My 55 years experience (L.V.Prasad)

It was the year 1930. I sneaked out of my house leaving behind my wife and little child, and got into the Bombay bound train, with just hundred rupees in the pocket. My only aim was to join the films as an actor and become a noteworthy figure in the film world.

I roamed about the streets of Bombay in search of a job. I used to stand outside the gate of Kohinoor Film Company Studios for hours together with the hope of getting a job. But nothing turned up. I then diverted my attention to other studios. Sometimes I used to stand outside a studio-gate hoping against hope that I would get some job. But no...... the gates did not open for me.

A tailor-friend, on coming to know about my desire to join the film world, got me a job in Venus Pictures on a princely salary of 15 rupees a month. However, they neither made any picture nor paid me any salary.

One gentleman, Dharilal by name, who was working in Venus Pictures, got me a job in a Carnival. My salary was one Rupee and eight annas per day. After working in Venus Pictures' office throughout the day. I used to go to the carnival in the evening and work there till 2 a.m. and then walk five miles to reach the tailor's shop to spend the rest of the night. Again, getting up at 5 am, cleaning the shop, going to Venus Pictures' office and from there to the carnival - this happened to be my daily routine.

I left Venus Pictures which faced a lot of financial problems and then joined Indian Pictures. Akthar Nawaz was the proprietor of the company. I acted in a bit role in their silent film "Star of the East''. In those days, a junior artiste had to do other odd jobs also like carrying reflectors, camera-stands, etc. Otherwise he would be sacked.

Once Akthar Nawaz took us to a far off placefor an outdoor shooting. The entire unit stayed in a bungalow, fifteen miles away from the railway station. One night, Akthar Nawaz bolted away leaving the crew to its fate. Without money, without food, without even a cup of tea, we waited for Akthar Nawaz for two days. But there was no trace of him. We then walked all the fifteen miles back to the railway station and somehow returned to Bombay, like battered soldiers after a terrific battle.

Again the struggle for a job started. After Herculean efforts, I got a job in Imperial Film Company. In those days, bit-role players were engaged on salary basis as regular staff by the Film Companies. They had to be ready at hand to put on any make-up and appear in group scenes in all the Pictures produced by the Company.

Imperial Film Company made the first talkie "ALAM ARA". The songs were recorded directly on locations as sung by the artistes. Playback system was not in vogue at that time. So the actors and actresses had to sing themselves. I remember the day when we all went to Ghodbunder to film a song-cum-dance item. Alkananda (sister of Sitara) sang the song "Balama Kahee Honga Hamaresh". Mr. W. M. Khan who played as Fakir in "ALAM ARA" and who sang the song "De De Khudake naam Pe pyare" is my neighbour. Those were days of equality and fraternity amongst the artistes, whether big or small. Stars like Prithviraj Kapoor, Master Vithal, Billimari Jagadish Sethi, Nayampalli and Mehboob Khan' moved closely with the extra-role players without any inhibition.

During this period, I had acted in the first Tamil talkie film 'KALIDOSS' directed by Sri H. M. Reddy featuring Smt. T. P. Rajalakshmi and a Telugu actor and also in Krishna Film Company's first Telugu talkie "BHAKTHA PRAHLADA" directed by Sri H. M. Reddy, in the year 1931. At this time quite unexpectedly I got the job of an Assistant Director under Mr. Gazanfar Ali Shah, who was then directing the film 'KAMAR AL ZAMAN"for Imperial Film Company. Mr. H. R. Soni (father of Bhappie Soni) was acting as the hero in the picture as well as doing the assistant director's job. Mr. Ali Shah was very temperamental and haughty and sometimes would fly into violent fits of anger. At such times, he would shout at people, even draw out his pistol to threaten them. Mr.Soni could not adjust with him and wanted to leave the job. He took me to Mr. Ali Shah and recommended me for the job of assistant director. Thus, by chance I became an assistant director. As Long as I worked with Mr. Ali Shah, I never gave him an occasion to shout at me. On the other hand, he was highly pleased with my sincere work.