I am Pandit Damle, son of Vishnupant Damle(Known as Damle mama), one of the founders of Prabhat Film Company. Right from childhood, I had keen interest in all the departments of filmmaking. I always spent my time in the studio along with my father.

On the internet, 'www. prabhatfilms. com' has access for Prabhat. But I have my own memories and here is the flashback.

     

What a panic

Maharaja of Baroda was to visit Kolhapur and Prabhat was to shoot the welcome ceremony. Maharaja's train came very much early than schedule,may be due to  communication lapse. In panic, Maharaja told the cameramen to shoot. The Cameramen expressed their inability to shoot as the cameras were not loaded. Maharaja roared "First shoot and load later". Cameramen had no alternative but pretend shooting. Later Maharaja  realised his folly and had a big laugh.

 

Prabhat goes from silent to Talkie

It was really a tough job. No previous experience, no spares, no technical help, but Damle mama had skill and confidence. He recorded 'King of Ayodhya' flawlessly, loud and clear. The first Prabhat film started talking and singing. The film was recorded on 'Audio Camex' recording system with variable density track. This machine consisted of glass valves and H.T and L.T  D.C supply. If by mistake H.T and L.T  were interchanged all the filaments of the valves will burn to ashes. Damle mama had warned not to operate in his absense.

And a Mishap

Some enthusiastic person tried to operate the machine. H.T and L.T wires got interchanged and the valves burnt out. There was a gloom. Damle had told they do not have spare valve. Damle was summoned from home. He found out the fault. Damle had the foresight, he knew some day this is going to happen. Without anybody's knowledge he had kept one set of valves in my mother’s custody. With these valves shooting took place as per schedule. This unforgettable incident never happened again. Prabhat had an unwritten rule "If you must make a mistake, make a new one"

 

Yes, I was  a child actor

With insperation from my father, I acted as 'Saint Tukaram's son. I came out as the finest child actor and had my own 'Film Image'.

 

My image floored a Marathi director

Later, one Marathi producer director was making a film around three children. I was just fitting as one,he wanted to sign me. Believe me, I was studying in College of Engineering.When I met him, he realised years of time lapsed, but admitted that only I could have done justice to the character. Western India Theatre presented silver statue to the artists of Sant Tukaram. I am really proud of it.

 

I saw dignitaries visit Prabhat

In 1934, Lord Brabourne, Governer of Bombay and Lady Brabourne visited the setting of 'Chandrasena' and 'Amrit Manthan' and were very much delighted.

In 1935, Sir C.V Raman visited Prabaht and with keen interest spend quite a long time in Prabhat and expressed his happiness.

During World War II a huge miniature set was erected in the main studio for Britain’s Royal Air Force Pilots. Royal Prince of Sangli, Capt. Patwardhan was one of the pilots. He was a fan of Prabhat films and was too glad to be in Prabhat. He was there  for quite some time with  Fathelal. I am proud I was introduced to him as Tukaram's son,he praised my acting. Later I was shocked to hear that the Capt. died under mysterious circumstances.

 

And Damle Fatehlal put life in Hanuman's Tail

Normally, Hanuman's tail is made out of spring cotton and cloth. But it is lifeless. Normally, a monkey has a habit of swinging its tail towards the head with a jerk at times. In the film 'Chandrasena' a bait was fixed on Hanuman's waist and had a lever. As required, Hanuman will press the lever and the tail will go up with a jerk. Left and right  handed levers belts were made to suit common angle. So far I have not seen Hanuman's Tail like this.

 

And the ship sails in the studio

A huge pirate ship was created in the studio. But it was supposed to look as if sailing in the sea. Back Projection was out of question as the ship was too huge. A big canvas background was erected behind the ship and this was fixed to pulleys and ropes. In a rhythm, background would be lifted and put down. When the background would go up, it appeared as if the ship had gone down in water. At that moment a bucket full of water was thrown on the ship and we would really feel we are sailing.

 

Dada Damle's name goes in gold letters

After Prabhat was liquidated, Prabhat's films were purchased by Mr. Mudliyar of Madras. Dada was restless and determined to repurchase these films. He raised a loan from the bank. Mudliyar, a fine gentleman, was glad to hand over the films to Dada saying that he was the rightful owner. It was a tough test to bring hundreds of tins safely to Pune. Then, a hurricane task of so a fan of Prabhatfilms, asked his grand daughter a convent school student to see the film, which she reluctantly agreed. She got involved in Kunku so much that she was in tears. Major came to request to give tickets for whole week as she wanted to see the film.

At Kolhapur a special show had to be screened with special permission of  the Collector.

Dada then made video cassettes of selected Prabhat Films.Now, TV and cables have opened a wide horizon. No International or National film festival will be complete without Prabhat films. If Dada had not  purchased this wealth,it would have gone to dust. Dada's name will be written in golden letters in history of films.

 

A swarm of visitors

Hundreds of visitors  came to Prabhat everyday. To avoid disturbance to working, Prabhat kept two days - Wednesday and Friday for visitors. Guides were also appointed to show around Prabhat studios in batches. The visitors were so happy and proud of visiting Prabhat.

Some devotees of Sant Tukaram would ask the guide from where Sant Tukaram went to heaven and they would lift the dust and apply to the forehead. Universal Studios in US had made special arrangements for visitors, but Prabhat was looking after visitors since many days.

 

What a mode of transport

Traveling by bus, train, airplane is common. In the film Sant Dnyaneshwar, Changdeo was to ride on a tiger to meet Dnyaneshwar to show his powers. Bhai Ganpatrao Tambat acted as Changdeo. I had been to Nasik to meet him.He was very old and sick and was very glad to meet me. I asked him about his experience of tiger ride. " Damlemama told me that the tiger trainer with Changdeo’s make-up and costume will ride the tiger. I told Damlemama this will not give the desired effect. I am prepared to take the risk. Shot was ready. The Tiger was brought to the desired position. Due to the unusual atmosphere, the tiger was roaring all the time. When the Camera started I was very nervous. Being a Prabhat actor, I did not allow the nervousness to appear on my face. With a live snake in right hand, I lifted my right leg to mount the tiger. I was about to fall on the other side. Shot was OK with claps, the entire unit admired my courage."

"Pandit, one day I have to die. But I will be proud to die as a Prabhat actor." It was time to bid goodbye. I touched his feet and both of us were in tears.

 

No Regret

Since birth, I was in the film industry. Being a graduate of science, destiny  put me in another industry of Glamour. I joined Air India and soon became an aircraft engineer. Later I joined Indian Airlines. Being in Aviation, I had the opportunity of traveling almost all over the world. My wish to God,  Aviation Industry got an able Aeronautical Engineer but perhaps Cinema industry has lost  a good Director.

 

Emperor Shahajahan would have envied me

During evaluation check, we had to fly from Kanpur to Agra to check Instrument Landing System. We had a number of touch downs and take offs. Our circuit was over the 'Taj Mahal'. The arial view was very very fascinating. Now no aircraft is allowed a few Kms near the world’s monument. I was the luckiest one.

 

The magic of tutari

There was a sort of an equation.  Prabhat films will begin and end with Tutari. In one touring cinema 'Sant Tukaram' was houseful. Tukaram went to heaven and the film was over. But unfortunately,the tutari did not blow. The audience did not leave. There was tension .The clever manager told the operator to show the first reel and put the shutter when the tutari blows. Audience was happy to see the film was over.

 

Hon. K. R. Narayanan stuck to his seat

Marathi film festival was organized in America. English subtitled Ramshastri was to be inaugurated by the hands of Hon. K. R. Narayanan, the then Indian Ambassador to the US. Being an old film, he came with an idea to see the film for sometime.

Ramshastri made him stuck to his seat. He saw Ramshastri till the credits rolled and in the end got up and gave big claps in appreciation. No wonder it was a Prabhat film.

 

Can an artist direct a movie?

YES – Baburao Painter, Damle, Fatehlal were artists. Today, world renowned artist M. F Hussain has produced and directed "Gaja Gamini" with Madhuri Dixit. No doubt it is going to be a great artistic film. Going as back as 1930, Mr. Hussain was in Prabhat and painted publicity material for the film Sinhagad (Lion Fort).