Baburao Krishnarao Mestri aka Baburao Painter (1890 – 1954)
Artist and filmmaker; born to a family of artisans in Kolhapur. Taught himself to paint and sculpt at a young age. Associated in early years with a family- operated photo studio in Mumbai. Circa 1910, Baburao and his cousin Anandrao were hired by Keshavrao Bhonsle’s Lalitkaladarsha Natak Mandali to paint stage backdrops. Acquired the sobriquet Painter for his work on the company’s Marathi sangit natak (musical theater) productions such as Damini, Madalsa (1911), and Rakshasi Mehtavakanksha (1913), where Anandrao experimented with realistic stage settings. Also invited to work on plays by Kirloskar Natak Mandali, Govindrao Tembe, and Bal Gandharva, for whose productions Baburao designed costumes and also created theater decorations. Anandrao and Baburao turned to cinema in 1913 after seeing Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra; they ran a theater in Kolhapur while trying to assemble their own camera. Anandrao died in 1916. In 1918, Baburao set up the Maharashtra Film Company with two of Anandrao’s theater associates, Sheikh Fattelal and Vishnupant Damle, releasing their first feature, Sairandhri, in 1920. Subsequent films established the historical (Sinhagad, 1923) and the social (Savkari Pash, 1925) as genres, and introduced sophisticated art-direction techniques, as well as innovations in lighting and cinematography. Also pioneered use of posters, publicity booklets, and theater displays in Indian cinema. The Maharashtra Film Company launched careers of many filmmakers, technicians, and artists, notably Damle, Fattelal, and V. Shantaram, who set up Prabhat Film Company. Baburao resigned from the company following Lanka (1930) to set up Shalini Cinetone (1932-1938), directing talkie films Usha (1935) and Pratibha (1937). Later worked as a freelance director, making Lokshahir Ramjoshi (1947) for V. Shantaram’s Rajkamal Kalamandir. Painted in oils throughout his career. Notable work includes Dattatreya (1926) and Vishvamohini, Jalvahini, Vatapooja, and Laxmi (all undated). Also did portraits and sketches of actresses Durga Khote and Usha Mantri, and illustrated Marathi book and magazine covers.