Akkineni Lakshmi Varaprasada Rao was born on 17th January in the year 1908 as the second son to Akkineni Sriramulu and Basavamma in a remote village, Somavarapadu,in Eluru Taluk in the State of Andhra Pradesh in India. Born into an agricultural family Prasad was a pampered child, very intelligent but never interested instudies.
Prasad was drawn by the drums of the touring theatres and drama troupes. Old and worn out film prints used to be shown in ramshackle tents and Prasad used to regularlyrush to watch them. He also used to do small roles in the local dramas regularly. This was the passion that drove his life – the passion for acting and the movingimage.
At the age of 17, in the year 1924, he got married to his maternal uncle’s daughter Soundarya Manoharamma in a truly cinematic style and atmosphere. Soon they had a baby girl. Prasad’s father was finding the going tough due to mounting debts and was forced to declare insolvency plunging the family into a deep state of depression and humiliation. This was the time when Prasad thought about his acting prowess to make a career and Prasad left his village, without telling anyone, one day with 100 rupees in his pocket!
Prasad had heard of a studio called Kohinoor in Dadar where cinemas are made and artists congregate. On the cold winter morning on the new year’s day of the year 1930 Prasad alighted at Dadar. As he set up his lodging in Ramakrishna Lodge he realized that his dream of being in films is not going to beeasy to achieve. To top it he spokeneither Hindi nor English. He tried to convey his ambition to many using his sketchy English vocabulary to no avail. He was unable to gainentry into the studios and looked at another option – peering through the holes in the zinc sheets that made the fencing for the Kohinoor Studios. He used to watch for hours together with his eyes glued to these holes.
Opposite the Kohinoor studios there was a tailor’s shop frequented by the stars and Prasad used to stand and watch them come and go. The tailor had been noticing Prasad’s dedication in peering through the holes in the fence and understood his passion for films. But the visiting stars found Prasad’s ambitions funny and merely laughed and made fun. Undaunted, Prasad continued to frequent the tailor shop for he was with cinema people here and he was enjoying it. A few days later he returned to his room to find his trunk broken open and whatever little money that was left was stolen.
But the kind hearted thief had left a little money and a note suggesting him to go back to his village with the money. He left the hotel with his trunk and returned to pursue his interest to enter the studio. The tailor was now quite intrigued to see him with his trunk and inquired. After listening to Prasad's story he suggested Prasad to stay in his shop, clean the place daily, set up his hookah and start looking for a job later. Though Prasad’s ambitions seemed to be going farther every day he somehow landed a errand boy’s job in Venus Film Company and here he met a Punjabi youth called Dharilal. Venus neither made any films nor did Prasad get his wages. Dharilal got Prasad a job in a carnival to do a little bit of acting- basically talking and enticing people to visit the games. He then joined India Pictures as an errand boy where Akthar Nawaz cast him in a bit role in the silent film ‘Star of the East’. The film was never released.
Dharilal’s sister Moti was working in Imperial Film Company and she got Prasad a bit role in Ardeshir Irani’s ‘Alam Ara’ the first India Talkie Cinema released in 1931. Prasad was paid a monthly wage of Rs.30/- for his role in Alam Ara and also to do bit roles wherever required as a pandit, chowkidhar and so on. In Imperial he met H.M.Reddy who had left his police inspector job to try his luck in films. H.M.Reddy gave Prasad a small role in Kalidas, the first Tamil Talkie and subsequently in Baktha Prahalada, the first Telugu Talkie. An excited Prasad dispatched a telegram home, where by now everyone had given him up for dead. He took a train to his native village to tell about his success where he was given the bad news of his little daughter’s death. He returned to Bombay with his wife where his first son Anand and later Ramesh were born.
Prasad by chance got a role as an assistant director in Kamar – Al – Zaman directed by AliShah. This was also the time Prasad saw his name being shortened from Akkineni Lakshmi Varaprasad Rao to L.V.Prasad by a clerk taking attendance who found the name too long to utter. This name stuck with him forever.