Even as festivities are ongoing while celebrating 100 glorious years of Indian cinema, the debate over who made the first Indian feature film has reared its ugly head once again.
Family members of Puneite Ramchandra Gopal alias Dadasaheb Torne, who made ‘Pundalik’, have filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at the Bombay High Court requesting that their father be bestowed with the honour of ‘pioneer of Indian cinema’, since he released the first Indian feature film on May 18, 1912, a year prior to Dadasaheb Phalke’s ‘Raja Harishchandra’, which was screened in 1913.
“We respect Phalke’s contribution, but nobody should ignore the pioneering work done by our father,” said Anil Torne, younger son of Torne. “Dadasaheb Torne should also be treated as the pride of Pune.”
On behalf of the Torne family, Mangala Torne, daughter-in-law of Torne, along with Vikas Patil, film producer and Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association Director, the PIL was filed at the Bombay High Court recently.
Torne’s elder son Vijay said, “It is pathetic that our father’s contribution to the Indian film industry is still not getting recognised even after 100 years since his first film ‘Pundalik’, which was officially screened at Coronation Theatre in Mumbai. In fact, Torne’s work was an inspiration for Phalke to release his first film in the subsequent year.”
Armed with a clipping of an advertisement that appeared on May 18, 1912, Patil said, “Though we don’t have the film print, this advertisement speaks for itself. Torne’s films and other movie-related material were washed away in the Panshet flood that hit the city on July 12, 1961.”
Noted film writer, Shashikant Kinikar, who wrote Torne’s biography, said, “Torne had not only made the first Indian film, but also produced 20 feature films in his career in the next 20 years till the year 1942. He had also introduced the technique of ‘double role’ for the first time in his film ‘Aut Ghatkecha Raja’. He also introduced big film personalities like Mehboob, Zubeda and Bhalji Pendharkar to Indian cinema.
Vijay said, “I am 73 year’s old and want to see the recognition given to my father before I die. My father should be given his due credit by the government. There was no response from the central and state government. Even the civic body has done nothing. Every Punekar should feel proud that Dadasaheb Torne made his first film in Pune at his studio on Shankarsheth Road.”