Rajaram Vankudre Shantaram born in Kolhapur
, he hardly had any education. V. Shantaram worked in the railways as a teenager and started his career in the theatre as a curtain puller with the Gandharva Natak Mandali. He joined Baburao Painters Maharashtra Film Company and learnt the intricacies of film-making from Painter including acting (he played the young farmer who finally revolts in Painter`s Savkari Pash (1925)) eventually directing his first film in 1927, Netaji Palkar.
In 1929 along with four other partners V.G. Damle, K.R. Dhaiber, S. Fatelal, S.B. Kulkarni, V. Shantaram formed the Prabhat Film Company in Kolhapur. All were professionals and lacked a strong financial background, but their sound knowledge base and willingness to learn ensured the success of their studio. After which they made films like Gopal Krishna, Khooni Khanjar, Rani Saheba and Udaykal, where all of them were directed by V.Shantaram.
In 1932, V. Shantaram made Ayodhya Ka Raja. This film of Raja Harishchandra`s life was intended as a mark of respect to Dadasaheb Phalke
whose first film had been on the same subject. While Shantaram`s film had many flaws, the visual beauty and the powerful narrative more than compensated. Here, Durga Khote
made her debut as Rani Taramati.
1932 - Agnikankan
: The film starred Shankarrao Bhonsle, Kamaladevi, Master Vinayak, and Baburao Pendharkar. The film was released in Hindi and Marathi.
1934 - Amrit Manthan
: This film depicted beautifully the tension between Buddhism
and established religious creeds. The close-ups and long views were particularly effective.
1935 - Dharamatma
: The film was on the life of the Marathi saint Eknath who preached against untouchability. The original title Mahatma had to be changed and certain scenes cut because of the similarity to Gandhiji`s `name` and his teachings. Shantaram refused to oblige the censors.
1936 - Sant Tukaram
: The film stood apart because of its simplicity. It was awarded at the Venice Film Festival in 1937 - the first Indian film to be honoured at that time. One of the most revered saint-poets of Maharashtra; Tukaram was played by Vishnupant Pagnis.
1939 - Manoos
: The film starred Shahu Modak, Shanta Hublikar and Sundarabai in the main characters. 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. This movie was released in Hindi as "Aadmi" and was regarded as one of Shantaram`s best films.
1941 - Shejari
: This movie was a plea for communal harmony. It`s interesting that in the Hindi version (Padosi) Mazhar Khan, a Muslim plays the Hindu and Gajanan Jagirdar, a Hindu played the Muslim in the film. However, after this movie Shantaram and his partners parted ways and 1942 he founded the Rajkamal Kalamandir established in Mumbai. After, which he directed movies like:
1943 - Shakuntala
: This film was a super success and it ran for 104 weeks. Shantaram symbolized national aspirations in Shakuntala and Dushyanta`s new-born son, Bharat.
1946 - Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani
: A remarkable film, unabashedly patriotic and, strangely enough, satisfying to the colonialist government in India, the Communists and the Congress party. The film was based on K.A. Abbas` real-life story of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis - his work as part of a medical team in China during World War II. He was later taken prisoner by the Japanese, and died while working on the cure for an epidemic.
1947 - Lokshahir Ramjoshi
: This set the trend for the Marathi Tamasha
mould and proved very successful. Films like Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955), Navrang (1959), Sehra (1963), and Jal Bin Machchli Nritya Bin Bijli (1971) were dance extravaganzas, closely connected to the classical forms.
1951 - Amar Bhoopali
: This 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.
: Directed by V.Shantaram, the film starred Govindrao Tembe
, Durga Khote, Master Vinayak, Baburao Pendharkar, Tanibai and Hirabai.The Vasantotsav (festival of Spring) was a special feature of the film, the third made by V. Shantaram in association with Govindrao Tembe (the musician, lyricist, dialogue-writer and actor), the other two films- Ayodhyecha Raja and Agnikankan.
1972 - Pinjra
: Directed by V. Shantaram, the film starred Sandhya, Shriram Lagoo, Nilu Phule, Vatsala Deshmukh, Govind Kulkarni, and Sarla Yevlekar. The love between a righteous teacher and a Tamasha artiste compels the lover to take on a new identity. This leads to complications as he finds himself accused of the teacher`s murder!
Apart from being an actor, director and producer V. Shantaram also served as Chairperson of the Children`s Film Society in the late 1970s. However, his last film Jhanjaar (1986) was a misfire and flopped badly at the box-office.