Ayodhyecha Raja (1932)

A quick look at more antique cinema! This is the earliest Marathi film I’ve seen (okay, it’s the only Marathi film I’ve seen). It was made in both Hindi and Marathi by V. Shantaram for Prabhat Films and is the first Marathi “talkie.” No subtitles, and I have to say it kind of dragged for me. Mostly the acting was very theatrical (i.e. loud) and the setting very stagey, and there were a lot of tedious songs, badly sung. Here is a synopsis of the plot from imdb:

A big-budget mythological film telling a famous Ramayana tale. The truth-loving Harishchandra (Tembe), king of Ayodhya, is tested when the sage Vishwamitra challenges him to sacrifice his kingdom and offer alms of a thousand coins earned through his own labour. After many hardships, Harishchandra, Taramati (Khote) and their son Rohileshwara (Digambar) earn the money when the king and queen are sold as slaves in the city of Kashi. When the queen’s new owner, Ganganath (Pendharkar), tries to assault her, her son intervenes and is killed. Taramati is accused of the killing and is sentenced to be executed by her husband. The Kashi-Venkateshwara diety intervenes, brings the boy back to life, declares the king to have proved himself and returns him to his throne.

Happy ending, yay!

Here are the members of the royal family, Harishchandra (Govindrao Tembe), the Prince (Digamber Kumar) and Taramati (Durga Khote):

This guy was the comic relief and the replacement king when Harishchandra and his family set off on their pilgrimage:

He had a huge belly and his crown had springy floral wreath things coming out of it. He slept with his crown on his huge belly and it bobbed up and down in time to his snoring.

This is the evil king Ganganath (B. Pendharkar) who tried to molest Tarasmati:

He reminded me of the King of Siam from The King and I. The prince rescued his mother from the king’s advances, but was killed when the King threw him at some solid furniture.

Thank goodness for miracles and swamis!

And they lived happily ever after.

Durga (or possibly V. Shantaram) seemed especially proud of her profile. Very patrician! This was her third film, according to imdb.

Okay, back to subtitled films for me!

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11 Comments to “Ayodhyecha Raja (1932)”

  1. Nice! The early Shantaram and the later Shantaram are so wildly different.

  2. Thanks for struggling through this one. I really appreciate the opportunity to read about these older films that are more off the beaten path. On my end, I have a stack of unsubtitled Indian VCDs winging their way to me at this very moment, and I hope I’m up to the task. I’ve watched plenty of unsubtitled Chinese, Thai and Mexican genre films, but those were all relatively short and straightforward in terms of plot. Bollywood films obviously require a bit more effort.

  3. This is more like a stage play than a movie, really. I haven’t watched much Shantaram; I admit I have started Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, but found it heavy going…but I’ll keep trying.

    I figure if I want to be a Hindi film conoisseur (and I do! I do!) I need to see as many films from every period of film making I can. I love old Hollywood films from the 30s too, although they are in better condition than this one was. But without subtitles they can be incomprehensible (even WITH subs they are sometimes incomprehensible :-)…

  4. Shantaram’s Do Ankhen Barah Haath is one of my all time favorite classic Bollywood movies. Though I have to admit that that is partly because I’m a bit partial to Sandhya.

  5. Actually I saw Do Aankhen Barah Haath a long time ago and remember liking it, although I don’t remember anything in particular about Sandhya.

    I’m trying to get my hands on some old Shammi films that are only available on VCD without subs. But those I will enjoy just for the *star-gazing*…:-)

  6. I’m such a dialogue junkie that watching without subtitles makes me crazy–even when I *know* I’m probably better off without them! Still, your screencaps are beautiful. Love the moon lighting!

  7. A 1932 film! Wow!!! Thought they had mostly perished. From what I read in Bollywood: A History by Mihir Bose, studios of that era seemed to specialise in fires and loosing film prints! Sadly, it never occured to anyone to create a central film archive for their preservation.

    Durga Khote looks lovely and so do the Prince and the King. From what I remember of Achchut Kanya (1936) and even movies from early 40s (I have seen only a couple), the gestures and expressions are so broad that dialogues are pretty superfluous (and very very rough, too). So, you probably didnt miss much due to the lack of subtitles!

  8. This film is in pretty bad shape, there are sections where blotches of mold almost obscure the images, and the sound is abysmal throughout. Still, I’m glad that most of it has survived!

    I think this story was fairly simple, although dialogue in Indian films can be so poetic (to ajnabi’s point) that I hate missing it too…esp. in songs. The songs in this just sounded awful though and went on and on and on; they were probably too classically raga-based for my western ears to appreciate in addition to the bad quality of the sound.

  9. I suggest you watch “Harishchandrachi Factory”(Marathi, 2009). It is a comic take on Dadasaheb Phalke’s travails of making “Raja Harishchandra” in 1913- India’s first full length movie.


    • I have seen it and LOVE it. I guess I forgot to write about it, although many other people already have and very well so maybe I decided not to bother. It is great though.

  10. Going by the title, I first thought it was the story of Rama, King of Ayodhya, but I was wrong.
    Durga Khote sans the chubby cheeks! But her dimpled smile always captivated. Someone’s gracious grandma or mother. Maybe it’s just my strange eyes, she and Nadira looked similar in their later years – it’s the forehead and the cheekbones, maybe.
    I’ve only read the Amar Chitra Katha titled Harishchandra and was shaken and stirred (as I was meant to be, I suppose) and the prince died of a snake-bite in that version (here they showed the snake in its human form, I must say, also, how Aradhana-ish, truly Gulshan Nanda was inspired). I think the starcast featured the big ‘uns in movie-making those days – Durga Khote, B. Pendharkar.
    Harishchandra working at the cemetery grounds reminds me of `The Egyptian,’ where the hero tries to atone for his actions by working as a mortician/embalmer. Ganganath and the one and only Yul Brynner, who would’ve thought of that.
    Too bad about the subtitles. It took less effort to wake up Kumbhakaran in the Ramayan, is all I can think of, at this point.

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