Play on Phalke`s life draws curtains to Centenary festival

New Delhi: Aamir Raza Husain`s play `Forgotten Film`, depicting Dadasaheb Phalke`s struggle to produce the first Indian film `Raja Harishchandra` in 1913, brought down the curtains on the centenary film festival celebrations here.

The play, which received a full house last night, is based on the book `The Silent Film` written by Phalke great grand niece Sharayu Phalke Summanwar. It also marked the 143rd birth anniversary of the legendary filmmaker.

"The book deals with Phalke`s life from his childhood till the end and he had many disappointments after his first movie. But I wanted to capture his struggle to make his first film," Aamir said.

The play begins with a sequence where a 73-year-old disheartened Phalke is sitting after receiving the news of refusal of license for making a film by government of India.

It then reverts back to his younger days where Phalke is determined to make his own motion-picture after watching `The Life of Jesus Christ`. In his quest to learn the necessary skills to start what he calls the `greatest swadeshi industry` in the country, Phalke lands in England, leaving his pregnant wife at home.

After struggling for a few days in the foreign land, Phalke learns the skills of filmmaking and camera tricks. He returns to India with a Williamson camera but no money to start his first film `Raja Harishchandra`. Though his brother helped him with the money for initial research but just ten days before the shoot begins, Phalke is penniless.

The film was finally made with the streedhan of his wife with no women actors or theatre actors but with ordinary men. The year was 1912 and Phalke had a staff of 40 people, a budget of Rs 25,000 and history waiting to be made.

Aamir featured in the play as the elder brother of Phalke. Aamir said it was exciting to know that theatre actors were paid more than screen actors at that time and they didn`t want to indulge in cinema.

"As a director when you pick up a subject you really need more time to develop the story but we didn`t have that time. There were a lot of anecdotes from his life and it is difficult to choose and recreate that time," said Viraat.

Theatre actor Damandeep Sidhu, who essayed the role Dadasaheb Phalke in the play, believes that Phalke`s passion to make India`s first feature film was the most fascinating aspect of the character.

"Physicality is a little difficult because we don`t have anything to go by. We have the film but in it he is shown a little Charlie Chaplinish so we didn`t have a physicality to go by but we have tried to capture the language and time to our best ability," said Sidhu.

The five-day film festival saw screening of films by esteemed filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal among others.There were screenings of many famous documentaries and panel discussions on issues of censorship, representation of women in cinema, sex, nudity on screen among others.