The modern generation might relate the name of LV Prasad with the name of the premier multiplex chain and the eye hospital and the film laboratories, but to the elder generations who have patronized cinema of the earlier times, it gives them the vivid image of a man who was associated with the first talkie film of all the languages in various capacities. LV Prasad was a man who gave new direction to cinema as a whole. His life is an example of ideals and the way to achieve them being successful.
L. V. Prasad was born in a well-to-do agricultural family in Eluru Taluk of the current-day Andhra Pradesh. Right from childhood, he showed lot of interest in plays and the then new phenomenon of films, neglecting his studies. In early 1920’s, his family lost its fortunes in trying to convert forest lands into arable lands. In 1924, he married Soundarya Manoharamma, his maternal uncle’s daughter, despite objections from her family on account of his poor financial status. With a view to pursue his dreams in establishing an acting career, he left to Bombay in 1930.
Lack of contacts in the film industry made life difficult for him and he had to face lot of hardship to enter into studios. After doing rounds of studios for over six months, he got an errands job in the Venus Film Company. After a short time there, he joined with Imperial Light Company for a monthly salary of 30 rupees. Ardeshir Irani was the owner of the company and was trying to make Alam Ara, the first talkie in India and Prasad was an extra artist. At the same time Prasad was acquainted with H. M. Reddy, who was assisting Irani. H.M. Reddy was given the opportunity to direct the first Telugu talkie by Irani and he promptly cast Prasad in a bit role in the first Telugu talkie, Bhaktha Prahlada. Prasad also acted in Kalidasa, the first Tamil film, around the same time. Thus, he had the unique distinction of acting in the first talkies in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. It was around this time that his name was shortened to ‘L. V. Prasad’ by an accountant who felt that his name was too long for the daily attendance roll call.
In 1940, he reached Madras and became an assistant director to H. M. Reddy. Later on Reddy cast him as the hero for his film Satyame Jayam and later in Tenali Rama Krishna. But the Second World War affected the film industry in a huge way and it was very difficult even to get raw material for filming and opportunities were limited.
In 1946, he got an opportunity to direct and act in a Telugu film Griha Pravesham based on a feminist story by Tripuraneni Gopichand. He received critical acclaim for his role and also his directorial capabilities and the movie was a commercial success. During the making of Griha Pravesham, Gudavalli Ramabrahmam called upon L V Prasad and handed him his pet project Palnati Yudham as he was taken ill. L V Prasad completed the movie and it established him as a Director to reckon with. In 1949, he directed Mana Desam and introduced N. T. Rama Rao, who achieved iconic status in Andhra Pradesh, in a bit role.
In 1950, he directed Samsaram starring N. T. Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao. The movie, exploring domestic themes, was a big hit. After this, Prasad exclusively focused on directing movies with a family theme. The same year he directed another successful movie, Shavukar for B. Nagi Reddy’s Vijaya Pictures. This partnership continued over the years in the making of other successful movies such as Missamma, Appu chesi pappu koodu and Pelli chesi choodu.
In 1955, he turned a producer and also took over an unfinished studio. In 1956, he produced his first Telugu film and in 1957, he produced his first Hindi film. He was a successful producer and had produced, directed or acted in 50 films spread over the four different languages of Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada in his career.
He completed the Prasad Studios in 1965, the Prasad Film Laboratory in 1974 and the recording theater in 1976. The facilities were regarded as the best in India and on par with the best in the world. He was also the principal donor to an eye hospital at Hyderabad, which was named after him – the LVPEI (L V Prasad Eye Institute). Also the first Imax and multiplex chain of Hyderabad has been named after him.
L V Prasad, the doyen of Indian Cinema took his last breath on 22nd June 1994. He is still remembered by the people from all walks of life and the Government has honored him by releasing a postal stamp in the year 2006. He may not be anymore in this mortal world, but his imprint through his work and achievements lives through the generations.