KALIYA MARDAN (1919)
aka Kalia Mardan
Article 4231 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke
Featuring Neelkanth, Mandakini Phalke
What it is: Hindu mythology
The childhood of the Hindu deity Shree Krishna is portrayed.
Shree Krishna is one of the avatars of Vishnu, and is often portrayed as a flute-playing child and a prankster. For most of this movie, that would have been the sole fantastic content I would have found, but near the end, Krishna does battle with a giant underwater snake, and that serves as definite fantastic content for one who has no idea who Shree Krishna is. Granted, I don’t have the background to fully appreciate all of this episodic movie, but I will make certain observations. One is that much of the movie’s appeal is due to the performance of Mandakini Phalke (the director’s eight-year-old daughter) as Shree Krishna; she is so expressive and energetic she is fun to watch. I was also curious to see how a Indian cinema (which is replete with music and dancing) would fare in the pre-sound era. Well, it may be a silent movie, but I suspect if any culture would definitely have had music playing during their silent movies, it would be Indian culture. And the movie is filled with opportunities to do so, as we have Krishna playing the flute during one scene, as well as quite a bit of dancing. Even when the dancing is not explicit, much of the movement has a certain rhythmic, musical quality. Again, cultural differences hamper my ability to fully appreciate the movie, but I do think this makes for interesting viewing.