V Santaram -Dr. Kontis Ki Amar Kahani
Early in life, he was forced to take on small jobs to support his family, one of which was being a curtain-puller in a theatre called the Gandharva Natak Mandali. This was his first exposure to the film world and it had him so enthralled that he continued to do small jobs related to acting and film making, while picking up its fine points when he interacted with the top professionals of the time.
Born: Rajaram Vankudre Shantaram on November 18, 1901
Place of birth: Kolhapur, Maharashtra
Died: October 30, 1990 (aged 88) at Mumbai
Years active: 1921-1987
V. Shantaram’s film career began with him doing all sorts of odd jobs at Baburao Painter’s Maharashtra Film Co., Kolhapur. He joined this company to learn the nuances of film making and acting from Painter. In 1921, he debuted in the silent film, Surekha Haran. In 1925, he played the role of a young farmer who revolts against the system in Painter’s Savkari Pash and then went on to direct his first film in 1927, titled Netaji Palkar.
After nine years of working with the Maharashtra Film Co., he quit to start his own production house, Prabhat Films. This famous production house was formed along with four partners, V.G. Damle, S. Fatelal, K.R. Dhaiber and S.B. Kulkarni. Now, his career was well on the upswing. All his partners were thorough professionals, but did not have a solid financial background.
However, by sheer dint of their deep knowledge of film making and their eagerness to learn, they made a success of Prabhat Studios. Together, they made successful films such as Gopal Krishna, Rani Saheba, Khooni Khanjar and Udaykal, all directed by the legend V. Shantaram.
In fact, Gopal Krishna, made in 1931, was brilliant for its times. This was when audiences loved mythologicals rather than films with social themes. Despite this, Shantaram and his partners used their ingenuity to cleverly fuse mythological drama with contemporary social themes.
At this time, silent movies were slowly but surely giving way to the new phenomenon, the talkies. This meant that Painter’s glorious days had come to an end while his juniors’ stars were on the rise. In keeping with the demands of the times, Shantaram made Prabhat’s first talkie, Ayodhya Ka Raja in 1932. This film is based on the life of Raja Harishchandra and was made to honor Dadasaheb Phalke, whose film career debuted with a film on the same theme. This film is worth seeing for its visual beauty and very strong storyline. Durga Khote was launched in this film as Rani Taramati.
Then came Amritmanthan, which he produced and directed. It tells the story of a very old society where Buddhism goes against orthodox ritualistic practices. Shantaram used this film to comment subtly on life and times in contemporary society too. This film is also important for introducing several talented artistes such as Durga Khote and Shanta Apte to a film-hungry audience. It is a milestone in Shantaram’s career for being one of his biggest hits ever.
In 1933, Shantaram made Sairandhri and especially took it to Germany’s Agfa Laboratories to be processed there in color, but the pictures turned out to be very pale. If this had not happened, this film could well have been India’s first color film.
However, on his return from Germany in 1934, he had an entirely different perspective while he shot for Amrit Manthan. This film was set in the Buddhist...