“I Had To Face Many Insults In This Industry”- Prem Chopra (Exclusive)

In an exclusive interview with seniour journalist Bharathi S Pradhan, actor Prem Chopra recalls how he started his career in Bollywood and the struggles he went through.

Prem Chopra began his acting career in 1960 with a Punjabi film titled “Chaudhary Karnail Singh”. In the same year, he made his Bollywood debut with Shashadhar Mukerjee’s film “Hum Hindustani”. Prem was born in Lahore, British India (present day Pakistan). During the partition, his family moved to Shimla. Prem grew love for theatre and cinema during his college days and decided to pursue a career in acting.

During an exclusive interview, he recalled his journey as he said, “I graduated from Shimla. I came down to Bombay and I had no means to stay here. My father, who was an IAS, told me that either you become a doctor or you try for IAS. But while I was in Shimla, I started liking theatre. Amrish Puri was five years senior than me and we even did a play together in Shimla. I was in first year and he was in last year. So, when I did plays and even won awards during drama competitions, something started working in my mind. I told my father that I don’t want to come in your career. He said, “You can go, it is your choice but one thing I want to make very clear. I have a large family, 5 brothers and 1 sister and I am a government servant. I won’t be able to send you money. So, if you are going to Bombay, it is a place of opportunity. You can find a job first.”

Recalling his initial days in Mumbai, Prem told, “I was fortunate that I found some odd jobs. I eventually got into Times of India. So, that is how it went on. But it was not easy in those days. It is easy nowadays. Because at that time, the only medium of entertainment was cinema.”

“Now, people have TV, OTT, and Advertisements. Now, everyone can get a chance if they really want to work and if they deserve it,” he added.

Opening up about his struggles, Prem told, “We had to struggle. Everybody had to struggle. Amitabh Bachchan had to struggle. Dharmendra was saying that he had to sleep on railway station sometimes. I had to struggle but I was fortunate that I had a job. So, I was not starved or something like that. I lived in a guest house. It had four people in the same room. But there was only one toilet. If you stop struggling, it means you are a failure. I had to face many insults and humiliations in this industry.”

Prem also told how he bagged his first film. He said, “I was spotted by somebody when I was travelling in train and coming to my office. On the way, he said, “You want to work in films?” I said that I do. So he asked, “Can you come with me right now?” I said, “Why not?” So, on our way, he told that I am supposed to be the hero if the director says yes. But it is a Punjabi film. I thought that at least, I’ll get the experience. It was the film “Chaudhary Karnailsingh”. It was the biggest hit of that year. That film got the National Award. So, that’s how I took off!”

“So many people come to join the film industry, but on their way, they lose their confidence and they divert themselves to other things. But there were some people who were determined to be there. I was determined to be there in front of the camera. I was very devoted and disciplined to be in this profession,” he concluded.

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