Bid to get Pundalik recognition as first Indian feature film

Ram Chandra Gopal

IMPPA director says it was released a year before Dadasaheb Phalke's Raja Harishchandra, but experts say it was a play.

For a month now, the director of Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association (IMPPA) has been collecting evidence related to the film Pundalik that was made by Pune's Ram Chandra Gopal 'Dadasaheb' Torne.

"Though the film released on May 18, 1912, almost a year before Dadasaheb Phalke's Raja Harishchandra, Torne's work was not acknowledged and did not get the due it deserved," says Vikas Patil, who has collected the cuttings of the English newspaper dated May 18, 1912, in which the advertisement of the film was published. He also has a cutting of the newspaper dated May 25, 1912, which published a review of Pundalik. Patil also got in touch with Torne's family members to gather more information. "Anil Torne, one of the three sons of Ram Chandra Torne, said they have written to various government authorities several times, but haven't got any response yet," he said. The family members are currently residing in Talegaon Dhabade.

Patil is planning to take the issue to the state government and the cultural ministry. "In case nothing concrete is done, I plan to file a public interest litigation," says Patil. According to him, Pundalik had gone through all required procedures of film-making before its release and hence was entitled to be called a full-length feature film. "It had a shooting script, was shot with a camera, its negatives were sent to London for processing, it was followed by the positives and finally released at Coronation Cinematograph, Girgaum. The film ran for two weeks," he argues.

Incidentally, Raja Harishchandra was also released in the same theatre. Torne stayed in Pune from 1931 to 1960 and had set up his studio, Saraswati Cinetone, in the city. He had made 22 films under the banner of Saraswati, such as Raja Gopichand, Chhatrapati Sambhaji, Shyamsundar, Aut Ghatkecha Raja, Bhakt Pralhad, Thaksen Rajputra, Savitri, Bhagva Jhenda and Majhi Ladki. "Shyamsundar was the first Indian movie that ran for 25 weeks. He was also the one to introduce the concept of a double role through his film Aut Ghatkecha Raja," says Patil.

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