indian cinema heritage foundation

Prem Adib

  • Real Name: Shiv Prasad Adib
  • Born: 10 August 1916 (Sultanpur)
  • Died: 25 December 1959 (Mumbai)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • First film: Romantic India (1936)
  • Last film: Angulimala (1960)
  • Parents: Pandit Ram Prasad
  • Spouse: Krishna Kumari

At the peak of his career, Prem Adib’s fan following was so devoted that it hindered him from appearing in public unnoticed. His portrayal of Ram in Ram Rajya (1943) had been so effective that he was widely worshipped as the deity himself. Despite his admonitions, a number of people would fall at his feet in fervent admiration. Images of him enacting the role of Ram began to circulate, framed, and worshipped in several households. Perhaps no other actor before Prem Adib had been so venerated by so many. 

Prem Adib hailed from a Kashmiri Pandit family. His grandfather Pandit Devi Prasad was the tax collector of Faizabad. In his spare time, he was also a shayar who went by the pseudonym Adib, which soon became a family surname. Prem Adib was born Shiv Prasad Adib on 10 August 1916. By the time he was a college student, Prem had grown into a tall, handsome young man. He had the innate qualities of an actor—an attractive personality and a striking frame. His clear diction in Hindi, Urdu and English has added advantages. At the age of 13 years, after watching a silent film ANAARBALA, Prem decided to join films. After matriculating from Jodhpur in 1932, he studied for 2 years in college, but the passion for films had not reduced. Prem, who was cannily aware of his qualities, gave up his studies in 1934 and left home without informing his family in order to pursue a career as an actor. His first stop on this journey was Kolkata. Not discouraged when he did not find work in the first city he tried, he also travelled to Lahore and ultimately to Mumbai.

In Mumbai, Prem Adib got his first big break in the film Romantic India (1936). Mohan Sinha, the film’s director, dubbed him Prem for the screen. Prem also got some small roles in Dariani Productions' films like Pratima (Premmurti), Fida-e-Watan (Tasveer-e-Wafa), and Insaaf (1937). He also acted in Minerva Movietone’s social films like Khan Bahadur (1937) and Talaaq (1938).

His first film as a lead actor opposite Shobhana Samarth was Nirala Hindustan (Industrial India, 1938). Since then he got lead roles in films like Ghunghatwali (1938), Sagar Movietone's Bhole Bhale (1939), and Sadhana (1939). In Saubhagya (1940) he was again cast opposite Shobhana Samarth and also sang a few songs in the film. The decade of the 1940s proved to be the best phase of Adib's career. 

In the early 1940s, Prem Adib joined the prestigious Prakash Pictures with a salary of 700 rupees per month and acted in films like Darshan (1941), Bharat Milap (1942), Churiyan (1942), Station Master (1942), Ram Rajya (1943), Police (1944), Vikramaditya (1945) and Ram Baan (1948). 

In 1942, he played Ram onscreen for the first time in Bharat Milap, which accrued great praise. It was in 1943, however, that he shot to fame with a reprisal of the role of Ram in Ram Rajya.

It is known that when Bharat Milap was awarded a gold medal in Calcutta, Kanhaiyalal Munshi was also present at the ceremony and suggested Vijay Bhatt to make a film called Luv Kush. Keeping in mind Munshi's suggestion, Vijay Bhatt did make the film about Luv Kush but instead of calling it that, he renamed it Ram Rajya. The film went on to become one of the most spectacular and well-made devotionals in the history of Indian cinema. Released at Super Cinema in Mumbai, the film scaled the peaks of popularity and ran continuously for 108 weeks. The demand for the film was such that it played in halls for extended periods, sometimes having shows in the same hall for over a year!

Gandhiji, who had talked about Ram Rajya, had never ever watched even one Hindi movie. Since the Art Director of Vijay Bhatt’s films, Kanu Desai was a Gandhian and as a result of his efforts, Gandhiji agreed to see Ram Rajya

During that time, Prem Adib got married to Krishnakumari, also known as Pratima, on 26 February 1943 in Lahore. 

The Ram-Sita pair of Shobhana Samarth and Prem Adib was such a hit that they starred in thirteen films together. But there is no predicting the whims of the public’s demands. Looking to take advantage of the success he had enjoyed so far, Prem established his own film company, which he named Prem Pictures. Though his personal renown in films was for acting in devotionals, he decided to produce Kasam (1947) and Dehati (1947), two films concentrating on social issues. Both films failed to generate much interest. 

His well-wishers advised him to return to the genre that had served him so well, and he produced and directed Ram Vivah in 1949. Unfortunately, Ram Vivah failed to even bring back the original investment, and Prem Adib had to close down his film company due to the losses he suffered. He started working under other banners, and over his career, worked in nearly seventy films.

In the 1950s, Prem Adib worked in 28 films. Most of them were mythological. Angulimala (1960) was his last film. Prakash Pictures also made a film called Ramayan (1954) by compiling sequences from its own films Bharat MilapRam Rajya and Ram Baan. Prem Adib played Ram's character in 8 films, Bharat MilapRam RajyaRam BaanRam Vivah (1949), Raam Navami (1956), Raam Hanumaan Yuddha (1957), Raam Laxman (1957), and Raam Bhakta Vibhishan (1958). He worked in about 75 films, directed one film and sang 26 songs in 9 films. 

Following a sudden brain hemorrhage, he suffered an untimely demise on 25 December 1959. His last rites were taken over and completed by his relatives present at that time. When his fans came to know they complained that if they had been informed they would have given him a farewell befitting Ram.



Additional information provided by Arun Kumar Deshmukh.

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