A. Ramesh Prasad, son of the legendary L.V. Prasad, recalls his acting stint with a laugh. “I was in standard IV and my father was making a film called Samsaram . I was playing NTR's son and the shooting was taking place on a Sunday. I was getting restless as I wanted to go out and play cricket. I kept bothering my father. He replied with a slap and a ‘do-not-disturb-me' warning. The film became a stupendous success but I was too frightened of him. I was always reminded of his slap and never felt like doing movies. Besides, the film industry was not as glamorous, comfortable or respected the way it is today. I hated that it takes a long time to get recognition in the field.”
Sitting in his cabin in the fourth floor of Prasads, Ramesh Prasad reveals, “My father took Rs. 100 from my mother and left for Mumbai. For 16 months he didn't keep in touch. Everybody in the village thought he had committed suicide. Thankfully, he wrote a postcard that he was miles away in Mumbai chasing his dream. Later when we were living in Mumbai, when my grandmother died, instead of rushing to the village to finish the rites, he left for shooting. I was very angry and thought he was a very selfish person as even his mother's death didn't make any difference to him. In school, we were taught that parents are next to God and here he was busy with his shooting.”
Passion for cinema
Nevertheless, if you are born to an illustrious father, you cannot escape your genes. It didn't take many years for the young Prasad to understand the passion his father had for cinema (“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”) and nurture his own dreams.
With a degree in engineering from the U.S., and a small stint with fabrication, he took the plunge with film processing. “There was no good laboratory in Madras at that time and the results with our processing were spectacular,” he recalls. Prasad Film Laboratories became pioneers in film processing and now have branches in various cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Bhuvaneswar.
Prasad reverts to flashback mode and narrates an incident that happened to his father. “My father had made a film called Shaadi Ke Baad and the movie bombed. Once we were in a lift and there was another person with us but he would not talk. My father felt unhappy and told me, “I made a failure so he wouldn't talk to me and give me respect.”
The tide turned with an opportunity in the form of NTR. “NTR had come home and casually mentioned to my father that he could take the subject of his film Talla Pellama and make a movie. The movie was made as Bidaaii in Hindi with Jeetendra and Leela Chandravarkar. In Navrang theatre, one man in the audience kept hitting his head on the wall crying, ‘This is my story.' The audience connected so much to the theme and the response was amazing,” Prasad says.
The decade was indeed magical for the family with the success of Ek Duje Ke Liye . “VCRs had entered the market and people were watching movies at home instead of going to a theatre. We got this offer to make Ek Duje Ke Liye and I jumped at it. Raj Kapoor saw the premier of the movie and pestered my father to change the ending. He said, “You have murdered the film, why should the couple die?' My father told him, ‘The greatest love stories are all tragedies.'
Returning to the present, Ramesh Prasad considers the establishment of LV Prasad Eye Institute as one of the best things his father did.
“We feel proud of the work the hospital has been doing. When an income tax officer regained his sight, he said that he would sweep the floor of the hospital.”
Imax in Hyderabad
The idea to have an Imax in Hyderabad was born when Ramesh Prasad visited the Smithsonian museum in Washington and saw an Imax film. “I was astonished to see the film about Siberian geese. I had to wait for 13 years before I got Imax to Hyderabad,” he says. In 2003, Prasads opened in the city and ushered in a new movie experience. “History was made here with Avatar when the attendance in Imax was 3 lakh,” he says and adds, “James Cameron has nicely combined technology, sentiments and human values in the movie. If I meet him, I want to touch his feet."
His son Sai Prasad has taken over the company and is making news with their special effects. The company is also in the process of restoring old Hollywood movies. They have also got into film production. “The only mistake I feel we made is discontinuing making films. My father was a legendary person. We made ‘vegetarian' movies and I did not want to spoil his record. But just recently, I heard a subject and liked it a lot , so we are going ahead with it.” He does not want to reveal more.
Any dreams? “I am too old to have dreams," he replies with a smile and continues, “I love cinema so I am interested in seeing how this form will evolve technologically in the years to come.”
It is time for his lunch and as he gets ready to leave, we cannot help but ask him about his resemblance to Gemini Ganesan. “So many people mistake me for Gemini Ganesan. Some wave their hands sitting in a bus and some ask me for an autograph. I get angry sometimes and tell them, ‘That man is dead. I lead a much better life.”