Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, the legendary filmmaker who went on to be called the father of India cinema, was born on this day in Trimbakeshwar (now in Maharashtra) 148 years ago.
Credited with introducing India to the silver screen, Phalke gave India its first silent film Raja Harishchandra — which was also India’s first full-length feature.
Son of a scholar, Phalke grew up with a keen interest in a varied spectrum of things. He studied photography, lithography, architecture, engineering, and even magic, and worked as a painter, a draftsman, a theatrical set designer, before he finally found his calling.
After watching Alice Guy’s silent film The Life of Christ (1910), he decided it was time India too was on the map of cinema.
Phalke learnt filmmaking from Cecil Hepworth in London, and returned to India to with a precious gift that the country is still cherishing.
Google’s Monday doodle is on the legend, showing a young Phalke in action. The doodle by Aleesha Nandhra shows Phalke directing a shot.
In 1913, India got its first silent film — Raja Harishchandra. Phalke’s special effects to the story woven around a subject from mythology clicked with the Indian audience and the film was a super hit. The Indian film industry never looked back.
Phalke was deeply influenced by the works of painter Raja Ravi Varma, with whom he shared the same birthday month. It was Varma’s 170th birthday on April 29.
In his career spanning two decades, Dadasaheb movies and 27 short films. All his works were based on stories from Indian mythology. Among his best films are Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), Satyavan Savitri (1914) and Lanka Dahan (1917). The last silent film that he made was Setubandhan in 1932, which was later released with dubbing.
In 1937, he made Gangavataran. His first talkie movie became his last work. He died in Nashik in 1944.
In memory of the great visionary, the Government of India instituted the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1969, recognising lifetime contributions to Indian cinema.