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Dada Saheb Phalke

Dada Saheb Phalke




  • Dhundiraj Phalke was born on 30 April 1870 at Trimbak, Bombay Presidency into a Marathi-speaking Brahmin family.
  • His father, Govind Sadashiv alias Dajishastri, was a Sanskrit scholar and worked as a priest conducting religious ceremonies and his mother, Dwarkabai, was a housewife.
  • The couple had seven children, three sons and four daughters. Dajishastri taught Phalke to conduct religious rituals like yajna and dispensing of medicines.
  • Phalke completed his primary education in Trimbakeshwar and matriculation was done in Bombay
  • Phalke joined the Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay in 1885 and completed a one-year course in drawing. Later, he joined Kala Bhavan, the Faculty of Fine Arts, at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and completed a course in Oil painting and Watercolor painting in 1890.
  • He also achieved proficiency in architecture and modelling. In the same year, Phalke bought a film camera and started experimenting with photography, processing, and printing.


  • In 1891, Phalke did a six-months course to learn the techniques of preparing half-tone blocks, photo-lithio, and three-colour ceramic photography.
  • In 1893, Gajjar allowed Phalke to use the photo studio and laboratory of Kala Bhavan where he started his work under the name of “Shri Phalke’s Engraving and Photo Printing”.
  • In 1895, he decided to become a professional photographer and relocated to Godhra for doing business.
  • He started the business of painting the stage curtains for the drama companies. This got him some basic training in drama production and fetched him a few minor roles in the plays.
  • Phalke learned magic tricks from a German magician who was on a tour in Baroda that time. This helped him use trick photography in his filmmaking.
  • At the end of 1901, Phalke began to hold the public performances of magic using professional name of Professor Kelpha.


  • In 1903, he got a job as a photographer and draftsman at the Archaeological Survey of India. However, not satisfied with the job, Phalke resigned in 1906 and set up a printing press at Lonavla under the name of “Phalke Engraving and Printing Works“.
  • The press majorly worked for making photo-litho transfers for Ravi Verma Press, owned by painter Raja Ravi Varma.
  • With the growing business, the press was shifted to Dadar, Bombay. Later in 1908, the press was renamed as “Laxmi Art Printing Works”.


  • Phalke went to Germany in 1909 to buy the necessary colour printing machinery. After quitting “Laxmi Art Printing Works”, Phalke received multiple offers from various financiers to start another printing press but he did not accept any offers.
  • On 14 April 1911, Phalke with his elder son Bhalchandra went to see a film, Amazing Animals, at the America India Picture Palace,Girgaon, Bombay(The Life of Christ).
  • While watching Jesus on the screen, Phalke envisioned Hindu deities Rama and Krishna instead and decided to start in the business of “moving pictures”.


  • For the next one year, Phalke started collecting various film related material like catalogues, books, and movie making equipment from Europe.
  • He bought a small film camera and reels and started showing movies at night, by focusing candle light on a lens and projecting the pictures on the wall.
  • On 1 February 1912, he boarded a ship for London. At London, Phalke saw a nameboard of “Bioscope Cine-Weekly” near Piccadilly Circus. He was impressed with Phalke’s dedication and introduced him to the film director, producer, and screenwriter Cecil Hepworth of Walton Studios.
  • Hepworth allowed Phalke to visit all the departments of the studio and their workings along with the demonstration of filming.
  • Phalke stayed in London for two weeks and returned to India on 1 April 1912. He founded the “Phalke Films Company” on the same day.
  • After coming back from London, Phalke started looking for a spacious place for shooting the films. Soon, the family shifted from Ismail Building, Charni Road to Mathura Bhavan Bungalow, Dadar.


  • Phalke decided to make a short film. The short film titled Ankurachi Wadh (Growth of a Pea Plant) and was showed selective individuals.
  • Phalke decided to make a film based on the legends of Harishchandra and wrote the script for it. As no women were available to play female leads, male actors performed the female roles.
  • Dattatraya Damodar Dabke played the lead role of King Harishchandra and Anna Salunke as Queen Taramati. Phalke’ elder son Bhalchandra was assined the role, Rohitasha, son of Harishchandra.
  • The filming was completed in six months and 27 days producing a film of 3,700 feet (1,100 m), about four reels.
  • The film premiered at the Olympia Theatre, Bombay on 21 April 1913, and had its theatrical release on Saturday, 3 May 1913 at the Coronation Cinema, Girgaon, Bombay.
  • It was a commercial success and laid the foundation for the film industry in the country.The film is often considered the first full-length Indian feature film


  • The Government of India recognises Raja Harischandra as the first Indian feature film. After the success of Raja Harishchandra, Phalke relocated to Nashik For his next film, he selected the mythological love story of Nala, a king of Nishadha Kingdom.
  • During the same time, a travelling drama company, Chittakarshak Natak Company, visited Nashik. Durgabai Kamat was cast as Parvati and her daughter Kamlabai Gokhale as Mohini and became first women to act in the Indian cinema was released on 2 January 1914.
  • A short comedy film Pithache Panje (Paws of Flour) was released as a “side attraction” with the film.Phalke made his third film Satyavan Savitri based on the legends of Satyavan and Savitri.
  • Both the films were commercially successful like Raja Harishchandra.


  • With the success of three films, Phalke was able to repay all his debts. There was huge demand for the film copies from various theater managers in the country.
  • Phalke could collect sufficient capital to start a new film, Lanka Dahan. It was screened on 17 September 1917 at the Aryan Cinema, Poona.The film was commercially successful and Phalke could repay all of his debts with its earnings.
  • On 1 January 1918, the “Phalke Films Company” was converted into the “Hindustan Cinema Films Company” where Apte was appointed as managing partner, Phalke as working partner and others as financial partners
  • “Hindustan Cinema Films Company” were commercially successful, the partners had increasing differences. Phalke decided to leave the company and departed with his family for Kashi. He announced his retirement and expressed his views in an article published in Navyug.
  • After Phalke left the Hindustan Cinema Films Company, its financial condition worsened with the shutting down of the company’s Poona branch.
  • Bapusaheb Pathak, invited Phalke to join back the company as a Production Chief and Technical Advisor. Phalke readily agreed to the request and joined as an employee of the company on the monthly salary.


  • The first film Phalke directed after joining the Hindustan Cinema Films Company was Sant Namdeo which was released on 28 October 1922.Thereafter, he directed films for the company till 1929.
  • Phalke continued to have differences with the company owners and he left it twice until 1929. Gangavataran was the only sound film directed by Phalke. He retired from the films due to his old age before retiring to Nashik, where he died on 16 February 1944.


  • Raja Harishchandra (1913)
  • Mohini Bhasmasur (1913)
  • Satyavan Savitri (1914)
  • Lanka Dahan (1917)
  • Shri Krishna Janma (1918)
  • Kaliya Mardan(1919)
  • Buddhadev (1923)
  • Setu Bandhan (1932)
  • Gangavataran(1937)