The Magic Lantern show leaves audience spellbound

iffi-small-logoThe skill and thrill of pre-cinema era came alive at IFFI-2009 with the National Film Archives of India presenting an enthralling show of the Magic Lantern ‘Shambharik Kharolika’. Shambharik Kharolika (literally meaning the demon Shambhar’s lantern with similar magical qualities) refers to a unique form of entertainment which is the precursor of cinema in the form of an animated slide show using colour glass slides, music and dialogue. The team from NFAI presented the Krishna Janam story at the Kala Academy Auditorium Soulful rendition of songs by the young talented Rasika Ajotikar and musical accompaniments by Shri Kaustubh Joshi and Director, NFAI Shri Vijay Jadhav infused life into the antique hand-painted slides.

The Magic Lantern was the result of the innovation and the hard work of Mr. Mahadeo Gopal Patwardhan of Kalyan and his friend Mr. Madan Rao Madhav Rao Pitale. Hand-painted slides created an illusion of animation when projected on the screen. This invention was later supplemented with narration, dialogues, lyrics and background music. Mahadeo Patwardhan started putting up small shows for his children and neighbours from 1885. Hundreds of hand-painted slides on various Epic Themes were showcased as private shows and later became commercial, entertaining both Europeans and Indians and winning prestigious awards.

The fourth generation of the Patwardhan family Shri Sunil Patwardhan, his wife Seema Patwardhan and their sons Akshay and Atharva Patwardhan were present at the Kala Academy Auditorium to explain their age old family tradition. Shri Sunil informed that his great grandfather started the first public show of Shambharik Kharolika in 1892. The Magic Lantern show became popular and the Patwardhans toured the entire Bombay province. The mythological stories presented in early 1900s included the Sita Swayamvar and Raja Harish Chandra. In fact, it was Raja Harish Chandra’s story in this animated slide show that influenced Dada Saheb Phalke to make his first cinema. However, by 1918 when sound came into movies, the Shambharik Kharolika faded out. The NFAI has been looking after this historic equipment and their painted slides since 1983.