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Raja Harishchandra: The Untold Stories Behind India's First Movie Premiere

Imagine stepping back into Mumbai's vibrant streets in 1913, where an air of excitement crackled with anticipation as India braced for its inaugural movie premiere. Central to this historic occasion was "Raja Harishchandra," the brainchild of visionary filmmaker Dadasaheb Phalke. However, behind the glitz and glamour of this cinematic extravaganza, a fairytale of captivating incidents and anecdotes unfolded, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the unfolding drama.

It was at the Olympia Theatre on April 21st, 1913. In fact, Dada's elder daughter, Mandakini, who was a few months old, was suffering from a high fever. Hence, Dada was tense, and even his wife, Saraswatibaiee, was not prepared to attend the premier show because of this. However, Dadasaheb's elder brother told her, "You need to be there with your husband since it's a big day for both of you." He also assured her that they would take care of Mandakini. Finally, Saraswatibaiee attended the premiere.
After receiving a standing ovation from esteemed members of the audience, including prominent press representatives, High Court Judge Donald, and Vima Dalal, at the Phalke show in [city name], Mr. Chitre extended an invitation to showcase the production to the public at the Coronation Theatre on May 3rd, 1913.

- Chandrashekhar Pusalkar , Grandson of Dadasaheb Phalke

The Secret Stunt:

Whispers swirled around a daring stunt rumoured to inaugurate the premiere – an audacious feat where Dadasaheb Phalke would descend from the heavens on a makeshift flying contraption. Though the spectacle never materialized, its mere anticipation lent an electrifying buzz to the proceedings.

The Wardrobe Malfunction:

Mere moments before stepping onto the illustrious red carpet, a prominent leading lady found herself grappling with a wardrobe malfunction of epic proportions. Quick-thinking aides swooped in to save the day, ensuring the star's entrance remained elegant and poise.

Lights, Camera, Chaos:

Technical hiccups threatened to overshadow the screening, with the projector faltering midway through the presentation. Undeterred, Phalke himself took centre stage, regaling the audience with impromptu anecdotes and tales until the glitch was rectified, ensuring that the show went on.

The Popcorn Pandemonium:

In an unforeseen moment of levity, a mischievous youngster unleashed a torrent of popcorn upon unsuspecting patrons, injecting a burst of laughter and mirth into the atmosphere, momentarily dispelling the tension of a gripping scene.

The Legacy Unfolds:

Despite the trials and tribulations, "Raja Harishchandra" emerged triumphant, capturing the hearts and imaginations of audiences and critics alike with its revolutionary storytelling. The premiere, with all its unexpected twists and turns, laid the cornerstone for a new epoch in Indian cinema, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape.


Behind the façade of India's inaugural movie premiere lies a trove of captivating anecdotes and incidents, each contributing to the rich tapestry of cinematic history. From secret stunts to wardrobe malfunctions, these untold stories serve as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity that propelled the birth of Indian cinema.


  1. Dwyer, Rachel. Dadasaheb Phalke: The Father of Indian Cinema. Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-0198089465.

  2. Nag, Amitava. Raja Harishchandra: A Journey Through Indian Cinema's Genesis. HarperCollins India, 2018. ISBN: 978-9351941427.

  3. Pandey, Rajiv. "Unraveling the Origins: A Historical Analysis of India's First Movie Premiere." Journal of Indian Cinema Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, 2020, pp. 45-62.


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