Vinayak Karnataki, screen name Master Vinayak, was the brother of cinematographer Vasudev Karnataki, and cousin of filmmaker Baburao Pendharkar. Before becoming an actor-singer in many of Prabhat Studio’s early films, Master Vinayak was a teacher who also acted in Marathi theatre.
Master Vinayak made a successful pair with actress Meenakshi Shirodkar with whom he starred in the hit Marathi film Brahmachari (1938). The satirical film was known for the popular song ‘Yamuna Jali Khelu Khel’ in which Shirodkar wore a bathing suit. Her granddaughters Namrata and Shilpa both joined Hindi films in the 1990s.
Master Vinayak directed Shobhana Samarth in her first film, Nigahen Nafrat (1935), the Marathi/Hindi bilingual also known as Orphans of Society, which released a few months after her marriage. The film featured an English song, 'Puff Puff The Engine Said'.
When Master Dinanath Mangeshkar passed away at 42, Lata, his oldest offspring, was just 13. Master Vinayak came to the aid of the family and guided Lata to a career in the film industry. As he was a great fan of her father, who himself was a famous singer and star on the Marathi stage, Master Vinayak gave Lata her first chance to sing and act in the Marathi film Pahili Mangalagaur (1942). She sang her first Hindi song three years later for Badi Maa (1945), which Master Vinayak also directed.
Master Vinayak passed away on 19 August 1947, just a few days after India got independence. His daughter Nanda joined films shortly afterwards as a child artiste with Mandir (1948) where she played younger brother to Lata Mangeshkar. She became one of Hindi cinema’s better known actresses in the 1960s and 1970s, and Mangeshkar sang many of her hit songs from ‘Allah Tero Naam’ in Hum Dono (1961) to ‘Ek Pyar Ka Nagma Hai’ in Shor (1972).