On 3rd April 2011, the show Namaste Cinema aired on Zee TV had a special feature on Lord Shri Ram. In the show for the first time I saw clips of the Kevat Prasang from a film called Bharat Milap released in 1942. Shobhana Samarth was the only face I recognized. In those clips what immediately caught my attention was the actor who enacted the role on Lord Shri Ram.
I saw an amazing resemblance in his face and current TV Actor Karan Mehra. It could be just me but I find them very similar looking. I am always curious to know about artists whose work I have missed just because I was not born in their times. I went to Google, the “Gyan Sagar” of today’s times.
I got introduced to Prem Adib (प्रेम अदीब), the Ram of the Silver Screen. He was a very popular and successful actor of his times. Even though many actors have time and again played the Role of Lord Ram on the Silver Screen, no one really made the kind of impression he did on the public. It is said that all subsequent acts of Lord Ram by other actors were inspired by his portrayal. He essayed the role of Lord Ram in about 8 films. Bharat Milap (1942), Ram Rajya (1943), Ram Baan (1948), Ram Vivah (1949), Ram Navami (1956), Ram Hanuman Yudha (1957), Ram Lakshman (1957), Ram Bhakt Vibhishan (1958).
Writer Harish Raghuwanshi‘s book “Inhein Na Bhulana” (in Gujarati) has a feature on him. Here is the English Translation.
Even though many actors like Shahu Modak, Mahipal, Trilok Kapoor, Abhi Bhattacharya, Manhar Desai, Anant Kumar, Balakraam and Chandrakant enacted the role of Ram, when the role of Ram is mentioned, only one image comes to people’s mind, that of Prem Adib. (After T.V. Series Ramayan, to some extent Arun Govil can stake a claim to this position, but that is another story)
Famous as Cineworld’s Ram, Shiv Prasad Adib was born on 10th August, 1916 in a Kashmiri Brahmin family in Sultanpur (Audh, Uttar Pradesh). His father Pandit Ramprasad was a lawyer. Ramprasad’s forefathers were known in the field of Literature. Impressed by his Litterateur personality, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah had conferred him with the title of ‘Adib’ (meaning Pandit-Vidwaan). In future, this title became their family name (surname).
At the age of 13 years, after watching a silent film ANAARBALA, Prem decided to join films. After matriculating from Jodhpur in 1932, he studied for 2 years in college, but the passion for films had not reduced. So in 1934 he gave up studies and headed straight to Calcutta. For 8 months he went to different studios there, but with no luck. From there he went to Lahore. After failing to get work in Lahore also, he arrived in Mumbai. Finally his wish was fulfilled and he got a job in Rajputana Films.
Director Mohan Sinha (father of Vidya Sinha) gave Shiv Prasad a small role in the film ROMANTIC INDIA and gave him his film-name: Prem Adib. In this film another young Kashmiri man O. K. Dar also played a role; who later became famous as Jeevan. After this start, Prem also got some small roles in Dariani Productions films like: PRATIMA (Premmurti), FIDA-E-VATAN (Tasveer-e-wafa) and INSAAF (1937). He also acted in Minerva Movietone’s social films like KHAN BAHADUR (1937) and TALAAQ (1938).
His first film as a hero opposite Shobhana Samarth was NIRALA HINDUSTAN (Industrial India). This film had 3 music directors. Naushad was an assistant to one of those three, Mushtaq Hussain. He appeared once again as a hero in GHUNGHATWAALI, Sagar Movietone’s BHOLBHOLE and SADHANA (1939). In SAUBHAGYA (1940), again as a hero with Shobhana Samarth, Prem Adib also sang the songs. In this way, from 1936 to 1940, there were 11 films released with acting by Prem Adib.
In terms of popularity, the decade of the 1940s was his career’s best phase. In that decade, besides acting in 28 films, he also produced 3 films. These were: DEHAATI, KASAM (1947) and RAM VIVAH (1949). He was also the director of RAM VIVAH. In the early 40s, Prem Adib joined the prestigious organization Prakash Pictures. This organization formed by Shankar Bhatt and Vijay Bhatt also had famous names like Jayant, Shobhana Samarth, Sardar Akhtar, Shirin Banu (Mahesh Bhatt’s mother), Ratnamala, Umakant Desai and Durga Khote. Prem Adib’s starting salary was fixed at Rs. 700 per month. Prakash Pictures films in which Prem Adib acted were: DARSHAN, BHARAT MILAP, CHUDIYAAN, STATION MASTER, RAMRAJYA, POLICE, VIKRAMADITYA and RAM-BAAN. Pleased with Prem Adib’s performance in BHARAT MILAP (BHARAT-BHET in Marathi), his salary per month was increased by Rs. 300.
BHARAT MILAP was the creation of well known Marathi author Vishnupant Aundhkar. When he insisted that Prem Adib play the role of Ram, Adib was upset. His argument was: “How can Ram be the hero of Bharat Milap story”. After lot of explaining from Aundhkar, Prem Adib accepted the role and that became the most memorable role of his career. Even intellectuals like Dr. Radhakrishnan were pleased on seeing the film. When the film was awarded gold medal in Calcutta, Kanhaiyalal Munshi was also present at the ceremony. He suggested Vijay Bhatt to make LUV KUSH. Gandhiji was heading the independence struggle for the country and he repeatedly said that the independent India of his dream would be like Ram-Rajya. Keeping in mind Kanhaiyalal Munshi’s suggestion, Vijay Bhatt did make the movie about Luv Kush but instead of calling it LUV KUSH, he named it RAM RAJYA. Released at Super Cinema in Mumbai this film scaled the peaks of popularity. It ran continuously for 108 weeks.
People started worshipping Prem Adib as Ram after BHARAT MILAAP and RAM RAJYA. He was showered with Ram roles. Tired of crazy fans Prem Adib used to explain to them that he was just an ordinary man like them and that they should not worship him and insult Lord Ram, but it had no effect on people. Believing that Ram’s visit would get rid of their sorrows, many people would insist on inviting him to their homes. In a village near Udaipur, the idol of Ram for a newly built Ram Temple was made to look like the Ram of RAM RAJYA. On seeing the publicity vehicles that had posters of RAM RAJYA, people would worship and offer gifts to the images of Ram (Prem Adib) and Sita (Shobhana Samarth). Even though Prem Adib used to smoke cigarettes and eat non-vegetarian food in real life, he gave them up while filming RAM RAJYA. During the shooting he also read Ramayan every day.
Gandhiji, who had talked about Ram Rajya, had never ever watched even one movie. Since the Art Director of Vijay Bhatt’s films, Kanu Desai was a Gandhian and as a result of his efforts Gandhiji agreed to see RAM RAJYA. There is also a story that the editor of ‘Vande Mataram’ daily, Shamal Das Gandhi, wrote two editorials persuading Gandhiji to watch the film RAM RAJYA. He wrote that Gandhiji should watch the film atleast for the lyricist Ramesh Gupta’s song: “bhaarat ki ek sannari ki ham katha sunaate hain”. Once when Gandhiji had come to Bombay to rest because of illness, his Doctor Sushila Nair gave him permission to watch the film for only 40 min. After this time was over, when the doctor asked that the film be stopped, Gandhiji signaled that the film be continued and saw the whole film. That day being his Maunwaar (Monday, when he would not talk to anyone) he could not vocalize his impressions. There are different opinions about his impression of the movie, but that he saw the film was important for all those who were associated with the film.
During that time, Prem Adib got married to a leading citizen RaiSaheb Rajeshwarnath Kaul’s daughter Krishnakumari (alias Pratima) on 26th February, 1943 in Lahore. In the year 1944, it was the 2000th year of Vikram Sanvat. The Maharaja of Gwalior was the chairman of the committee established to celebrate this occasion. He requested Mr. Vijay Bhatt to make a film on King Vikram. Vijay Bhatt did make the film VIKRAMADITYA with Prem Adib, but it did not get the expected success. Prem Adib also formed his own production company and made the film. He suffered losses in this adventure.
In the 50s, Prem Adib had 28 film releases. Most of them were religious films. ANGULIMAL in 1960 was his last film. His film RAM BHAKTI (1958) was censored again as BHAKT RAAJ and released in 1960. Prakash Pictures also compiled (put together) scenes from its own earlier films BHARAT MILAAP, RAMRAAJYA and RAM BAAN and made a film RAMAYAN in 1954. On 25th December, 1959 Prem Adib had gone to a party with his wife Pratima. During the day he was healthy and fine, but after coming back he had an attack of brain hemorrhage due to high blood pressure. His wife fainted at his untimely and unexpected death. His last rites were taken over and completed by his relatives present at that time. When his fans came to know they complained that if they had been informed they would have given him a farewell befitting Ram.
Source Link: Click here
In the article “Kashmiri Pandits in Indian Cinema“, Gautam Kaul mentions about Prem Adib.
In 1936 itself a young man from Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, came to Bombay to try his luck and found himself in the company of similarly struggling artists like Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar. This young Kashmiri Pandit was Prem ‘Adib’ Dhar.
Prem Adib had a passion to become a film star. He found himself knocking at the doors of film producers and hit Stardust with the lead role in film ‘Romantic India’ opposite the actress Nurjehan. His next film ‘Pratima’ proved to be another hit and Prem Adib became a silver jubilee star overnight. Prem Adib acted in such silver jubilee hits as in ‘STATION MASTER’, ‘CHAND’, ‘DARSHAN’ and ‘ANOKHI ADA’. It was finally in the film RAM RAJYA that Prem Adib found his immortality. The story inspired from the epic Ramayan, was a golden jubilee hit wherever it was shown in India and the only film ever seen by Mahatma Gandhi in 1943. Artists have only imitated him in later versions.
Prem Adib also launched his own film company but suffered reverses with ‘DEHATI’ and ‘RAM BAAN’. His film ‘RAM VIVAH’ brought him some luck but the trend of mythology had started shifting and Prem Adib moved from Class A movies to Class B films. His last film was ANGULIMALA made in 1958 was released in 1960. Prem Adib died in 1959 following a protracted illness which began in a car accident and a botched kidney surgery.
Source Link: Click here
It is disheartening that inspite of being such a popular figure I could not find a single proper picture of Premji. All that I could find were either captures from VCDs or Movie Channels. I could only manage these stills from Ram Rajya and Anokhi Ada (has the must-hear song sung by Mukeshji “Manzil Ki Dhun Mein Jhoomte Gaate Chale Chalo“)
Some Tidbits found about, Ram Rajya and Bharat Milap
1. In 1943, RAM RAJYA celebrated a successful run of over 100 days – a rare feat indeed, those days!
2. The premiere of Vijay Bhatt’s ‘BHARAT MILAP’ was presided over by none other than Dr. Radhakrishna at the Majestic Cinema in Bombay.
3. Vijay Bhatt’s RAM RAJYA was the only film seen by Mahatma Gandhi during his lifetime.
4. In 1947, Bhatt’s RAM RAJYA, which had enjoyed a stupendous run at the box office, premiered in the US at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York on the 5th of May. Subsequent screenings were held on the 6th and 7th of May, under the auspices of Indian Society of America, of which Dr. Chandrashekhar was the President. Later, a banquet was held in Bhatt’s honor at the Hotel Waldorf Astoria in New York, with the President of the Motion Picture Association of America, Mr. Eric Johnston as the guest of honor. On behalf of the hosts, Mr. Skouras, the President of 20th Century Fox, presented a scroll of honor to Bhatt for his contribution to the Indian Film Industry.
Source Link: Click here
Having read all this I was intrigued and managed to get a copy of Bharat Milap. It was disappointing to see that Premji’s name does not feature in the lead cast of the film on the VCD Cover. From the principal cast, one of the most familiar faces was Shahu Modak who essayed the role of ‘Bharat’. I have seen some of his work in Marathi films earlier. His expression when he looks up at the ‘Pushpak Viman’ seeing Shri Ram return is priceless. I was amazed with his singing skills in “Batado Ram Gaye Kis Ore“. I had known Shobhana Samarth only through still pictures and as my favorite Kajol’s Grandmother, this was the first time I saw her act. I just loved her simple subtle performance as ‘Sita’ and she was such a beautiful lady. I also liked Umakant Desai‘s portrayal of ‘Lakshman’. The scene where Lakshman tells Shri Ram that he will go with him to the forest was very well done. However the most surprising casting for me was to see Durga Khote in the role of ‘Rani Kaikeyi’. Though she performed her part to the core (she has won the Best Actress BFJA Award for this role), it was difficult for me to accept my all time favorite, most loving dimpled grandma in that role; to me she is the ideal Mata Kaushalya. This was the first time I saw her so young.
Now coming to the actor for whom I saw this film – Prem Adib, such a simple lovely performance. I have seen many on-screen portrayals of Lord Ram and he is the second person to have impressed me as a viewer. The entire body language and most importantly the eyes were so apt. Though I felt he did not have enough screen-time in this film but that could be because I was seeing the film for him. However this film did give me a glimpse of what impact he might have had on his viewers’ way back then and left me asking for more.
Watching Bharat Milap was a lovely experience, a true classic. A film made in 1942 which can still keep viewers engrossed in 2011 speaks volumes in itself and the credit goes to the entire team.
B.V. Shiva Shankar in his article “Made for each other“, says
When Prem Adib and Shobhana Samarth starred as Ram and Sita in Vijay Bhatt’s classic “RAM RAJYA” (1943), the pair’s performance was so evocative that they became the eternal Ram and Sita in the audience’s minds. Audiences did not perceive them as actors enacting the Ramayana characters, but as Ram and Sita reincarnated to act in the movie! They were literally worshipped wherever they went together to promote the film. People had put up their posters and pictures at home for worship.
Source Link: Click here
That makes me really curious to see Ram Rajya which took Premji’s charisma as Lord Ram to new high.
Since childhood I have always seen Arun Govil ji as Shri Ram, that image can possibly never change. But to see an actor’s work that created a similar impact on people years ago was an engaging experience. I am glad that I got introduced to the work of this talented actor and the legendary maker Vijay Bhatt (www.vijaybhatt.net). Next “Ram Rajya” tops my wish-list; I hope to get a copy soon.
– Maitri Manthan
EDIT: We have created Prem Sir’s Fan Page on Facebook. To visit click here.
* Anymore information on Prem Adib, his films, his pictures, source to view his films, source to soundtrack of his films, etc are welcome. Thank you.