Film making may be a director’s craft and a film star’s glitz to pull in the audience into cinema halls but without a sensible ‘producer’ a film cannot be imagined. Hence producers dominated filmmaking in the past. The glorious Prabhat Films founded by actor/director V Shantaram laid the foundation of filmmaking in India in 1929. Prabhat Films made several thought-provoking films like Duniya Na Mane, Sant Tukaram, Aadmi, Padosi, etc Prabhat Films was formed in the association with V.G. Damle, Keshav Rao Dhaibar, S. Fatelal, and S.V. Kulkarni. In 1942, V. Shantaram had some differences with Prabhat Films hence he started his own banner Rajkamal Kalamandir which made immortal classics like Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955), Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957), Navrang (1959) and Pinjra (1972).
In the 30, Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani started India’s first sophisticated modern film production company Bombay Talkies. It was started in 1934 and gave a string of hit films like Achhut Kanya, Kangan, Jhoola and Hindi cinema first blockbuster Kismat that ran for 200 weeks! Bombay Talkies introduced Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Ashok Kumar and also gave break to Meena Kumari, Madhubala, Leela Chitnis, etc. It was a launching pad for many directors like the great Bimal Roy. In addition, Bombay Talkies introduced foreign film equipments that improvised film making and made Indian films at par with the West.
Prominent film companies of the 40 were Minerva Movietone, Ranjit Films, Wadia Movietone and AVM Films founded in the year 1945 by A V Meiyappan. It started a new trend of several South Film Producers entering Bollywood. The South film Production companies were termed as ‘Madras’ movies. They ruled the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. They were specialized for making good family dramas. Some of the Madras hit films were Bhabi ( AVM), Milan (LV Production), Gharana (Gemini Film), Khandaan (Vasu Menon), Dil Ek Mandir (Venus Pictures), etc. The popularity of Madras film was such that cine buff thronged cinema halls just on the name Madras banner!!
Other Bollywood’s prominent film producers whose films were lapped by film buffs solely on their name included S Mukherjee of Filmistan Studio (Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Ek Musafir Ek Hasina), Tarachand Barjatya of Rajshri Productions (Dosti, Saaransh), G.P. Sippy of Sippy Films (Seeta Aur Geeta, Sholay), B.R. Chopra of B.R. Films (Waqt, Insaaf Ka Taraju), Raj Kapoor of R.K. Films (Awara, Sangam), Gulshan Rai of Trimurti Films (Johnny Mera Naam, Trishul), Dev Anand of Navketan Films (Guide, Jewel Thief), Shakti Samanta of Shakti Films (Aradhana, Kati Patang) J Om Prakash of Filmyug (Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke, Aasha), Nasir Hussain of Nasir Hussain Films (Teesri Manzil, Yaadon Ki Baaraat), Prakash Mehra of PMP Films (Zanjeer, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar), Manmohan Desai of MKD Films (Amar Akbar Anthony, Naseeb), Subhash Ghai of Mukta Arts (Karz, Hero), etc These producers ruled till the late 90’s until in the new millennium the trend of actor taking to production started.