Vijay Bhatt, the founder of Prakash Pictures and the maker of such masterpieces like Ram Rajya and Baiju Bawra was born on May 12, 1907, in the small town of Palitana in Saurashtra, Gujarat.
The son of a railway guard, he along with his elder brother and his lifelong partner, Shri Shankarbhai Bhatt, shared a fascination for theatre and films. As he himself used to recount with a grin on his face: "We would make halwa (Indian sweetmeat) out of china grass and sell it to people in the marketplace and with the money earned, sneak into the cinema halls and watch movies."
The mid twenties brought them to the Bombay, where Vijay Bhatt enrolled in St. Xavier's College and studied up to Intermediate Science. While Shankarbhai took up a job in a store selling readymade garments. In order to secure a steady, lucrative job, he obtained a diploma in Electrical Lighting and traction from the International Correspondence Schools, London. Quitting college, he joined the BEST and worked for 3 years rising to be an officer with the designation of Drawing Office Superintendent.
But destiny had other plans for him. Coming to Bombay widened his horizons and fed his fascination for movies. He was now exposed to a wide variety of films from various parts of the country and various countries of the world. A strange restlessness had begun to grow in him. A dream had begun to take shape...
Much to the dismay of his parents, he quit his job after two months and both the brothers decided to take on the world of showbiz. In those days it was a sacrilege for Gujarati boys from respectable families to get into the 'big, bad world of films'. But the brothers were adamant. And it would be a long road to success.
A flair for writing led him to get involved in a humble way as storywriter. He wrote 2 plays for professional Gujarati stage and one of them, 'Lakho Phulani', fetched him Rs. 400 and ran successfully for one whole year. He then went on to write other stories which he felt had the potential to be made into films. At the recommendation of a friend, the brothers went to meet director Manilal Joshi, who was directing a film for Laxmi Pictures but he couldn't be of any help.
It was Ardeshir Irani, the 'Father of the Indian Talkies' and the maker of 'Alam Ara' who would show them the way. At that time, he was the managing director of The Royal Studios. He glanced through the stories, selected one of them and asked the brothers to meet the proprietor of the studio, Seth Aboo Hussein. 'Show him the story and then come back to me. If it is all right for him, it is all right for me' they were told.
The story was approved and Ardeshir Irani took it upon himself to teach Vijay Bhatt how to write a screenplay. Every evening after the day's work and dinner, the Bhatt brothers would make their way to Majestic Cinema, built by Ardeshir Irani in 1918 in partnership with the exhibitor, Abdulaly Yusoofaly. Irani would be here every evening with his friends. And it was here that Vijay Bhatt scripted his very first screenplay, 'Vidhika Vidhan', which was made into a film by director K.P.Bhave.
Ardeshir Irani made two more films based on the stories by the Bhatt brothers. They were 'Pani mey Aag' and 'Ghulam'(1929), both of which were directed by Nagendra Muzumdar. Their third film featured a newly recruited actor from Peshavar, Prithviraj Kapoor.
By now, Ardeshir Irani had founded his own Imperial Studios and drawn to it a host of artists and technicians. The Bhatt brothers too had gathered enough experience and ventured to make films on their own. They soon founded the Royal Film Co. in partnership with a cousin and the first film to be produced under this banner was 'Black Ghost'. It starred Master Vithal and Madhuri and was photographed by V. M.Vyas. With Vijay Bhatt at the helm of the creative affairs and Shankarbhai in charge of the business aspect, they made seven silent films under the banner of The Royal Film Company in an open air studio in Juhu. Among them was 'Heer Ranjha', where Vijay Bhatt gave A.R. Kardar, a poster maker for foreign film distributors, his first acting assignment.
Then came the year of Talkies and the Bhatts too switched over to this new medium with 'Alif Laila'(1933), which was based on an Arabian Nights story and made under the banner of Royal Cinetone. This was followed by 3 other talkies made under the banner of Kardar Studios. He then founded a film distribution concern, Royal Pictures Corporation, which acquired the distribution rights of 'Sohni Mahiwal' for North India for a Rs. 11,000 - a sensational amount at that time. For, as he often used to say, 'In those days, it cost just about Rs. 8000 to make a film 8 -9 thousand feet in length!"By now Vijay Bhatt had evolved into a director to be reckoned with. It was time to set up his own production company. And Prakash Pictures was born. Prakash Studios was built in 1934 at Andheri. The first film to be made there was 'Actress' (Bambai ki Mohini), written and produced by Vijay Bhatt. The famed torch of Prakash Pictures continued to shine over decades and in all, 64 films were produced in various genres, in black and white as well as colour.