Silent film “Pundalik” released on 18th May, 1912 was the first Indian film though the credit is given to Dada Saheb Phalke’s silent film “Raja Harischandra” released in 1913 for some technical reasons.
The reason is that “Pundalik” was exhibited as part of the show of a Hollywood film “A Dead Man’s Child”.
“Pundalik”, based on the life and times of the Maharashtra Saint Pundalik was the first visualizing in celluloid of the musical opera (Sangeet Natak) of the same title. The filming of the stage play was the result of an attempt to create a swadeshi cinema. The idea behind the project was by Ram Chandra Gopal TORNEY, shortly known as R.G. TORNEY, Hindi and Marathi director of later period. N. G. CHITRE, who was the Manager of Coronation Cinematography in Bombay; P. R. TIPNIS a major Delhi based film distributor of later period also were actively involved in the production of “Pundalik”. It is believed that the role played by R. G. Torney was marginal in the production and N. G. Chitre and P. R. Tipnis should be credited with the production of “Pundalik”.
The film was released on 18th May 1912 at Coronation Cinematography in Bombay. Approximate duration was 60 minutes. “Pundalik” was shown as the first part of the film show combining with the English movie “A Dead Man’s Child”. The publicity notices of the show gave prominence to “Pundalik”.
The film was shot at the location- Mangalwadi compound in Lamington Road area, near Grant Road, Bombay (where later “Naaz Cinema” etc was built up). Raw film, camera and camera man was brought from the Bombay branch of “BOURNE and SHEPHERD” film company. An amateur dramatic club “Patankar Friends & Company” also supported the Project.
On May 25, 1912 “The Times” reviewed the film generously. It commented “As a religious drama it has few equals. The programme is as good as it can be made”. The film ran for two amazing weeks.