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  Hindi Directors -- V. Shantaram    

V. Shantaram was one of the early filmmakers to realize the efficacy of the film medium as an instrument of social change and used it successfully to advocate humanism on one hand and expose bigotry and injustice on the other. Initially Shantaram made mythological and historical films.

 
 

However after returning from Germany his outlook changed. His later films used several techniques from German Expressionist Cinema.
Rajaram Vankudre Shantaram in Kolhapur, with hardly any education started his career in the theatre as a curtain puller with the Gandharva Natak Mandali. By closely studying the personalities he saw flitting across the silent screen, the boy developed his skills of mimicry, and became known for his portrayals of Western screen favorites.

He joined Baburao Painter's Maharashtra Film Company and learnt the intricacies of film-making. The new apprentice was put to every conceivable task in film production, from a cleaning job to that of a laboratory assistant, a special effects man and a performer. He played the young farmer who finally revolts in Painter's Savkari Pash (1925).

First film directed by him was in 1927, Netaji Palkar. In 1929 along with four other partners V.G. Damle, K.R. Dhaiber, S. Fatelal, S.B. Kulkarni he formed the Prabhat Film Company. Shantaram's first really significant film at Prabhat was Ayodhyacha Raja (1932) inspired by the sensation of Alam Ara, the first talkie of India.

By 1934, Shantaram had made films in Marathi, Hindi and Tamil for a growing audience. Amrit Manthan (1934), his film made after his return from Germany was set in the Buddhist era was a strong plea against the custom of human sacrifice.
Amar Jyoti (1936) was an interesting feminist film about a woman who rebels against injustice by becoming a Pirate Queen. It was a rare Prabhat film with stunts and action. After this Shantaram went on to direct three of his most famous films at Prabhat.
Kunku/ Duniya na Mane (1937) was the story of a young woman refusing to accept her marriage to a much older man. Shantaram pares down his narrative to bare essentials and keeps his treatment starkly realistic. The background music is eschewed, retaining only natural sounds - effects and voices in his sound track.
Manoos/ Aadmi (1939) a love story of a policeman and a prostitute is arguably regarded as Shantaram's finest film. It might well be so for Manoos is significant not only in terms of thematic content but also as a work of motion picture art, as well as for its technical innovations and artistic integrity particularly in the use of physical spaces to represent mental states of the characters.
Shejari/ Padosi (1941) was a plea for communal harmony. It's interesting that in the Hindi version Mazhar Khan, a Muslim plays the Hindu and Gajanan Jagirdar, a Hindu played the Muslim in the film. The blowing up of the dam, which forms the climax of the film, was a tour de force of technical ingenuity.

After his classic trilogy Shantaram left Prabhat. He started Rajkamal Studios in 1942. Earlier, Shantaram took over as Chief Producer of the Film Advisory Board (FAB) and did even make a few films for the FAB but when Gandhiji gave the call of 'Do or Die' in 1942, he resigned and Ezra Mir took over.

 


Shakuntala (1943) was Rajkamal's first film. The first film from India to be commercially released abroad, Shakuntala ran for two years in Bombay,and was highly successful with the Indian audience, though it could not make any impact on the foreign viewers.

 

Shantaram married its heroine Jayshree even as he remained married to his first wife. The best of their films together was Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahanai (1946). The film based on K.A. Abbas's short novel And One Did Not Come Back was an impressive Anti-Japanese War effort film. It is remarkable for its powerful Nationalistic theme. The film was shown at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto in 1947.

 

Amar Bhoopali (1951), the musical biopic of Honaji Bala popularized the musical dance form of the Lavani. The film and its classic song Ghanshyam Sundara Shirdara became cult classics in Marathi Cinema.

Dahej (1950) on the evils of dowry had its strong moments and his dance epic Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955), his first film in Technicolour was a box-office smash.

 

Do Aankhein Barah Haath (1957) saw Shantaram returning to social concerns again. The film looked at a jailor (Shantaram) and his efforts to reintegrate hardened criminals back into society. Shantaram's characteristic neo-expressionist imagery is much in evidence in the film and the film is the closest Shantaram came to matching his famous trilogy at Prabhat. The film won many National and International Awards including the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and the Samuel Goldwyn Award for Best Foreign Film, besides the President's Gold Medal as the Best Feature of 1957 in India.

Navrang (1959), the film, looks at an artiste who glamorizes his wife in his fantasies to make her his muse, was a success at the box office.

  He launched his daughter from Jayshree, Rajshree, as a heroine with Geet Gaya Patharon ne (1964) but among his later films Pinjra (1972), a bi-lingual in Hindi and Marathi stands out.

Shantaram also served as Chairperson of the Children's Film Society in the late 1970s. His last film Jhanjaar (1986) was a misfire and flopped badly at the box-office.
 

In his long career, which spans almost the entire history of Indian cinema, Shantaram has made a vast number of films, in many of which he acted the main role. At a well preserved sixty, he acted the role of King Dushyant, the romantic hero, with great aplomb in his color version of the Shakuntala story. But it would not be amiss to point out here, that if he is remembered by posterity, it will be

  for his early films, where spectacle and socially relevant theme were blended with unique artistry.
 

   
   
   
 
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