Shantaram's and Prabhat's first sound film may also have been the first Marathi talkie, although Sant Tukaram by Babajirao Rane was censored 11 days earlier (on 26 January 1932). A big-budget mythological, it tells a famous Ramayana tale. The truth-loving Harishchandra (Tembe), king of Ayodhya, is tested when the sage Vishwamitra challanges him to sacrifice his kingdom and offer alms of a thousand coins earned through his own labour. After many hardships Harishchandra, Taramati (Khote) and their son Rhoileshwara (Digambar) earn the money when the king and queen are sold as slaves in the city of Kashi. When the queen's new owner, Ganganath (Pandharkar), tries to assault her, her son intervenes and is killed. Taramati is accused of the killing and is sentenced to be executed by her husband. The Kashi-Vishveshwara deity intervenes, brings the boy back to life, declares the king to have proved himself and returns him to his throne. Shantaram cast the untrained actress and singer Khote when it was still controversial in Marathi theatre to use actresses. Shot on elaborate plaster set designed by Fattelal, the film had some bravura shots like a burning forest and a tree falling to the ground barely missing the hero. Despite its occasional 'miracle' scenes and its stage-derived frontal compositions, there was an attempt at a realist idiom, esp. in the scenes where the king and queen are shown trying to earn their money. Shantaram's characteristic use of extended pauses and elaborate gesture may here still be due to the technical limitations and the sound equipment (Damle was the sound man), although he later elaborated this acting style into an expressionist technique. Tembe sang most of the songs while Khote performed the hit Bala ka jhop yeyina.
Did you know?
First Marathi talkie film. Read More