Centenary Of Indian Cinema

Dhirendranath Ganguly – First Filmmaker To Bengali Silent Film

The Father Of Bengali cinema is Dhirendranath Ganguly, popularly known as DG, who holds the distinction of being the Producer of First Bengali Silent Film Bilat Ferat (1921). Besides he has the prestige of establishing not 1 but 3 Production Houses viz. Indo-British Film Company, British Dominion Films, and Lotus Film Company.

Dhirendranath Ganguly took education at Shantiniketan under the guidance of Rabindranath Tagore. His passion for arts and dramatics developed his interest in photography which ultimately resulted in Ganguly setting up the first Bengali production house called the Indo-British Film Company in 1918. The ‘First’ film made in Bengali was Bilat Ferat aka The England Returned.

Unlike filmmakers like Dadasaheb Phalke and Dadasaheb Torne who primarily made mythological full Dhirendranath Ganguly brought sophistication in Indian cinema and made films that took social subjects and were contemporary. His first film Bilat Ferat, for instance, was a political satire ridiculing the Foreign Educated Indians who after acquiring degrees from European countries adopted English Lifestyle in India. It was a hilarious film with a strong message. The film was a huge success.

His films touched the society and took burning issues of dowry, the atrocity of the landlords, farmer’s issue and above all spoke against the British Raj!  His movies were a shift from the domain of religion and mythology, adventure and fantasy.

Ganguly is the ‘First the filmmaker who introduced the art of ‘Facial Expression’ in Cinema, an art which he learned from the Hollywood cinema and taught his artists to portray in his films. To make his artists understand the kind of expression he wanted on the screen, Ganguly would draw the expression on a piece of paper and instruct his artist to deliver the same expression.

The other bigger contribution of Ganguly was inventing the art of Make-up in cinema. He was such a master in make-up that he would often do such fabulous Make-up that it would be difficult to recognize the artist. He worked on minute details and every nuance. He would not take a shot until satisfied with every detail.

Ganguly was a multi-faceted artist besides being director/ producer he was an artist, dialogue writer, and screenwriter and make-up artiste. He ruled for 30 years in Bengali cinema and made 49 films, most of his films were based on freedom of Indian independence. Readers would be surprised to know that Ganguly cajoled Indian freedom fighter Debaki Kumar Bose to join cinema as Films are a better medium to reach a wider audience.

The government of India bestowed upon him the Padma Bhushan, India’s highest civilian award in 1974 and the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his enormous contribution to Indian cinema in 1975.

Here is the list of some of the memorable film made by Ganguly like Yashoda Nandan (1922), Hara Gouri (1922), Indrajeet (1922), Bimata (1923), Chintamani (1923), The Marriage Tonic (1923), Sati Simantini (1923), Vijay And Basanta (1923), Yayati (1923), Abhisarika (1938), Path Bhule (1940), Karmakhali (1940), Ahuti (1941), Daabi (1943), Srinkhal (1947), Shesh Nibedan (1948) and Cartoon (1949).

Dhirendranath Ganguly died on 18 November 1978 in Kolkata.

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