Motion Pictures Archive of Pakistan

Pakistan Film History


Invention of Cinema



In 1827 first ever still photograph was taken by Claude Niepce, he used glass plate technique, it was a photograph of the View from a Window at Le Gras which took nearly eight hours to expose. Afterward in 1878 Edweard Muybridge achieved success after five years of trying to capture movement. Muybridge was asked, in 1873, by the ex-governor of California – Leland Stanford to settle a bet as to whether horses hooves left the ground when they galloped. He did this by setting up a bank of twelve cameras with trip-wires connected to their shutters, each camera took a picture when the horse tripped its wire. Muybridge developed a projector to present his finding. He adapted Horner’s Zoetrope to produce his Zoopraxinoscope. Etienne Jules Mary, inspired by Muybridge’s animal locomotion studies, started his own experiments in 1882 to study the flight of birds and other rapid animal movements. The result was a photographic gun which exposed twelve images on the edge of a circular plate.


Lumiere Brothers


Lumiere Brothers

The French Lumiere Brothers (Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas 19 October 1862 – 10 April 1954 and Louis Jean 5 October 1864 – 6 June 1948) the sons of well known Lyons based portrait painter Antoine Lumière, basing on the idea of Edison’s Peephole Kinetoscope, had invented their own device combining camera with printer and projector and called it the Cinématographe. They kept their new invention a closely guarded secret while improvising it with new modifications. At last they demonstrated their first screenings on 22nd March 1895 at 44 Rue de Rennes in Paris, France at an industrial meeting where a film especially for the occasion, Workers leaving the Lumière factory, was shown. Such screenings generated much discussion and widespread excitement surrounding this new technology – in preparation for their first public screening on 28th December at the Grand Cafe on Paris’s Boulevard de Capuchines.



Cinema in Sub-Continent (India)

After the introductory demonstration of cine projection by French Lumiere Brothers through their first ever soundless movies this newborn medium of entertainment extended all over the world like jungle fire and obviously it includes sub continent as well when Lumiere Brothers premiered their show comprising of short documentary reels i.e. The Emergence of cinematograph, Termination of shift of a factory, A Approaching train, Sea bathing, Demolition and Soldiers on wheels at the Watson Hotel in Bombay India on 7 July 1896, presented by Marius Sestier. In 1898, Professor Anderson filmed A Train Arriving at Churchgate Station incorporating Madmeoiselle Blanche and Poona Races which were screened in Christmas edition, Andersonoscopograp. Calcutta was also into it side by side where Professor Stevenson who worked on movies called A Dancing Scene from the Flower of Persia and A Panorama of Indian Scenes and Processions.



Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar 

15 March 1868 – 20 February 1958

H. S. Bhatavdekar

H. S. Bhatavdekar

As regard to Indians in the field of cine is concerned Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar commonly known as Save Dada managed to procured the film concerned apparatus i.e. camera for filming and projector for projecting the shot films. As earlier mentioned, that Lumière Cinématographe arrived in India at Bombay on 7 July 1896, Bhatavdekar was one of the audience for these first shows. He was a portrait photographer by occupation from Maharastra and had established a photographic studio in Bombay in 1880, and was so captivated by the Lumière show that he ordered a camera from Riley brothers of England, at a price of 21 guineas. In 1899 he made one reel film named The Wrestlers which was shot during a real wrestling match at the Hanging Gardens in Bombay (Mumbai) so it became the first film shot by an Indian in sub-continent. After filming the film it was sent back to London for processing. While awaiting the film’s return Bhatvadekar secured a projector and began touring with imported films, adding the wrestling film on its return and then his second film, showing the training of circus monkeys. He filmed local scenes and an event which has gone down as the first Indian news film, the return to India from Cambridge in December 1901 of acclaimed mathematics student R.P. Paranjype, an event with considerable resonance for both Indian and British communities. In 1903, Bhatvadekar filmed a newsreel of Delhi Durbar celebrating Edward VII’s coronation of Lord Curzon. Delhi , before turning to exhibition, becoming manager of the Gaiety Theatre in Bombay. He possessed a very lively personality so died while cracking a joke with a friend.


Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar’s Films

Some of the short films of Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar are as follows:-

  • Delh i DurbarThe Wrestlers -1899
  • A man and his monkeys -1899
  • Landing of Sir M. M. Bhownuggree -1901
  • Atash Behram -1901
  • Sir Wrangler -1902
  • Delhi Durbar Coronation -1903
  • Delhi Durbar -1903



Hiralal Sen


Hiralal-SenHiralal Sen, a Bengali national who was from Bagjuri, a village in Manikganj, 80 km from Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was the son of a lawyer of a landlord family of that region, got his education in Calcutta and became a photographer. In 1898, a French film troupe screened some short films of Professor Stevenson during a stage show “The Flower of Persia” at the Star Theatre in Calcutta. Hiralal Sen with Stevenson’s camera, made his first film, a Dancing Scene from the opera The Flower of Persia which is considered India’s first short film. With assistance from his brother, Motilal Sen, he bought an Urban Bioscope from Charles Urban’s Warwick Trading Company in London and next year he formed the Royal Bioscope Company. Royal Bioscope made its last film in 1913. Hiralal Sen’s later years were filled with disappointment and economic hardship. Jamshedji Framji Madan of the Elphinstone Bioscope Company had long surpassed him in terms of success. To compound his misery, he was also suffering from cancer. A few days before his death in 1917, a fire broke out destroying every film he ever made.
F.B. Thanawala were two other Indian forerunners engaged in the production of newsreels short films at Bombay in 1900. Likewise in 1902 – 3 – Jamshedji Framjee Madan and Abdullah Esoofally inducted themselves and inaugurated their cinematic career with Bioscope shows of imported short films. After four years, in 1907 Madan also established India’s first permanent cinema house – Elphinstone Picture Palace which is presently known as Chaplin. In 1912 – N.G. Chitre and R.G. Torney made a silent feature film Pundalik which was released on May 18 1912 and it was made in technical collaboration with the Britain.


Shree Pundalki

(18 May 1912)

Shree Pundalik, which was released on 18 May 1912 at ‘Coronation Cinematograph’ Girgaum, Bombay was first Indian movie released in Sub-Continent. It was a silent film in Marathi which was produced and directed by Dadasaheb Torne, who has been termed the “Father of Indian cinema. Some have argued that Pundalik does not deserve the honour of being called the first Indian film because it was a photographic recording of a popular Marathi play, and because the cameraman—a man named Johnson—was a British national and the film was processed in London but it was first short film of India.



Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (Dadda Sahib Phalke)

30 April 1870 – 16 February 1944

Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (Dadasaheb Phalke)

Dada Saheb Phalke

Meantime Dhundiraj Govind Phalke commonly known as Dada Saheb Phalke (30 April 1870 – 16 February 1944) acquired cinematographical knowledge along with technical gadgets like British bioscope from London and started filming Raja Harishchandra with a lot of inspiration from a film The Life of Christ. The movie Raja Harishchandra which was India’s first indigenous full-length feature film was screened to selected audience on April 21, 1913 prior to its actual release. Subsequently it was released at Coronation Theatre in Bombay on 3rd May 1913. Another movie Lanka Dahan which was released by Phalke in 1917 proved India’s first box-office hit, which made the Phalke as the great pioneer of Indian cinema and his contributions were formally recognized as Dadasaheb Phalke is considered as the father of Indian cinema. After Raja Harishchandra, Phalke made one hundred and twenty one films (95 movies and 26 short).


Dada Saheb Phalke’s Films

Most noted work of Dada Sahib Phalke is as under:-


  • Mohini Bhasmasur – 1913
  • Satyavan Savitri – 1914
  • Lanka Dahan – 1917
  • Shri Krishna Janma – 1918
  • Kaliya Mardan – 1919


Raja Harishchandra (1913)


Raja Harishchandra (1913)

The first indigenous full-length feature film Raja Harishchandra (1913) was a silent film (about 40 minutes) produced and directed by the legendary film maker Dadasaheb Phalke. The film depicts the legend of the noble and righteous King Harishchandra, taken from the Hindu religious epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Raja Harishchandra had an all-male cast and crew of more than five hundred people. The roles of female characters in the film were played by men dressed as women, as no woman in India was ready to act in a film, so the men played all the roles.

The film was first released on 3 May 1913 at Mumbai’s Coronation Cinema. As the film was very successful, Dada Saheb had to make more prints for exhibition in other areas. The film not only was a grand success establishing Phalke as a producer, but it marked the birth of Indian film industry, the world’s largest producer of films.

It is worth mentioning that, the most prestigious and coveted award in Indian Cinema for lifetime contribution to cinema, was constituted in his honour by the Government of India in 1969.


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