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Movie Review: Harishchandrachi Factory

19 Nov

After the horrendous experience of watching a wreck, there was just no way that I could deny an invitation from a friend to attend the NA premier of Harishchandrachi Factory (Harishchandra’s Factory) – India’s entry to the Academy Award 2010. South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) has been doing a praiseworthy job in this part of the world by getting the best of Asian cinema to the western world and giving them good amount of publicity and befitting awards. Harishchandrachi Factory was the closing night film of the festival and the director of the film, Paresh Mokashi was present for the screening. Ever since the news broke of the film being selected to be the official entry to the Oscars, it had surely gone on my wishlist! 🙂

Harishchandrachi factory is a joyful depiction of how Dadasaheb Phalke, rightly known as the father of Indian cinema, made the first Indian motion picture – Raja Harishchandra in 1913. The screenplay has been adapted from Dadasaheb Phalke’s biography written by Bapu Watve.

Phalke’s journey can be seen to be one full of adventures and entertaining encounters. His comely personality and eccentric zeal has been portrayed in an unmatched way by Nandu Madhav in the film. The story importantly unfolds the superstitions that prevailed in the society pertaining to films in that era and the social stigma that revolved around “moving pictures”. Dadasaheb had to face both social and political hurdles in his journey to make his dream come true. But, Paresh Mokashi has not created a melancholy portrait of his struggle. Instead he has enunciated Dadasaheb’s pluck in an awesome way. Undeniably, some cynics may not really approve of portrayal of his struggle in a cheerful way. In my personal opinion, the subtlety with which two mutually opposing emotions have been painted on the celluloid by Mokashi deserves a sincere applaud.

There are scenes which are creatively enriching in every way and which linger on the viewer’s minds for a long time. In 1913, it was impossible to find a lady actor to play the part of Taramati, Raja Harishchandra’s wife in the film. It was traditional in Marathi plays then for men to play female leads as well. The comedy involved around the inhibitions that actors in Phalke’s film had around shaving off their moustaches is rib tickling, yet not slapstick. The way Mokashi has showcased Phalke’s intelligence and intellect is simply spellbinding.

There are unconventional and interesting metaphorical props used as well which only put forth the intellectual sensibilities of Mokashi as a film maker. For instance, the use of a patriotic marathi poem (“Ek tutari dya maja anuni”) to convey resurgence of hope whenever Phalke was hurdled by an obstacle Or the use of appropriate slogans by revolutionaries in the background to depict the year that is being shown.

Vibhavari Deshpande, who plays Phalke’s wife in the film, has done a fantastic job of portraying a character that is strong, yet submissive, audacious, yet timid and hopeful, yet worried. Every shade of the character has been decorated with beautiful anecdotes and dialogues. Music has been used very effectively throughout the film. In spite of the fact that there is no song in the film, the catchy background score only acts as a catalyst to the entertainment quotient. The facet of the film that grabs your attention with fascination is the art direction. To recreate an era of pre-independence has always been challenging for art directors in India and Nitin Desai rightly deserves all the accolades that he has won for this movie.

The film has a joyous charm that remains intact throughout. We are talking of an era when India was under the rule of the British. An ordinary film maker would have undoubtedly made an attempt to aggrandize the atrocities committed by the British. But, what makes this film extraordinary is the fact that, we don’t see a loud and gaudy expression of any sort.

We rather see the director talking of a man who was enterprising, venturesome and courageous enough to have gone all the way to London in that era to learn the technicalities involved with film making. We are talking of a man who was strongly determined to reach his goal no matter how arduous the pursuit was.

Paresh Mokashi is a highly acclaimed thespian in the marathi theatre circle. Harishchandrachi Factory is his debut film. His journey of creating his first film has also been a challenging one if not as challenging as Phalke himself. To a large extent, we see Mokashi relating well to Phalke throughout the film and his heartfelt love for cinema is seen in each and every frame. What a splendid start of the career in film making!

After the screening of the film, there was a Q&A session which clearly showed how infectious the humor and the warmth of the film were. The film is slated to release early next year all across India. Dubbing the film in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam is also on the cards.

Harishchandrachi Factory is surely a must watch for all the movie lovers. We all owe it to the person who sowed the seeds of cinema in India – Someone who continued making films in India in spite of attractive offers from the western world only to ensure that the motion picture industry in India gets established. In true spirit, the doyen of the largest film industry in the world. Hats off to Phalke and Thumb’s up to Presh Mokashi for giving us a chance to celebrate Indian cinema in true sense.

My rating:

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