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LV Prasad: The filmmaker with an ear for music

On his 24th death anniversary today (he died on 22 June 1994), we take a look at six films that captured the rhythm, emotion, and stories that connected him with the man on the street. 

Shriram Iyengar

In a 2011 interview with The Hindu, a Chennai-based daily, A Ramesh Prasad, son of the legendary LV Prasad recalled how his father had decided to go off for a shoot even when his grandmother had passed away. But behind that act was the urge of a sincere filmmaker to spare his producer's expenses.

"I understood that he didn't want to add to the financial burden of the producer, so did not abandon shooting when my grandmother died,” revealed Ramesh Prasad.

LV Prasad had a knack of hitting some iconic firsts. He is the only actor to have acted in the first talkies of three Indian languages - Alam Ara (Hindi, 1931), Bhakta Prahlada (Telugu, 1932) and Kalidas (Tamil, 1931). But to call him an actor would be akin to calling Leonardo Da Vinci a painter. Prasad was a cinematographer, director, producer, and later, the visionary who brought IMAX Labs to India.

While as an actor and director, he chose subjects that were emotional, dramatic and driven by performances. Whether it was the brilliant Tamil epic Manohara (1954) or the touching Khilona (1970), his films left a mark on the cinescape.

But it was as a producer that he truly hit the mark. His films have the signature of telling tragic romances, with melodramatic characters backed by some stunning and memorable music. Whether it is the sight of actress Nutan and actor Sunil Dutt rowing to the tune of 'Sawan Ka Mahina' in Milan (1967) or actor Sanjeev Kumar pleading 'Khilona Jaan Kar Tum Toh' in Khilona, LV Prasad knew exactly how to hook his audiences to the story with the right music.
On his 24th death anniversary today (he passed away on 22 June 1994), we take a look at six productions that carry his indefinite stamp on them.

1. Ilavelpu (1956) 

One of his early films as producer starred A Nageswar Rao and Anjali Devi and was based on the Tamil film, Ethir Paaraathathu (1953). Directed by D Yogananda, the film proved to be a big hit. It dwelt on the themes of sacrifice, love, and family built around a melodramatic arc. Another signature LV Prasad moment was the success of the film's music, with the song 'Challani Raja O Chandamama' winning many hearts.

2. Sharada (1957) 

His work as assistant director in Hindi cinema ensured that LV Prasad could catch the nerve of a Hindi audience just as well as he could do down South. The producer also took on the reins as director for the Hindi remake of Ilavelpu. He roped in his old contact of Prithvi theatre, Raj Kapoor, to play the leading man, while Meena Kumari played the tragic heroine of the story.

The film won praise for its wonderfully nuanced performances from Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari. While she was pipped for the Filmfare award for Best Actress by Nutan, Kumari still won the Bengal Film Journalists' Award (then voted by all film critics). 

The film also had some wonderful tunes by C Ramchandra. 

3: Chhoti Bahen (1959) 

Chhoti Bahen remains most memorable for producing a rakhi song for the ages. But this Prasad Productions' venture (also directed by LV Prasad) was one of the most sentimental stories about brother-sister love in Hindi cinema.

It won nominations for Best Director, Best Film and Best Music at the 1960 Filmfare Awards. With Balraj Sahni, Mehmood, Nanda and Rehman driving the performances, the film is more remembered for its sentimental value and songs. 

4. Milan (1967) 

Music remained an integral part of any LV Prasad film. Milan, starring Sunil Dutt and Nutan and directed by A Subba Rao, was enriched by Laxmikant-Pyarelal's music, which won the composers the Best Music Director trophy at Filmfare. Another dramatic love story of tragic lovers reborn to be united, the film was a remake of the Telugu superhit, Mooga Manasulu (1963).

The film won Nutan her fourth Filmfare award for Best Actress, and Dutt a Bengal Film Journalists' Association award for Best Actor.

5. Khilona (1970)

Another popular Telugu hit, Punarjanma (1963) was transformed into this dramatic tale of loyalty in love. Written by Gulshan Nanda in Hindi, the film was directed by Chander Vohra, and starred a cast of Sanjeev Kumar, Mumtaz, Shatrughan Sinha, Jeetendra and Jagdeep among others.

The film was nominated for six Filmfare awards, and won Mumtaz her one and only Filmfare award for Best Actress.

The film was simultaneously made in Tamil as Engirundho Vandaal, with Sivaji Ganesan taking Sanjeev Kumar's place and J Jayalalithaa taking on Mumtaz's role.

6. Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981) 

By the 1980s, there was an increasing interest among artistes from the south to migrate to north. One of the more successful actors was Kamal Haasan. His journey began with a wonderful tale of romance between a South Indian boy and a North Indian girl in Ek Duje Ke Liye. 

A remake of the Telugu hit, Maro Charitra (1978) that also starred Haasan, the film was directed by another legendary director, K Balachander. 

It went on to become a blockbuster, winning critical acclaim in equal measure. But the film also introduced to Hindi cinema a singer, whose won the National award for Best Singer — SP Balasubrahmanyam.