Dhundiraj Govind Phalke or Dadasaheb Phalke as you know him, was born on this day in 1870. Had he still been alive, he would have been 146 years old! In his career as a filmmaker, Phalke made 95 feature films and 26 short films, the most prominent ones being Raja Harishchandra, Lanka Dahan, Kaliyamadan, Satyavan Savitri, and Mohini Bhasmasur. In fact, he was the first person to make a feature film in India, thus initiating the growth of the Indian film industry, which has reached far and wide today. On the occasion of his birthday, we bring you 9 interesting facts about the Father of Indian Cinema, some of which are bound to shock you. Happy reading!
1. He was a rolling stone.
Phalke started his career as a photographer, and later ran a printing press. He also worked with the famous painter, Raja Ravi Varma. At one point in his life, he worked with the Archaeological Survey of India as a draftsman.
2. He borrowed money from his wife for his first movie.
Phalke and his wife were a team…and she was his Queen! She not only lent him the money to make his first movie Raja Harishchandra, but she also handled the production, costumes and posters of the film, in addition to providing the crew with food and water.
3. He was truly a family man.
Keep your cast close and your family closer! Every filmmaker must abide by this. (Ahem! Ahem! Boney Kapoor) Phalke was definitely close to his family and even starred his son in Raja Harishchandra as Harishchandra’s son.
4. He had no time for ugly actors!
Phalke wanted conventionally good-looking actors for his films and he was very upfront about it. When he put out advertisements looking for actors, he added a line that read ‘Ugly faces need not apply’. Surely that remark would have caused quite an uproar in present times.
5. Raja Harishchandra was not his first movie.
Raja Harishchandra is often said to be Phalke’s first film, but in reality, he had made a short film earlier titled Growth of a Pea Plant in 1910. For the movie, Phalke planted a pea and recorded its growth, one frame at a time. After shooting for 45 days, his 200-foot film was barely two minutes long.
6. He also made a talkie film.
While Phalke is known as the pioneer of silent movies in India, he had also made a talkie film titled Gangavataran. This was his only film with dialogues. Some of his silent movies were later dubbed with dialogues.
7. His film-making struggles are portrayed in a film!
The struggles Phalke had to go through while making his first full-length feature film Raja Harishchandra are depicted in the 2009 Marathi movie Harishchandrachi Factory. Filmception much? The movie is a roller-coaster of laughter and tragedy.
8. Sound films ruined his career.
With the emergence and rapid growth of talkie films, silent movies became obsolete. Thus, Phalke’s style of film-making came to an end, along with his career. His last silent movie was Setubandhan, which released in 1932.
9. He was honored by the government, big time!
The Govt. of India started the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1969 in honor of the Father of Indian Cinema. Till date, it remains the most prestigious award in Indian cinema. What’s more, a postage stamp bearing Phalke’s face was released by India Post in 1971. It’s no wonder his legacy still lives on!