Officially, Harishchandrachi Factory was India's official entry to the Oscars. It failed to make it to the nominations list, but that doesn't detract from the beauty and vibrancy of the Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory (with English subtitles) that creates a whole new matrix for the biopic on Dadasaheb Phalke, the pioneer who brought cinema to India with Raja Harishchandra, the first motion picture made in Mumbai in 1913.
Indeed, it must have been an arduous journey that Dundiraj Govind Phalke aka Dadasaheb Phalke underwent before he managed to bring the Williamson to India and shoot Raja Harishchandra, the epic mythology that has become a milestone in movielore. Yet, the toil, the sweat and the tears have been totally dispensed with for a lightness of being that enthuses a film with an incandescence and a sense of crackling wit and humour.
The director Paresh Mokashi sets the effervescent tone of the film from the onset when he introduces his protagonist, Dadasaheb Phalke (Nandu Madhav) who is watching an English movie on The Passion of Jesus. Needless to say, he is totally mesmerized and keeps coming back, again and again, trying his best to get behind, into the screening room and decipher the mystery of moving images. It doesn't take long before he sells off most of his belongings and is on his way to London to learn the craft of cinema.
The making of the movie, Raja Harishchandra, is equally rivetting with the director trying to convince his wife (Vibhavari Deshpande) to pitch in as Taramati. When she refuses, he roams the brothels, to find his first actress and eventually finds himself with an all-male cast, performing the female roles too. It was the age of nationalism and the emergence of Indian cinema was just another step in India's attempt to assert its identity and independence.
A must-see film, with a delicious sense of humour, Harishchandrachi Factory boasts of sterling performances by the lead actors Nandu Madhav and Vibhavari Deshpande as Mr. and Mrs. Phalke who end up as the most chilled out couple of the early 20th century. The film works as a period drama too, with an exquisite eye for detail. But most importantly, it lays down the mantra of Indian movie lore. On the ratings scale from one to five, this movie gets four stars and two big thumbs up!!