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Friday, August 03, 2012

Harishchandra's Factory

I recently watched a 2009 movie called Harishchandrachi factory. It’s in Marathi, with subtitles in English. Directed by Paresh Mokashi, and with theatre personality Nandu Madhav in the lead role, it has won some awards – you can check that up for yourself on the net. I am no movie critic, so I shall write only about my gut reaction, as nothing more than an ordinary cinema buff. This is the story, in highly dramatized form and with a strong leavening of humour and slapstick, of how the (controversial-) first ever movie in India – Raja Harishchandra – got made, way back in 1913, thanks to the nearly crazy passion of one man, Dhundiraj Govind (aka Dadasaheb) Phalke, along with the almost unstinted support of friends and family, and launched what became arguably the biggest film industry in the world. It has received mixed reviews (see this article, along with the comments), but I enjoyed it immensely, and would like to thank whoever left the movie with me (I forget sometimes, there are so many of them).

Well yes, if you like, it’s a feel-good movie. It reminded me of Life is Beautiful, though it leans far less on fantasy. It told me that one needs passion if one really wants to achieve something; that one needs to shrug off a lot of criticism and ridicule and opposition, and that one’s real friends are those who stick to one through thick and thin. Nothing new here, but it’s good to be reminded as one wages one’s own struggle through life. Looking at the way the family – wife and young sons – not only braved through all sorts of hardships but actually managed to enjoy themselves, I felt reassured that I have always been right; people need money and fame far less than warmth, cooperation, goodwill and satisfying work to be happy. Blessed is the family which rows together like this – even if the reality was not half as rosy as portrayed in the movie. The movie also shows, once again, that much can be achieved on a small budget and with a cast full of amateurs if the director knows his job.

I not only have a personal penchant for movies which remind us of times of yore, but I wish that more and more such movies would be made, because people in this country are becoming increasingly ahistorical with the passage of time. It is important to know one’s history, and few people would ever bother to read history textbooks of their own volition, so film-makers are doing yeoman service when they make movies like this. More power to their elbow.

One thing that I liked about the movie was the way Chaplinesque gestures and movements have been blended with very Indian background music. Another was the fact that the man’s long-suffering yet always cheerful and supportive wife reminded me of the Bible saying ‘He who has found a good woman has found a good thing’. The older I grow, the more I appreciate what that means, and how few of us are so lucky. The third thing was that it set me musing anew on education. I have always taken the story of Eklavya very seriously, you see, and I can vouch, on the other hand, from a whole lifetime of teaching experience that you can’t teach anybody who is unwilling to learn. As in October Sky, as Will Smith said in his interview to the Reader’s Digest, if someone really wants to learn something, be it making a movie or flying a space shuttle, s/he will find out ways to master it; otherwise, no amount of schooling and tutoring ultimately amounts to anything. I wish the world would begin to realize this eternal truth and start paying less attention to formal education, which produces molehills out of mountains by the tens of millions! Finally, the movie made me marvel at how easily people only a few decades ago could feel enchantment. Is it only me, or do many others also feel that all our super hi-tech wizardry cannot affect us similarly any more, whether we are watching The Matrix or Avatar or Inception?

The movie also motivated me to read up on Dadasaheb Phalke. It seems that he made several successful movies after Harishchandra in the silent era, but faded out once the ‘talkies’ became all the rage. Strange that a man of his versatile talent couldn’t cope – or was it that he was not interested in the new format at all?

Anyway, watch this movie. And let me know how you liked it. 


Rajdeep said...


Thanks for writing about this movie.

I agree it is a good movie and I enjoyed it too when I watched it a few years back when one of my friends gave it to me. I have watched a few other old Marathi comedy movies too and found them extremely enjoyable. I hope many of your other readers watch the movie too.

Best regards

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

I have heard about this film. Unfortunately, I have to wait to go to India and grab a copy. I am so glad that you liked it.

The other day I was watching the interview of a recent Olympic gold medal winner from NZ. He quit his job as an accountant ten years back and hoped that some day he may win an Olympic medal in rowing. He did win finally this time around in his second Olympic games.

Finally, I was reading about what you said about ‘average people’ in the comment section of your previous post. I too agree when you say:

“one wastes one's life unless one tries lifelong to be better than average, and one can become better only by trying to follow in the footsteps of the great who have gone before, not by losing oneself in a herd of averages”

I have been privileged to meet exceptionally talented people who never had formal education but were certainly above average. Also, I have met people who have scaled new heights only when they took up the challenge of facing adversities to bring out the genius within them.

I guess calling ourselves ‘average’ is sometimes as excuse not to work hard. I have felt that in my own life, where I have been afraid to face challenges and have settled being an average. I felt disgusted with myself after that.

Whenever, I thought of going an extra mile, I surprised myself by learning a lot of things which I never thought I would. These days, I try to do that too often.

For young students across the globe, I think they just cannot get the ‘marks’ bit out of their head. Unfortunately, our social framework/economic framework do not allow them either to a great extent.


Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,

I have not watched the movie but plan to do so soon. I have known about the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award but read up on him only after going through this post. It is always inspiring to know about men and women who went on to do unprecedented work without any formal training, whether it is Rabindranath Tagore or Jim Corbett. In spite of the many examples, people see only what they want to and obsess themselves with formal education, leaning on it far more than is appropriate.

Both Sayan and I have a fascination for historical and biographical movies too. They are very educational. Besides, the feeling of past events unfolding anew in front of my eyes has always attracted and amused me. I liked ‘Valkyrie’,’ A beautiful mind’,’ Gifted hands: The Ben Carson story’ and ‘Julie and Julia’.

Sir, I agree with your view that all the hi-tech movies cannot touch us like Aguntuk or Gupi Gyne Baga Byne. I have also observed that Indian directors these days avoid close-ups of the actors’ faces and instead rely more on camera tricks and mindless fight sequences.

Thank you for writing this review.

Warm regards

Debarshi Saha said...

Dear Sir,

You recommended this movie to me some days back,and since then I have been searching for the same.I do plan to see it soon.

All of your musings are right-on spot,Sir!It is very true that now when I watch most movies,barring a few exceptions-the first word that comes to my mind is 'superficial',followed by 'cosmetic' and 'lacking in depth'.Earlier films,I feel,left behind a warm,sunny afterglow in one's heart-call it the bright colour tones,or the simplistic camera angles-they had their heart in the right place!Coupled with soul-stirring music,that relied heavily on instrumental dexterity,and not technical tricks-such movies took you away to another land altogether,where you could live out your fantasies,and maybe indulge in your whims and fancies.Exotic locales were not used so frequently,and the directors could manage to film a tree in one's back-yard and still make it seem magical!

I think,Sir,the problem lies with increasing complexity,much of which is needless.History teaches us that beneath the veneer of superficiality,much that changes remains the same.We urgently need to simplify,and to integrate technology holistically-so that it serves our live,and does not rule it!

A very fine review,Sir.Films like these still teach us the truth of the maxim that Life can be lived in two ways indeed-one as if everything is a miracle,and the other as if nothing is.The ones who believe in miracles usually create it too!

With best wishes,

Navin said...

Dear Sir,

I loved the movie, especially for the raw curiosity which is displayed there. Also it was refreshing to note that if one is absolutely clear about what one has to do, they usually find a simply way around it and do it joyfully.
I especially like the part where he goes looking for a prostitute and his wife is fine with all the ripples which it would create in civil society.

After seeing the movies, I was left inspired to follow my dreams.

yours sincerely,


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for commenting, Rajdeep, Tanmoy, Rashmi, Debarshi and Navin. I regard my blogs as an extension of my classroom, and as you know, I believe that both good books and good movies can play a very vital role in education. Also, I live in a town where people are very severely deprived in terms of not only access to but even awareness of good books and movies. It is a fact that lots of students and ex-students keep thanking me for leading them to a book or movie they'd never have encountered otherwise. Hence posts like this one every now and then... I shall be glad if some readers tell me how they liked Harishchandrachi Factory after they have seen it.

Arghya Chatterjee said...

Dear Sir,
I watched the movie around a year back. I was really motivated by the cheerful nature of Harishchandrachi in times of his hardship. Also, dedication seemed to be a direct output one’s passion. Very much after this move I had a chance to see a documentary detailing how Hollywood came up. In that documentary I heard something which I will never forget “You are wasting time only if you are not enjoying what you are doing”. Harishchandrachi was enjoying his attempt of materializing his dream. Just like a child enjoys playing with his toys forgetting all irrelevant emotions, this man was enjoying ‘work’ with no botheration on consequence of failure or even the birth of his own child.
Talking about the feel of enchantment, one reason why watching movies like The Matrix is not a wonder any more is because there are too many of these science fictions/animations coming up with no real big sign of innovation (‘new’) in them. When Star Wars came up it was one of its kinds but when Avatar came up there are already too many of its type. There can be more reason but this is what I feel.
With best wishes,

Subhajit said...

Dear Sir,

First of all thank you for posting an interesting review.
Secondly, even though I have not watched "Harishchandra's Factory" till now I guess "The Artist" will also enthral my friends all the same.This movie portrays the life of an actor/director(George Valentin) of the silent era who was a genius in himself in all spheres of the stage but fails miserably (if I may say so)as he fails to adapt to the change which accompanies the arrival of the "talkies".The message of "Change is inevitable so embrace it" can never be more clearer.Now all the more eager to watch "Harishchandra's Factory".

Thanks and Regards,
Subhajit Chakraborty