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Dadasaheb Phalke had abandoned a well established printing business after a quarrel with his business partner. He gave his word to the worried partner that he would never enter into the printing business again as competition! Phalke got instantly unemployed and workless. The family was struggling to survive. One day he accidentally stumbled across a tent theatre that was screening a silent motion picture. He was awestruck with the film. The idea of film making struck him. Along with his hardworking wife and two enthusiastic kids by his side, he ventured into a field unknown to contemporary India. Making of India's first feature film, 'Raja Harishchandra' was an amazing adventure. The Phalke family encountered mostly funny but also a few grave situations during their journey of film making. They were a team of crazy yet lovable people that helped in winning over patrons and eventually money. Together, not only did they deliver the first Indian film, but they had ensured it to become ...Written by
'Harischandrachi Factory' (HF) is my second Marathi movie (the first one being 'Shwaas' – another beautiful feature). I must say Marathi cinema makes some very refreshing and sensitively relevant movies. By sensitive I do not mean overly sentimental or high on drama – no. We get enough of that from Bollywood, thank you! I mean in the sense that there are certain humane subtleties that very few film makers can successfully capture on celluloid. Those infinite number of imperfections that are almost impossible to record in the confines of raging mediocrity that are only possible when features like HF come by. For this, I am eternally grateful to Mr. Paresh Mokashi – the director of HF, his debut feature.
Now, about HF. The story tracks the trials and tribulations of Dadasaheb Phalke as he prepared to make the first Indian movie in 1913 – 'Raja Harischandra'. What makes this movie unique is how humor is consistently used to portray a journey which I am certain was, in reality, strewn with a million challenges. Everything from prostitutes refusing to be on camera, to men reluctant to shave their mustaches since their fathers were still alive, brings a unique essence of authenticity to the times we lived in. There are men (dressed as women) working for Phalke who are unsure what to tell people about their dubious sounding profession of making 'moving photographs'. We even have mentions of how Phalke's previously owned photography business went bankrupt when rumors spread that the camera 'steals a person's soul' and was a machine made to perform black magic. As hilarious as all this might seem today, there is no denying that Dadasaheb must have undergone so much more in this Herculean dream of achieving the impossible specially at a time when theater and drama were the only forms of entertainment.
What makes HF a must see movie is not just the fact that it underlines India's first major milestone in the business of movie making, but also the subtle and lighthearted approach it takes to such an immensely important event in our history. A feat, I am sure, would have suffered with a 'Schindler's List'-like formula of movie making had it been given to film makers who do not believe that a serious story can be told in a joyful tone. For this singular achievement, I salute Mr. Mokashi.
Performances belong to everyone. Even though I did not know any of the actors, their conviction in what they were trying to convey went beyond the need for a familiar face. The film maker's vision is crystal clear, as he focuses entirely on those pivotal years when Phalke, realizing his purpose in life, embarks on such a risky, albeit exciting, venture with full fledged support from his wife Saraswati Bai and two young sons. It is in this essential vein of eternal optimism, that HF scores high points in my book. In a day and age where we see movie success constantly attached to vulgar language, deliberate sexual innuendos and violence of the extreme nature, HF exemplifies the word 'quality' just by following one mantra – keep it simple.
My verdict : Do yourself a favor and go watch HF. If not for anything else, then at least to acknowledge the efforts of the father of Indian cinema – Dadasaheb (Dhundiraj) Govind Phalke. A legendary name now only synonymous with debatable award recipients like Amrita Rao for mediocre performances to justify their achievement. Unfortunate.
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