Raja Harishchandra, a silent film released in 1913, is considered the first full-length feature film made in India. It was directed and produced by Dadasaheb Phalke, known as the Father of Indian Cinema.
Earlier, on May 18th, 1912, Shree Pundalik, also a silent film, was released. It was made by Dadasaheb Torne. However, it was a visual recording of a stage play, and so it is not considered a feature film.
Dadasaheb Phalke was deeply impressed by a film called The Life of Christ which he watched in the early 1900s, and wanted to make a film himself. He went to London and studied how to make films. He then imported most of the equipment that was needed, and set up a company named Phalke Films. He shot a small film called Ankurachi Wadh, on the growth of a pea plant, as a sample, so that people would understand what he wanted to achieve and support him with money and other requirements.
He published advertisements calling for actors and people to help him make the film. Dattatraya Damodar Dabke was chosen to play the role of Raja Harishchandra. No women were willing to act in films in those days, so finally, a man, Anna Salunke, was chosen to play the role of Queen Taramati. Bhalchandra Phalke and Gajanan Vasudev Sane were the other main actors.
Dadasaheb Phalke not only produced and directed the film but also wrote the script and was responsible for make-up, editing and film-processing too! He is believed to have pawned his family’s jewels and also his furniture to collect the money needed for the project.
The shooting took almost seven months to complete, and the film was four reels long. It was first screened on April 21st at Mumbai, then known as Bombay.