The first Indian film released in India was indeed Shree Pundalik, a silent film in Marathi by Dadasaheb Torne on 18 May 1912 at Coronation Cinematograph, Bombay but since the film was made in collaboration with the U.K. hence it was declined the honor of being India’s First Silent film. A year later on May 3, 1913, India finally witnessed India’s First Indigenous Film Raja Harishchandra made by filmmaker Dadasaheb Phalke. The film was released in the same cinema house Coronation Cinematograph in Bombay and was a huge hit!
Unlike Dadasaheb Torne, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke made Raja Harishchandra independently without any assistance from foreign technicians or cameraman. Phalke was a one-man show behind the making of the film! He wrote the script, he was himself the cinematographer, the editor, the art director, and the costume designer! The only assistance Phalke had was his dedicated wife who would hold white bed sheets in the blazing sun as a light reflector during outdoors shootings. She would mix chemicals for developing the film, perforated the raw film sheets at night under candlelight and even cooked food for the entire unit comprising 60 to 70 people! That’s not all, both husband and wife even exhibited the film and toured all over India screening the film with a projector in tow!
Raja Harishchandra was a huge hit as it was an amazing experience by the Indian audience. The film had a houseful run for a week and the ticket rates were doubled than usual. Film historians say as the film was priced at one Anna i.e. 6.25 paisa hence at the end of the day there would be a huge pile of Chillar (coins) and would be filled in huge jute sacs!
The film continued for 23 days non-stop at Coronation House. It was shifted to Alexandra Cinema at Dalal Estate in Mumbai. In short, the film Raja Harishchandra opened doors of commercial cinema in India and laid the foundation of the film industry in the country.