‘What is it about cinema that makes you Indians go mad?’ my British friend once asked me. ‘What makes it such a religion?’
I honestly didn’t have an answer, but I felt it too. I still feel it when I buy tickets to an SRK movie or when I watch Dev D, but I can’t explain it. Maybe the answer lies in the way this industry originated, probably the madness, the passion was well sowed into it back in the days where it began.
Where did it all begin? Everybody knows Dadasaheb Phalke was the pioneer of Indian cinema. But you have to watch this story- the story of how the idea of making a moving picture (which we merrily have abbreviated to movie) completely possessed him, the story of how his vision helped establish what we today know as the largest film industry in the world. This story will make you understand and appreciate the madness of being ‘filmy’.
Harishchandrachi Factory, is a simple Marathi film that tells you the story of how Indian cinema was born. It begins in Girgaum, Mumbai on the 14th April 1911 when Dadasaheb Phalke chances upon a moving picture exhibit while running away from a keen investor. He gets so excited by the concept that he decides to go against all odds, sell his furniture, belongings etc. to explore and study this new form of art. He travels to London, acquires the equipment, learns the horrors of casting, discovers ‘method acting’, gets his wife to take on the role of developing the film, manages to release the film and when the theater is empty, the man discovers film promotions and marketing gimmicks to get the box office ringing. It’s such a thrill to see these things that we crack our heads over today, being effortlessly thought out by this one man, just out of passion and a vision.
Paresh Mokashi tells us this story in the Phalke format- simple scenes, linear narrative, jarring harmonium in the background, focusing completely on the story.This style of filmmaking could also be credited to his theater background, but that’s digressing. It isn’t a path breaking film in terms of how it’s made. One could almost call it a docu-drama, but at the end of the film, when Phalke rejects an offer to move to London to stay back and establish filmmaking as an industry in India, you realize that the fact that you sit in this multiplex, watching this film distributed over a satellite network (a technology pioneered by Sanjay Gaekwad, an Indian) because of that one decision. I think this feeling is the reason why this film is made, and that is exactly why you must watch it.
Watch this film, for cinema, for the love of cinema and to just feel glad that it all happened. Perosnally, I can’t imagine my life without Indian films and I feel grateful to the fact that a potential investor chased Dadasaheb on 14th April 1911 and to escape this investor Dadasaheb chanced upon the tent screening moving pictures and out of curiosity, he spent 2 annas on a ticket… 2 annas well invested…