Google celebrates Dadasaheb Phalke, India’s pioneering film-maker, with a doodle
Phalke was deeply influenced by the work of Raja Ravi Varma, with whom he collaborated in bringing out prints of the latter’s paintings.
Mumbai: Google on Monday commemorated the 148th birth anniversary of Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, one of the pioneering figures in Indian cinema, with a doodle. Phalke, who is fondly remembered as Dadasaheb, has the distinction of directing India’s first full-length feature film, Raja Harishchandra, in 1913.
In the doodle, a young Phalke is seen instructing actors, getting behind the camera, and examining rolls of film, which he would then artfully develop into motion picture. His oeuvre, spanning 19 years, includes 95 full-length feature films and 27 short films.
Phalke was born near Nashik, in 1870. He displayed interest in subjects as varied as lithography, architecture, engineering, and magic. After graduating from the J. J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1885, he began a career in photography in the town of Godhra, in Gujarat. However, his job as a small-town photographer was halted when he lost his wife and child to the bubonic plague.
He soon moved to lithography, after a stint with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as a draftsman. Phalke was deeply influenced by the work of Raja Ravi Varma, with whom he collaborated in bringing out prints of the latter’s paintings. It was during this phase of his life that he watched Alice Guy’s silent film, The Life of Christ (1910), a movie that strengthened his resolve to bring the rich tapestry of Indian culture to the silver screen.
The resetlessness which would haunt Phalke’s creative spirit forced him to quit the printing business shortly thereafter, and he travelled to London to learn film-making from Cecil Hepworth, a director who was at the vanguard of a nascent British film industry. After returning to India, Phalke completed filming Raja Harishchandra in 1912, and it was screened on May 3, 1913 at Mumbai’s Coronation Cinema.
Phalke, who secured the financial backing of five Mumbai-based businessmen, set up Hindustan Films with the hope of making cinema mainstream. His association with the banner lasted till 1920. After a hiatus, he returned to the production company, but his second coming was short lived. Silent films were rendered obsolete. Talkies, or movies featuring dialogues, had taken over the market.
Unable to adapt his craft to the hubbub of the Bombay film industry that had suddenly found its voice, Phanlke walked away from movies. His last silent film, Setubandhan, was released in 1932.
Abandoned by an industry he helped father, Phalke moved to Nashik on February 16, 1944. By then a new wave of Indian cinema had taken root, but its origins could be traced back to Dadasaheb’s Raja Harishchandra. The government instituted the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievement in cinema in 1969. A postage stamp was also issued in his honour in 1971.
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