Dr V Shantaram: A multi-faceted pioneer

A consummate actor, an innovative editor, an insightful director and a dedicated producer, Dr V.Shantaram was truly a "complete" filmmaker. In an illustrious career spanning well over seven decades, from silent films to talkies, from B&W to Technicolor, cinemascope and stereophonic sound, he produced 92 feature films, directed 55 films and acted in 25 films. Every film he made dealt with the social, economic and political problems of a society struggling under colonial rule and then a fledgling country trying to establish its place in the comity of nations.

He was born in Kolhapur (Maharashtra) on November 18, 1901 and breathed his last on October 27, 1990 in Bombay. He joined Gandharva Natak Mandali of Bal Gandharva, the famous stage artiste of Maharashtra while in his early teens. In 1920, he joined Maharashtra Film Company, as a mere helper in every department of film making. With sheer hard work, he learnt the rudiments of acting, directing, camera, editing – in fact, every aspect of the filmmaking process,and eventually, in 1927, he co-directed a silent film 'NETAJI PALKAR' from which a nocturnal war scene washighly appreciated.

In 1929, he, along with four other partners, formed Prabhat Film Company. He dealt with various themes ranging from mythological, historical and social subjects.His socially conscious mind attempted extremely bold themes in the Forties: 'Dharmatma" against casteism; 'Duniya Na Mane', a film on women's emancipation, raising a voice against elderly men marrying young girls from poor families, signalling the advent of the experimental films in India; 'Aadmi' which gave the message that "life is for living"; and 'Padosi' the first film on Hindu Muslim Unity which, when released,ended the Hindu-Muslim riots in Bhagalpur (Bihar).His career has many firsts which include:

In 1942 he left Prabhatto explore new avenues and started his own company 'RAJKAMAL KALAMANDIR' as well as a distribution office 'SILVER SCREEN EXCHANGE PVT LTD.'

Apart from his own multi-faceted activities as a Producer, Director, Actor, Distributor, Exhibitor, and Studio Owner, he was closely associated with various film industry welfare and trade organisations and thus helped to lay a sound foundation for the systematic growth of the Indian Film Industry. He was also responsible for establishing in scientific, methodical and systematic manner the present Films Division of the Government of India after independence, which today has grown to large proportions.

He was also closely associated with various Government organisations. In 1947 and then again in 1956 he was requested by the Government of India to reorganise the Films Division as it was passing through a period of crisis due to a lack of appropriate technical and creative management. His dedication helped to put the Film Division on a sound footing. Today the Government has named the Lifetime Achievement Award for Documentary Filmmakers after him.He was also invited to be a member of the Film Enquiry Committee (1951) by none other than the Home and Information Minister Shri.Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel.

During his tenure as Honorary Chairman of the Children's Film Society of India, he completely reorganised of the entire working of the CFSI and established the three international Children's Film Festivals at Bombay, Madras and Calcutta.He also served as Chief of the Film Advisory Board.

He also wrote his biography SHANTARAMA, published in Marathi and Hindi.In 1980 he was honoured with aD.Litt (Hon.) from the University of Nagpur. In 1986 he was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Lifetime Achievement in Indian Cinema. In 1992 he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan