This article on the yesteryear hero has been written by Film historian, Author and our mentor Arunkumar Deshmukh ji. We thank him for writing this informative article.
THE HERO FROM THE PAST – SHANKAR RAO VAZARE
There was a time when films made in Hindi could be classified easily as A grade, B grade and C grade films. A grade films were those made by big and famous banners with top class actors and leading music directors. B grade films were those made with a second rung of actors, directors and music directors. C grade films were those films which were made by not so famous banners, almost unknown actors, directors and composers. Usually C grade films used to be action/stunt films, made on shoestring budgets, having a fixed storyline resembling Tarzan, Hercules or Hollywood action films of Robin Hood, with the background of a jungle, tribe people, king-queen-wicked wazir and similar stories.
C grade films were always quickies, made on shoe-string budgets. During the late 1930s and 40s, Master Bhagwan action films used to be completed in about Rs. 50,000 only – including studio rent, sets, artist fees and other expenses. C grade films had a captive audience of factory workers, daily wagers, low income earners and students. However, such films used to rake in big profits to the film makers. Therefore, even top class banners sometimes made C grade films, to make up for their losses in big film flops.
There were certain production houses which specialized and thrived on such films – like Paramount Films, Jagriti Films, Mohan Pictures, Wadia Movietone etc. Since the studio system was in vogue, the film studios usually had fixed actors and directors in their employment. Music directors were of no consequence, so anybody would do. Well known composers like C Ramchandra used to take another name while composing music for C grade action films. Music assistants of famous composers used to give music to such films. Well known composers who fell on bad days also gave music to such films. C grade films rarely released commercial gramophone records for their film songs, so such songs are a real rarity even with big collectors.
Some common and regular names one finds in such grade C action/stunt films are Nadia, Boman Irani, Sayani, Bilimoria brothers, Cooper sisters, Zohra Khatoon, Ameena Khatoon, Khatoon Bai, Prakash, Adjania, Noorjehan (sr.), Moosa Pehelwan, Vasantrao Pehelwan, Baburao Pehelwan, Marutirao Pehelwan, Azim Bhai, Basheer, Ali, Bachha, Chandra Rao, Harishchandra Rao, Shankar Rao, Master Bhagwan, Mirajkar, Jamshed, John Cawas, Lalita Pawar, Navin Chandra. . . and many more such names.
Barring a few names like Lalita Pawar, Bhagwan, Nadia etc, all the other action film actors remained relatively less known. No one knows anything about them. Actors like Baburao Pehelwan, Marutirao Pehelwan (he was the hero in the first Gujarati talkie film ‘Narsi Mehta’), Chandra Rao, Sayani etc. were quite famous in their times, but except their Filmography (thanks to HFGK), nothing more is known about them. All of them ended only with mere names !
Today, I am writing about one such action film hero of 7 silent and 12 talkie films of the 1930s and 40s, whom I stumbled upon recently. His name is so obscure and unknown that even I was stunned, but he has acted with heroines like Rajkumari (Dubey), Sarojini, Vatsala Kumthekar, Gauhar Karnataki and had acted in films made by well known production houses like Paramount and Mohan Pictures.
On 2nd January 2015, I got a message on my Facebook page from an unknown person called ‘Tejas Vazare’. Since I try to avoid unknown people as my Fb friends, I ignored that message. Three years later, this January, I saw the message again. This time it attracted my attention because of what he wrote. He mentioned that his grandfather was a Hindi film hero of the 1930s and 40s. Out of curiosity, I wrote to him asking him to send information about himself and his grandfather. He informed me that Master Shankar Rao Vazare was a hero in a few films in the 1930s and 40s. This was a name new to me. He also sent me film posters, photos, newspaper articles etc. about him. On reading all this, I strongly felt that here was a man who needs to be brought before today’s world. We exchanged a lot of mails. I checked all film names with my books and prepared a list of films having evidence.
Tejas and I have planned to meet in Bombay. Maybe his father (son of Shankar Rao) and aunt (daughter of Shankar Rao) will accompany him. That time I will complete my interview with them and prepare a detailed article with photos, posters etc for publishing online. But till then, I wish to present his short biography on this blog . So, here we go.
Master Shankar Rao Vazare was born on 1-1-1916 in the Bhabhanagar area of Nashik (Maharashtra), in a peasant family. His father Trimbak Rao Vazare was the Patil of Nashik. (Patil used to be the overall head of the village / town) and his uncle was the chairman of the Municipality. Shankar Rao was very keen on films. Dadasaheb Phalke was also from Nashik. Taking inspiration from him, Shankar Rao developed an attraction for films. He used to see English films in the tent theatre of Nashik.
He reached Bombay. He was very handsome, tall and had a good physique. He got roles in the silent films made by Mahavir Photoplays. From 1929 to 1931, he worked in 7 silent films. There could be more also, but initially he was uncredited. Problem with the silent films was that they generally had 2 or 3 titles and alias names. Additionally as per the local language the title used to change also. So, it is very difficult to trace silent films by titles in the various lists published.
The list of his silent films that has been identified so far is – ‘Father’s Love’ (1929), ‘Ideal Woman’ (1930), ‘Prince Of The People’ (1930), ‘Avarice’ (1930), ‘Niradhar Niru’ (1931), ‘Jungle Ka Jawan’ (1931) and ‘Saroj Kumari’ (1931).
His first talkie film was ‘Toofani Tamancha’ aka ‘Hands Up’ (1935), made by Paramount Film company. In this film, his heroine was Gul Bano. He acted in 7 films made by Paramount Film Co., 3 by India Liberty Co., and 1 each made by Mohan Pictures and Allied Films. Here is the list of his talkie films,
|Film Title||Year||Production Company||Director||Heroine / Co worker|
aka Hands Up
|1935||Paramount||RN Vaidya||Gul Bano / Miss Pukhraj|
|2.||Farz e Adaa|
|1936||Indian Liberty||AM Khan||Shehzadi (sister of Zubeida (of Alam Aara)) / Vidya|
aka Fairy Of The Flute
|1936||Paramount||AM Khan||Gauhar Karnataki / Kamla|
aka Bombay Mail
|1936||Indian Liberty||(Unknown)||Gauhar Karnataki / Miss Pearl|
|5.||Madhraat Ka Mehmaan|
aka Midnight Man
|1938||Indian Liberty||Kikubhai Desai||Miss Moti / Miss Pokhraj|
|6.||Jungle Ka Jawan||1938||Mohan Pictures||Chunilal Parekh||Rajkumari / Kamla|
|7.||Madhu Bansari||1939||Paramount||Nanubhai Vakil||Sarojini (sister of Indurani, mother of Azra, wife of Nanubhai Vakil) / Vatsala Kumthekar|
|8||Son of Alladin|
aka Alladin ka Beta
|1939||Paramount||Nanubhai Vakil||Sarojini / Ranibala|
|9.||Reshami Saari||1939||Paramount||GP Pawar (husband of Lalita Pawar)||Kanta Kumari / Miss Moti|
|1940||Paramount||Kikubhai Desai||Miss Moti / Kanta Kumari|
|11.||Mere Raja||1941||Paramount||TS Mani||Miss Moti / Kanta Kumari|
|12.||Jungle Ki Pukar|
aka Call Of The Jungle
|1946||Allied Films||Ramji Arya||Ameena Khatoon / Usha|
After 1941, he found it difficult to get films. He returned to his hometown Nashik to look after his family, farming and also started a business dealing in cycles. In 1946, he got his last film and after that, he again returned to Nashik. Master Shankar Rao Vazare died on 21-1-1949, at a very young age of only 33 years.
Shankar Rao Vazare was the favourite hero of director Kikubhai Desai (father of Manmohan Desai) for silent and talkie films. Fearless Nadia, Ashok Kumar and Kishore Kumar were his fans. Ashok Kumar used to like seeing his films. In one interview, Kishore Kumar has said – “Despite being a hero, my brother Ashok Kumar never did a fight scene on the screen. I considered Master Shankar Vazare a better hero than him ! ”
His hometown Nashik was very proud of him. During the centenary celebrations of Nashik Municipality, they published his photo and a short Biography in their souvenir. There were articles and photos published in local newspapers. His wife expired about 4 years ago and his sons continue to live in Nashik. They are proud of him.
To get a song from his films was a great problem since nothing is available on YouTube. I sent out request letters to some famous record collectors and our own Sudhir Kapoor ji. All collectors replied negatively, but only Sudhir ji had just one song from the film ‘Madhu Bansari’ (1939). He sent me the song promptly. Thank you Sudhir ji for your kind help. On finding this song, Tejas Vazare and his family were overjoyed and have thanked our Sudhir ji wholeheartedly.
This song is sung by Vatsala Kumthekar, under the baton of Damodar Sharma. The film was directed by Nanubhai Vakil. The cast of the film was Master Vazare, Sarojini (sister of actress Indurani, mother of actress Azra and wife of Nanubhai Vakil ), Vatsala Kumthekar, Ganpat, Basheer, Ali etc. There were 14 songs in the film.
– Inputs from Tejas Vazare (grandson of Master Shankar Rao Vazare)
– Article in newspaper ‘Lokmat’
– Centenary book of Nashik Municipality
– Advertisements in Times of India and Film India magazine
– HFGK compiled by Shri Harmandir Singh ‘Hamraaz’
– ‘Silent Filmography’ by Dr RK Verma
– And my notes
One reply on “Shankar Rao Vazare : The Hero From the Past”
Great to know another personality from Nashik in Indian film industry apart from Dadasaheb Phalke himself. I was completely unaware about Master Vazre till today I saw my area Street being named after him. Then i opened this article to read about him and felt very proud to know that he hailed from my area. Thanks for this article.