There is a general
perception that Dada Saheb Falke is the father of Indian Cinema
as he produced the first film in India, 'Raja Harischandra' in 1910.
But it was Sri Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu who laid foundation stone
for Indian Cinema by producing a film on 1909.
Venkaiah's father worked as a subedar in Indian Army, Machilipatnam.
Venkaiah is the second son. He used to excel in the fields of drawing
and sculpturing. He was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara.
At the age of 18, Venkaiah reached Madras (Chennai) and rented a
small house to set up an art center. He started off with drawing
and carving sculptures. Slowly he learnt photography and started
experimenting. He happened to come accross a news article on 'Chrono
Megaphone'. When we project a flim using Chrono Mega phone, it produces
relevant sounds. Venkaiah ordered for that equipment from John Dickinson
Chronomegaphone costed him around Rs 30,000/-. Heeding to the advice
by his wife, he mortgaged his photo studio to lend money. His gave
his first show with that equipment at Victoria Hall. He exhibited
12 short films of 400 feet length each. Under the Panama, Sound
Recorded Double Disk, Swing Song-18" disk, Sea Serpent - 18"
disk, Fireman Song - 18" disk, Micado - 18" disk are few
of them. Venkiah did not get encouraging collections during his
first exhibition. That dis not dampen Venkaiah's spirits. He distributed
palmplet to create the awareness in public.
In 1910 Venkaiah established a tent house called Esplanade in Madras
to exhibit his films. Later he toured extensively in Bangalore and
Vijayawada to exhibit his films using the tent house concept. Though
he did not gain financially in those tours, he could just break-even.
He used to get lot of artistic satisfaction and sense of achievement
as people started thronging to his tent house and apreciate his
work. He went to Srilanka and exhibited his films in Burma, Rangoon
In 1912, he constructed 'Gaiety Talkies' in Mount Road. This was
the first cinema hall of Chennai. He exhibited films like 'Million
Dollar Mystery', 'Mysteries of Meera' and 'Clutching Hand'. He went
on for a cinema hall construction spree. He constructed Crown Theater
in Mint Street and Globe Theater in Parasuwakkam. He exhibited prestigious
films like 'Broken Coin' and 'Great Bard'.
In 1919, he started a production company called 'Star of East Films'.
He started a film studio called 'Glass Studio'. He used have shortage
of electric supply in his studio and generators were not available
at that time. Hence he used shoot films using broad day light.
In 1921, Venkaiah's son Prakash produced films like 'Gajendra Moksham',
'Mathsyavatharam', 'Nandanaar', and 'Bhishma Pratigna'. During that
time Indian women did not show willingness to act in films. Venkaiah
used to cast Anglo-Indian women in his films. Though 'Bhisma Pratigna'
is supposed to be the first Telugu feature film, history says that
Venkaiah produced a film called 'kannagi' which did not see the
day of light due to some technical problems. Venkaiah is the pioneer
of Trick Shots, Studio and Labs in south India.
Venkaiah was there in business till 1929. As he had to pay for enormous
amount of interest to the money lenders, he was forced to sell off
his properties. Sri Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu, who pioneered and
introduced the technology of Cinema in South India, died on 15th
March 1941 with abject poverty. AP State Government honored him
by incorporating 'Raghupathi Venkaiah Award'.
Disclaimer: The above information is compiled from an
article written by Sri Namala Visweswara Rao
of Last week: N T Rama Rao