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Prabhat Film Company

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Founder(s)-Visnhupant Damle, V.Shantaram, S Fatelal, K Dhaibar, S Kulkarni

Prabhat Film Company popularly known as Prabhat Films was an Indian film production company and film studios, formed in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India in 1929, towards the end of silent films' era, by the noted film director V. Shantaram, along with V.G. Damle, K.R. Dhaiber, S. Fatelal and S.B. Kulkarni [2].

It went on to become the most prestigious film company from Maharashtra in the 1930s, the first decade of Talkie Films in Indian cinema and later shifted to Pune in 1933 and where it established its own studio and produced a total of 45 films in both Marathi and Hindi, in a span of 27 years, notable amongst them are, Kunku (Duniya Na Mane in Hindi), Swarajya Toran, based on Shivaji’s life, Dharmatma on life of saint Eknath, Sant Tukaram, based on the saint-poet and social reformer, Shejari, on communal harmony, Manoos (aka Aadmi) about alcoholism and Amar Jyoti about woman’s emancipation. While several companies such as, Imperial Film Company, Krishna Cinetone, East India Film Company, Madan Theatre, Ranjit, Wadia Movietone were very active during the advent of Talkie films in India, Prabhat, along with New Theatres of Kolkata, stood out for their excellence and social awareness. Today, the Film and Television Institute of India Pune, at Law College road, is situated in its former premises[1][3],and houses the 'Prabhat Museum' which displays artefacts, original contracts and partnership deeds of Prabhat Film Company, along with costumes, properties, equipment, posters and stills [4].

Today, University of Chicago Library has a collection of 27 films produced by the Prabhat Film Company between 1932 and 1949 [5]


Baburao Painter's Maharashtra Film Company, based in Kolhapur, had made a name for itself with its silent films in early 1920s. Close friends Vishnupant G Damle and Fateh Lal (Damle Mama and Saheb Mama) were very good artists and held posts with senior responsibility at the company.[6]

Baburao Pendharkar became the de facto head of operations because of Baburao Painter's distaste for financial matters. Pendharkar's cousin Shantaram Vanakudre (V. Shantaram) joined the company and became Baburao Painter's right-hand man.

In 1927-28, the senior personnel became dissatisfied by Baburao Painter's increasingly lukewarm and erratic behaviour. Damle and Fateh Lal were thinking of starting their own company, as were V Shantaram and Keshavrao Dhaibar. The four of them got together, and with Sitaram Kulkarni, well-established jeweller in Kolhapur as their fifth partner and financier, started a new company on 1 June 1929, with an initial investment amount of Rs 15,000 [6]. Baburao Pendharkar suggested the name Prabhat (meaning "Dawn"), and the other partners liked it.

Prabhat soon made a name for itself with silent films and produced six films, most of them directed by the tireless V. Shantaram. When India entered the era of talkies with Alam Ara in March 1931, Shantaram predicted that it was a transient phase, and the silent films were the real artistic area. But soon the company realized its mistake, and joined the talkie era with Ayodhyecha Raja (The King of Ayodhya) in Marathi (1932), also starring Durga Khote, which was the first film of Marathi Cinema, and later made under the name Ayodhya Ka Raja in Hindi. The film is based on Raja Harishchandra's story.[7]. In 1930s when most of silent movies companies had closed down, Prabhat joined the ranks of "big three" of Indian cinema, which included New Theatres of Calcutta and Bombay Talkies of Bombay [8]

In September 1933, the company moved to Pune because of its proximity to Mumbai and all the five founder moved with their families, and the doors of the studio finally opened in Pune in 1934. Then followed a golden era of 8–10 years during which the company made some landmark films: Sairandhri (1933), India's first colour film, processed and printed in Germany; Amrit Manthan (1934), Sant Tukaram (1936), Kunku (or Duniya Na Mane in Hindi) in 1937, Manoos (1939), Shejari (or Padosi) in 1941. The biopic, title Sant Tukaram, in 1936, made by V. Damle and S. Fattelal of Prabhat Film Company and starring Vishnupant Pagnis as the lead, and released on 12 December 1936 at Central Cinema in Mumbai. The film was not only a big hit but also had won an award at the 5th Venice International Film Festival in 1937, and still remains a part of film appreciation courses [9][10][11].

After Shantaram split away in 1942 to form his own "Rajkamal Kala Mandir" studios, and Damle Mama fell ill, the company encountered hard times. Its last major film was Ram Shastri in 1944. Noted director, Guru Dutt started his career as a choreographer, under a three-year contract with the Prabhat Film Company in Pune in 1944. The company's was closed early 50s and property auctioned away in 1952 and compnay formally closed on to 13 October 1953.

Major figures associated with Prabhat are composers Govindrao Tembe, Dinkar D. Patil Keshavrao Bhole, Master Krishnarao, Vasant Desai; actresses Durga Khote, Shanta Apte, Shanta Hublikar, Vasanti, Jayashree Kamulkar; actors Bal Gandharva, Keshavrao Date, Shahu Modak. Other Marathi film companies of note in 1930s include Saraswati Movietone, Shalini Movietone, Hans Pictures. Major film directors : Bhalji (Bhal G) Pendharkar, Master Vinayak. Major music directors : Annasaheb Mainkar, Dhamman Khan, Dada Chandekar.


Later, Anantrao Damle, V G Damle's son, bought back the company's film prints from Mudaliyar of Chennai, who said he was happy to return to Maharashtra its treasures. Damle's sons have followed up his good work and brought out some of Prabhat's vintage films on VCDs, and songs from several Prabhat Films on audio CDs [12].However, in January 2003, most of the original nitrates of the films, stored at the FTII cold-storage were destroyed in a fire while waiting to transferred National Film Archives storage [13].

The 75th anniversary of Prabhat Films was celebrated in Pune, in June 2004, it include an exhibition of rare photographs and screening of the documentary film, It’s Prabhat! [14][15].


  • Gopal Krishna (1929)
  • Udaykal (1930)
  • Maya Machhindra (1932)
  • Ayodhyecha Raja (1932)
  • Agnikankan: Branded Oath (1932)
  • Sinhagad (1933)
  • Sairandhri (1933)
  • Amrit Manthan (1934)
  • Dharmatma (1935)
  • Chandrasena (1935)
  • Sant Tukaram (1936)
  • Rajput Ramani (1936)
  • Kunku (1937)
  • Duniya Na Mane (1937)
  • Mera Ladka (1938)
  • Gopal Krishna (1939)
  • Manoos (1939)
  • Aadmi (1939)
  • Sant Dnyaneshwar (1940)
  • Padosi (1941)
  • 10 O'Clock (1942)
  • Ramshastri (1944)
  • Chand (1944)


  1. ^ a b The eternal dawn Uma Karve, Indian Express, 28 May 2002.
  2. ^ A navrang of Shantaram's films - Retrospective The Hindu, 2 May 2002.
  3. ^ 75 years on, this film company’s classics haven’t faded out Express Features Service, Indian Express, 14 June 2003.
  4. ^ Prabhat Museum Film and Television Institute of India.
  5. ^ Prabhat Films University of Chicago Library..
  6. ^ a b Backing Prabhat Films Indian Express, Thursday, 22 July 1999.
  7. ^ The Firsts of Indian Cinema: Milestones from 1896-2000 Film and Television Producers Guild of India
  8. ^ Prabhat Films Cinemas of the world: film and society from 1895 to the present, by James Chapman. Reaktion Books, 2003. ISBN 1861891628. p. 327.
  9. ^ 'Sant Tukaram' film still a topic of interest Anurag Basu - Televisionpoint.com, 26 December 2007.
  10. ^ Lost & found: A piece of classic cinema history Indian Express, 26 March 2004.
  11. ^ Milestone 1937 Bollywood: a guidebook to popular Hindi cinema by Tejaswini Ganti. Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0415288533. page 208 .
  12. ^ 75 years on, this film company’s classics haven’t faded out Express Features Service. Indian Express, 14 June 2003.
  13. ^ Prabhat Studio founder’s kin ask why such neglect 16 January 2003.
  14. ^ The age of innocence: From child artists waiting to be moulded to perfection by their directors to graceful veterans today, three actresses of Prabhat Film Company.. Indian Express, 7 June 2004.
  15. ^ The Bugle Sounds again Indian Express, 3 June 2004.
  • V. Shantaram, biography Upperstall.com


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