The legacy of a legend

On the 117th birth anniversary of renowned Bollywood actor-producer-director V Shantaram, we fondly remember the perfectionist

By Author  |  Published: 18th Nov 2018  12:42 amUpdated: 17th Nov 2018  3:15 pm
legend

When I was in school, the week before Independence/Republic Day was fun, with not many classes going on as the entire school was busy preparing for those events. A vivid memory of one such week sometime in the early 2000s was me running around in a corridor in my school and I happened to overhear a student choir practising the song Aye Maalik Tere Bande Hum.

Despite not understanding most of the lyrics, I vividly remember stopping in front of that classroom in awe of the way the song was being rendered. I came to know, then, that this is from a 1950s’ movie and I completely forgot about it until years later when the movie Do Aankhen Barah Haath was being aired on TV one day.

I watched the grainy black-and-white visuals with a feigned interest that is common to every millennial forced to sit through an old movie by the family but as the movie progressed, the story of how a lone jailer manages to reform six hardened criminals without using any violence captivated me and I set about reading about the legendary filmmaker V Shantaram who made that movie.

Born on November 18, 1901, his legacy is such that most Indians have heard the song Aye maalik… at least once in their lifetime, regardless of whether they know about Shantaram or not. In fact, this song was also introduced as a prayer song in Tihar Jail by the renowned jail reformer Kiran Bedi.

Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre aka V Shantaram was a renowned filmmaker known for usage of films as a medium for social change. In a career spanning six decades, Shantaram directed about 50 films in addition to producing and acting in some of them. He is known for his perfectionism, and anecdotes say that he wanted everything so absolutely perfect that the artistes working with him had to rehearse several times till he was satisfied with the result. Annasaheb, as he was fondly called as, also had a keen ear for music and he was actively involved even in the making of music for his films, in addition to writing many songs.

He is also known for introducing several acclaimed actors into the industry, including Jeetendra who was introduced in the film Geet Gaya Patharon Ne. Shantaram also introduced his daughter Rajshree as a female lead in this film. He was behind the introduction of actor Sandhya in his 1952 film Amar Bhoopali and she would become his third wife a few years later.

Apart from them, several of his other family members are also into the film industry, as his second wife Jayashree was also an acclaimed actor, his son-in-law is the highly-acclaimed classical singer Pandit Hansraj, his son Kiran Shantaram is a well-known Marathi filmmaker.

A winner of several national and international awards, he is one of the most influential Indian filmmakers. The film Do Aankhen Barah Haath was acclaimed all over the world, including being nominated for the 1959 Golden Globe Awards. Shantaram was also conferred the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1985, in addition to a posthumous Padma Vibhushan in 1992. The Maharashtra government also constituted the V Shantaram Award for filmmaking in his honour.

Do Aankhen Barah Haath

A film that got its much-deserved recognition both within India and internationally, Do Aankhen Barah Haath is an uplifting tale that revolves around a morally-righteous warden (Adinath) and jailmates. Playing the protagonist was the filmmaker V Shantaram himself. This movie won two National Awards and a Golden Globe. The song Aye Maalik Tere Bande Hum in the heart-tugging voice of Lata Mangeshkar is still fondly remembered after over six decades.

Director: V Shantaram
Producer: V Shantaram
Cast: V Shantaram, Sandhya
Release date: 1957


Navrang

Adha Hai Chandrama and Are Ja Re Hat Natkhat have been danced to over and again at various TV shows which goes on to show the popularity of this age-old movie and its songs among the current generation. Navrang is a musical interpretation of a poet’s vision which is blurred between reality and imagination. A young poet Diwakar (played by Mahipal) imagines an alter ego of his wife to be real and is lost in her thoughts. The graceful dance performances by Sandhya were the highlight of this film.

Director: V Shantaram
Producer: V Shantaram
Cast: Sandhya, Mahipal
Release date: September 18, 1959


Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje

Girdhar and Neela’s passion for dance brings them closer. Dance Guru Mangal, who also happens to be Girdhar’s father, disapproves of this relationship as he feels Girdhar’s focus towards the craft will be diverted. The superhit title song, besides Pankh Hote Toh Udd Aati Re, along with stellar dance performances by the lead actors made this film win multiple National and Filmfare awards.

Director: V Shantaram
Producer: Rajkamal Kalamandir
Cast: Sandhya, Gopi Krishna
Release date: 1955


Geet Gaya Patharon Ne

V Shantaram’s daughter Rajshree and Jeetendra made impactful debuts with this film. A story of love, misunderstandings and betrayal, Geet Gaya Patharon Ne is predominantly about a sculptor and his hardships. It gave both the lead actors a strong foothold in Bollywood. The title song and Jaanewale O Mere Pyaar are remembered to this day.

Director: V Shantaram
Producer: V Shantaram
Cast: Jeetendra, Rajshree
Release date: November 22, 1964