On April 21, 1913, India’s first silent film, Raja Harishchandra was released and then there was no looking back for Dada Saheb Phalke. The photographer turned Indian producer, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke popularly known as Dada Saheb Phalke also revered as father of the Indian Cinema was born on April 30, 1870 at Trimbak town near Nashik, Maharashtra.
During his 19 years long association with cinema, Phalke bestowed film industry with a total of 95 movies and 26 short films. One of his most appreciated works includes Shri Krishna Janma (1918).
With the release of Raja Harishchandra, India’s first full-length feature film Dada Saheb Phalke connected the people of India with the captivating world of cinema. Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), Satyavan Savitri (1914), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri Krishna Janma (1918), Kaliya Mardan (1919) and Setu Bandhan (1932) are among his best-known contributions.
Dada Saheb completed his one-year course in drawing in 1885 from Sir J.J School of Arts, Mumbai. Later in 1895, he began his career as a professional photographer and relocated to Godhra, but after the death of his first wife and child due to plague he disassociated himself with the photography work. Later he worked as a draftsman with the Archaeological Survey of India. Before venturing into films, Phalke also worked with the acclaimed painter Raja Ravi Varma and also owned a printing press.
Stint with films
With the release of Raja Harishchandra in April 21,1913, Dada Saheb Phalke laid the foundation for the film industry in the country. Phalke’s magic touch with special effects and scriptures made it a huge hit, and it was followed by a dozen more. Phalke decided to make a feature film after watching The Life of Christ (1906) by Ferdinand Zecca in Mumbai’s ‘America-India Theatre’.
Hindustan Films is the first film company which was formed by Phalke along with some noted businessmen of Mumbai, who were partners in the same. The last film produced by him was ‘Gangavataran,’ released in 1937.
The Dadasaheb Phalke Award
Government of India in 1969 instituted Dada Saheb Phalke Award. The award is being presented to eminent personalities of Indian Film Industry for their “outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema”. The award is considered as one of the most prestigious awards in Indian cinema industry and is the highest official recognition for film personalities in the country.
According to the website of the Directorate of Film Festivals, the award was instituted by the government in 1969, and consists of a ‘Swarna Kamal’, a cash prize of INR 10 lakh, a certificate, a silk roll, and a shawl. The first recipient of the award was Devika Rani Roerich in 1969.
Dada Saheb Phalke breathed his last on 16th February 1944. Phalke’s contribution to the Film Industry is remarkable and always be remembered.