A restless mind in search of new film forms, of magic: D.G. Phalke by Amrit Gangar.
Updated: Apr 30
Image: Dadasaheb Phalke editing a film.
“My work should be severely criticized, for that alone is the path towards improvement,” remarked Dhundiraj Govind Phalke or Dadasaheb Phalke as he is popularly known. In our times when the world is regaling in self-praise or patting friends’ backs with ‘wows’ and ‘amazing’ for the utterly rubbish or mediocre work, Phalke’s words become most significant and worth emulating.
Dhundiraj (meaning Ganesha) was born on 30th April 1870 at Tryambekashwar near Nasik into a Marathi-speaking Chitpavan Brahmin (originally Bhatt) family. Growing up, he learnt and pursued many arts and crafts such as drawing, painting, printing, engraving, photography, lithography, moulding, architecture, music, magic, amateur acting. In his films, he was the supreme commander, being producer, director, writer, set and costume designer, photographer, editor, laboratorian, publicist, projectionist, distributor, et al. He even composed music for his second and last talkie films, viz. ‘Sethubandhan’ and ‘Gangavataran’.
By 1939, when the film industry was celebrating its silver jubilee (1913-1939), he was a forgotten name. At a glittering ceremony, it was Prithviraj Kapoor who spotted Dhundiraj Phalke, sitting quietly among audiences, neglected, and living in penury. The film industry collected a purse for him. You know how much money was in the purse?Rs. 7, 000/- that were donated mainly by V. Shantaram, Goharbanu and B.N. Sircar. After 153 years of Phalke’s birth and 79 years of his death in 1944, what state the so-called Indian film industry is in today, you know better.
Amrit Gangar is aMumbai based film scholar, writer & historian.