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  • a fire that broke out a few days before Hiralal Sen (pictured) died destroyed all his films including India's first political film?

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Hiralal Sen

Hiralal Sen (Bengali: হীরালাল সেন Hiralal Shen) (1866 – 1917) was a Bengali photographer generally considered one of India's first filmmakers. He is also credited with creating India's first advertising films and quite possibly India's first political film. A fire in 1917 destroyed all of his films.

Contents

Early life

Hiralal Sen's native home was in Manikganj, approximately 80 km from Dhaka, the present-day capital of Bangladesh.[1] Although he was the son of a successful lawyer of a zamindar family of that region, he grew up in Calcutta.[1] In 1898, a film troupe en route to Paris screened a certain Professor Stevenson's short film along with the stage show, The Flower of Persia at the Star Theatre in Calcutta.[2] Borrowing Stevenson's camera, Sen made his first film, "A Dancing Scene" from the opera The Flower of Persia. [2] With assistance from his brother, Motilal Sen, he bought an Urban Bioscope from Charles Urban's Warwick Trading Company in London.[2] In the following year, with his brother, he formed the Royal Bioscope company.[2]

Creative years

In a creative career that extended up to 1913, Hiralal Sen made over forty films.[3] Most of the films he made depicted scenes from theatrical productions played at Amarendra Dutta's Classic Theatre in Calcutta. At that time raw film was imported into the country. [2] Between 1901 and 1904, he produced many films for Classic Theatre including Bhramar, Hariraj, and Buddhadev.[2] His longest film, produced in 1903 and titled Alibaba and the Forty Thieves, was also based on an original Classic Theatre performance.[1] [2] However, not much is known about this feature film since it was never screened. [1] He also produced a number of advertising films and newsfilms taking commissions. [2]. Having made two films advertising Jabakusum Hair Oil and Edwards Tonic, he may have been the first Indian to use film for advertising purposes.[1]

India's first political film

A film documenting the Anti-Partition Demonstration and Swadeshi movement at the Town Hall, Calcutta on 22 September 1905 is generally considered India's first political film. [1][3] In 1905, it was advertised as a "genuine Swadeshi film of our own make" and ended with the rallying cry for freedom, Vande Mataram.[1]

Later years

Royal Bioscope made its last film in 1913. Hiralal Sen's later years were filled with disappointment and economic hardship.[1] 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.[1][2][3]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Teachers’ Medicare Benevolent Fund (2005-12-31). "Hiralal Sen (in Bengali)" (HTML). http://www.abasar.net/filmhiralal.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-01.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i McKernan, Luke (1996-12-31). "Hiralal Sen (copyright British Film Institute)" (HTML). http://www.victorian-cinema.net/sen.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-01.  
  3. ^ a b c Bandopadhyay, Samik (1995). The Early Years of Calcutta Cinema IN Sukanta Choudhury edited: Calcutta, The Living City, Vol II. Calcutta: Oxford University Press. pp. 293–94.  

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