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Manoos Completes 75 Years

It is said that the legendary actor-filmmaker Charlie Chaplin had called director V Shantaram's 'Manoos' one of the most interesting Indian classics. Produced by the erstwhile Prabhat Film Company in 1939, the film completes 75 years on September 9, but still remains fresh in the memory of cinema lovers.

Starring: Shahu Modak, Shanta Hublikar, Sundarabai, Raja Paranjpe, Gauri
Directed by: V Shantaram
Story: A Bhaskarrao
Screenplay: Anant Kanekar
Dialogue: Anant Kanekar
Cinematography: V Avadhoot
Music: Master Krishnarao
Lyrics: Anant Kanekar
Production Company: Prabhat Film Company
Release Date: 9 September 1939

The film is a tragedy featuring a policeman Ganpat (Modak) and a prostitute Maina (Hublikar). Ganpat saves Maina from a police raid on a brothel. They fall in love. However her reputation and sense of guilt resist his attempts to rehabilitate her. Ganpat's respectable middle-class mother (Sundarabai) symbolizes what he would like Maina to be like. But feeling her past would always catch up with her, Maina leaves Ganpat. She is arrested for killing her wicked uncle and refuses Ganpat's offer to release her from prison.

In the late 1930s, Shantaram, one of the founders of the Prabhat Film Company, read a short story written by Mumbai-based A Bhaskarrao about a police constable's love for a sex worker and decided to make a film on the subject. After having delved into devotional subjects and costume dramas, Shantaram and Prabhat co-founders Vishnupant Govind Damle and Sheikh Fattelal were looking to experiment with a hard-hitting social issue. They had already made 'Kunku', which dealt with child marriage, in 1937.

They went on to produce 'Manoos' based on the short story in 1939. The film released on September 9 in Central Cinema on Lamington Road in Girgaum, Mumbai. It was simultaneously shot in Hindi as ?Aadmi'.

"The company had shifted base to Pune from Kolhapur just six years earlier. The founders were not impressed with the subjects of films being produced then, which mostly dealt with tragic ends and unrequited love. At that time, the storyline of Manoos was very bold to be portrayed onscreen, but it turned out to be a successful experiment. They wanted to use cinema to entertain and spread social messages at the same time," said Anil Damle, grandson of Vishnupant Govind Damle. The Damle family has preserved all the films made by the company.

'Manoos' is the story of Maina, a sex worker who dreams of getting married and leading a ?normal' life. She falls in love with police constable Ganpat, who rescues her from a brothel during a police raid and wants to give her a respectful life. Shot on 35mm nitrate-based negatives, the film has actors Shahu Modak and Shanta Hublikar in the lead roles.

"Manoos was a different take compared to PC Barua's ?Devdas' (1935), which had a depressing impact on the young audience of the time. Shantaram gave a positive message through Maina's character, who, when in jail, tells Ganpat to move on and not suffer because of love," said Chandrashekhar Joshi, film research officer at the Film and Television Institute of India.

The film was path-breaking in many ways, as it also set the trend for multilingual lyrics with its famous song ?Ata Kashala Udyachi Baat', which had verses in Marathi, English, Bengali and three South Indian languages. "The film company had hired music composer Anil Biswas and other regional musicians to get the correct lyrics and pronunciation. They also hired a retired army officer to impart physical training to Modak and the other actors who played policemen so that they look the part," Damle said.

The training sessions continued even after they finished shooting the film and Modak had to request the filmmaker to stop them, he added.

Shantaram and Bhaskarao went as far as to visit red light areas in Mumbai to research the movie's subject. Fattelal later replicated these surroundings as a set in one of their studios. It is said that filmmaker Mehboob Khan, who visited the studio at the time, was amazed by the detailed set design.

The original silver nitrate negatives on which the movie was shot were destroyed in a fire at the FTII in 2003. "Only the positive print remains. We have done our best to digitize it and save the legacy of the Prabhat Film Company," Damle said.
Manoos Completes 75 Years Reviewed by Marathi Celebs on September 10, 2014 Rating: 5

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