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Visionary - V. Shantaram

 
 
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> Visionary - V. Shantaram
swarapriya
post Jan 6 2019, 09:23 PM
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Visionary - V. Shantaram

Few months back I ran across an article about late V. Shantaram. The article traced some of his cinematic accomplishments that I was not aware of before. I knew his films mostly since 50’s, his works like “Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955)”, “Do Ankhen Barah Haath (1957)”, “Navrang (1959)” and others. I admired him immensely because of the art and craft of these movies. However, after reading the article I came to understand how little I knew about him. Most of his brilliant work was done in 1930’s and 1940’s through bilingual movies he made in Hindi and Marathi. I have not seen anyone of them before. I decided to dig deeper and share with our Forum members what I was able to unearth about this visionary legend and genius (who was a producer, director, actor, editor, and writer) through this thread.

Let us briefly start talking about how this all started…

Shantaram did not have much of schooling. In early teens he took up odd jobs like railroad repairs and maintenance work. To supplement his income he took up a job at a local cinema house. For the cinema house he did any work that came by like painting signs, ushering people into the theater, handling movie projection etc. When Dadasaheb Phalke came up with India’s first silent film he was thrilled and developed great admiration and respect for him. While working there at the cinema house he also started watching English films.

Shantaram briefly worked for a photographer to learn skills on handling the camera. But he was yearning for more. His second cousin from his mother’s side was working for a company called Maharashtra Film Company that was owned and operated by the great Baburao Painter. The cousin took Shantaram to Painter who hired him to work on anything he can find. Painter was busy making silent movies. Shantaram worked tirelessly and learned everything about making movies. Eventually he get a break as an actor in one of Painter’s films. Later on he also directed a film for Painter.

Shantaram’s work can be described through the stints and associations he had with various film companies. These can be described through the following four phases:

• Phase 1: Maharashtra Film Company (16 films, all silent) (See the attachment below)
• Phase 2: Prabhat Film Company (32 films; 6 silent and rest talkies) (See the attachment below)
• Phase 3: Rajkamal Kala Mandir (31 films) (See the attachment below)
• Phase 4: V. Shantaram Productions (13 films) (See the attachment below)

I am attaching below few photographs of Shantaram. One of them shows several images of him at work. The other one shows some of the awards and recognitions he received.

Following are some of the milestones in Shantaram’s film carrier:

• “Surekha Haran (1921)” – first silent film as an actor

• “Netaji Palkar (1927)” – first silent film as director; co-director was Keshavrao Dhaiber

• “Gopal Krishna (1929)” – first silent film under Prabhat; first film with allusions of pre-independence
movement; directed by Shantaram

• “Rani Saheba (1930)” – first children movie; directed by Shantaram

• “Udaykal (1930)” – first movie to politicize (fight against the British rule) Shivaji’s expeditions; directed by
Shantaram

• “Chandrasena (1931)” – first movie to use a trolley to shoot certain scenes; directed by Shantaram &
Keshavrao Dhaiber

• “Zulum (1931)” – last silent movie under Prabhat; directed by Keshavrao Dhaiber; Shantaram was one of
the producers

• “Ayodhyecha Raja (1932)” – first talkie under Prabhat; first Marathi talkie; first bilingual talkie; oldest
available talkie in India; directed by Shantaram

• “Maya Machhindra (1932)” – first film to use optical superimposition; first film to release its songs on a
gramophone record; directed by Shantaram

• “Sairandhri (1933)” – first color film made in India; first to have songs pressed on records in Germany from
the original motion picture soundtrack; directed by Shantaram

• “Amrit Manthan (1934)” – first film to raise voice against animal as well as human sacrifices; first film to
celebrate a silver jubilee; first film to use a telephoto lens to show close-ups; directed by Shantaram

• “Seetha Kalyanam (1934)” – first and only Tamil film made by Prabhat; directed by Baburao Pendharkar;
Shantaram was one of the producers

• “Dharmatma (1935)” – first film to explore the issue of untouchability; only devotional film directed by
Shantaram

• “Jambu Kaka (1935)” – first cartoon film made in India; shown in theaters before Prabhat’s regular
features; directed by Shantaram

• “Amar Jyoti (1936)” – first film to raise the issue of women’s emancipation; first film to use back projection;
first Prabhat film to use a playback singer; first Indian film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival;
directed by Shantaram

• “Sant Tukaram (1936)” – first film to raise the issue of caste system; first film to run over a year; co-
directed by Vishnupant Damle & Sheikh Fateh; Shantaram was one of the producers

• “Duniya Na Mane (1937)” – first film to explore the issue of a young woman married to a much older man;
directed by Shantaram

• “Wahan (1937)” – first film to raise the issue of slavery; directed by Narayan Kale; Shantaram was one of
the producers

• “Aadmi (1939)” – first film to raise the issue of prostitute rehabilitation; directed by Shantaram

• “Sant Dnyaneshwar (1940)” – first film to raise the issue of religious bigotry; first to be screened in USA;
first Marathi film broadcast on Doordarshan; co-directed by Vishnupant Damle & Sheikh Fateh; Shantaram
was one of the producers

• “Padosi (1941)” – first film to showcase the communal problems between Hindus & Muslims; directed by
Shantaram

• “Shakuntala (1943)” – first film under Rajkamal Kalamandir banner; film deals with women empowerment;
first film to be shown abroad in Canada; directed by Shantaram

• “Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahani (1946)” – first film that explored Indo-Chinese relationship; directed by
Shantaram

• “Dahej (1950)” – film on the consequences suffered due to the unjust dowry system; directed by
Shantaram

• “Teen Batti Char Raasta (1953)” – first film about national integration; first film to explore complexities of
dark versus fair skin; directed by Shantaram

• “Subah ka Tara (1954)” – film deals with perils and subsequent consequences of a man pursuing to marry a
widow; directed by Shantaram

• “Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955)” – first film that dazzlingly displays the artistic richness of Indian
classical dances; directed by Shantaram

• “Do Ankhen Barah Haath (1957)” – first film to explore jail reforms; won many national and international
honors; directed by Shantaram

• “Navrang (1959)” – another feast of dances and songs; introduced Mahendra Kapoor as a playback singer;
directed by Shantaram

• “Geet Gaaya Pattharon Ne (1964)” – introduced Rajshri and Jeetendra as the leading pair in the film;
directed by Shantaram

• “Ladki Sahyadri Ki (1966)” – first film for which Pandit Jasraj sang a song; directed by Shantaram

• “Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli (1971)” – first film for which all songs were recorded in stereophonic sound;
directed by Shantaram

• “Pinjra (1972)” – first film to introduce the stage actor Shree Ram Lagoo to the big screen; directed by
Shantaram

It will be a while before we get into talkies, but starting in the next post I will have few details of the first silent film Shantaram acted, “Surekha Haran”…

This post has been edited by swarapriya: Jan 6 2019, 09:37 PM


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swarapriya
post Jan 6 2019, 09:28 PM
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Surekha Haran (1921) - A Silent Film

This silent Marathi film was also known as “Surekha Abhimanyu”. It was later made in 1970 as “Veer Ghatotkach”.

Shantaram acted as “Krishna” in this film. It was directed by Baburao Painter.

Painter’s birth name was Baburao Krishnarao Mestry (his pictures attached below). He taught himself how to paint. He became very popular with beautiful paintings he did and came to known as Baburao Painter. He partnered with his cousin Anandrao, another painter, and were busy doing stage backdrops for various drama companies.

The painter brothers decided to exhibit films. They bought a movie projector and started showing movies. During this time unexpectedly Anandrao passed away. Left alone Baburao decided to move forward. He assembled a movie camera to start shooting films. He gave work to Shantaram who studied all the techniques under him. Eventually Painter gave Shantaram a role to play Krishna in this film, “Surekha Haran”.

Man of many talents, Baburao was a painter, sculptor, actor, art director, writer, cinematographer, producer, and director. He also designed his own film posters. Some of his painting are shown at the bottom of the table below.

One solemn note. Unfortunately almost all the work Painter has done, including his silent movies and several paintings, have been destroyed either in a fire or due to neglect.

This post has been edited by swarapriya: Jan 6 2019, 09:30 PM


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Viraj Padhye
post Jan 7 2019, 08:19 AM
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Nice topic SP. Thanks.
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swarapriya
post Jan 7 2019, 10:29 PM
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QUOTE(Viraj Padhye @ Jan 6 2019, 06:49 PM) *

Nice topic SP. Thanks.


Thank you very much Viraj. My lack of understanding of Marathi language will present problems but I will wade through this somehow.

Cheers,
S
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Viraj Padhye
post Jan 8 2019, 07:30 AM
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QUOTE(swarapriya @ Jan 7 2019, 10:29 PM) *

QUOTE(Viraj Padhye @ Jan 6 2019, 06:49 PM) *

Nice topic SP. Thanks.


Thank you very much Viraj. My lack of understanding of Marathi language will present problems but I will wade through this somehow.

Cheers,
S


I will try to add value wherever possible.

Viraj
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swarapriya
post Jan 8 2019, 08:58 PM
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QUOTE(Viraj Padhye @ Jan 7 2019, 06:00 PM) *

QUOTE(swarapriya @ Jan 7 2019, 10:29 PM) *

QUOTE(Viraj Padhye @ Jan 6 2019, 06:49 PM) *

Nice topic SP. Thanks.


Thank you very much Viraj. My lack of understanding of Marathi language will present problems but I will wade through this somehow.

Cheers,
S


I will try to add value wherever possible.

Viraj


Thanks a bunch, Viraj. -S

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swarapriya
post Jan 8 2019, 09:00 PM
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Damaji (1922) - A Silent Film

This silent Marathi film was directed by Baburao Painter. It was also called “Bhagwat Bhakta Damaji”. Unfortunately there are no prints available of this movie.

Shantaram had a brief role in this film.

This movie was based on the life of Damaji Pant, a 15-th century Marathi saint. He was the main revenue officer of the Sultan of Bidar. He was a devotee of the god Vithoba. When a great famine struck the entire region, he opened up Sultan’s grain warehouses and distributed all the grain to starving people. Initially upset by Damaji’s doings, the Sultan later pardoned him as he was supposed to have been compensated by the god Vithoba himself. Damaji settled down with his family in Pandharpur where the temple of Vithoba is and spent rest of his life singing his praises.

The famine that struck Deccan was named after him, “Damaji Famine”.


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swarapriya
post Jan 10 2019, 09:42 PM
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Sinhagad (1923) - A Silent Film

This silent Marathi movie was the first historical film made in India. At that point it was also the costliest one. It told the story of emperor Shivaji and his lieutenant Tanaji and the invasion of Fort Sinhagad. The film was directed by Baburao Painter who also starred in it as the emperor. Shantaram was one of the actors in the film. He played the role of Shelar Mama.

I am attaching a still of an actor riding a horse that is supposed from this film that is captioned as Shantaram. It looks more like that of the famous Marathi and Hindi film actor of yesteryears, Keshavrao Date. But it does not look anything like Shantaram. I do not believe it. Nevertheless I am attaching it below.

Unfortunately there are no prints available of this movie.

Until this movie, Painter used painted curtains (he himself painted them) as sets. But for this film he used multidimensional sets that he designed and built by himself. He used artificial lighting to create the effect of moonlight and fog. This practice was first in the industry.

While filming this movie, Baburao fell off a horse he was riding that sidelined him several weeks. It also left him with a lifelong speech impediment.

“Sinhagad” became a huge success for Painter. Revenue Department took a note of it and introduced Entertainment Tax to be collected for each ticket sold for all movies.

The movie along with another of Painter’s film “Kalyan Khajina (1924)” were exhibited at Wembley in London. Together they were awarded a medal. London’s newspaper “Daily Express” reviewing these films described them as “full of strangely wistful beauty, and acted with extraordinary grace.”

The film influenced many of the forthcoming Marathi films. Shantaram remade this film as a talkie in 1933.

This post has been edited by swarapriya: Jan 11 2019, 10:14 PM


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swarapriya
post Jan 13 2019, 09:22 PM
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Sati Padmini (1924) - A Silent Film

This silent Marathi movie had other names; “Siege of Chittor” and “Beauty of Rajasthan”. The story dealt with Allauddin Khilji’s assault on Chittor and eventual destruction of the city as he failed to capture queen Padmavati alive. It was recently made as “Padmavat” that was a source of many controversies.

The movie was directed by Baburao Painter. Shantaram had a small role in the film. Unfortunately there are no prints available of this movie.


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swarapriya
post Jan 15 2019, 09:56 PM
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Shri Krishna Avatar (1924) - A Silent Film

This silent Marathi film was directed by Baburao Painter. Shantaram appeared in a brief role in this film.

This movie dealt with the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna. Their later silent movie, the 1927 “Muraliwala”, also directed by Painter, revolved around Radha’s devotion for Krishna and the friction between her and her husband.

Unfortunately there are no prints available of this movie “Shri Krishna Avatar.”



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swarapriya
post Jan 17 2019, 08:10 PM
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Maya Bazar (1925) - A Silent Film

This silent Marathi film was directed by Baburao Painter. Another name for this movie was “Vatsala Haran”. It was a mythological taken from the epic Mahabharata.

Shantaram appeared in a brief role in this film.

This movie is a love story of Vatsala, the daughter of Balram and Abhimanyu, the son of Arjun. Krishna is the paternal uncle of Vatsala and maternal uncle of Abhimanyu. As Balram was opposed to their marriage, Krishna with the help of Bhim’s son Ghatotkach creates an illusionary festival (thus “Maya Bazar”) that helps Abhimanyu to elope with Vatsala.

Maharashtra Film Company, who produced this film, could not find a lady artist to play Vatsala. Painter then decided to have 13 year old Raghunath Khatavkar take the role of Vatsala! The movie was completed and released with the youngster as the leading “lady”.

Unfortunately there are no prints available of this movie.


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swarapriya
post Yesterday, 10:48 PM
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Rana Hamir (1925) - A Silent Film

Baburao Painter was busy in 1925. He produced and directed four silent movies during that year. This silent Marathi movie was one of them. This film is also known as “Samrat Hamir”. It had a historical theme. Shantaram appeared in this film.

I could not get any information about this film to share with you. Unfortunately there are no prints available of this movie.


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