May 3rd, 1913 – The Birth of Bollywood!

Today-In-History

Raja Harishchandra (Marathi: राजा हरिश्चंद्र Rājā Hariścandra) is an Indian silent film, directed and produced by Indian icon Dadasaheb Phalke; it is the first full-length Indian feature film. The film was based on the legend of Raja Harishchandra, recounted in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Although a silent film with intertitles in English and Hindi, its cast and staff was Marathi and it is therefore often regarded as the first Marathi film as well.

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The film premiered on April 21st, 1913 at the Olympia Theatre, Grant Road for a selective audience that included famous personalities of Bombay (Mumbai) and editors of many newspapers. It was first shown in public on May 3rd, 1913 at Bombay’s Coronation Cinema, Girgaon, where crowds thronged the roads outside the hall, as it marked the beginning of the Indian film industry. The film was so successful that Dada Saheb had to make more prints to show the film in rural areas as well. The film was a grand success and soon established Phalke as a producer and paved the way for the Indian film industry.

A_scene_from_film,_Raja_Harishchandra,_1913The film opens with a scene of a tableaux patterned on the painting by Raja Ravi Varma, of Raja Harishchandra and his wife with their son. The film revolves around the noble and righteous king, Harishchandra, who first sacrifices his kingdom, followed by his wife and eventually his children to honour his promise to the sage Vishwamitra. Though, in the end, pleased by his high morals, the Gods restore his former glory, and further bestow him with divine blessings.

The film marked a historic benchmark in the film industry in India. Only one print of the film was made and shown at the Coronation Cinematograph. It was a commercial success and paved the way for more such films.


 

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