Actor, director and screenplay writer, Datta Dharmadhikari is known for his films in Hindi as well as Marathi, such as Maya Bazar (1949), Kunkwacha Dhani (1951), Deep Jalte Rahe (1959), Lagnala Jaato Mee (1960), Dhakti Mehuni (1978), Satichi Punyai (1980), and Daulat Ka Nasha (1982).
Born on 2 December, 1913 in Kolhapur into a lower middleclass family, he studied up to Matriculation before he began working in the various film studios of Kolhapur. Working first with Baburao Pendharkar, he then moved to being doorkeeper at Prabhat (1934), bit player (1936) and then assistant to K. Narayan Kale (Mazha Mulga, 1938), Damle and Fattelal, and V. Shantaram. This was a period of intense learning as he went on to pick up the ropes of nearly every department of filmmaking, except for music. He even acted in a small role in the film Sant Gyaneshwar (1940), a Marathi-Hindi bilingual.
He left Prabhat (1944) to work collectively with other young cineastes in Bombay, assisted Raja Nene at Mohan Studios, and then at Balasaheb Pathak’s Manik Studios. Having worked as an assistant director, he served as joint director with Raja Nene for Shadi Se Pehle (1947). He also simultaneously directed successful films in Marathi.
He went on to establish his own production company, Alhaad Chitra (1951-4). A word that means ‘joy’, it was named after his son Alhaad Dattatreya Dharmadikari, who worked as a child artiste in all his films. Also known as Master Alhaad, he became a noted child actor in Hindi and Marathi films.
Alhaad Chitra revitalised Marathi cinema by reworking the social genre into very successful stage-inspired emotional dramas. Most of them inevitably ended in funerals; a style that was carried on by Anant Mane, Datta Mane and Datta Keshav, all of whom were from Alhaad Chitra.
Datta Dharmadhikari remade some of his successful Marathi films in Hindi, such as Chimni Pakhare which was remade as Nanhe Munne (1952), Suwasini which became Suhagan (1954) in Hindi and Mahatma (1953), which was made in three languages - Marathi, Hindi and English.
However, he lost heavily in his production of the tri-lingual, Mahatma. Forced to sell everything he had, his wife had to even help sustain the family by cooking and supplying tiffins. Emerging from this difficult phase, Datta started accepting directorial work from other producers, both for Marathi and Hindi films. In the Hindi film industry, he worked for Homi Wadia’s Basant Studio and at Filmistan.
In the course of his career, Datta Dharmadhikari directed 21 Marathi and 11 Hindi films. Among his Hindi films are Shadi Se Pehle (1947), Maya Bazar (1949), Nanhe Munne (1952), Mahatma (1953), Bhagyawan (1953), Savdhan (1954), Sudarshan Chakra (1956), Deep Jalta Rahe (1959), Subhadra Haran (1964), Mujhe Seene Se Lagaa Lo (1969) and his last film, Daulat Ka Nasha (1982). He also gave the music composer pair, Vasant-Ramchandra a break in Hindi films, assigning them the music for five of his Hindi films.
Datta Dharmadhikari passed away on December 30, 1982 in Pune, Maharashtra, India