Dadasaheb Phalke’s silent films speak volumes at IFFI



‘Raja Harishchandra’ (1913), ‘Lanka Dahan’ (1917), ‘Shri Krishna Janma’ (1918) and ‘Kaliya Mardan’ (1919) – four of the 95 feature-length films made by Dadasaheb alias Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, the ‘Father of Indian Cinema’ – were screened at the ongoing 51st International Film Festival of India under the Retrospective of Dadasaheb Phalke section, in commemoration of his 150th birth anniversary. 

Sourced from the National Film Archive of India, some of these four films were screened in part as few of their reels are missing. The special guests on the occasion were Phalke’s grandson, Chandrashekhar Pusalkar – son of his daughter, Mansi Phalke – and his wife, Mrudula.

Describing his grandfather as the original star of ‘Make in India’ movement, Chandrashekhar said that Dadasaheb followed the ‘Atmanirbhar’ concept while making his films. “Except for the imported movie camera and lenses, rest all aspects of his first film, ‘Raja Harishchandra’ were indigenous,” he added.

Chandrashekhar also informed that Dadasaheb was highly impressed by the screening of the film, ‘The Life of Christ’ (1910) and visualised Lord Krishna in place of Jesus. “He sold his unwanted furniture and mortgages insurance policies to raise money, for visiting London to learn filmmaking, while he sold his wife’s ornaments to produce his first film,” he added, pointing out that in the process, the pioneer filmmaker almost lost his sight.

Speaking further, Chandrashekhar said that the Indian government aptly started an award in the name of Dadasaheb in 1969, on the occasion of his birth centenary. He also demanded that the government honours Dadasaheb by bestowing upon him Bharat Ratna posthumously.

The films screened on the occasion revealed the skill of Dadasaheb in filmmaking – including special effects – when it was in nascent stage.