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THE LAST DAYS

After his premature retirement from the Hindustan Film Company in 1919, Phalke went to Benaras. There he turned to writing a play called 'Rangbhoomi', which was obviously biographical. The play was completed by May 1920 and though Phalke could not garner enough financial support for it, went ahead and staged it by collecting a repertory of artistes. The play was a musical one and was obviously written to give expression to Phalke's musical talent which had been honed at the Maulabux Musical School of Baroda. The play was not a commercial success but it won for Phalke the presidentship of the annual Natya Sammelan ( Theatre Conference) at Kolhapur in 1926.

Much before that, in 1922, Phalke was convinced into joining the Hindustan Film Company again. After making some films for Hindustan, Dadasaheb Phalke finally made his last film 'Setu Bandhan' in 1934 for the company. This time he was definite in his intention to retire from the film industry he had single-handedly created. In spite of having earned literally thousands of rupees he was, at the end of his life, without any savings. He tried to start a small business to manufacture enamel boards, using a technique he had perfected indigenously but obviously it did not take off for, in 1937, he was back to directing a talkie 'Gangavataran' for Kolhapur Cinetone. That was the only talkie he ever made. It was a commercial disaster.

The strain of filmmaking was too much for this pioneer who was nearing 70 years then. In spite of that he was still getting offers from producers from as far off as Lucknow and Rajamundry to direct films for them. But Phalke had had enough. He announced that 'Gangavataran' would be his last film. In spite of his resolve Phalke continued to toy with the idea of making short films, probably for a short film division of the newly setup Prabhat Film Company. However, his health was not up to the mark. His friend, the famous Marathi novelist, Hari Narayan Apte took him to Koregaon to recuperate. Phalke was once again in the limelight during the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Indian cinema in 1939 when he was felicitated with a purse of Rs. 5000. However, the amount was too little and too late. He died in nearpenury on February 16, 1944 at the ripe old age of 74 years.

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After 'Raja Harishchandra'

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