Dadasaheb Phalke


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India's first major film was directed (also scripted and produced) by a professional photographer and printer, Dadasaheb Phalke aka Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (India, 1870), the "father of the Indian cinema", using equipment that he had specifically imported from Europe: the 40-minute Raja Harishchandra (1913), based on the "Mahabharata" and concerned with legendary king Harishchandra, a film of which only fragments survive. It was remade in 1924 by Dattatraya Damodar Dabke (a more famous version). Male actors played the women in the story. The film was shown in Mumbai and its success (it would be remade 20 times in several Indian languages in the next 50 years) launched the mythological genre.

He continued the genre with Mohini Bhasmasur/ Seductress Mohini (1913), the first Indian film with an actual actress (Durgabai Kamat playing lady Parvati and her daughter playing the child Mohini), Satyavan Savitri (1914), based on a story included in the "Book of Forest" of the "Mahabharata", Lanka Dahan/ The Burning of Lanka (1917), based on an episode of the "Ramayana", Shri Krishna Janma (1918) and Kaliya Mardan (1919). In 1914 he showed his first three films in London. In 1918 he established the Hindustan Cinema Films with local Mumbai investors.

These films were groundbreaking not for their artistic qualities but because they "materialized" supernatural beings that had previously only existed in people's imagination: these films showed the gods walking on Earth, flying, fighting and performing miracles. Clearly this was different than seeing the gods in theatrical plays, where they could not fly or vanish, and they could not be set in a real landscape. The illusion of reality was bigger in a movie theater. Mythological films dominated Indian cinema for a long time.

Phalke directed only one talkie, Ganga Vataram (1937).

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