First Glance @Phalke’s biography – Reflections

Thanks to my friend Uma, I finally got hold of Phalke’s biography by Bapu Watve (Translated by S.A.Virkar). I was longing to read it ever since I read about it in an interview with Paresh Mokashi, in Rashmi Bansal’s ‘Connect the dots’. Later, I got ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’ thanks to Vijayavardhan and Satish – and loved the film. My longing for the book only increased. Strangely enough, it was not available in any of the online book stores. After a few days, Uma discovered Elfykart, yet another online bookstore – and booked it from there. At the sametime, I also came to know that we can send a mail to National Book Trust and we’ll get the book by VPP.

I just began reading the book, but can’t resist writing about it at the moment. It was interesting to read the history of Cinema in the first chapter of the book. It did not even occur to me that Cinema could traceback its history to some time as old as 1640!! ‘Zeus Kirkhar’ was the name of the person who achieved ‘some success without much progress’. Yeah, this is as vague as it can be, but thats the only mention of the 1640 story. Google did not help either. As Vanessa Fox says –
We’ve become a searching culture and if we don’t see something in the first 10 search results on Google, we may not realize it exists.” 🙂
[If anyone can tell more of this story – please comment here]

Eastman (of the eastman color!) made the photographic film, an offspring of which is used even today. Another inventer W.F.Greene made a camera to make motion pictures, which make use of Eastman film. Then, L.A.A.Prince also made another camera (What did that do?). At the same time, Edison made two good devices – Kinetograph, Kinetoscope. The latter for filming, and the former for viewing.

Then comes the Indian story. I know only of Phalke as the first film maker in India. This part of the book was a real eye-opener. Maadanrao Madhavrao Chintale – painted some events of Srikrishna’s life on slides and used a ‘magic lantern’ to create an effect of a movie – as early as in 1889! (surely, this must have been an indigenous idea?). Mahadeo Gopal Patwardhan realized that this can be a business and along with his son, started performing it regularly. As another son too joined their ‘business’, they also worked towards creating some ‘special effects’ in their ‘movie shows’. (Bowing to them!)

“In one scene from the life of Srikrishna, Vasudeo carries the baby Shrikrishna over his head across a river. The river parts but the water goes on rising. But, as it touches the feet of the baby, its level recedes rapidly. The scene, which was contrived with slides, dumbstruck the audience. In 1958, the audiences admired the scene from the movie Ten Commandments in which the sea parts to allow chariots to run through it. The success of Patwardhan Brothers in achieving the same effect about 65 years earlier deserves to be admired.”


And then and then, Lumiere Brothers, their two machines and their first filming and the history called Cinema – followed. 1-2-5 minute films started. Much later, in 1913, Phalke made India’s first silent ‘film’ – Raja Harishchandra.

Though this part of the book is not very elaborate (Afterall, the book is on Phalke, not on the history of Cinema!!), it threw some names to proceed further, for interested souls. I am just wondering – did anyone (didn’t anyone?) make a documentary of this story? especially, Patwardhan brothers part. Would love to see their story visually!! 🙂

Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 8:12 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. actually, in addition to Phalke, we should also remember “Dadasaheb Torne”.
    somehow, he was not given due credit

    nice write up!!

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