On Hindi cinema’s 100th birthday, Paresh Mokashi, the man who chronicled the story of how the father of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke, made India’s first feature film in 1913, tells HT’s Robin Bansal that Phalke would have loved the transition Indian cinema has made.
Mokashi’s film Harishchandrachi Factory was India’s official entry to 82nd Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Excerpts from an interview:
If Dadasaheb Phalke were alive today, he would have loved the way we have moved forward on celluloid and evolved in tandem with the socio-economic changes in how we are making films with both budgets and earnings that cross Rs. 100 crore unlike during his time when he literally had to mortgage his house and sell everything he owned to collect funds to make films.
He forayed into cinema because of his passion and also because he looked at it as an industry capable enough to employ thousands of people. He was right. He would have said, “Today we have completed a century, let’s move on to the next 100 keeping the social changes in mind.”
I still remember recreating the way he used special effects and techniques at a time when there were no visual effects or other digital medium. It was astounding. Impressed with his work, the British had even offered him £1,000 at that time to make films for them. But, he refused because he wanted to set and establish the cinema industry in India.
Filmmaking at that time was a taboo and people thought that those involved in the process were mad, so, to save his crew embarrassment, Phalke called his set up a factory to give the impression of the industries and mills running prominently during those times.
The one thing which is concealed from everybody is his wife's contribution to his life. He used to give filmmaking courses to her and she became perhaps the first woman cinematographer in the history of cinema.
But there is a dearth of material on Phalke. I went to the National Film Archive of India, interacted with his family members and film historians to gather as much information as I could. And, I decided that I'll make Harishchandrachi Factory only till his journey up to Raja Harishchandra (1913). It was a creative decision because I wanted to show how he worked and how he overcame difficulties in those early years.