Monday, October 18, 2010

Raja Harishchandra, the first Indian feature film

PD Photos: Scenes from the first Indian feature film ‘Raja Harishchandra’ (1913), a silent film produced and directed by the legendary film maker Dadasaheb Phalke.

Raja Harishchandra (1913) is a silent film produced and directed by the legendary film maker Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke (1870 - 1944). It is the first full-length Indian feature film (about 40 minutes). The film depicts the legend of the noble and righteous King Harishchandra, taken from the Hindu religious epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The film Raja Harishchandra had an all-male cast and crew of more than 500 people. The roles of female characters in the film were played by men dressed as women, as no woman in India was ready to act in a film, so the men played all the roles.

The film was first released on 3 May 1913 at Mumbai's Coronation Cinema. As the film was very successful, Dada Saheb had to make more prints for exhibition in other areas. The film not only was a grand success establishing Phalke as a producer, but it marked the birth of Indian film industry, the world's largest producer of films.

Following Raja Harishchandra, Dadasaheb Phalke made 95 movies and 26 short films in his career spanning 19 years (till 1937). His most noted works include Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), Satyavan Savitri (1914), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri Krishna Janma (1918) and Kaliya Mardan (1919).

Dadasaheb Phalke is considered as the father of Indian cinema. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the most prestigious and coveted award in Indian Cinema for lifetime contribution to cinema, was constituted in his honour by the Government of India in 1969.

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