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Review: Harishchandrachi Factory is a wonderful voyage!

Review: Harishchandrachi Factory is a wonderful voyage!

Source: Sify

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 17/5

Monday 1 February 2010

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Movie Title

Harishchandrachi Factory

Director

Paresh Mokashi

Star Cast

Nandu Madhav, Vibhawari Deshpande, Mohit Gokhale, Atharva Karve, Dilip Joglekar, Ketan Karande, Dhiresh Joshi

In the Mumbai chawl where Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (pronounced Phadke) resides, he?s considered a bit of an oddity. His actions constantly mystify his neighbours, who then come by dutifully to sympathise with his wife Saraswati.

Which is why, after several start-and-stop ventures like a printing press and a still photo business (whose failure he attributes to rumours that a camera robs the soul), the neighbourhood has come to pay condolences to Saraswati, as Phalke has just sold off their cupboard. The reason for the cupboard and many more things disappearing from the house is Phalke?s recent obsession with the motion picture.

As we all know Phalke made India?s first feature film Raja Harishchandra in 1913, and Harishchandrachi Factory trails this triumphant journey.

So Phalke happens to witness the screening of a film Life of Christ with his son, and so mesmerised is he, he buys the ticket to the next show. On returning home late, he lies that the son had had a fall, and then tells Saraswati the truth. She smiles, asks him more about the film. Evidently such nerves of steel were necessary in being Phalke?s wife.

Once Phalke decides to make a motion picture himself, his passion is undiluted. He befriends the local projectionist, watches films till he suffers temporary blindness. He travels to London to learn filmmaking, and hires his crew off the roads, literally.

That Phalke was not a very reliable husband and father is also hinted upon. For example, he leaves his heavily pregnant wife to travel to London and stays there for a few months even after the baby is born. He sells his wife?s ornaments to fund the film, and barely involves himself in the bringing up of their three children.

While shooting a crucial scene where his son is injured, Phalke argues against the idea of stopping the shoot citing logistical urgency. He proceeds to set up the next shot that requires, ironically, his half-conscious son to lie on the funeral pyre.

Ruthlessly, Phalke cans this shot and only then proceeds to take his child to get medical attention. So obsessed is he that while talking to friends he sees a frame (seen through the teacup?s handle), and is promptly taken to the Thane Mental Hospital.

Unlike most films where the second half usually disappoints the promise built up by the first, Harishchandrachi Factory picks up post-interval.

By now, the audience know that Phalke is to make a feature film. And then starts the mad dance of hiring the team, hunting for a female actor -- even prostitutes refuse as it?ll bring down their respectability -- and getting a street musician to do music for the film.

Small hurdles are dealt with cunning, even as Phalke convinces a male actor?s father to convince his son to shave off the moustache and play a female character. Saraswati remains the backbone of the project, helping out with developing the film, cooking for the entire team, and being present on the shooting. You can?t help being moved when the film gets made; a triumph indeed.

But the only grouse is that Phalke?s struggles are not adequately explored. His journey to making a film is portrayed as being so effortless, you?re not sure if that was a fact, or cinematic licence. Once Phalke decides to get into the picture-making business, for example, he finds a teacher immediately, in the local theatre?s projectionist.

When he decides to go to London, he finds an Indian friend immediately who feeds and looks after him. Then on, he finds a mentor in the next step, a well-known film director who takes him under his wings.

He returns to a smiling wife, who?s just delivered their baby. He finds finance pretty effortlessly; and searches out a bungalow to shoot the picture.

Still, the film is important in documenting this historic endeavour. Theatre veteran Paresh Mokashi who makes his directorial debut with the film keeps the tone humorous and light-hearted.

The writer-director prefers keeping the camera static, a ploy that helps bring out the period atmosphere. The screenplay is excellent; dialogue memorable. Other technical details like art direction, styling are also impressive. The performances will win you over. Nandu Madhav?s brings out Phalke?s fervour for films and his impulsive nature superbly.

Vibhawari Deshpande plays Saraswati with stoic dignity; a strong character that assists with the filmmaking while raising her three kids on her own, Saraswati deserves special credit in the making of India?s first feature film.

It?s a wonderful voyage captured adeptly by Paresh Mokashi. You don?t want to miss the film that?ll have you laughing most of the times but not without missing the enormity of the story.

Verdict: 3.5 stars

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