Cinema is immensely popular in India, with as many as 2,000 films produced in various languages every year. Hindi film Industry is the largest revenue earner, the first film released in India was in Marathi by Dadasaheb Phalke but technically the first full-length motion picture in India was Raja Harishchandra also produced by Dadasaheb Phalke.
Only one print of the film was made, for showing at the Coronation Cinematograph on 3 rd May 1913. It was a commercial success. The most interesting point to note that the female characters in the film were played by male actors.
The status of Raja Harishchandra as the first full-length Indian feature film has been debated. Some film historians consider Dadasaheb Torne's silent film Shree Pundalik, released on 18 May 1912, the maiden Indian film. The Government of India, however, recognizes Raja Harischandra as the first Indian feature film.
Phalke hired around forty people for his film studio known as a factory. The film had an all-male cast as no women were available to play female leads Most of the cast did not have any prior acting experience. Phalke ran several rehearsals with the actors even he had to wear a sari himself and act out the scene.
Harishchandra's role was played by Dattatraya Damodar Dabke, Harishchandra's wife Taramti was played by Anna Salunke, who later in 1917 became the first to play a double role in Indian cinema, by playing the roles of both the hero and heroine in Lanka Dahan.
Other artists in the film were Bhalchandra Phalke as Rohitashva,Gajanan Vasudev Sane as Vishvamitra, Dattatreya Kshirsagar, Dattatreya Telang, Ganpat G. Shinde, Vishnu Hari Aundhkar, and Nath T. Telang
The premiere of the film took place at the Olympia Theatre, Bombay on 21 April 1913 at 9:00 pm. He decided to show the film to a select audience With the favorable reviews generated, Nanasaheb Chitre, Manager of the Coronation Cinematograph and Variety Hall, Girgaon, expressed his desire to screen the film.
The film had its theatrical release on 3 May 1913 at the Coronation Cinematograph and Variety Hall. The show included a dance by Irene Delmar, a comic act by McClements, foot-juggling by Alexandroff, and Tip-Top comic items followed by the film The show's duration was one-and-half hours with four shows scheduled a day at 6:00 pm, 8:00 pm, 10:00 pm, and 11:45 pm.
The film had a houseful run for a week, and it was extended for twelve more days. A special show was scheduled for 17 May for women and children only at half rates. Initially, 18 May was advertised as the last show, but the film continued its screening due to popular demand. It screened continuously for twenty-three days until 25 May and was screened at the Alexandra Theatre on 28 June.1913.
News of the film's success in Bombay spread across India and there were demands to screen the film in various locations. As there were no film distributors in those days, Phalke had to move the film, the projector, an operator, and some assistants from place to place.
The success of this film laid the foundation of the film industry" in the country.