The Secret History Of Indian Cinema

Dir: Various



80 mins


Like Mélies, Phalke was a skilled craftsman and trained artists with a passion for magic.

Sean Cubitt, author The Cinema Effect

This programme presents revelatory and rare films from two founding periods of Indian cinema. D.G. Phalke’s fantastic films, like those of George Méliès in France, are the foundations of Indian cinema. Phalke, the “father of Indian cinema,” gave magical movement to Indian mythology when he produced Raja Harishchandra the first ever Indian film in 1913.

Inventive and playful, these films merge folk theatre with epic literature, myth with modernity. Showing with these are films produced under the government’s ‘Films Division’. Founded in 1948, with the aim of documenting independent India, these works reflect the processes of post-colonial nation building. Similar to the British GPO Film Unit, filmmakers were given free reign in the 60s and 70s to explore the possibilities of cinema from animation and impressionistic documentary to subversive collages.

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Raja Harishchandra

D.G. Phalke | India | 1913 | 20min | Silent | B&W

Premiered on April 21, 1913, this the surviving reel of Phalke and India’s first feature film.

Lanka Aflame / Lanka Dahan

D.G. Phalke | India | 1917 | 9min | Silent | B&W

A mythological retelling of the familiar Ramayana story.

The Birth Of Shri Krishna / Shri Krishna Janam

D.G. Phalke | India | 1918 | 6min | Silent | B&W

This short has spectacular trick effects including an infant Krishna rising from the sea on the head of a snake

Bridging The Ocean / Setu Bandhan

D.G. Phalke | India | 1932 | 9min | Silent | B&W

Lord Rama and his army of apes attempt to cross the sea to Lanka and rescue the abducted Sita.

And I Make Short Films

S.N.S Sastry | India | 1968 | 16min | B&W

An impressionistic and anarchic portrayal of a short filmmaker.


Pramod Pati | India | 1970 | 4min | B&W

The quintessential Indian experimental “city film.”

Child On A Chess Board

Vijay B Chandra | India | 1979 | 8min | B&W

This abstract films depicts industrial progress and scientific development through the eyes of a child.


Pramod Pati | India | 1968 | 8min | B&W

A psychedelic trip through ‘60’s youth culture in India.

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