Sunday, July 04, 2010

Harishchandrachi Factory

Director: Paresh Mokashi                                     Language : Marathi
The curiously titled Harishchandrachi Factory (The Factory of Harishchandra) narrates the true story of how the doyen of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke set about making India's first motion picture.
In 1911, unemployed Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (Nandu Madhav) chances upon the screening of a silent motion picture at a 'tent' theatre. His child-like curiosity is instantly aroused. He decides to make India's first motion picture.
Ignoring naysayers and scraping together some finances, Phalke undertakes a voyage to London to learn filmmaking. When he returns to India, he is armed with know-how, a Williamson camera and enough raw stock to make his first movie.
Phalke, in his doggedness is much like the legendary protagonist he chooses – Raja Harishchandra – the king who staunchly kept his word even in dire circumstances. Phalke has a clarity of purpose, with no doubts or second thoughts about establishing a film industry in India.
Phalke's winsome wife Saraswati (Vibhawari Deshpande) and their children gamely support him through his failed experiments, umpteen trials, and finally, the filming and post production of 'Raja Harishchandra'.
Harishchandrachi Factory captures the social mindsets of that era, and how armed with humour, ingenuity and loads of chutzpah, Phalke transcends them. One of the funny yet challenging situations that Phalke faces is not finding women to play the female roles. Then, the men selected to play women refuse to shave off their moustaches.
The filmmakers have woven into the story, the real Phalke's frames of reference. For instance, the paintings of the artist, Raja Ravi Varma, whom the real Phalke is said to have worked with and derived inspiration from.

Harishchandrachi Factory was selected as the Indian entry to the Academy Awards in 2010.
(An edited version appeared in Culturama's July 2010 Issue)

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