Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre (18 November 1901 – 30 October 1990), referred to as V. Shantaram or Shantaram Bapu, was a Marathi Indian filmmaker, film producer and actor. He is most 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), Pinjra (1972), Chani, Iye Marathiche Nagari and Zunj.
Shantaram, fondly known as Annasaheb, had an illustrious career as a filmmaker for almost six decades. He was one of the early filmmakers to realize the efficacy of the film medium as an instrument of social change and used it successfully to advocate humanism on one hand and expose bigotry and injustice on the other. V. Shantaram had a very keen interest in music. It is said that he "ghost wrote" music for many of his music directors, and took a very active part in the creation of music. Some of his songs had to rehearsed several times before they were approved by V. Shantaram. He performed his roles so well that Rajesh Khanna also has appreciated him for his performance.
He directed his first film Netaji Palkar, in 1927. In 1929, he founded the Prabhat Film Company along with Vishnupant Damle, K.R. Dhaiber, S. Fatelal and S.B. Kulkarni, which made Ayodhyecha Raja, the first Marathi language film in 1932 under his direction. He left Prabhat co. in 1942 to form "Rajkamal Kalamandir" in Mumbai. In time, "Rajkamal" became one of the most sophisticated studios of the country.
Shantaram introduced his daughter Rajshree (his daughter by Jayashree) and Jeetendra in the 1964 film Geet Gaya Patharon Ne. That was the debut film for both of them. He also introduced his second wife Sandhya's niece Ranjana Deshmukh into the Marathi film industry through Chandanachi Choli Ang Ang Jaali, directed by his son Kiran Shantaram in 1975. Ranjana dominated the Marathi silver screen in the 70s and 80s.
The V. Shantaram Award was constituted by Central Government and Maharashtra State Government. The V. Shantaram Motion Picture Scientific Research and Cultural Foundation, established in 1993, offers various awards to film-makers. The award is presented annually on 18 November. A postage stamp, bearing his likeness, was released by India Post to honour him on 17 November 2001.
Shantaram was born in 1901 at Kolhapur to a Marathi Jain family. In 1921, aged 20, he married 12-year-old Vimalabai, a girl of his own community and similar background, in a match arranged by their families in the usual Indian manner. Their marriage lasted their entire lives and its relationships of harmony and mutual support survived even his subsequent two marriages, which were concurrent with his first. Vimalabai bore four children, being son Prabhat Kumar (after whom Shantaram named his movie company) and daughters Saroj, Madhura and Charusheela. 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.
On 22 October 1941, Shantaram (aged 40) married the actress Jayashree (née Kamulkar), with whom he had fallen in love while they worked together in several films, including Shakuntala (1942) which ran for 104 weeks in Mumbai. Jayashree became Shantaram's second wife, and was received with traditional ceremonies by his first wife Vimalabai. Until January 1957, it was perfectly legal (and in keeping with ancient custom) for Hindu men to have more than one wife at a time, and it was typical for the wives to live harmoniously together in the same household. Jayashree bore Shantaram three children - one son, the Marathi film director and producer Kiran Shantaram, and two daughters, Rajshree (the actress) and Tejashree. Shantaram's six children grew up playing and bonding with each other. The two wives also had a cordial relationship and often interacted with each other, although they maintained separate houses. Vimalabai was strongly bonded with Shantaram's extended family; she would be at her husband's side at all religious and family finctions that they attended, and she would be hostess whenever they themselves hosted such functions. On the other hand, Jayashree would accompany Shantaram to all events and functions connected with the film industry and the film profession and at any parties he hosted for the film fraternity.
In the early 1950s, Shantaram grew close to another of his leading ladies, the actress Sandhya (née Vijaya Deshmukh), who was his co-star in many films like Do Aankhen Barah Haath, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, Navrang, Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli and Sehra. Vimalabai did not have much contact with Shantaram's professional associates and took Sandhya in her stride, but the case was different with Jayashree, who came to regard Sandhya as an ambitious gold-digger who was using the middle-aged Shantaram for her own purposes, to become a successful actress at his expense and riding on his shoulders. Things came to a head during the making of Do Aankhen Barah Haath, a film which Shantaram was producing and which featured him and Sandhya in the main roles. Shantaram ran short of money while making the film, and asked his wives to give him their jewellery so that he could mortgage the same and raise funds to get over the cash crunch. The jewellery would be redeemed and returned to the ladies after the movie was completed, he said. Vimalabai agreed without fuss and handed over her jewellery, but Jayashree did not, apparently because she suspected that the jewellery would end up in Sandhya's possession. This led to a misunderstanding between the couple. Later, Jayashree realized that money was indeed the problem and that in fact, even Sandhya had parted with her jewels in order to help Shantaram. When she came to know this, Jayashree felt bad that she was the only person to have retained her jewellery. On some minor occasion (a birthday), she tried to make amends by gifting some of her jewellery to Sandhya, so that the latter could have some jewels at least. However, Sandhya declined the gift by saying that she had lately stopped wearing jewellery. Jayashree took offence at the snub and the rift between the ladies grew. It became clear that they would not be able to live harmoniously together the way Vimalabai and Jayashree were living. It also became clear that there existed a widening rift between Jayashree and Shantaram also.
Finally, Shantaram and Jayashree were divorced on 13 November 1956. This was one of the earliest divorces to be granted in India, because it happened only weeks after parliament passed a law making it possible for Hindus to get a divorce; previous to this, divorce had been literally impossible for Hindus. According to Shantaram's daughter by Vimalabai, neither Shantaram not Jayashree could ever forget each other in later life and both of them deeply regretted that the parting of ways.
Hardly a month after the divorce, on 22 December 1956, Shantaram married Sandhya. This marriage was also legally valid because the law which forbade bigamy for Hindu men would come into effect only on 01 Jan 1957; it was therefore one of the last bigamous marriages to be conducted among Hindus in India. Sandhya had met Vimalabai many times before her wedding, and when the wedding was being finalized, she told Vimalabai that she would only marry Shantaram if Vimalabai not only gave her willing consent but also permitted her to stay in the same house with her. Touched by Sandhya's humility, goodness and traditional values, Vimalabai wholeheartedly gave her consent. She performed the traditional ceremonies and received her new co-wife into her household. The two ladies lived together harmoniously in the same house not just during Shantaram's lifetime but even after his death. Vimalabai and Sandhya enjoyed a close and cordial relationship with each other, which was enhanced because of the large age difference between them, because of their common values of pativratha sanskar, and also because it was known from the beginning that Sandhya would never bear children. This was because Shantaram had undergone an operation after the birth of Jayashree's third child, which left him incapable of begetting further progeny. Sandhya had been informed of this fact and had accepted it knowingly, which earned her great respect in her new home and put to rest all the speculation about her being a gold-digger. She would often say in Marathi “Hey sagle majhe mula aahet (all these are my kids)" indicating Shantaram's seven children. Sandhya treated Vimalabai with great respect at all times, and Vimalabai looked upon Sandhya with deep affection. In the professional field, Sandhya worked exclusively with her husband and refused all film offers made by other film-makers. She starred in some of Shantaram's biggest hits like Do Aankhen Barah Haath, Navrang, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje and Pinjra.
Shantaram died on 30 October 1990 in Mumbai. He was survived by all three of his wives. Even his second wife Jayashree, who was divorced from him, attended his obsequies, participated in the rituals, and took to wearing the garb of a dowager thereafter, thus indicating that the piece of legal paper which constituted her divorce had no sanctity. Vimalabai and Sandhya continued to reside together in one house along with Vimalabai's son Prabhat and his wife and children. Vimalabai, passed away in 1996 after being bedridden for four years. Sandhya lives today in the care and company of Vimalabai's children, especially of Prabhat and his family.
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