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 Punes Ram Chandra Gopal Dadasaheb Torne.
Though the film released on May 18,1912,almost a year before Dadasaheb Phalkes Raja Harishchandra,Tornes 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 Tornes family members to gather more information. Anil Torne,one of the three sons of Ram Chandra Torne,said they have written several letters to various government authorities,but havent 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,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.
Prashant Patharbe,director of National Film Archives of India (NFAI),says Patils argument is weak primarily because Pundalik was a play that was shot with a still camera. It lacked other elements of a film like casting,location,story and costumes,he says.
P K Nair,founder director of NFAI,asserts Pundalik does not fall in the category of motion picture as it was just a photographic recording. There were several such films made prior to Raja Harishchandra,but they dont qualify as full-length feature films, he adds.