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The First Indian Actress- Anna Salunke

We are all ordinary until we do something extraordinary. Well, Anna Salunke was one such person, who did the extraordinary and unimaginable.

Anna Salunke is much of a mystery man himself since most of his early years have remained unknown to the world. It was life-changing for him when he entered the world of movies in the year 1913.
Anna Hari Salunke was the first Indian actor known to play roles of female characters – his first-ever role in a movie was to play Queen Taramati for Dadasaheb Phalke. He was called the “First Indian Actress” quite accurately. Here is an interesting anecdote of how he got this role!

In 1912, Dadasaheb Phalke was back from London and had decided to make a movie based on Raja Harishchandra. Phalke wrote the script and now had to find the right cast to make this movie and thus decided to publish an ad in the Induprakash. Back then, women were skeptical of acting in movies. Phalke was disappointed. Usually, Phalke visited a restaurant in Grand Road in Mumbai where Anna Salunke worked as a cook/waiter, and on one such visit, Salunke caught his attention. Salunke’s feminizing figure and delicate hands bagged him the role of Queen Taramati, the consort of King Harishchandra. In 1913, Raja Harishchandra became the first full-length Indian feature film.

It was only the beginning of Salunke’s acting career. His partnership with Phalke continued for a few movies, where he played the role of the female leads. That includes the ‘Satyavadi Raja Harishchandra’ in 1917, a silent short film which was a short version of the movie Raja Harishchandra.

Source – Wikipedia

In the same year, Salunke had redeemed his potential as an actor to a new height when he played both Rama and Sita in Phalke Lanka Dahan. Marvellous, isn’t it?

There were two more movies where Anna played the role of a woman. One of them was Satyanarayana in 1922, directed by V.S Nirantar and then in 1923 for Phalke’s Buddha Dev. Interestingly, Salunke also worked as a cinematographer in both these movies. In 1926, Salunke had left his acting career and focused on being a cinematographer. He shot the movie Bhakta Pralhad that was directed by Dadasaheb Phalke. Most of the movies shot by him were based on Hindu mythological themes.
His cinematographic work involved movies like Ahiravan Mahiravan Vadh, Guru Dronacharya, Ram Ravan Yuddha, Anant Vrat, Bhakta Sudama,Madalasa,Khuda Parasta , Amir Khan and many more and his last work as a cinematographer was in 1931.

Now one can only remember him through his movies…

Written by- Vibhashi Nagda

Edited by- Radhika Khandelwal

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