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How Prithviraj, Raj Kapoor helped further BM Vyas’s acting career

The veteran character actor, who passed away on 11 March 2013, considered Prithviraj as his guru.

BM Vyas in Barsaat (1949)

Sonal Pandya

Brijmohan Vyas, popularly known as BM Vyas, made his name in Hindi cinema playing villains and father figures. As a young man, he joined Prithvi Theatres and that laid the path to him eventually joining films. Vyas’s son, Manmohan relayed to Cinestaan.com the story of how he landed his first audition at Prithvi Theatres and Raj Kapoor gave him a role in Barsaat (1949) as Nargis’s father.

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In 1944, Brij Mohan Vyas arrived in Mumbai (then Bombay) with only Rs100 in his pocket. His brother-in-law suggested that Vyas meet Prithviraj Kapoor and his theatre company. They were looking for new artistes to join.

When he met Prithviraj, the theatre icon asked him to sing something. Vyas, who like his elder brother, Bharat Vyas, was musically inclined, sang a Rajasthani song. Prithviraj was impressed and the young Raj, Prithviraj’s son, played along on a dholak during Vyas’s audition.

Prithviraj asked him to sing it again and Vyas was satisfied that at least he’d have a steady job in the city. He asked Prithviraj, “Do I have the position?” The answer was in the affirmative and Vyas joined the troupe at Rs75 a month.

Slowly, Vyas’s stature grew at the Prithvi Theatres. Actor KN Singh was due to play the part of Kanu Rishi in the play Shakuntala and the dialogues were in Sanskrit. Hailing from a family of pandits, Vyas knew the language in and out. Singh was not able to deliver a dialogue in Sanskrit.

When Prithviraj heard Vyas say it, he asked him to step up and play the role of the 108-year-old man. Vyas was 23 at the time. He protested that he didn’t know acting, but Prithviraj promised to teach him along the way. He asked Vyas to memorize a few pages of dialogue overnight.

Manmohan felt his father had a burning desire to prove himself and the next day, Brijmohan Vyas said all the dialogues in front of Prithviraj, shaking his hands and body during the scenes. When Prithviraj asked him about the shakes, Vyas said, ‘This is a 108-year-old. He will be shaking’. Prithviraj was astonished as he had not given him the direction to include it in his performance.

Vyas never looked back after that. Prithviraj cast him often in his plays as a powerful character owing to his imposing face and dynamic voice. Later on, when Raj wanted to cast him as Nargis’s father in his own production, Barsaat (1949), Vyas asked Prithviraj’s permission.

He considered Prithviraj as his guru and needed to know whether he could take time away from the stage to act on a film set. Prithviraj wrote him a letter saying “You’ve got wings now, I’ll like to see you fly.”

Vyas shifted from father to son and received Rs501 as his signing amount. He had done a small role in Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1946) as Kamini Kaushal’s brother, but here he had a significant role. Raj changed his name from Brijmohan to BM saying it was easier and shorter. Barsaat went on to become a big hit.

From thereon, Vyas was typecast in father’s roles. Mamohan remembered that his mother even complained to Raj that no one was casting her husband as a young man and Raj relented to cast him as Prithviraj’s friend in a small role in Awara (1951).