Watch the 33 minute film on OTT that inspired Dadasaheb Phalke to make Raja Harishchandra

By Ronit Kawale 6 Min Read
You must have heard the name of Dadasaheb Phalke, who is called the father of Indian cinema. Every year the Government of India gives the most prestigious award in the world of cinema in his name. Tuesday is the birth anniversary of Dadasaheb Phalke, born on 30 April 1870. He released the first Indian full length feature film ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in the year 1913. Director-producer and screenwriter Dadasaheb Phalke’s real name was Dhundiraj Govind Phalke. He was the son of Govind Sadashiva, a cultural scholar and temple priest. In his 19-year career, he made 95 feature films and 27 short films. But today we will discuss here about that film, after seeing which Dadasaheb Phalke got the idea of ​​making cinema.
Dadasaheb Phalke was a photographer around 1895 and used to run a photo printing studio. Well, in the last more than 100 years, where Indian cinema has touched new heights, now the budget of films has also reached Rs 300-500 crores. But do you know that Dadasaheb Phalke had spent Rs 15,000 at that time in making his first full length feature film i.e. ‘Raja Harishchandra’. Certainly, this was a huge amount for those times. In fact, at that time the necessary equipment required for making films was available only in England. Dada Saheb had invested all his life’s savings in this.

It is the year 1911, Dadasaheb Phalke had gone to watch a movie with his son.

The matter is of 14th April 1911. Dadasaheb Phalke along with his elder son Bhalchandra reached America India Picture Palace in Girgaum, Bombay. There he saw a film named ‘Amazing Animals’. Both father and son were stunned to see the animals on the screen. When Bhalchandra returned home, he told this to his mother Saraswatibai. None of the family members believed that Jaanwari could appear on screen like this. Then the very next day, Dadasaheb Phalke came to show the film with the entire family.

Watched ‘The Birth, The Life and the Death of Christ’ with the family.

It was Easter day. That day, the theater was showing French director Alice Guy-Blaché’s film ‘The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ’ on Lord Jesus. This film was released in France in 1906. This was a 33 minutes 34 seconds short film. Watching the story of Jesus on screen, Dadasaheb Phalke was reminded of Hindu gods. In his mind, he started seeing Ram and Krishna moving in the same manner on the screen. By the time he came out of the cinema hall, he had already made up his mind that he also wanted to make a film.

Dadasaheb Phalke with wife Saraswati Bai

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Where to watch ‘The Birth, The Life and the Death of Christ’ on OTT

As the name suggests, ‘The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ’ tells the story of the birth, life and crucifixion of Lord Jesus. Interestingly, this silent film of about half an hour has 25 parts. It depicts Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem, from the birth of the Magi to his crucifixion and resurrection. This film is available on OTT on MUBi. While you can also watch it for free on YouTube.

Did research for a year, spent all my savings

However, for a year after seeing Lord Jesus with his family on screen, Dadasaheb Phalke did a lot of research about the technology of film making, its methods, equipment, camera, lighting, photography etc. After spending all his savings, he went to England on 1 February 2022 and bought equipment from there. There in London he met people making films and acquired a lot of technical knowledge from them. Also saw many films in London cinemas there. After two months, on 1 April 1912, Dadasaheb returned to India and started ‘Phalke Films Company’ on the same day.

Dadasaheb Phalke

File photo of Dadasaheb Phalke

Story, casting and Dadasaheb Phalke of ‘Raja Harishchandra’

Taking inspiration from ‘The Birth, The Life and the Death of Christ’, Dadasaheb decided to make a film on the story of Raja Harishchandra. Wrote the story. Did the casting. Gave advertisement in newspapers to search for artists. He got the lead character ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in the film as Dattatreya Damodar Dabke, but no woman or girl came to work in the film. Then he decided to cast Anna Salunke in the role of Rani Taramati.

The first feature film ‘Raja Harishchandra’ was completed in 6 months and 27 days.

After 6 months and 27 days of hard work, his film is ready. The film ‘Raja Harishchandra’ was first shown on 21 April 1913 at the Olympia Theatre, Bombay. Whereas it was released in theaters on 3 May 1913. The last silent film of Dadasaheb’s career was ‘Setubandhan’. On 16 February 1944, the magician of cinema, the father of cinema, Dada Saheb said goodbye to this world. The Government of India started the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in his honor and Devika Rani was awarded this award for the first time in 1969.

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Ronit Kawale has been an entertainment journalist for the past three years. Being a cinephile is not just a part of his profession; it's his passion. Alongside being an avid follower of Bollywood and television, he possesses a treasure trove of interesting gossip and insights about celebrities. He's well-versed in understanding what readers are tuning into on the website. After all, he became a journalist to stay close to the heartbeat of the world.
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