Check out the list of films made on the life of Shakuntala, long before Samantha & Gunasekhar's ShaakuntalamBy now, we all know about Samantha Ruth Prabhu’s magnum opus Shaakuntalam, based on Kalidasa’s most celebrated work Abhijñānaśākuntalam. The famous play, which follows the story of Shakuntala – a love child of sage Viswamitra and a celestial nymph Menaka, adapted from the Sanskrit epic Mahābhārata, has held a place of prominence in the world of performing arts, especially in theatre and cinema. Filmmakers and playwrights across the world have time and again referred to it and presented their versions of the romantic legend.The story of Shakuntala & Dushyant has been brought to life in multiple languages, sometimes even without language (i.e. silent films), and across several decades. Having been released in 1920, the first known version of the play translated onto the silver screen, is more than 100 years old. As the mythological drama, captured through the lens of the National Award-winning filmmaker Gunasekhar and for the millennials, is set to release worldwide on April 14, 2023, Let’s take a look at the popular films made on the life of a gentle-yet-strong Shakuntala, long before Samantha’s Shaakuntalam:Suchet Singh & Patankar’s Shakuntala or The Fateful Ring (1920) - Silent FilmsThese are probably the first screen adaptations during the silent era of cinema. Regarded as the pioneer of the pre-studio era, Suchet Singh returned from the US and put his filmmaking education to use by making a seven-reel film on Kalidasa’s play, titled Shakuntala (1920). It featured the American actress Dorothy Kingdon in the title role and her husband Baron Van Rayvon worked as the photographer. However, Singh’s Shakuntala faced criticism owing to the wave of ‘Swadeshi Vs. Videshi’ movement during the struggle for India’s independence, and at the same time, a rival production company in Bombay — Patankar Friends & Co. — also made another Shakuntala aka The Fateful Ring in 1920.Some sources claim that Singh’s film was a major success and was run for 40 consecutive days in Bombay, while some say that it failed at the box office at the time of release, but eventually attained the status of a classic due to its novelty in visual representation. Sarvottam Badami’s Shakuntala (1932) - TeluguThe Sarvottam Badami's directorial, Shakuntala is a Telugu film starring Yadavalli Suryanarayana as ‘Dushyant’ and Surabhi Kamala Bai as ‘Shakuntala’. The actress, who is credited as the first Telugu actress in talkie films, belongs to the esteemed Surabhi drama company established in 1885. She is the daughter of a veteran theatre artiste, Leelavati, who literally gave birth to her on stage. Kamalabai was born while her mother was giving a performance wherein she played the character of a pregnant woman. But did you know that the crowd for a moment thought that Kamala’s birth was part of the play and they even threw coins for her ‘performance’.Ellis R Dungan’s Sakuntalai (1940) - TamilHelmed by an American filmmaker Ellis R Dungan, the 1940 Tamil classic Sakuntalai starred the legendary Carnatic singers, MS Subbulakshmi and GN Balasubramaniam, as ‘Shakuntala’ and ‘Dushyanta’, respectively. It was the second film of MS in her brief-but-noteworthy movie career and the film’s screenplay was written by her husband T Sadasivam. She also sung the songs in the film, and her romantic duets with Balasubramaniam became a rage among the music lovers. The film, which was 17400 ft in length and 3 hours long, is considered as one of the best musical hits in Indian cinema besides its technical brilliance at the time.V Shantaram’s Shakuntala (1943) - HindiOne man who was obsessed with the romantic classic is the illustrious Marathi filmmaker V Shantaram, who later in his career ventured into Hindi cinema. It was in 1943 that his costume drama film based on the life of Shakuntala was released. Starring yesteryear actress Jayashree as ‘Shakuntala’ and Chandramohan as ‘Dushyant’, the film was a major hit and ran continuously for 104 consecutive weeks in a single theatre. Remarkably, it was the first Indian film to be commercially distributed in the US. The New York Times of 1947 reviewed the film and wrote, “Shakuntala has a charm entirely of its own.” Calling it a “fairy-tale”, the reviewer praised the background, and commented on the “unabashed naïveté of acting of the entire cast,” and the "crudely rich musical score" but called it “a sturdy screen promise.”V Shantaram’s Stree (1961) - HindiShantaram’s love for the evergreen drama continued over the years and 17 years later, he remade the movie in Hindi as ‘Stree’ (1961). He essayed the lead role of Dushyant alongside his second wife and actress Sandhya, who played Shakuntala in the film. Though there are a lot of similarities between the two movies, the second one failed to impress the audience.Bhupen Hazarika’s Shakuntala (1961) - AssameseShakuntala also enchanted the ‘Bard of the Brahmaputra’. In 1961, the renowned playback singer, lyricist, actor and filmmaker Bhupen Hazarika made a film based on the play, in Assamese. The first partial colour film in the state’s language, featuring Anita as the protagonist, went on to win the prestigious National Award for Best Feature Film in Assamese and earned the President’s Silver Medal. How can anyone not fall in love with the song “Prothomo Prohoro Ratri”? A film critic back then, Charles Fabri famously quoted, “we have got more of Sakuntala in Bhupen Hazarika’s Rs 1.25 lakh film than Shantaram’s Rs 52 lakh technicolour bonanza.”Kunchacko’s Shakuntala (1965) - MalayalamDirector Kunchacko made Shakuntala in Malayalam starring Prem Nazir, Sathyan, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair and KR Vijaya in the titular roles. At a time when colour films were rare in Malayalam the dance scene and the climax were shot in colour. These scenes accounted for the success of the film.The film is an adaptation of Shantaram’s 1961 Bollywood film Stree. Contrary to the results of Stree, Shakuntala achieved enviable success. Kamalakara Kameswara Rao’s Shakunthala (1966) - TeluguIn 1966, Telugu filmmaker Kamalakara Kameswara Rao, fondly known as Pauranika Chitra Brahma (meaning, ‘The Creator of Mythological Films’) adapted Kalidasa’s much loved play and helmed ‘Sakunthala’ starring NT Rama Rao and B Saroja Devi. Saroja Devi’s connection to Kalidasa happened much before she acted in ‘Sakunthala’. Interestingly, the actress started her career with the 1955 film Mahakavi Kalidasa, which is considered as a landmark film in Kannada cinema. However, the film received a lukewarm response, but its Bengali dubbed version became an instant hit.Renuka Sharma’s Kaviratna Kalidasa (1983) - KannadaKaviratna Kalidasa is a 1983 Kannada-language historical drama film based on the life of the poet Kalidasa. It drew inspiration from Kalidasa’s most celebrated work Abhijñānaśākuntalam. The film stars Rajkumar in double roles as ‘Kalidasa’ and ‘Dushyant’, and with ‘Jaya Prada’ playing the dual role as both ‘Vidhyadhare’ and ‘Shakuntala’. The movie ran for 25 weeks and is considered to be one of the top grossing films in the history of Kannada cinema.Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985) - HindiRegarded as the ‘Greatest Showman of Indian Cinema’, Raj Kapoor also drew inspiration from Kalidasa’s play for his last directorial ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’ starring his son Rajiv Kapoor and the then newcomer Mandakini. Released in the year 1985, the film is included in the list of 'All-Time Blockbusters of Indian Cinema.Gunasekhar's Shaakuntalam (2023) - TeluguReleased on April 14, Samantha's pan-Indian film ‘Shaakuntalam’ re-introduced the audience to a great story of love, heartbreak and forgiveness, on the big screen. Helmed by Gunasekhar and bankrolled by Dil Raju and Neelima Guna, the mythological drama is one of the most expensive films to be solely headlined by an actress.