Stories of the storyteller

Poorna Kulkarni 
Friday, 31 May 2019

Dadasaheb Phalke was Indian cinema’s most iconic producer, director and screenwriter. Ahead of his 150th birth anniversary, Swatantra Theatre will stage a two-part play with an all-kids cast telling the amazing story of his life

Dadasaheb Phalke, best known as the ‘Father of Indian Cinema’ took Indian cinema to great heights in his time. His passion to make movies with breathtaking creativity has been praised at various national and international platforms. Swatantra Theatre has produced a two-part play, directed by Abhijeet Choudhary, to pay tribute to the legendary filmmaker. “We decided to come up with this play as we wanted to pay tribute to the legendary filmmaker on his 150th birth anniversary in the best way we could. The play will cover all important events of his life. It will be an incredible journey through his life for the audience,” says Choudhary, pointing out that Phalke's story is riveting because of the interesting personalities, different jobs and experiences that shaped him to become the great filmmaker that he was. 

About the play 
On Saturday the part one of the show will be staged depicting the early life of the filmmaker. It includes his journey from his childhood to his struggle to become a filmmaker. In this phase of his life, he had come across various personalities who not only gave him lessons but also, in a way, gave shape to his direction. 

On Sunday, the second part of the play will showcase how the filmmaker made a name for himself in the industry-- from learning photo-printing in Germany and then moving to London to understand the finer elements of filmmaking. This part will also include events like his recovery from unexpected blindness, and his experiences and struggle while making the masterpiece Raja Harishchandra, and how only a handful of people he turned up at his funeral when he passed away. 

The theatrical journey
The cast features 40 kids from age 6 to 15. According to Choudhary, there are many films that are for entertainment but very few are informative. He feels that the main reason for having kids on the play is that the literature and great personalities must reach kids. He says, “I feel not much has been done on the legendary filmmaker and it is very important for today’s generation to know about him and his contribution towards cinema. So we conceptualised it and made sure that kids are a part of it so that they understand the content and concept. Last time we came up with a play on Vyakti Kee Valli which was based on P. L. Deshpande and a few other heavy topics. The reason we involve kids is because we want to introduce them to the rich literature we have. Enacting these pieces of literature makes it easy to understand and relatable for them.” He adds,  “Another reason of having kids on board with this project is because of the freshness and innocence in kids that helps them to grasp these concepts quickly. They are able to quickly relate and understand the situation when it is explained to them. When the kids rehearse, they do it with enthusiasm and honesty.” 

Speaking about the all-kids cast, he says, “People think that only senior actors should play such legendary characters, but it is not like that. In a time when women were not allowed to be featured in films or plays, Phalke made men play female roles with the help of make-up. He used to say that one needs to break the trends to make something memorable. If he can do it, we too can get kids play such important characters.” He believes that since kids put their complete trust on their mentors, it is easier to channalise their energies in the right direction.
Kids undergo a training process followed with detailed discussion, research and improvisations, and are assigned written projects so that they understand the subject well. 

The research 
To come up with a play based on the life of such an icon demands a lot of research. Choudhary says, “We have been researching on his life and important events from a long time ever since we started working in theatre,” says Choudhary. A 12-member team and creative director  Dhanashree Heblikar did all the research for this play from books, websites, references from National Film Archives of India and so on. 

All-kids cast 
The cast members include Jayartha Sengupta, Riddhima Pandey, Daiwik Pandey, Ananya Agroya, Nihira Borade, Simran Pinglay, Himakshi Koloti, Urja Kothari, Somya Choudhary, Vansh Parekh, Esha Parekh, Jinil Desai, Krieesh Sureka, Dev Ganatra, Moksha Shah, Varnika Kothari, Anurag Parakh, Pakhi Gupta, Sparsh Gupta, Shristi Singh, Smayan Pratap Rana, Mani Karnika Sharma, Ayrissa Bindu Shafeek, Bhargoh Choudhri, Kavya Pathak, Siddhant Dhere, Vaikhari Nighojkar, Harsheet Panpaliya, Ridansh Mutha, Archismaan Vadangekar, Geet Lagad, Advik Agroya, Mehek Shah, Tanishka Shah, Chaitanya Sonawane,  Mayuresh Pathak, Mihir Patil, Kanan Mattani, Nitya Toshniwal, Ananya Prasad, Yash Ladkat, Mishti Solanki, Simran Shugani, Monark Shugani and Manan Sharma.

ST Reader Service
Dadasaheb Phalke Part 1 will be staged on June 1 and Part 2 on June 2, 7 pm onwards, at Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru Auditorium, Ghole Road. Tickets available on Book My Show and at the venue one hour before the show. 

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