Harishchandrachi Factory is that rare thing - a delightful film that makes its point with charm, simplicity and a wonderful lightness of being.
The film, which starts in 1911, is about Dadasaheb Phalke, the pioneer who made India's first feature film Raja Harishchandra in 1913.
Director Paresh Mokashi's triumph is that instead of predictably eulogizing this extra-ordinary man, the film humanizes him and celebrates his utterly mad and ferocious passion for cinema.
Phalke, played by Nandu Madhav, wanders into a cinema tent quite by chance but he is hooked after experiencing his first moving pictures. He watches them repeatedly until he almost goes blind. At one point, his close friends fear for his sanity and take him to a mental hospital.
Undeterred, Phalke collects money and leaves his pregnant wife and two children to go to England to learn the art of filmmaking. As he leaves, he instructs a friend not to notify him even if someone dies since he cannot come back before his training is over.
The struggle to make Raja Harishchandra provides ample comedy and chaos. Even prostitutes refuse to work in a film because it would ruin their reputation so Phalke fakes boys for girls.
At one point, the entire unit is arrested because the police mistake them for bandits. And when Raja Harishchandra premieres on May 3, 1913, only a stray dog shows up causing Phalke to remark: well, at least no one can say even a stray dog didn't show up.
Mokashi's portrays Phalke as a Chaplinesque figure who can make you laugh and cry in a heartbeat.
His relationship with his smiling, supportive wife is textured enough to be a film in itself.
Harishchandrachi Factory has a fairy tale-like sweetness to it. Phalke's struggle never gets too arduous and problems that arise, are easily solved. Mokashi doesn't explore the tragic dimming of Phalke's career.
The film ends with his grand success, which established the largest film industry in the world. There isn't enough dramatic momentum or epic sweep here. But there is an unabashed delight in one man's passion and ambition.