Tributes to Baburao Painter, the visionary artist of the Indian cinema, on his 127th birth anniversary

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Tributes to Baburao Painter, the visionary artist of the early days of Indian cinema, on his 127th birth anniversary today.

Baburao Krishnarao Mestry, known as Baburao Painter was a painter, sculptor and a film maker of the silent film era. A native of Kolhapur, Maharashtra and a former assistant to Dadasaheb Phalke, Painter was instrumental in shaping and influencing many in the industry. He worked in the stenographic method on films. He drew the costumes, movements, screen, sets and the characters. Years later, Satyajit Ray did the same on Pather Panchali.

He started his career with painting stage backdrops in western India during early 20th century. He was the first one to design film-sets and sektch costumes and scenes. He established Maharashtra Film Company in Kolhapur in 1917, with the support of the local nobility. He produced and directed his debut film ‘Seeta Swayamwar’ in 1918. He developed sophisticated art direction and shooting techniques and assembled his own camera then, for shooting purposes. He was the first filmmaker to print the publicity material like pamphlets, booklets and posters to promote his films.

Late Baburao Painter helped to codify the mythological genre of Indian Cinema in Sairandri (1919), Surekha Haran (1921), Murliwala (1927), Sati Savitri (1927) and founded the social genre with his landmark film Savkari Pash in 1925. He was also credited with many historical films like Sinhagad (1923), Kalyan Khajina (1924), Baji Prabhu Deshpande (1930) and many others. The Maharastra Film Company was like a film school then, where Baburao Painter groomed many stalwarts like V. Shantaram, V. Damle, S. Fattelal, Keshavrao Dhaiber, Narayan D. Sarpotdar, Bhalji Pendharkar, Baburao Pendharkar, and actors like Balasaheb Yadav, Zunzharrao Pawar, Master Vithal, Ganpat Bakre and many others.

His last name was derived by his exceptional artwork. When he gave up films with the advent of the talkies, he returned to his first love — painting and artwork. A self-taught artist, Painter excelled at oil painting throughout his career. His excellence in traditional sculpture is also evident in the huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi, which is located in Kolhapur.

Baburao Painter died on January 16, 1954 in Kolhapur.

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