Remembers Baburao ( Anusuya Bai is introduced as the first woman from a respectable family to act on the silver screen, introduced by Baburao)
When one sees the prestige of film starts today, hearing of their slaries, and reading about the controversises in the newspapers, it brings back memories of the year 1928.
Kalamaharishi Baburao Painter comes before my eyes. He was the one who brought us actors to the silver screen. When Dadasaheb Phalke first began to make films in India, he would have good looking men dress up in women's clothes and play the female roles. But when Baburao Painter began to enhance the art of cinema in Kohlapur, he was the first one who had women doing women's roles.
As a preperation to starting a film company, Baburao opened a theatre, called Maharashtra theatre. English films and Phalke's films would be shown there. I would secretly go to see films there. In those days, it was considered a great sin for a woman to see a film. If one acted in a film... don't even ask. And I belonged to a respectable, educated family! My brother in law was a doctor. I used to study under him. I had finished my seventh standard.
After watching films like 'Liberty' and 'Peg of Gary', I desired to - act in films. But my family and society...!
Just about that time, Baburao had made a short film called Good Night. And after the main film was over, they would show it. A woman called Gajrabai acted in it. She was the first Indian woman to be seen on the silver screen! And after that I and Gulabbai! I was the first educated woman! My acting in films incensed society. We had to leave our house. And we went to live in the Maharashtra film company itself. A new business. The company just recently formed. There was no money, so where was the question of any salary? At such a time, the company would only provide us with meals. We would wear the torn dhotis of Baburao Painter, Baba Gajbar, Fatehlal mama, and so spend our days.
Baburao decided to make his first full length film Sita Swayamvaram. I got the role of Sita. But instead of beginning work on this movie, this artist wanted to make Sairandhari first. So work began on that film. And along with that, the task of making a camera was in full swing. Baburao's Maharashtra Film Company was like a large family. Everyone did whatever work was needed to be done. And nowadays- " I'm the heroine, I want a car. My dog needs a chair" etc.! Gulabbai and I would even work on the lathe machine-( to make rings?) After that, Baburao would make camera parts. During the construction of Maharashtra Film Company's studio ( a tin shed), everyone, from Baburao down to the last labourer did the work of carrying the sand, and then did the Maharashtra Film Company's studio come up. Shooting began for 'Sairandhari'. I did the role of Sudeshna. This was my first role. Gulabbai did the role of Sairandhri. Sairandhari was inaugrated at the hands Lokmanya Tilak and it went on to havee a resounding success all over India. After that I did lead roles in Damaji, Netaji Palkar, Gajgami, Murliwala, Savitri and Lanka. When Baburao spoke, no one would understand him. As it is, he spoke very little. He always worked very hard. He had ???
Shantaram, Damle, and Fatehlal mama got together and decided to form Prabhat Film Company. At that time, Maharashtra Film Company's Lanka was half complete and these people were trying to start their company. Baburao knew of this, but they decided to inform him themselves. Everyday Fatehlalmama and Shantaram would go to try and tell him but would return without doing so. Eventually three of them went and, afraid all the while, told him. I never once saw Shantarambapu seated on a chair in his presence.
Baburao had various kinds of friends. Different friends for hunting. Meaning, the jagirdars of Kohlapur. Famous writers like N.S. Phadke, Narayan Hari Apte, etcetra, were another bunch of friends. And he would be at ease among all these groups. Baburao would do everything after giving full thought- delibration- to it. He would always do the casting for all the roles himself. For Lanka, he chose me for the role of Shoorpanakha. Everyone said Baburao was making a mistake. Of course, all this behind his back. Nobody had the courage to speak in front of him. Still, S.V. Kirloskar said to Baburao, " You are making a beautiful woman like Anusuya play Shoorpanakha? Actually she should play Sita". Baburao laughed and said "Shankarrao, my choise is appropriate. True, Shoorpanakha is a demoness. But when she appears before Rama, she appears as a very beautiful woman. She should look more beautiful than Sita".
As the art form was a new one, in the beginning there was not encouragement from society. But later on, people began to realise the importance of Baburao. Prominent citizens of Kohlapur would invite him to have meals with them. But Baburao never went alone. He would always say, " The whole of Maharashtra Film Company is my family". So the invitation had to include everyone. Even all the coolies would come. Baburao would be extremely caring towards all of u (laides/women) more than he would have taken care of his own daughters. For instance, if there was a difficult scene and one of had to run hard, he would be running on the spot while watching the shot. ?
He would himself do the make up for the ladies. Because of his extremely reticent nature, Baburao lost out a lot. Whever there was a problem, he would not be able to talk about it. Due to this we would never know what he was going through or what he wanted. But he was constantly endeavouring.