Happy Birthday to Indian cinema!

May 03, 2012, 20:37 IST | A Correspondent

On this day in 1913, the first full-length Indian feature film was released, marking the beginning of the Indian film industry

This is where it all began. Lights, camera, action! In an era where working in cinema was taboo, one man with vision and courage made it possible. Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, a.k.a. Dadasaheb Phalke, made the first ever full-length film, 'Raja Harishchandra'. A silent movie based on the legend of King Harishchandra, recounted in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, it was released on May 3, 1913. India’s romance with the big screen began, and our lives were never the same again.

A still from 'Raja Harishchandra'

To commemorate this historic occasion, we decided to dig up some trivia on what went into the making of the first Indian feature film. Here’s what we found:

The film had an all-male cast because no woman was available to play any of the female leads.

The reel was 3,700 feet long and had a runtime of 40 minutes

Phalke was greatly influenced by the style of painter Raja Ravi Verma in the making of this film.

It was first shown on May 3, 1913 at Mumbai’s Coronation Cinema, Narayan Choyal, Girgaon.

Due to the film’s massive success, Phalke had to make more prints for rural areas as well. He was established as a producer and later came to be known as ‘The father of Indian cinema.’

His wife, Saraswati Phalke, was also actively involved behind the scenes. She single-handedly managed food for the cast and crew, which comprised over 500 people. She washed clothes and costumes, helped make posters and had a hand in production.

The original film was in four reels. The National Film Archive of India has only the first and last reels, though some film historians believe they belong to a 1917 remake of the film, by the same name.

Real to reel:

Harishchandrachi Factory
A still from the Marathi film 'Harishchandrachi Factory '

In 2009, a Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory, directed by Paresh Mokashi, depicted the struggle Dadasaheb Phalke faced while making 'Raja Harishchandra'. The title is based on the fact that, as working in cinema was looked down upon, Dada Saheb advised his artists to tell others that they were working in the factory of a man named Harishchandra.

In September 2009, it was selected as India's official entry for the Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film Category, making it the second film, after ‘Shwaas’ (2004), in Marathi cinema to receive the honour.

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