HINDUSTAN FILM COMPANY
'Lanka Dahan''s dazzling success brought Phalke into the limelight as never before. His
series of articles in the 'Navayug' on his experiences as a filmmaker also evoked sympathy
for his cause. Several offers of finance came pouring in. Lokmanya Tilak along with
Manmohanhandas Ramji and Ratanseth Tata offered to create a limited company with a capital
of Rs. 5 lakh. Another group of Bombay-based textile industrialists- V.S. Apte,
Mayashankar Bhatt, L.B. Phatak, Madhavji Jesing and Gokuldas Damodar agreed to finance
him. Phalke had been introduced to Apte by the eminent sanskrit scholar Dr. Bhandarkar. It
was this latter offer that Phalke accepted and the Hindustan Film Company was formed in
1917 with Phalke as the working partner, V.S. Apte as managing partner and the others as
the financing partners. Phalke's earlier films also became a property of the new company.
For a while things went quite well. Shorn of his perennial worry of finance, Phalke could
now concentrate on more creative matters. He immediately set about making the film that he
had wanted to make at the very start : 'Shri Krishna Janma'. Running to almost 5500 feet,
the film was almost twice the size of his previous films. The film also got with a better
distribution since Hindustan had set up regional offices at Bombay and Madras. Phalke
followed this up with another film 'Kalia Mardan', starring his daughter Mandakini in the
role of child Krishna. Both films proved to be extremely popular.
Simultaneously with making these films, Phalke set about making his studio at Nasik into a
model studio. It had a gymnasium, facilities for indoor and outdoor games, a farm and
garden, a library, a common mess amd event and a even a zoo! Coaches were employed to
teach fencing and fighting and a doctor was always in attendance. It was all a happy
family. But this happiness was too good to last. Differences between Phalke and his
partners once again surfaced over how the studio was to be run and the films produced.
Eventually, in 1919, Phalke quit the studio and the film business for good.
Phalke's decision to retire was a bit premature. He was then 49 years old and still a
healthy active man. In 1922, Phalke was prevailed upon to rejoin the Hindustan Film
Company, which had begun to flounder after his departure. The owners had, in the meantime,
formed a subsidiary company at Pune under the name of Bharat Fim Company, which had to be
wound up in two years ( 1921-1923) because the scenario of the film production had
changed. Hindustan no longer had a monopoly of film production as other companies, both in
Bombay and other cities, had emerged and were producing films on a strictly commercial
The Phalke who rejoined the company in 1922 was a different man from the one who had left
the company. He was much older and a little tired of his ongoing battles with financiers
and partners. He was also slightly disgusted with the world of commerce. Besides,
the partners had placed several constraints on him which did not allow him to function the
way he wanted to. All this was totally unsuited to his artistic temperament. Phalke did
direct a few films in the second phase of his cinematic career - of which his first one
'Mahananda'( 1923) is better known - but by and large he was contented with supervising
the technical side of the studio.
Phalke continued to work for the company till 1932 when it was voluntarily dissolved. Many
of the films made during this period carried Phalke's name though one does not know how
many he directed with the original zest. Many of the other films were directed by Phalke's
assistants like Sane Mama and Nirantar. Between 1917 and 1932, Hindustan made a total of
97 feature films ( including the four that Phalke directed before the formation of the
company) and 26 short films. Of these, at least 45 feature films and 16 short films can
definitely be attributed to Phalke. Phalke's last film for Hindustan was 'Setu Bandhan'(
1932), a sound synchronised version of which was made and released in 1934.