This film is held by the BFI (ID: 8828).


INTEREST. The Maharajah of Kapurthala and his guests on their journey towards the fishing grounds: men riding on elephants (29). A rest period: Indians and Europeans sitting in circles talking and smoking (65). Indian dignitaries bowing at the Maharajah's feet as a token of their respect: the Maharajah is seated with European men and women either side of him. Indians approach singly and bow low at his feet (96). The company standing on the banks of the River Bias, while men manoeuvre long canoes in the river and arrange their nets by means of poles (151). Men hauling on the nets from the banks (176). Men spearing fish from their boats (223). Fish jumping in the water as the nets are drawn closer together between the boats (293). The nets, full of fish, lying on the river bank. The men begin to sort them (317ft).



The company Robert et Robert was founded by Charles Raleigh and Isidor Robert Schwobthaler in France in 1903, as a distributor of British, Danish and Italian films. In 1909 the company briefly branched into film production, before folding in 1913 (Abel, 1994, 38).

Eine Partie Fischfang Bei Dem Maharadscha von Kapurthala (1911) is a travelogue, one of the most popular genres of film in the early years of cinema. Travelogues developed from preceding media representations of travel, such as magic lantern shows, illustrated lectures, postcards and pictorial magazines, which had catered for what Jennifer Lynn Peterson terms a ‘19th-century taste for the exotic’ (Peterson). The cinematic conventions of travelogues evolved in the first decade of the twentieth century, and it was also in this period that French companies became the most renowned makers of these films (Peterson). The films were usually comprised of a series of discrete sequences; they featured a large number of long shots; and there would be movement in almost every scene (either created by camera movement or by the action on screen). Many films fixated on the native body moving through ‘cultural activities’ (Rony, 1996, 83). They also regularly featured ethnographic portraits of people. Fatimah Rony points out that ‘there is rarely an attempt to construct the camera as a hidden voyeur: in early travelogues, people […] stare at the camera’ (Rony, 1996, 83). Although shown in a variety of contexts, including lectures, fairground shows and movie theatres, travelogues were aimed primarily at an educated audience, and erred towards the point of view of a ‘bourgeois tourist’ (Rony, 1996, 83).

This film depicts Tikka Jagajit Singh, the Maharaja of Kapurthala, accompanied by European and Indian guests, on an outing to witness fishing on the River Bias. Located in the Punjab region, Kapurthala was one of India’s Princely states. These states were nominally autonomous and were outside the government of India’s tax base. However, the colonial government provided the Princely states with loans, finance and advice. In return the princes acknowledged the sovereignty of the British ruler – hence their own lower designation as ‘Princes’ – and were commonly bound to supply military forces for the Empire’s defence (Buyers, 2008). Within the Punjab, the Maharaja of Kapurthala stood fifth in order among the ruling chiefs.

Tikka Jagatjit Singh ruled Kapurthala from 1890 until his death in 1948. He was noted for his ‘wholehearted and thorough co-operation with the British government’, and in return was regarded by the British as a progressive ruler (‘Punjab State Maharajas’). At the coronation Delhi Durbar in 1911, King George V conferred upon him the title of Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India. Widely travelled, the Maharaja was personally acquainted with most of the crowned heads of Europe, and also with the presidents of France and the United States. Kapurthala received visits from successive Indian Viceroys and was also a destination of the Prince of Wales during his tour of 1921-22 (‘Punjab State Maharajahs’). In addition, the state received visits from the majority of India’s leading Princes.

The Maharajah was one of the most prominent of the Indian princes to have a non-Indian wife. In 1907 he married the Spanish dancer Anita Delgrada in Paris (Vázquez de Gey). Delgrada’s biographer claims that in India she led a life of ‘Hunts, banquets, parties and receptions’ (Vázequez de Gey). She adds that Delgrada and the Prince became ‘famous in Europe’ and that whenever they visited ‘hoards of photographers were waiting’.



Eine Partie Fischfang Bei Dem Maharadscha von Kapurthala has many of the standard features of the travelogue. It is comprised largely of long shots, and there is always movement, which is provided by the journey itself, by the activities of the people on the screen, and on occasion by the panning movement of the camera. The film commences with the exotic splendour of the Maharajah and his guests as they travel by elephant to the River Bias. The locals’ ‘peculiar way of fishing’ is covered in some detail: from the careful positioning of their boats and nets, through to a depiction of their catch on shore. There are also ethnographical portraits of Indians. Fatimah Rony argues that the camera in the travelogue often serves as a ‘fourth wall, establishing a distant relationship between the spectator and the subject filmed’ (Rony, 1996, 83). An example in this film is provided by footage of a siesta, in which the camera pans intrusively across the Maharajah’s serving men, some of whom find it unavoidable to stare back at it. The viewing experience here is akin to looking at these people through one-way glass.

Nevertheless, there are also divergences from the standard viewpoint of the travelogue in this film. Rony argues that travelogues can be distinguished from contemporary anthropological films due to the fact that they regularly feature European visitors on screen (Rony, 1996, 83). The European travellers help to bridge the fourth wall, serving as visible accomplices of the camera crew in their tour through foreign lands. They also provide figures with whom the viewer – the armchair traveller – can identify (Rony, 1996, 83). However, in this film the Europeans who are witnessed do not appear to be part of the cameraman’s party and are instead filmed as being part of the spectacle. They are first seen sat alongside the Maharajah during the siesta. Later, at the River Bias, the cameraman films the Maharajah and his European guests in a long shot and then pans around 90°to reveal the fishermen. The river in this sequence is seen to provide a social barrier. The camera crew and the Maharajah’s party are on one side of the river; the opposite bank is the preserve of scattered crowds of locals and their cattle.

Nevertheless, despite being on the same side of the river, the filmmakers remain apart from the Maharajah’s party. One possible explanation for this separation is that this film constituted part of the media circus surrounding the Prince’s marriage to Anita Delgrada. The evidence here is inconclusive, however. Although European women sit either side of the Prince during the siesta, it is not clear if one of these is his Spanish wife, and the intertitles give no indication of her presence. It should also be noted that the bulk of the film is not devoted to the Prince’s party, but instead to the skills of the local fishermen. Moreover, the camera crew is discreet in their treatment of the Maharajah and his party: they are not subject to the same scrutiny as occurs in the intrusive shots of the serving men and fishermen.

Richard Osborne (February 2010)


Works Cited

Abel, Richard, The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema 1896-1914 (London: University of California Press, 1994).

Buyers, Christopher, India (2008) <>.

Peterson, Jennifer Lynn, ‘Travelogues’,

‘Punjab Sate Maharajahs’,

Rony, Fatimah Tobing, The Third Eye: Race, Cinema, and Ethnographic Spectacle (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996).

Vázquez de Gey, Elisa, ‘Anita Delgado: Princesa de Kapurthala’,




Technical Data

Running Time:
2 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Production Company
Raleigh et Robert