Raja Harishchandra

The opening tableaux presents a scene of royal family harmony- with a space “outside” the frame from where the people emerge, and to which space the king when banished seeks shelter. The film’s treatment is episodic, following the style of the Indian flok theatre and the primitive novel. Most of the camera set-ups are static, with plenty of movements within the frame. The bathtub sequence where Harishchandra comes to call his wife Taramati, who is in the tub, with her fully drenched attendants is indeed the first bath-tub scene in Indian cinema. All the females in their wet sarees and blouses clinging to their bodies are in fact all males in female grab.

Phalke hailed from an orthodox Hindu household – a family of priests with strong religious roots. So, when technology made it possible to tell stories through moving images, it was but natural that the Indian film pioneer turned to his own ancient epics and puranas for source material. The phenomenal success of Raja Harishchandrawas kept up by Phalke with a series of mythological films that followed – Mohini Bhasmasur (1914), significant for introducing the first woman to act before the cameras – Kamalabai Gokhale. The significant titles that followed include – Satyawan Savitri (1914), Satyavadi Raja Harischandra (1917), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri Krishna Janma(1918) and Kalia Mardan (1919).


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