Raja Harishchandra’s versions on Film
I have often wondered about the route India cinema must have taken had it not got its immense treasure trove of mythological characters and ready made story lines packed with the entire Navarasas. It would have been a very dreary history, after all. The Kings, Queens, conniving Ministers, over-patriotic Commanders-in-Chief and the rest of the entourage we had in our myths were, in my humble opinion, the best a Nation could get. It must have been also the very reason why Dada Saheb Phalke chose to immortalise on celluloid as he planned for India’s first full-length feature film, in 1913.
With its strong palette of values and ideals that even forces a King to forsake everything thats dear to him, including his family and his kingdom, Raja Harishchandra’s story was a guaranteed draw regardless of the medium in which it was conveyed, be it theater, katha or by 1913, the medium of cinema. I feel, it is this very reason that also makes it one of the most indigenously adapted story across regions in India, in almost all languages, and in some places three times over !