From the Book:
DHUNDIRAJ Govind Phalke popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke was born on 30th April 1870 in Trimbakeshwar about 30 kms away from Nasik in Maharashtra. He was trained as a Sanskrit scholar. However, Dadasaheb's destiny took him to Bombay when his father joined the Wilson College as a professor.
Phalke had an inherent and keen interest in arts. He joined J. J. School of Arts, Bombay in 1885 for a course of drawing and continued his studies at Baroda's famous Kala Bhawan. After completing his studies in architecture there he became landscape painter. Photography and architecture honed his skills which proved immensely helpful in making him a successful film producer. In the initial phase of his career he worked as a photographer and scene painter for various drama companies. He also worked in a photography studio at Ratlam where he learned three-colour block-making and ceramics.
In 1903 he chanced to join the Archaeological Department as a photographer where he got exposure to the magic of cinema. Here he worked as a portrait photographer, stage make-up-man, assistant to a German illusionist and as a magician. Here only he secured the patronage of the persons for setting up an Art Printing press and his mentors in order to acquaint him with the latest printing process arranged his trip to Germany on the condition that he remained with the company. But by then Phalke had realised that a career in printing was not his forte.
Saraswatibai Phalke reminisces in Phalke Centenary Souvenir, 1970
We both went to see the 'cinema' in an illuminated tent on Sandhurst road where a band was playing. It was called the America-India Cinematograph. The first class tickets were priced at eight annas. It was Christmas of 1911 and the hall was crowded with Christians and Europeans. The lights were then switched off and there appeared the picture of a cock moving on the screen. This was the trademark of the Pathe Company. Then a comic picture started featuring an actor called Foolshed After every part of the film, the lights were switched on and stage items of magic or physical feats were performed. The main picture that day was on the life of Christ. People were weeping on seeing the sufferings of Christ and the crucifixion. The film was coloured in the Kinemacolour process. On the way back he said... "Like the life of Christ, we shall make pictures about Rama and Krishna." I was not at all happy to hear that and kept quiet.
Long ago he had seen a movie on the life of Jesus Christ made by a foreigner in Watson hotel by Mr. Meris Sestiya-the representative of the pioneer of Cinema Industry-Lumiere Brothers. Its viewing and impact on the audience strongly oriented Phalke's mind towards cinema production. He was convinced that abundance of characters in Indian mythology would provide a fertile ground for the birth and tremendous growth of indigenous film-industry. All these factors inspired him for its experimentation in India.
Filmmaking was a foreign phenomena in those day. Pledging his life insurance against the loan from his friend, he went to England in 1912 to purchase the necessary equipment and learn the technicalities required to make a film. Cecil Hepworth, the well established producer, proved an invaluable source and Phalke returned with a Williamson camera, developing and printing equipments, a perforating machine, and raw film stock.
Back of Book:
One man who probably understood the art and technique of filmmaking better than most of his contemporaries was Dadasaheb Phalke. His landmark film 'Raja Harishchandra' is considered as India's first feature film. Dadasaheb Phalke Awards, instituted in the memory of this icon of Indian cinema, are given every year since 1969 to those film personalities who have made outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema in various ways. From Devika Rani in 1969 to Adoor Gopalakrishnan in 2004, the awardees include actors, actresses, directors, producers, singers and music directors, a wide canvas of creativity and ingenuity, which constitutes the Indian film industry. The author has made a sincere attempt to portray the profile and contributions of these personalities in the book. A short description of the awardee, the films they were associated with, and illustrations make this book informative and interesting.
Indian Cinema has evolved in more than one ways over the last 100 years. It has now come to play an important role in our daily lives-mainly as a source of entertaining and occasionally, a soul stirring and thought provoking medium. Commercialization of this effective medium is the order of the day with all the attendant pitfalls. Industry has been facing several challenges and hopefully, shall overcome all of them with the passage of time.
Every field including the Cinema has its own ups and downs and highs and lows and the extraordinary and ordinary. Dadasaheb Phalke Award, starting with 1969 has emerged as the most widely acknowledged recognition of the contributions of distinguished persons to the growth and development of the film industry in several ways. This Award has indeed become an institution and is much sought after. Over the years this distinction has been conferred on actors, actresses, directors, producers, lyricists, composers and singers covering the broad spectrum that constitutes the industry. From Devika Rani to Adoor Gopalakirshnan, 35 distinguished persons from different languages and regions have been conferred the honour of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Dr. D. P. Mishra has made an effort to capture the glimpses of their contributions in this book and it is an effort worthy of appreciation.
Analytical approach correlating the evolutionary social trends and their reflection in cinema of different times would have been more appropriate for the benefit of the readers. Maybe, this requires another special effort. This book presents a sketch of details of life of various awardees and the films they were associated with. To that extent this book can be a collector's item.
The author and the Publications Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, deserves appreciation for their initiative and efforts in bringing out this book.
(Dr. Dasari Narayana Rao)
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