Sachin Tendulkar's Bharat Ratna gladdens and saddens, say Phalke kin
At the same time, there was a tinge of sadness that another great son of Maharashtra, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, or Dadasaheb Phalke, was once again overlooked for the country's top-most civilian honour.
"Everytime somebody from the state gets such a top honour, our hopes soar... We feel now even Dadasaheb Phalke and his wife Saraswati will be considered for Bharat Ratna for their immense contribution to Indian cinema and entertainment industry," Phalke's grandson, Chandrakant Pusalkar, said.
Pusalkar feels that the central government must take an expeditious decision as this is the 100th year of Indian cinema and make it a fitting finale for the ongoing centenary celebrations.
"Last April, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced on the floor of the Maharashtra legislature that the state government would recommend Dadasaheb Phalke's name for Bharat Ratna. The issue itself has been pending for over a decade now. We want to know what is the matter and why is the honour being denied?" an irritated Pusalkar (62) demanded.
The descendents of Phalke have been in correspondence with the centre for the honour for over 10 years now, but barring assurances nothing has been done, they say.
"We feel that our grandfather has no godfather," Pusalkar's wife Mrudula said in a bitter tone.
Mrudula pointed out that legendary personalities like Satyajit Ray or Lata Mangeshkar were conferred the Bharat Ratna for they excelled in their respective fields - direction and singing - but the medium was first introduced and built in India by Dadasaheb Phalke after Herculean struggles and sufferings.
The family is upset that in the 45 years that the country's highest film honour, the 'Dadasaheb Phalke Award' has been given, his descendents have neither been consulted nor invited even once.
"Yes, there is a stamp in his honour, some roads, and Mumbai's film city is dedicated to him. There are statues in Mumbai and Nashik, besides the annual top film honour and other token international recognition. However, we think both Dadasaheb and Saraswati deserve a Bharat Ratna and we must be invited to witness the presentation. The centenary year of Indian cinema is the most appropriate occasion," Pusalkar said.
Another grandon, Kiran Phalke (67) has already demanded that the government must set up a film training institute in Nashik, a few km away from Triambakeshwar, where Dadasaheb Phalke was born April 30, 1870.
The families rue that over the years, the government took no measures to preserve his old bungalow in Nashik - named 'Hind-Cine Janakashram' meaning 'the house of the man who started Indian cinema' - dedicated to the very Indian cinema which he founded!
A major tourist attraction during his lifetime, the bungalow was razed and re-developed by one of the descendents. A Nashik Municipal Corporation signboard now proclaims, "Here lived Dadasaheb Phalke..."
Ironically, the virtually homeless Dadasaheb Phalke could build a shelter for his family only around 1938, when he was presented a purse of a princely sum of Rs.5,000 by the great V. Shantaram to mark the silver jubilee of Indian cinema.
Even Phalke's favourite car, a Ford, used in his heyday for travel and shooting in the 1920s, had to be sold when his fortunes plummeted in 1930s. The new buyer hired it out for weddings!
When it was found in a Nashik dump yard five years ago, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's Raj Thackeray promised to get it restored, but nothing was done, Mrudula recalled.
The Phalke descendents feel the time is now ripe to honour the man who changed the course of history with his humble camera and sheer dedication, and laid the foundations for what is now among the biggest film industries in the world.
Till date, the Bharat Ratna has been conferred on 43 eminent personalities, including a galaxy of presidents, prime ministers, Nobel laureates, social workers, scientists and artistes.
People from Maharashtra - either those born here, or who lived and worked here to contribute to the nation - have bagged the lion's share of the Bharat Ratnas announced till date.
Some of them include: the Father of Indian Constitution B. R. Ambedkar, Vinoba Bhave, Morarji Desai, Pandurang Vaman Kane, Dhondo Keshav Karve, Lata Mangeshkar, J.R.D. Tata and Bhimsen Joshi - Sachin Tendulkar being the latest addition to the list.