Thursday, March 11, 2010

Harishchandrachi Factory

It is not only a marvellous story of the pioneer of the world's largest film industry, but also in equal measures the story of an always enterprising India, the story of a middle-class Hindu family, and the story of a man who refuses to die whatever the moment be. Nandu Madhav stars as the irrepressible Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, a man fascinated by stories and magic and machines and now bent upon learning and unfolding the magic of moving pictures upon the world. The best thing that Harishchandrachi Factory (English: The Factory of Harishchandra) does is to stick to its title; it has no interest in showing the multiple facets of Phalke: the brilliant photography student from the MS University of Baroda or the man obsessed with printing machines and who went to Germany to learn more of them or the man who worked with Raja Ravi Varma and learnt magic from Carl Hertz. The film is only about the making of the first Indian film, Raja Harishchandra, and almost parallels the enthusiasm in a similar story shown about the first Romanian film's making in Restul e tăcere.

Where the film however makes a mark is in situating the story firmly in the Indian context: while the few slogans for Tilak and pictures of Kesari are just artificial ploys to make the film appear in 1910s, it is the brilliant artwork and well-written dialogues that do the job. Hardly has anyone succeeded in so meticulously constructing a typical Hindu family's lifestyle and dynamics as Paresh Mokashi has in his directorial debut. The chemistry between all the four family members is a sight to watch, and each member of the family shares work and respect equally; coupled with the humor attending the never-say-die spirit of Phalke, who makes the bleakest of situations appear as games to be played, the film is a life-changing story.

One thought that strikes the viewer is the large contrast between Benigni in Life Is Beautiful and Madhav in Harishchandrachi Factory. Benigni comes upon suddenly as an overacting, highly affected actor in comparison to the natural skills of Madhav, who seems to be lifted out from life and placed in the film. Benigni 'keeps' himself happy, Madhave knows to be happy.

And a special mention to the film's effervescent music: not only capturing the days of old Marathi cinema, but also tilting the viewer into the craziness of DG Phalke.


  1. Anonymous10:48 AM

    considering the situation in 'life is beautiful' i think overacting or being a bit over the top works. although one of the first things to enter my mind was that phalke was over acting :) he doesn't even seem much like he knows how to be happy, he seems to know how to be on a kind of high, he seems difficult to be a person to ever come to with real concerns in life, almost cruel in his happiness. but maybe that is what obsessions are all about :)

  2. @Anon: Maybe not always. Phalke seemed unaware of anything else besides his ambition or rather maybe his fascination with the moving pictures; and yet that does not mean that every man obsessed with something has to be that, does it? If he does seem to be cruel in his happiness, won't you call that good acting? But yes, I called it happy, and I think there are different happinesses of different people; the Phalke of that film might not be able to understand any other, and hence in his context I still call him happy.

    Regarding Benigni, I was always dissatisfied a little with him: over the top is surely a need of the film and the story, and yet Benigni overdoes over the top itself; sometimes he came across to me as a man pleasing a child with a rattle, and I like people talking to people than pleasing them with rattles. The situation probably did demand the child not to know this world as it is, yet the man need not produce rattles always; but then still, if the child does not realise what harm so maybe nothing to pick bones about and again, it's easy also to fall in the trap of pleasing somebody and being happy with it. It's a character and it happens or could happen, so fine; but I doubted whether the intended intention :-o matched with the shown product.