I was reading this chapter – ‘Revolution wrought by Lankadahan’ from Phalke’s biography by Watve (Translated by S.A.Virkar). Thought the article had some interesting things to share and hence this post.
Firstly, ‘Lankadahan’ is a movie made by Phalke in 1917, when he was in a deep financial crisis, majorly because of the World War-1. The previous chapters of the book were really touching accounts of the times of Phalke’s successes to the advent of war and shortage of funds. Naturally, I got curious as to how one ‘Lankadahan’ changed everything and how funds for Lankadahan came up. Phalke made an appeal to his friend, Lokmanya Tilak and it had some effects, thereby making Lankadahan possible.
Now, coming to what I thought to be interesting about this part of the story:
1. Phalke relied on trick photography heavily in the movie.
2. Both the characters Ram and Sita were played by a single person, Krishna Salunke. Yes! it was possible because they both don’t come face to face anytime in the movie. Yet, I find this extremely interesting that someone played Rama and Sita simultaneously in a movie. Is there any such case elsewhere? (No, please don’t refer me to people playing a male and a female role in the same movie for comic effect. Ram and Sita are lead characters, please!)
3. “Eight bullock-carts would be ready with the technicians, artistes, other staff and necessary equipment at 4 A.M.” -this was about the shooting. Using a bullock-cart! and a movie crew!
4. The advertisement from “Kesari” about this movie – which announced about discounts for students who get proof of studentship from their schools.
5. At Madras, the earnings for this movie were so huge that cash had to be packed in to bags and taken on bullock cart with police escort!!
6. People coming in bullock carts from surrounding villages to watch this movie -created traffic jams in whichever city the movie was played. (Imagining how traffic jams of 1917 are!)
7. Phalke writing about his wife’s faith in him and the support he got from her.
8. Phalke’s crew staying with him despite the fact that he did not pay them for months. I am wow-ed by their faith in Phalke.
9. The best of all – people queueing in front of Phalke offering money! (after all that financial crunch, I felt like laughing reading about this!)
Is this movie available now?? I am sure, I may not like it now, after watching all the hi-fi technology work on screen. But, considering the fact that that’s a 100 year old movie, I’d love to see how people did it then.