Anna Salunke: Restaurant boy who became First Actress of Indian Cinema


DADA SAHEB PHALKE also cited as Father of Indian cinema, creator of first Feature-Length Film of INDIAN CINEMA, named RAJA HARISHCHANDRA had faced enormous stress when he was casting for the female lead of this film. He was so helpless while making his first film, that he had to even approach prostitutes for the role of Rani Taramati in Raja Harishchandra, and in addition to his problems even the prostitutes denied taking this role. So at the end who played this role?? A restaurant boy?? seriously???


Yes, you read that right!… In the early twentieth century, the condition of performing arts including Dramatics, Music & Dance in India was so bad that people used to consider it as work of low classes of society. Indian Drama which has an enormous history of centuries throughout the Indian subcontinent lost all its reputation by the end of the nineteenth century due to several invasions by foreigners. People of Educated sects of society at that time considered Dramatics and Music to have only one purpose which was to eradicate Prostitution. Such association with prostitution and illiteracy made people reluctant to participate freely in these fields.


But Dadasaheb had all his inspiration to make raja harish Chandra coming from theatre. He was a theatre practitioner himself, and the film he was working on was completely based on MAHABHARATA, so disassociating himself from Indian Drama was impossible. He believed that no “decent woman” would sign up for coming on screen as an actress as it will be seen as the woman “branding herself” in front of the audience. So having left with no other, Phake went to the Red-Light-Areas” to get his “RANI TARAMATI”. But due to so low associations and working form of theatres, even the Prostitutes denied doing the Role.


Displeased by such responses Phalke was having his meal at a restaurant, where he saw a boy, ANNA SALUNKE, who was a cook there. Amused by his womanly features and slim body Phalke asked him how much was he earning doing his job? a sum of Rupees 10/per month, he replied, I will pay you 15, would you leave this job and work for me? DONE!!!, was Anna’s reply to Phalke’s offer.

Lord Hanuman giving Ring to Goddess Sita

After this cordial agreement, Anna played RANI TARAMATI in Phalke’s RAJA HARISHCHANDRA and became the “First Indian Actress”. Later ANNASAHEB SALUNKE also became the “THE FIRST INDIAN ACTOR TO PLAY A DOUBLE ROLE IN A FILM” when he played the role of both Lord Ram & Goddess Sita in DADASAHEB PHALKE’S LANKA DAHANwhich released in 1917. Such a mine of talent these two men were who created magic on screen.

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