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Hiralal review: A tribute to the founding father of Indian cinema

With note-worthy cinematography and a sincere script at the heart of the project, the story is well laid out and captures the minute details of Hiralal Sen’s life extensively

Raktim Das
Jul 16, 2021
cover image

Kinjal Nanda in and as Hiralal


The movie is a biopic based on Hiralal Sen, the first filmmaker in India, who heralded a new dawn in filmmaking and motion picture. It is said that he made the first full length film, as well as the first advertisements in film-medium, in the country. The plot is a testimony to the life of the legend - from his curiosity towards cameras since childhood to his fascination for a new machine called a bioscope that can display pictures in motion. It highlights Hiralal’s rapid rise in making films and ends with his unfortunate turn of luck and subsequent fall from grace.


The movie is a heart-felt tribute to a man, who has been forgotten by the people of today. The honest intentions of director Arun Roy to remind the audience of his legacy shines through and succeeds in establishing a connection with the viewers, as we feel the agony of someone erased by history. It also narrates how the expansive entertainment industry of the day had started out, due to the eagerness and vision of a few people, and connects the bridge between theatres and movies.

With note-worthy cinematography and a sincere script at the heart of the project, the story is well laid out and captures the minute details of Hiralal Sen’s life extensively– his blind passion for the bioscope, his love for his wife, his affection for actress Kushum Kumari, his brief friendship and subsequent fall-out with Amarendra Dutta and his duel with Jamshedji Framji Madan. The movie also chronicles the alleged act of sabotage by Madan, whereby a fire in Hiralal’s brother’s godown destroyed all the 40 films he had made in his career. The downfall of Hiralal’s career also provides a commentary on the uncertainty associated with the entertainment business and how unstable it is.

Hiralal witnessing the magic of bioscope for the first time

Portraying the character of Hiralal Sen is Kinjal Nanda, who carefully carves out the personality of the icon, without making it look too patronising, rather ensuring that he remains impressionable yet carries certain flaws as well. Anuska Chakraborty as Hemangini serves as the apt fit for Hiralal, as the resilient wife of the filmmaker who stays by his side no matter what and looks after him till death sets them apart. Saswata Chatterjee essays the role of Framji Madan as realistically as possible, capturing the essence of the conniving businessman responsible for deleting the contribution and legacy of Hiralal from the pages of history.

The film perfectly manages to depict the emotions and awe that people experienced on witnessing this wondrous moving screen for the first time. For example, in a scene we see innocent villagers getting frightened and running away on seeing a train on the screen, as they think that the vehicle might come out from the curtain and trample them under it. Moreover, the set design and locations used in the movie correctly represent the early 20th century Kolkata and provide us a sense of authenticity and nostalgia of the days gone.

However, in spite of its all-round brilliance and touching storyline, the length of the movie becomes a glaring issue, making us lose our attention in the midst. But when compared to honest intentions, commendable cinematography, a unique tribute, memorable performances and impressive set-design – the flaws hardly stand a chance. All-in-all, Hiralal: The Uncredited Role is a much-needed tale of one of the forgotten founding fathers of Indian Cinema, and must be seen by everyone.

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