Father of Indian Cinema

Posted by: Adhika | Posted on: June 19th, 2012 | No Comments

Billions of ideas are born every second of every day, in every corner of the earth, distinctly in numerous languages and silently expressed under the vibrations of different emotions.

This was the same with Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, who after watching a silent film, The Life of Christ had the brilliant idea of envisioning Indian gods on the screen as he had observed. Inspired, Phalke made his first film, Raja Harishchandra, in 1912 which was first shown publicly on 3 May 1913 at Mumbai’s Coronation Cinema, effectively marking the beginning of the Indian film industry. Dhundiraj was popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke and is regarded as the ‘Father of Indian Cinema.’

Phalke was born on April 30th 1870 in Trimbakeshwar, 30 km from Nasik, Maharashtra, India. His father was an accomplished Sanskrit scholar. He went to the Sir J.J School of Art, Mumbai in 1885. After graduating 1890, Phalke went to the Kala Bhavan in Baroda, where he studied sculpture, engineering, drawing, painting and photograph. These skills served him well as they all helped him further develop as a motion picture producer.

Phalke began his career working in the printing business, and specialized lithography and oleograph and worked for painter Raja Ravi Varma. He then started his own printing press business, but turned his attention to motion pictures once he had a dispute with his business partners.

Once again, Phalke proved successful in his new art and proceeded to make several silent films, shorts, documentary feature, educational, comic, tapping all the potential of this new medium. Film, having proved its financial viability, soon attracted businessmen who favored money over aesthetics.


Phalke formed a film company, Hindustan Films in partnership with five businessmen from Mumbai, in the hope that by having the financial aspect of his profession handled by experts in the field, he would be free to pursue the creative aspect. He set up a model studio and trained technicians, actors but, very soon, he ran into insurmountable problems with his partners. In 1920, Phalke resigned from Hindustan Films, made his first announcement of retirement from cinema. He also wrote Rangbhoomi, an acclaimed play. Lacking his extremely imaginative genius, Hindustan Films ran into deep financial loss, and he was finally persuaded to return. However, Phalke felt constrained by the business and, after directing a few films for the company, he withdrew.The times changed and Phalke fell victim to the emerging technology of sound film. Unable to cope with the talkies, the man who had fathered the Indian film industry became obsolete. His last silent movie Setubandhan was released in 1932 and later released with dubbing. During 1936-38, he produced his last film Gangavataran (1937), before retiring to Nasik, where he died on 16 February 1944.

This legendary figure effectively launched Indian Cinematography and gave a foundation for Bollywood movies to develop and grow as we know it today. He was a progenitor in this industry having achieved success in a field where no one had ventured before. He made 95 movies and 26 short films during the span of his career. He earned a lot of money, but reinvested it back in the industry. When he stepped into this venture, no one had anticipated this industry to flourish so much as it has or that it could employ thousands of people would be able to earn their livelihood from it.

I wonder, if Dhundiraj never acted on his thought – where would Indian Cinematography be today? Would it have developed into what it is today? Now it’s your turn 🙂 Please do leave a comment with your thoughts on this piece, it would be greatly appreciated!!




You may also like the following

Facebook Comments

Leave a Comment