After Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar‘s silent film The Wrestlers, released on 7th July 1896 in Mumbai another filmmaker Dadasaheb Torne from Maharashtra made headlines with the release of his full-length silent feature film Shree Pundalik. The film was released on 18 May 1912 at Coronation Cinematograph, Bombay.
Dadasaheb Torne aka Ram Chandra Gopal Torne was born on 13th April 1890. He was born in a Maratha family in Malwan village in Konkan, Maharashtra. At the early age of 10, he left his education and moved to Mumbai for his passion for art and creativity.
It may be noted Dadasaheb Torne’s film Shree Pundalik was released just a year before Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra which was released on May 3, 1913. Yet Dadasaheb Torne does not get the credit of being Father of Indian Cinema? Annoyed by the wrong interpretation of history, the two sons of late Dadasaheb Torne have filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking their late father Dadasaheb Torne be awarded the honor of Father of Indian Cinema!! The PIL has documents about the film Shree Pundalik’s advertisement in Mumbai’s Times of India. Besides the reference to popular filmmaker Vikas Patil, an eminent film producer and director of Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association asserting the film release in 1912 and had 2 weeks run at Coronation Cinema in Mumbai. The documents also declare that Oxford University Press’ Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema (Page 227), mentions Shree Pundalik as the first in Indian Cinema.
To establish that Shree Pundalik was a full-length feature film, the Maharashtra Information Center, Govt Of Maharashtra in 1969 took out a book on Indian cinema and the book categorically mentions the total length of Shree Pundalik film was 8000 feet i.e. duration of around 1 and 1/2 hours which is considered as a Full-Length Feature!!!
Why Shree Pundalik is not considered India’s First Silent Film?
Well, though the documents submitted are correct yet some technical errors make Dadasaheb Torne’s contribution to the history of Indian Cinema unrecognized. So what are the reasons behind Dadasaheb Torne losing the honor?
Well, film historians argue Dadasaheb Torne’s Shree Pundalik was not shot like a film instead Dadasaheb Torne directly filmed a popular Marathi film on camera! Torne just fixed the camera on one platform on the stage and recorded the play. Thus Torne’s Shree Pundalik did not have the basic film techniques like editing, close-up, long shoot, etc. Hence it failed to satisfy the norms of film making. Secondly, the cameraman was not an Indian, he was a Bruiser named, Johnson and last but not least the film was processed in London.
On the other hand, Raja Harishchandra was a complete indigenous film hence Dadasaheb Phalke’s is rightly called the Father of Indian Cinema.
Though Dadasaheb Torne may have lost the honor of Father of Indian Cinema but he played a lion’s share in popularizing films in India. He started importing film-related instruments like cameras, roll, film, etc. Later, Dadasaheb formed his own company named ‘Saraswati Cinetone’ in Pune. Torne was instrumental in introducing many Hindi and Marathi legends like Mehboob Khan, Balaji Pendharkar, C. Ramchandra, Jayashree, Dada Kondke, Zubeida and more.
Dadasaheb Torne had two sons, elder son Vijay Torne and younger son Anil Torne. On 19th January 1960, Dadasaheb Torne died in his sleep.