V. Shantaram: A Cinematic Journey and 5 Decades of Impactful Storytelling in Indian Cinema

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By Filmi Khan

V. Shantaram with Jawaharlal Nehru Picture: Social Media

V. Shantaram, born as Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre on November 18, 1901, was a prominent film director, producer, actor, and editor. He made significant contributions to the Indian film industry and left an indelible mark on Indian cinema. Shantaram’s career spanned several decades, during which he created a diverse and impactful body of work. He is known for films such as Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), Amar Bhoopali (1951), Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955), Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957), Navrang (1959), Duniya Na Mane (1937), Pinjara (1972), Chani, Iye Marathiche Nagari and Zunj.

V. Shantaram
Picture: Social Media

Early Life:

V. Shantaram was born in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India. His early exposure to the performing arts came from his family’s involvement in the Kirloskar Natak Mandali, a renowned Marathi theatre group. Shantaram’s interest in cinema began to develop, leading him to venture into the emerging world of Indian cinema.

V. Shantaram
Picture: Social Media

Entry into Cinema:

Shantaram started his career in cinema as an actor in the silent film era. He made his debut in the film “Surekha Haran” (1921) and later acted in several silent films. His passion for filmmaking led him to explore various aspects of the industry, including direction and production.

Prabhat Film Company:

Prabhat film company Logo Picture: Social Media

In 1929, V. Shantaram co-founded the Prabhat Film Company in Pune, Maharashtra, along with Vishnupant Damle, K.R. Dhaiber, and S. Fatelal. Prabhat became one of the most significant film studios in India during the 1930s. Shantaram directed and produced several successful films under the Prabhat banner, including classics like “Amrit Manthan” (1934) and “Duniya Na Mane” (1937).

Socially Relevant Films:

V. Shantaram was known for his socially relevant and progressive films that addressed issues like caste discrimination, women’s rights, and social injustice. One of his most acclaimed films, “Duniya Na Mane,” dealt with the controversial subject of the remarriage of widows.

V. Shnataram
Picture: Social Media

International Recognition:

Shantaram’s film “Sant Tukaram” (1936) was the first Indian film to receive international acclaim at the Venice Film Festival. The film won the Best Cinematography Award, bringing global recognition to Indian cinema.

Move to Bombay Talkies:

After the success of Prabhat Film Company, Shantaram moved to Bombay Talkies in the 1940s. He continued to create notable films, including “Amar Jyoti” (1936) and “Padosi” (1941). His directorial skills and innovative storytelling techniques were well-received by audiences and critics alike.

V. Shantaram
Picture: Social Media

Later Career:

V. Shantaram’s career continued to flourish in the post-independence era. He directed memorable films like “Do Aankhen Barah Haath” (1957), which explored the theme of prison reform. The film won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Shantaram introduced his daughter Rajshree (his daughter with Jayashree) and Jeetendra in the 1964 film ‘Geet Gaya Patharon Ne.’ The film was the debut film for both of them. He introduced his second wife Sandhya’s niece Ranjana Deshmukh into the Marathi film industry too through Chandanachi Choli Ang Ang Jaali, directed by his son Kiran Shantaram in 1975. Actress Ranjana dominated the Marathi film industry in the 70s and 80s.

V. Shantaram
Picture: Social Media

He received Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1985 and awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1992 posthumously.

His autobiography by the name “Shantarama” was published in Hindi and Marathi.


V. Shantaram’s contribution to Indian cinema goes beyond his role as a filmmaker. He was a pioneer in the industry, experimenting with techniques and themes that were ahead of his time. His legacy is also reflected in his efforts to establish the V. Shantaram Motion Picture Scientific Research and Cultural Foundation.

Personal Life:

V. Shantaram was married in 1921 at the age of 20 with 12-year-old Vimalabai in a match arranged by their families. He had four children with this marriage- Prabhat Kumar (after whom Shantaram named his film company) and daughters Saroj, Madhura and Charusheela. Saroj, the eldest daughter, is married to Soli Engineer, a Parsi gentleman, and they run the Valley View Grand Resort at Panhala near Kolhapur, built on Shantaram’s farmhouse, which was inherited by Saroj. Shantaram’s second daughter, Madhura, is the wife of Pandit Jasraj and mother of music director Shaarang Dev Pandit and of TV personality Durga Jasraj. Shantaram’s third daughter, Charusheela, is the mother of Hindi and Marathi actor Sushant Ray a.k.a. Siddharth Ray.

V. Shantaram
Picture: Social Media

V. Shantaram was married to actress Jayashree in 1941. His son, Kiran Shantaram, also entered the film industry as a producer and director and two daughters, the actress Rajshree and Tejashree.

Shantaram married third time with his leading lady, the actress Sandhya. The couple had no children. Sandhya had developed good bond with Vimalabai and her children, lived with them as respected mother.

V. Shantaram
Picture: Social Media

Honors and Awards:

Throughout his career, Shantaram received numerous awards and honors for his outstanding contributions to Indian cinema. Apart from the accolades mentioned earlier, he was honored with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest award in cinema, in 1985.

V. Shantaram’s life and career exemplify the transformative power of cinema. As a filmmaker and visionary, he played a pivotal role in shaping the Indian film industry. His legacy lives on through his timeless films that continue to be celebrated for their artistic merit and social relevance. V. Shantaram’s impact on Indian cinema remains an inspiration for aspiring filmmakers and a testament to the enduring influence of storytelling through the lens of a camera.

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