Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, who is popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke was an Indian filmmaker and a writer. He was named as ‘Father of Indian Cinema’. He had made India’s first ever full-length feature film titled ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913.
Early Life & Background
Dadasaheb Phalke was born as Dhundiraj Govind Phalke on 30th April 1870 at Tryambakeshwar, Nasik district, Maharashtra. Phalke’s father was an accomplished Sanskrit scholar. In 1890, he completed his education from J.J. School of Art, Mumbai. Later, he went to Kala Bhavan in Baroda, where he studied sculpture, engineering, painting and photography. He then studied architecture and became landscape painter of academic nature studies.
First Assignment/ First Major Break
Dadasaheb Phalke’s first film was ‘Raja Harishchandra’ which was a major hit.
Journey in the Industry
Dadasaheb Phalke started his career as a small town photographer in Godhra, Gujarat. However, he left his business after the death of his first wife and child due to the bubonic plague. Later, he worked as a draftsman at the Archeological Survey of India. He also worked as portrait photographer, stage make-up man, assistant to a German illusionist and as a magician. He then started his own printing press and went to Germany to learn about the latest technology and machinery.
In 1910, Phalke saw the movie ‘The Life of Christ’ and since then he decided to make a film. He arranged the finance by taking a loan from his friend and went to England in 1912. He purchased the necessary equipments and learned the technical aspects of filmmaking. After returning from England, Phalke worked on the India’s first feature film and released his movie ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913. The movie was about an honest king who for the sake of his principles sacrifices his kingdom and family before the gods impressed with his honesty restore him to his former glory. The film was released at Mumbai’s Coronation Cinema and it was the beginning of the Indian film industry. He did multiple tasks like script writing, editing, make-up & art direction for the movie. The movie was subtitled in Hindi and English.
Later, he made several silent films and documentaries. Soon Phalke formed his film company ‘Hindustan Films’ on 1st January 1918, in partnership with five businessmen from Mumbai. He also set up a model studio and trained technicians & actors. He released the films like ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’ in 1913, ‘Satyavan Savitri’ in 1914, ‘Lanka Dahan’ in 1917, ‘Shri Krishna Janam’ in 1918 and ‘Kaliya Madan’ in 1919 and more. However, later he had some problems with his business partners and resigned from Hindustan Films. He then wrote a play ‘Rangbhoomi’, which was critically acclaimed. Later he returned to Hindustani films as it underwent losses and directed few films, but soon he withdrawn from his job.
Meanwhile, talkies films were released and audiences were leaner towards talkies than silent films. As Phalke was specialized in silent films, he couldn’t cope up with talkies. In 1932, he released his last silent movie ‘Setubandhan’ and later dubbed the movie & released it again. Later, he declared his retirement from cinema due to commercialized & talkies films. In 1937, he produced a film ‘Gangavataram’ in 1937. Babasaheb Phalke had made 95 movies and 26 short films in his career of 19 years in the film industry.
Dadasaheb has directed various movies like ‘Satyavadi Raja Harishchandra’, Kaliya Mardan’, ‘Sant Namdev’, ‘Mahananda’, ‘Buddha Dev’, ‘Guru Dronacharya’, ‘Ashwathama’, ‘Sant Eknath’, ‘Ram Rajya Vijay’, ‘Hanuman Janma’, ‘Parshuram’, ‘Sant Mirabai’ and many more. He had also directed short movies & documentaries like ‘Talegaoncha Kach Karkhana’, ‘Miss Miller’s Conversion to Hindusim’, ‘Mavilka’, ‘Laxmicha Galicha’, ‘Swapna Vihar’, ‘Chitrapat Kase Tayar Kartat’, ‘Sinhasta Parvani’, ‘Gajandravache Bhagya’, ‘Vachan Bhang’, ‘Ganesh Utsav’ and many more.
In recognition of his contribution, the Central Government of India started an Award function named ‘Dadasaheb Phalke Awards’. The awards were started in 1969 and it is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards of Indian film industry.
In 2009, director Paresh Mokashi made a Marathi film on Dadasaheb Phalke ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’. The film was based on the struggle of Dadasaheb Phalke while making first film of nation ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913. The movie made an official entry from India in the Oscar Awards.
In 2011, Dadasaheb Phalke Film Festival was started to celebrate the excellence in cinema. The festival marks the birth anniversary of father of Indian Cinema on 30 April. It provides the platform to showcase the work of filmmakers from across the world.
Dadasaheb Phalke passed away on February 16, 1944. Phalke’s great-great grandson Parth Phalke teaches History & Physical Science at Sahyadri School at Rajgurunagar, Pune.
‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913
‘Mohini Bhasmasur’ in 1913
‘Savitri Satyavan’ in 1914
‘Satyavadi Raja Harishchandra’ in 1917
‘Lanka Dahan’ in 1917
‘Shri Krishna Janma’ in 1918
‘Kaliya Mardan’ in 1919
‘Rajrishi Ambarish’ in 1922
‘Ram Maruti Yuddha’ in 1923
‘Mahananda’ in 1923
‘Guru Dronacharya’ in 1923
‘Buddha Dev’ in 1923
‘Ashwathama’ in 1923
‘Shivajichi Agryahun Sutaka’ in 1924
‘Satyabhama’ in 1925
‘Ram Rajya Vijay’ in 1926
‘Sant Eknath’ in 1926
‘Janaki Swayamwar’ in 1926
‘Bhakta Pralhad’ in 1926
‘Hanuman Janma’ in 1927
‘Draupadi Vashtraharan’ in 1927
‘Bhakta Sudama’ in 1927
‘Parshuram’ in 1928
‘Sant Mirabai’ in 1929
‘Malti Madhav’ 1929
‘Kabir Kamal’ in 1930
‘Setu Bandhan’ in 1932
‘Gangavataran’ in 1937