The life and work of Dadasaheb Phalke has been a project of immense dedication and personal study for filmmaker Kamal Swaroop. It has found many expressions over the last few decades, in the form of short films, workshops and a book titled “Tracing Phalke”.
The film “Rangbhoomi”, made in 2013, follows the filmmaker Kamal Swaroop as he attempts to trace the contours of Dada Saheb Phalke’s life in Varanasi – a place where Phalke withdrew, disillusioned from the world of cinema and decided to take up theatre. During his life in Varanasi, Phalke wrote a semi-autobiographical play titled “Rangbhoomi” which forms the core of this cinematic exploration.
Set in the monumental cityscape of the old town of Varanasi, “Rangbhoomi” intertwines the personal engagement of Kamal Swaroop with the story of Phalke’s journey and the play, deploying a vibrant palette of sounds, sights and characters in a surrealist juxtaposition. It includes the students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, in a workshop, in this journey to re-trace Phalke.
The film was awarded the Rajat Kamal – National Film Award for Best Non-Feature Film in 2013.
Kamal Swaroop is a two-time President’s award and Filmfare Award winning film, television and radio director and screenwriter. In 1974, he graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India and even his student works met with unusual international acclaim. In 1982, he assisted Sir Richard Attenborough in the filming of “Gandhi”. “Om Dar-B-Dar” (1988) is his path breaking masterpiece.
Swaroop’s career, spanning 42 years, covers a broad range of films. In 2014, he directed “The Battle of Banaras”, produced by Medient and went on to release “Tracing Phalke” (2015) for Films Division of India, “Pushkar Puran” (2017) and “Atul” (2017), based on the world-renowned Dadaist artist Atul Dodiya, in a prolific period of experimentation for the filmmaker.
The “Battle for Banaras” premiered at Cinema Du Reel, Paris and Dubai Film Festival, while “Atul” premiered at the Cochin Biennale. “Pushkar Puran” premiered at Montreal World Film Festival, DOK Leipzig, Mumbai Film Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival. It was selected as the opening documentary film in the prestigious Indian Panorama at International Film Festival of India, Goa.