But the trick was discovered, chairs were broken, and the screen torn down.

Damle, a memory:


‘Setu Bandhan’ is post synchronized.

A French visitor bursts out laughing on seeing Ravana’s bust revolving above his waist.

Embarrassed, Phalke deletes the scene.

The sound of a gunshot is obtained by striking a drum on top of the machine on which a chain mat has been placed. At the bottom of the machine is a large bellows operated by foot.

Their manipulation in conjunction with one or other of the handles will produce the sound of exhaust steam issuing from a locomotive, the rumbling of a train rushing through a tunnel, and so on.

Running water, rain, hail, and the sound of rolling waves are obtained by turning a handle which rotates a ribbed wooden cylinder against a board set at an angle from the top of which hang a number of chains.

The puffing of an engine is made by revolving a cylinder with projections against a steel brush.

The crash of china pots and pans is due to the revolution of a shaft on which are mounted a series of tappets striking against hammers which, in turn, come into contact with a number of steel plates.

The cracking of a machine gun is caused by turning a shaft having tappets, which strike and lift up a wooden lathe, subsequently releasing them to strike smartly against the framework of the machine.

The same device serves for imitating the crash attending the upsetting of chairs, tables and so on.

Pendant tubes serve to produce the effects of church bells, fire alarm, ship’s bell, and similar noises.

Revolving a shaft with 3 tappets, which lift up inverted cups, causes the sound of trotting horses. A trot can be converted into a gallop, and vice versa.

Shaking a sheet of steel hanging on one side of the machine makes the sound of thunder.

The pross of a bulb gives the bark of a dog.

The bellows and another attachment operate the warbling bird, while the cry of the baby is emitted by the dexterous manipulation of plughole and bellows.

‘The audio camera with that big microphone…I kept it warm and cozy during the winter and rainy days.

A carbon microphone contained loosely packed carbon granules against which a diaphragm vibrated when sound fell upon it.

As the diaphragm caved in or bulged out due to the sound waves, the pressure on the carbon granules varied.

They became more tightly or more loosely packed.

Consequently, a varied electrical equivalent of sound variation was obtained.’

1935 - 36

Flaherty advertises for a hero for his ‘Elephant Boy’.

Prabhakar applies.

Anglo-Indian girls who had almost monopolized the female lead roles in silent films are unable to cope with the spoken word.

Playback singing is introduced.

‘Chandidas’, ‘Puran Bhagat’, and ‘Devdas’ are superhits.

The RCA sound system is imported for the first time.

The king of Kolhapur invites Phalke to make ‘Gangavataran’.

It was baburao again who was first to erect sets.dada only used painted backdrops used in stage.babu rao used 3d sets. Dadasaheb always preferred natural settings to artificial ones erected in the studios. He placed emphasis on outdoor shootings. Even when he used artificial settings, he used them in the open. His love of natural scenery is revealed in a very amusing incident. Dadasaheb was in Kolhapur for filming GANGAVATARAN. There was a scene in the film which showed the snow-clad Himalayas. How to bring the famous mountain-range into Kolhapur was dadasaheb’s problem. He would have preferred to shoot the scene on location in Himalayas if he could afford it. But that would have involved a fabulous expenditure. However, Dadasaheb could not reconcile to the idea of studio-made ‘Indoor Himalayas’. He made a compromise. He decided to paint Ramalings Hill near Kolhapur and turn it into the Himalayas.Every body laughed at this crazy idea.but dada would not give up.Ramalingahill was bathed in white mortar.It looked rather poor imitation of Himaliyas.It was asheepshowing itself out of the lions skin.But a sad thing happened over night ,it rained.himaliyas were washed out and striped of there imitation snow.idea proved absured.

Dada meets abalal

 Bhagiratha's Tapas 
           Thus leaving behind him his mother, wife and the kingdom, he went to 
           the Himalayas. He came to a beautiful lake there. He bathed in it, 
           purified himself, and feeling clean, started on his 'Tapas', with 
           the firm resolve that the divine river Ganga should come down to the 
           earth and his ancestors should go to the higher worlds. His 
           meditation was not of an ordinary kind. In the beginning he 
           performed meditation squatting cross-legged in the Padmasana 
           posture. He prayed to Lord Brahma. There was no room for anything 
           else in his mind. By his strong 'Tapas' he desired the coming of 
           Ganga. After a few days, it was winter. Bhagiratha then stood in the 
           lake with water up to his chest and continued his 'Tapas' with 
           intense concentration. Winter passed giving place to summer. Then he 
           took to a more severe kind of 'Tapas', the Panchagni Tapas, or 
           meditation in the midst of five fires. He stood in the midst of 
           burning fires on all four sides, with the hot sun above as the fifth 
           fire. He stood amidst these five fires, and steadily stared at the 
           sun with eyes wide open. Thus his 'Tapas' continued.
           He changed his food too. During the first few days, he had food only 
           once a day. Later it was once in a few days. Then it became once in 
           a month. After that, he just used to drink a little water and 
           continue his 'Tapas'. Finally the air was his only food. While 
           performing 'Tapas' thus, a bright flame shoots forth from the body 
           of the devotee. It is called the flame of 'Tapas'. Such a bright 
           flame emerged from Bhagiratha also and it became very severe. 
           Bhagiratha was now as radiant as the Sun God himself. Unable to bear 
           the effects of his 'Tapas', all the gods in Heaven went to Lord 
           Brahma and appealed to him: "O Lord, it has become impossible to 
           bear Bhagiratha's meditation. Please protect us." Brahma consoled 
           them and went to Bhagiratha.
           Bhagiratha was overjoyed on seeing Brahma. He prostrated before Him 
           with great devotion and worshipped Him. Brahma was pleased with him 
           and said: "O King, what do you desire? Why are you performing this 
           'Tapas'? Bhagiratha begged him: "My Lord, my forefathers are in the 
           nether world, Patala, dead and burnt to ashes. They cannot go to 
           Heaven without proper funeral rites. The divine Ganga herself has to 
           come to deliver them from their sad state. So please send the divine 
           river and help me. Secondly, I have no child. My race will come to 
           an end. Kindly bless me that I may have sons." Brahma replied, "You 
           are really blessed, Bhagiratha, for having performed such a severe 
           'Tapas'. Your wish to bring the divine Ganga to the earth is a very 
           noble one. I shall send Ganga with pleasure. But when she descends 
           from heaven to the earth, the earth cannot bear her terrible force. 
           The whole earth will be destroyed completely. So somebody will have 
           to control her force. It can be done only by iswara, the Lord of all 
           Worlds. None else can do that. Therefore, persuade iswara to arrest 
           the force of Ganga and quieten her. Then I will send Ganga. Your 
           second wish is also granted. Your lineage will certainly continue 
           with worthy children. So be not worried."
           On seeing Brahma, Bhagiratha had felt as happy as though he had 
           already performed his task fully. But now he had to face another 
           difficulty. How was he to persuade Lord iswara to control the 
           turbulence of Ganga when she descended to the earth?
           Well, men who think of difficult tasks are of three kinds. There are 
           cowards, who do not begin their work at all, afraid that some 
           trouble may arise midway. Those who begin but later give up the 
           task, afraid of the difficulties that arise, belong to the second 
           group. So far as the -task is concerned, both these groups are 
           useless. But there are brave people who belong to a third group. 
           They continue to work in spite of even an army of difficulties, and 
           finally achieve the goal.
           Bhagiratha belonged to this third category of brave men. He knew how 
           to bring down Ganga to the earth. He was confident that it could be 
           done. He had only to overcome some difficulties that would arise on 
           the way. Bhagiratha was determined to accomplish his task. 
           Accordingly he began a severe 'Tapas' once again to please Lord 
           iswara. With folded hands, and standing on one leg, he meditated on 
           Lord iswara with the deepest concentration. So a whole year passed.
           Pleased with Bhagiratha's devotion Lord iswara came to Bhagiratha 
           and asked him:
           "Dear Bhagiratha, what do you want? Why have you been meditating on 
           me thus? "
           With folded hands, Bhagiratha appealed to him: "What is it that you 
           do not know? Lord Brahma has granted my prayer to send the divine 
           river Ganga to the earth. But the earth cannot bear the force of 
           gangas descent. Only you can control the turbulence of the 
           descending Ganga. Be pleased to do so." iswara said smilingly, "Yes; 
           I will soften Ganga's descent by my tresses."
           So said Lord iswara and stood on a big peak nearby, ready to receive 
           the divine river.
           Behind the Horse - To the House of Death 
           Sagara now had another thought in his mind. His children were grown 
           up, and if they had no work to do, they might create unnecessary 
           trouble, like his first son. So he thought of giving proper work to 
           all of his children. There was also in his mind a certain wish. 
           Anyone, who performed a hundred horse-sacrifices, would gain Indra's 
           position as the King of Heaven. He had already performed ninety-nine 
           such Yagas. If he performed one more Yaga with the help of all his 
           children, he would become Indra. So thought King Sagara.
           Sagara's ministers approved his idea. The one hundredth Ashwamedha 
           commenced. The horse was worshipped and sent to wander, as he liked. 
           The entire army of Sagara followed, to protect the horse. 
           Amshumanta, Sagara's grandson, was loved by all. He was made the 
           commander of the army. Thus the sacrificial horse went from kingdom 
           to kingdom. And behind him marched the armed forces of Amshumanta. 
           Nobody had the courage to challenge them.
           "Meanwhile, in Heaven, Indra trembled with fear; he would have to 
           give up his position to the king who performed one hundred 
           horse-sacrifices. He lost interest in everything because of this 
           worry. It is always so with people who desire power and position. 
           Until a person gets such a position, he was anxiety - to attain it. 
           After getting it, there is the anxiety to retain that position. 
           Indra thought of a plan to safeguard his kingship of Heaven. 
           "Most important in an Ashwamedha Yaga was the Ashwa or the horse. 
           The Yaga would be complete only after the horse returned from his 
           wanderings. Suppose the horse disappeared! Then how could the Yaga 
           be completed? So Indra came unseen by anyone, stole the horse and 
           took him to Patala Loka, the lower world far below the earth. A sage 
           by name Kapila was performing 'Tapas' there. Indra tied up the horse 
           in his Ashrama.
           "There was much confusion in
           Amshumanta's army when the horse was not to be seen. They searched 
           everywhere for the horse, but in vain. They returned to Ayodhya in 
           despair and narrated everything to the emperor.
           Sagara was very worded. He called his sixty thousand sons and said, 
           'You must find the horse wherever he be, and bring him. Also punish 
           the thief.' He' sent his army with them. They were all young and 
           proud on account of their strength. They had now a huge army also 
           with them and in addition, the father's command. Raising loud war 
           cries, the army went far and wide searching for the horse. Every 
           forest, hill and mountain was searched. But the horse was nowhere to 
           be seen.
           "They were angry rather than disappointed. Since they could not find 
           the horse on the earth, they decided to go to the lower world. They 
           did not know the way, but they started digging the earth to make a 
           way. They dug a big hole, and crawling in it, entered Patala. 
           Roaring aloud, they roamed everywhere and began to search for the 
           horse. By and by, they came to Sage Kapila's Ashrama and uprooted 
           all the trees and creepers there. They had no fear of anybody - 
           Moreover, they were so angry they wanted to chop off everything that 
           they saw. As they were moving on in this manner, they saw Sage 
           Kapila in deep meditation. Their horse was grazing there. They 
           thought that the sage has stolen the horse and were pretending to 
           perform 'Tapas' and were very angry. So all of them rushed towards 
           him shouting, 'Catch the thief. Beat him. ‘The Maharshis 'Tapas' was 
           disturbed. He started with wrathful eyes at those who had disturbed 
           his 'Tapas'. The flame of anger shot forth from his eyes and burnt 
           all those sixty thousand brothers. Only a huge pile of ash could be 
           seen in the place where they were standing. The horse too remained 
           in the Ashrama itself.
     'I do not want a Son Who Plagues the People' 

           'I do not want a Son Who Plagues the People' 
           "Sagara was ruling over this very kingdom of Kosala. He was as good 
           as he was mighty. His heroism was known the world over. He had 
           performed ninety-nine Ashwamedha Yagas. A ruler performs this Yaga 
           to be accepted as an Emperor. Do you know anything about this Yaga? 
           A well-bred horse is splendidly decorated and a gold plate is tied 
           to his face. The plate bears these words: 'this horse belongs to 
           such and such a king. Those who have courage may stop the horse. 
           Otherwise they may pay tributes and let him go further. ‘The master 
           sends an army with the horse. If any King ties up the horse, he has 
           to fight with the army. The horse is left to roam about like this 
           for one year and at the end of the year the master of the horse 
           performs the Ashwamedha. By that time many Kings will have accepted 
           him as their master. Sagara had become famous by performing the 
           horse-sacrifice ninety-nine times. People lived happily in his 
           "Sagara had two wives. Keshini, daughter of the King of Vidarbha, 
           was the first wife;
           Sumati, daughter of a King by name Arishtanemi, was the second wife.
           "The King enjoyed great glory and splendor, but yet he was UN-happy, 
           because he had no children. He was very sad and worried. Finally, he 
           grew tired of life itself. He left the administration of the Kingdom 
           in the hands of his ministers, and went away to the Himalayas with 
           his two wives. On the way, there was a very lovely spot. It was cool 
           and shady, with water close by. It was cool and shady, with water 
           close by. It was surrounded on all sides by the mountain ranges of 
           the Himalayas. The place was called "Bhriguprasravana’ after the 
           sage Bhrigu. Very much attracted by the beauty of the spot, the king 
           and his two wives built a cottage and stayed there. Desirous of 
           getting children, Emperor Sagara undertook a very strict and severe 
           form of ‘Tapas’ (prayer to God). As time passed, the severity of his 
           ‘Tapas’, the sage Bhrigu appeared before him. Sagara and his wives 
           touched his feet and prayed in these words:
           ‘O Sage, kindly grant us a boon; we want children to continue our 
           dynasty.’ Bhrigu Maharshi was pleased and granted them the boon. He 
           said: "Great king, don't be unhappy. You will have children because 
           of this 'Tapas'. One of your wives will have one son who will 
           preserve your race, and the other will have sixty thousand brave 
           children who will win great fame.".
           The queens were very happy. But they were curious to. Know which of 
           them would get the one son and which, the many. Finally they 
           summoned courage and asked the sage himself. The sage calmly said:
           'Choose f or yourselves.' Keshini, the elder wife, said: 'One son 
           who will continue our race is enough for me.' 'I wish to become the 
           mother of many brave and famous children' - said the younger wife. 
           The sage smilingly said, 'Be it so, 'and went away. Sagara returned 
           to his kingdom in great joy.
           Sometime passed. Keshini gave birth to a boy. The king and his 
           subjects felt very happy. There were festivals and rejoicing in 
           every nook and corner because of the birth of the prince. The child, 
           named Asamanja, grew up into a very handsome and smart boy. Asamanja 
           was everybody's pet child. Someone or the other would always be 
           carrying the lovely boy and he grew up without ever touching the 
           After many days, Sumati also had children. She was extremely happy 
           since her wish was also fulfilled. Sixty thousand children were born 
           to her. Arrangements were made for each child to be brought up by a 
           separate nurse.
           The palace was now buzzing with noise. It is impossible to control 
           the uproar in a house with two children. Then what about sixty 
           thousand children running, laughing, playing, shouting at the same 
           time? But there was happiness amidst such noise. The children grew 
           up in discipline. They were brave and handsome.
           "But somehow the eldest son Asamanja grew up to be a bad boy. He was 
           the emperor's first son and everybody's favourite. The result of 
           this excessive affection was that he became very stubborn. He 
           started ordering about everybody. He dragged his playmates along the 
           road and hurt them. He seemed to get a wicked pleasure in seeing 
           those helpless children weep. His mischief went further. He began to 
           drag them along and drown them in the river Sarayu. The helpless 
           children, who could not swim, would throw about their limbs wildly 
           and be drowned. Asamanja would stand on the bank and watch and laugh 
           wickedly. His evil deeds increased day by day.
           "At first, people kept quiet out of fear and hesitation. But when 
           Asamanja's harassment increased, all of them went to King Sagara and 
           lamented thus: 'O King, if your son is allowed to go on like this, 
           no child will be alive in anybody's house in the kingdom. Please 
           protect us.'
           Sagara listened to the tale of misery. He was a noble king and 
           believed that the people's happiness was his happiness. But now his 
           own son was a plague to the people. He decided not to have a son who 
           tormented his subjects. He called his son and mercilessly commanded 
           him thus:
           'Asamanja, you are a traitor to my people.
           You must go out of my kingdom.'
           Asamanja accepted his punishment joyfully. It seems he was in fact 
           an ascetic and had taken to evil ways only to get rid of his 
           physical being. So he felt happy when his own father banished him 
           from the kingdom. There is a story that before going away, he 
           brought back to life, with his Yogic power, all those children whom 
           he had killed, and sent them to their homes. Then, practicing Yoga, 
           he got rid of his physical body, and attained salvation.
           Asamanja had a son. He was Amshumanta.
           [ Back ] [ Up ] [ Next ]
           About Bhagiratha
                 "Who Was Sagara?"
           Taming the Ganga 
           Bhagiratha's joy knew no bounds since his anxiety was over. Iswara, 
           the great God, had consented to arrest the force of Ganga. Thinking 
           that his task was accomplished, Bhagiratha eagerly awaited the 
           descent of Ganga. All the gods of Heaven were looking on with 
           wonder. Even Parvati, the wife of iswara, was there. Ganga decided 
           to flow down to the earth as ordered by Brahma. Just then she 
           remembered Brahma's words that no one could check her force. 'How 
           can even iswara check me?" She thought and this made her very very 
           proud. So she thought she would descend with such force as to drag 
           Lord Iswara along with her waters, so that the gods in Heaven would 
           have some fun. Ganga leaped on Ishwara’s head with tremendous force 
           and at crushing speed.
           The sight of the descending Ganga was most pleasing. Many animals 
           like fishes, tortoises, crocodile and sea snakes also came down with 
           the stream of Ganga. As Ganga flowed down with waves of white foam 
           and the speed of lightening, everyone gazed with wonder and joy.
           Ishwara felt the impact of the powerful flow. He understood that 
           Ganga was haughty. He became wild with anger. As Ganga came down on 
           him with a deafening roar, he tied her up amidst his flowing tresses 
           so tightly that she could not slip away. Thus Ganga, who came to 
           engulf him with such turbulence, was checked and imprisoned. 
           Arrogant people not only bring suffering on themselves, but also 
           cause trouble to those who depend on them. Bhagiratha had been 
           praying with such piety for the divine mother Ganga to flow down to 
           the earth; he had watched her foamy descent. In his joy that Ganga 
           had come down to the earth, he had closed his eyes in meditation. 
           After a while, when he opened his eyes, he could not see Ganga, or 
           any flowing water. He could only see Lord Ishwara, terrible in his 
           anger, with Ns hands on his waist, his eyes darting fire.
           Bhagiratha felt that he was ruined. Just when he thought that his 
           very difficult task was completed, a new difficulty had cropped up. 
           It was true that the proud Ganga deserved punishment. But if he 
           thought it right and kept quiet, what about his task? He had no time 
           even to think. He was a man of action-So at once he stood with 
           folded hands before Lord Ishwara and begged him:
           "O Lord, be kind and release Ganga. Let her descend to the earth and 
           flow on. Let her sanctify my ancestors and all the people on the 
           earth." Ishwara was pleased. He said:
           "Bhagiratha, I am pleased with your devotion and humility. Look, I 
           will release Ganga from my tresses. But I cannot allow her as one 
           stream since that will cause trouble to you. She might cause more 
           trouble again in her pride. So I shall release her in seven separate 
           streams. Let three streams go to the west, and three to the east. 
           Only one stream will follow you - With these words he set free 


           Bhagiratha was happy that his difficulty was over as he wished. He 
           considered himself lucky to have one of the seven streams of Ganga 
           following him. Again he bowed to Lord Parameswara and set out 
           towards the south. Ganga now calmly followed him. Her flow now was 
           like the dancing lively steps of an innocent girl following her 
           father. Wherever she flowed, she spread peace, created green foliage 
           and infused life. Sometimes rapid and sometimes slow, she followed 
           Bhagiratha, flowing with playful glee. Bhagiratha walked on and on. 
           He was anxious to reach Patala, and to have the ashes of his 
           ancestors made holy by the touch of the waters of the divine Ganga 
           and thus fulfil his task. He had already faced many difficulties; so 
           he was still rather afraid that some trouble might crop up again. So 
           he walked very fast to complete his good deed as soon as possible.
           Bhagiratha had now come down to the open plains from the Himalayan 
           range. Ganga followed Bhagiratha, who was now walking on level 
           ground, like a new bride, shy and happy, Bhagiratha was filled with 
           There was an Ashrama on the way. It looked very beautiful, with 
           fruits and flowers all around. Peace pervaded this Ashrama of Sage 
           Jahnu. Since Bhagiratha knew the place, he entered the Ashrama with 
           devotion and humility.
           Ganga had been so far following him shyly and slowly. But somehow 
           after entering the Ashrama, she grew a little mischievous. She 
           wandered all over the Ashrama like a small girl. The entire place 
           was filled with water and it looked as if the Ashrama would be 
           washed away. There was grief and confusion everywhere. But still 
           Ganga was laughing like a naughty girl.
           Inside the Ashrama was Sage Jahnu. He had been meditating on God. 
           Ganga's mischief disturbed him. He understood everything. He decided 
           to teach that naughty girl a lesson. Drawing Ganga into his palm, he 
           swallowed her at a single gulp.
           Bhagiratha could not see Ganga anywhere. He was shocked. He was 
           afraid that some other difficulty had come up. Where was Ganga? What 
           had happened to her?
           Ganga had disappeared in Jahnu's Ashrama. So Bhagiratha thought the 
           sage would know what had happened. He bowed to the sage with 
           reverence. He narrated his story and prayed in these words: "I was 
           coming to see you, but just then Ganga disappeared. I beg of you, 
           holy sage, tell me what has happened if you know anything." Having 
           heard everything, the sage replied: "I myself have drunk her. I 
           wanted to teach her a lesson."
           Bhagiratha did not know what to say. How could he ask the sage to 
           set free Ganga? But he could not fail in his task now. So, summoning 
           up courage, he appealed to him: "0 venerable sage, it is my duty to 
           see that my dead ancestors go to heaven. So with great difficulty I 
           pleased Brahma and Ishwara. I brought Ganga down to the earth. But 
           her childishness has now come in my way. I beg of you, be pleased to 
           forgive her. Kindly set her free so that my elders may go to 
           heaven." Moved by his prayer and humility, the sage let Ganga escape 
           through his ears and asked her to behave properly.The Earth Smiles

The Duty of the Descendants

           The Duty of the Descendants 
           Many days passed, but the sons did not return. Emperor Sagara was 
           again very worried. He had already performed the preliminary rites 
           for the sacrifice. So he himself could not go in search of the 
           horse. He sent for his grandson Amshumanta and said, 'Dear child, 
           your sixty thousand uncles who went in search of the horse have not 
           come back till this day. Please go and find them and the horse also. 
           You must be careful and judge wisely. Come back with success.' He 
           sent his grandson with his blessings.
           Amshumanta started with the army, as instructed by his grandfather. 
           He was unable to find the horse on the earth though he roamed far 
           and wide. He finally entered Patala through the hole dug by his 
           uncles. As he was wandering there, his eyes fell upon Sage Kapila's 
           Ashrama and the ashes piled up like a mountain. The horse was 
           grazing at a distance. There was no road ahead.
           He was a little frightened. There was no way beyond and there was 
           such a huge pile of ash. What could have happened? He was deep in 
           thought. Just then he heard a voice from Heaven -'Child, this is the 
           pile of ashes of your uncles. They were destroyed by the wrath of 
           Sage Kapila.' Amshumanta felt very sad on hearing this. He decided 
           to perform the funeral rites for them so that the souls of the dead 
           might attain salvation. But though he searched everywhere for water, 
           there was none. He did not know what to do and was worried. Just 
           then he saw Garuda in the sky. As you know, Garuda is the big eagle. 
           He is Lord Vishnu's favourite, on whose back the Lord flies whenever 
           He wants to go anywhere. Garuda addressed Amshumanta:
           'Royal prince, do not worry. There have died for -the good of the 
           world. They ended thus here, suse of the curse of a sage. Their 
           souls cannot go heaven by the ordinary funeral rites. They can get 
           salvation only when the divine Ganga is brought from Heaven and made 
           to flow on this pile of their ashes. Yet, first take back this horse 
           to your grandfather.'
           Amshumanta had no other way either. So he returned to Ayodhya with 
           the horse and delivered him to his grandfather. Though Sagara felt 
           happy on seeing the horse, he felt very sad on hearing that all of 
           his brave and strong sons had died at once. But since he had already 
           performed the preliminary ceremonies for Ashwamedha, he controlled 
           his sorrow, and performed the sacrifice in the prescribed way.
           But until the divine Ganga was brought down from Heaven, his sone 
           could not attain salvation. This thought continued to worry him. 
           Finally, becoming desperate, he left his kingdom to his grandson 
           Amshumanta, saying, 'The task of seeing that your uncles attain 
           salvation is yours.' Sagara then went to the forest to perform 
           "Though he became the king, Amshumanta never thought of his personal 
           happiness. He was always thinking of the task he had to perform - he 
           had to bring the divine Ganga, according to his grandfather's 
           command. As he could not think of any solution, after some years, he 
           also made over his kingdom to his son Dilipa."
           Bhagiratha's mother, who was telling him the story, continued:
           "That same king Dilipa was your father. He too was always thinking 
           about the means of bringing Ganga from Heaven. He had also another 
           worry, as he had no children. At least, guided by our kind 
           preceptor, the sage Vasishtha, we worshipped the sacred cow Nandini 
           in his hermitage. She blessed us and you were born. But your father 
           was worried that he could not bring Ganga and help his grandfathers 
           attain salvation. He passed away while you were still young.
           "This, dear son, is the story of your race. And also the answer to 
           your question. You have now heard all. And now let us see what you 
           will do."
           Having said this, Bhagiratha's mother gazed at her son, curious and 
           eager to hear what he would say.

Earth Smiles

           Great Personalities

           The Earth Smiles 
           Bhagiratha felt very happy. He again bowed to Sage Jahnu thanking 
           him for his kindness, and left the place. He was afraid that some 
           other obstacle would come up if he delayed in his work. He directly 
           came to the hole dug by his ancestors.
           Ganga had also grown more sensible by this time. She now understood 
           that her own pride and childishness had brought her trouble and 
           shame. Bhagiratha had worshipped her with devotion. But she had 
           caused him physical and mental suffering. She realized this. So, 
           giving up her foolishness, she followed Bhagiratha into the hole 
           promptly. The whole area, which had been a huge hole earlier, now 
           turned into a vast sheet of water. Since the sons of Sagara had dug 
           it, it came to be known as 'Sagara', or the Ocean.
           Bhagiratha went to Patala and stood near the pile of ashes there. He 
           implored Ganga thus: "0 Mother, piled up here are the ashes of my 
           ancestors. Please touch these ashes, help their souls attain 
           salvation." Ganga straight rushed on the heap of ashes. The souls of 
           all the sixty thousand sons of Sagara, neglected and restless for so 
           many years, were now made holy. Freed from sin, the souls went to 
           Heaven. All the gods in Heaven, who had been eagerly watching this, 
           were full of praise for Bhagiratha's achievement. Bhagiratha had 
           completed the holy task of his life. So his joy knew no limit. He 
           bowed to the divine Ganga and all the gods and goddesses around. 
           Everyone was full of praise for him. All of them also bowed to Ganga 
           addressing her by various names.
           They called her 'Bhagirathi' since she had followed Bhagiratha like 
           his daughter.
           She also came to be known as 'Tripathake' one who flowed in 
           three-path -since she had flowed through three worlds Heaven, Earth 
           and Patala. She was called 'Jahnavi' as she had come out of the ears 
           of Sage Jahnu and was his daughter. Bhagiratha, who was returning to 
           his kingdom, was praised by all for having thus brought down to the 
           earth the divine Ganga, who was worshipped by many different names. 
           They hailed him as a great man and a life-giver. Thus, worshipped by 
           one and all, Bhagiratha came back to his capital. His mother was 
           anxiously waiting for him. He touched her feet. He had done a great 
           anct difficult task, facing many dangers. So the mother was 
           overjoyed. She blessed him whole-heartedly.
           Having thus performed a great task, which made everybody happy, 
           Bhagiratha ruled over the kingdom for many years. He was a good 
           king, and earned great fame for himself, his dynasty and his 
           country. That is why the accomplishment of a very difficult task, 
           with stupendous effort, is described as a Bhagiratha-like endeavor. 
           With great difficulty, Bhagiratha brought Ganga to a desert region, 
           which had no water and no green growth at all. The divine Ganga 
           gavethat place clear streams  and. made it fertile and fruitful. 
           What was a desert became a smiling land with plentiful crops. Thus, 
           alongwith the ancestors, the  later generations also could be happy 
           and Prosperous.
           This, then, is the story of how Bhagiratha brought Ganga to the 
           earth. It is not just thrilling? Bhagiratha's devotion to duty, and 
           his strong determination, which was not shaken by any kind of 
           difficulty, shines forth in the story. His will power, hard like a 
           diamond, should be an example to US. 

           Gangavataran (1937/I) 
                  Directed by
                 Madhukar Bavdekar
                 Dhundiraj Govind Phalke
                 Writing credits 
                 Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (dialogue)
                 Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (screenplay)

                 Add to MyMoviesIMDbPro Professional Details
           Plot Outline: This is a Puranic tale, which, by all accounts, was a 
           grand mythological spectacle full of miracles and fantasy scenes 
           with special effects. Chitnis played the god Shanker, and Suresh 
           played the sage Narada. 
                 Credited cast: 
                 Chitnis.... Shankar
                 Suresh Pardesi.... Narada
                 Kusum Deshpande
                 Shankarrao Bhosle
                 Barch Bahadur
                 Leela Mishra
                 Ansuya(as Ansuyabai)

           Also Known As:
           Descent of Ganga, The (1937/I) (India: English title) 
           Runtime: 134 min 
           Country: India 
           Language: Hindi 
           Color: Black and White 
           Sound Mix: Mono 

NH Apte is chosen to do the dialog and the screenplay.

Kolhapur’s Vasudevrao Karnatiki is hired as the cameraman.

Kolhapur’s old-school shastriya sangeetkar Pandit Vishwanath Jadhav is put in charge of the music.

Dadasaheb directs the film with Baburao Painter.

Dada does extensive trick photography.

The structure of a good film, having a good human, emotional, interesting and moral story leads us along the path of Good, because it shows us life as it is. This task is not easy, but by God’s grace, the dumb do speak, and the feeble do climb the mountains. So I have been able to achieve this difficult task.

He paint the Ram Hill white, to make it look like the Himalayas, but a single night’s rain washes everything away.

‘Gangavataran’ takes over two years to complete.

A certain misunderstanding occurs between Phalke and the producers.

The strain of filmmaking is too much for a man nearing seventy, with the result that Phalke falls sick and is taken to Koregaon by

Dada wants to make a social film, ‘Japanese Fan’, which he wants V. Shantaram to produce.

Mandakini wants to act again.


In short, Baroda, the capital of HH Gaekwad, helped me to develop all the qualities needed to be a successful film producer.

And I owe my present prosperity to my stay in Baroda and to its technical institute, Kala Bhuvan.

Mr. Causin, the then superintendent of the Archeological Survey Department of India took interest in my work and tried to take me in his department. This shows the extent to which I was interested in old architecture and ancient history.

I am now old, and have just crossed my 66th year. I am still stout and strong and I can still walk 5 - 6 miles a day without any trouble.

Thrice I visited Europe and yet I am proud to say that I have never taken tea, or smoked a cigarette.

It will not be out of place to state here that the health and long life I am enjoying is due to the good habits I have cultivated. It is my humble suggestion to my Kala Bhuvan brothers to keep themselves aloof from harmful habits.

I wish a long life to his highness, and to the Kala Bhuvan.

1936 - 37

Overcoming all obstacles, the talkie ‘Gangavataran’ is released at the Royal Opera House in Bombay.

Prabhakar remembers:

‘After watching “Hurricane Hansa”, our entire gang had to re-enact the stunts with sounds like “dishum”. Mother had strictly forbidden us from coming near the living room. A person hit squarely on the chin had to fly backwards, but climbing a tree backwards was impossible.’


Phalke’s son Shri Krishna is hit in the stomach by a cricket ball, but he hides the injury from his parents.

It becomes serious, and the boy dies.

Shri Krishna was tall, strong and the rowdiest of the lot. He was called ‘Ravan Mama’ or ‘Rakshas Mama’.

In Poona, the Phalkes stay near SP College, in Dhole’s house.

Dada is sick with malaria.

Shantaram visits him.

Dada makes plans to make a 3-D film.

A trust is set up in his name.

But he himself sees most of his material destroyed, and he has to sell about one hundred of his medals for a paltry sum.

A man, a Gujarati domestic called Devishankar Narayan Joshi, known as BA to the family, who had accompanied Dada to Kashi, receives personal care at the hands of Dada and Saraswati before he dies.


Prabhakar and Neelkanth plan to make ‘Tarzan’ with Prabhakar in the lead role since he is a body-builder and a swimmer.

But Dada dissuades them.

Dada is honored with a purse of Rs. 5,000 at the silver jubilee celebrations of the film industry, held in Bombay.

At the function, he compares the industry to Shakuntala, daughter of Vishwamitra and Menaka, and himself with Rishi Kanva, poor guardian of Shakuntala, and says that now Shakuntala is patronized by the rich and the wealthy.


I am happy to find that the Indian cinema industry, a highly promising one indeed, has come to stay.

Of course, in its initial stages, I have rendered my quota of humble service in its onward march, as an ardent devotee in the sacred shrine of Mother Art.

But I sincerely regard that, owing to apparent reasons, the industry is not taking the healthy course which it ought to.

In the present circumstances, I would suggest to the producers to give up for good these inordinately long feature films and direct their pointed attention to producing shorter films, say around 7,000 or 8,000 feet long, and include in the program one educational short, one reel of healthy comedy, a reel of some short theme which requires illustrations and illusion, magic, one reel of travelogue, etc.

The craze of the recruitment of fabulously paid ‘stars’, and the inclusion of too many songs and lengthy dialogs should also be put an end to.



Neelkanth dreams that he is a pilot, driving a car.

There is a shortage of raw film and equipment due to the war.

There are government orders restricting the length of a film to 11000 feet.

On 16th February, at about 5 in the morning, Dada is found in a sort of diabetic coma on the banks of the holy Godavari River at Nasik.

He is suffering from senile amnesia, which makes him skip the present and recent past, and allows him to remember only his early life vividly.

He takes a bath and performs his daily worship regularly, even though his health is poor.

Saraswati has suffered a paralytic stroke and is confined.

Dada used to sign the school register simply as ‘DG Phalke, Artist’.

Dada receives a telegram announcing that Prabhakar is missing in action.

The family turns on the radio to hear the names of the dead being announced.


Phalke writes to Bhalchandra, saying that his time is up and he must come to see his father.

It is a time of musicals amidst the horrors of war.

Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, passes away, with Malati, Suresh and Deodutt by his side.

Mandakini remembers, ‘How red he was, even in death. I remember his face, his feet, nice and delicate, like a child’s they seemed in the white sheet…’

‘Ankhiyan milake chale nahin jaana, chale nahin jaana…’