In October 1917, Hiralal Sen was sick, bankrupt and just a few days away from death when he received some cruel news. His brother's warehouse was on fire and, as it burned, Sen's career as a film-maker went up in flames. The warehouse contained the entire stock of the Royal Bioscope Company, the Sen brothers' firm, which showed and produced films in the Kolkata area in the early years of the 20th century. The blaze destroyed Sen's films, and with them much of the proof of India's early cinema history.
The centenary celebrations suggest that Indian film production began in 1913, but that is far from the truth. "The history of Indian cinema before 1913 is a fragmentary one, but it is no less interesting for that," says Luke McKernan, moving