“ Where from have you come ? You look like a European . Please sit . I need to talk to you .”
This is what V. Shantaram had told the young boy in 1944 who had come all the way from Jalandhar to Prabhat Studios Poona . Shantaram , Babu Rao Patel and Sheikh Fatehlal were the partners of Prabhat Studios at that point of time.
Looking at his face and after the usual introduction ,V. Shantaram signed the blue eyed handsome Daya kishen Sapru for a role in his next movie RAM SHASTRI. The character of a Peshwa played by him was well noticed and the movie turned out a big hit.. He was signed as lead hero by the Company on a monthly salary of Rs3000/= highest ever paid to any hero during those days. It was a hefty sum that enabled him to live a princely life during those days .It was somewhere around 1945-46.
Films started pouring in later .He acted in Romeo and Juliet (opposite Nargis . Nargis’s Mother Jaddan Bai was all praise for Sapru. The film was produced by Nargis’s brother Akhtar Hussain . ) ,Jhansi Ki Rani ,Kalapaani , Hum Hindustaani , Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Mujhe Jeene Do , Leader and Shaheed . Who does not remember his role as Majhale Sarkar ( Chaudhary ) in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. Again as Zamindaar in Mujhe Jeene Do , he became quite popular. We saw him in some wonderful roles in Naya Daur , Prem Pujari ,Jewel Thief , Krodhi , Kudrat ,Dharm Veer, Dream Girl, Zanjeer , Pakeezah and many more such films .It was a period when story writers would create a character for him in the story or script. He was seen either as a Zamindaar or a Police commissioner or a Judge in most of his later films .
In Total ,he must have acted in more than 350 films and out of which he played lead role in more than 50 films. He also played lead roles in some Gujarati and Punjabi films.
Saprus are Sarswat Brahmins from Kashmir known as kashmiri Pandits who belong to DIPAT SAMAN AUPAMANYAVA Gotra or the lineage of an Aryan Rishi .This clan of kashmiri Pandits actually belong to village SAPREIN in present day Kulgam district of kashmir and could be safely called as aboriginal kashmiris . some other prominent Saprus are Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru , Jagdish Narayan Sapru ( Prominent Businessman of the country ) Sahaj Ram Sapru Revenue collector during the rule of Afghan Governor Azim Khan ( 1809-1819 ) and Dr Allama Iqbal Urdu poet and Islamic scholar ( He too belonged to a Sapru family from Kulgam that had converted to Islam )
Daya kishen Sapru belonged to a well off family from Kashmir and his father was employed in Maharaja’s Treasury . That made the family to move to Jammu and Lahore during winters. Daya Krishen was born at Jammu and had his early education at Jammu and Lahore .Fluent in Punjabi , he was also proficient in Hindi , Urdu and English .From his childhood days , he would love music and singing . He could easily play on his Harmonium.
Before moving to Pune , D. K. as he was known amongst his numerous friends lived at Jalandhar Cantt for some time where he took up the job of a contractor .He had four brothers and two sisters and D K happened to be the fourth child in this joint family.
D.K.Sapru met Marathi actress and IPTA activist Hemvati and they fell in love. They married in 1948 .Hemvati was a noted Marathi actress who also worked at PRITHVI Theatres. She acted in SANGAM with Ashok Kumar and Nalini Jayant in lead roles. She had also worked with Dev Anand in MOHAN ,Mubarak and Renuka in Ghar Ghar Ki Kahaani and Raj Kapoor in Jail Yatra . A play named Deewar had Hemvati and Raj kapoor in lead roles and the play became quite popular on stage during those days.
After marriage , Hemvati played the role of a caring wife and an affectionate mother in her family. After marriage, she possibly acted only in one movie PATIT-PAAVAN a home production of Sapru family.
Sapru children are also in films . To quote their elder daughter REEMA is a well known script writer while second daughter PREETI is a successful Punjabi actress while their son Tej is a noted film and TV actor. The brother and sisters are closely attached to each other. They too live by the family values that they inherited from their father.
D.K.Sapru had numerous friends in the film industry . Most of his childhood friends were from Jammu , Lahore or Jalandhar . In films he was very close to Guru Dutt, Dev Anand , Mohan Sehgal, Rehman, P L Seth , Jaan Nissar Akhtar , Sheikh Fatehlal ,Chanderkant Desai,Prakash Mehra , Vijay Kaul,Vasant Rao Painter and some more well known names from the cinema . He was also close to actor Chander Mohan Wattal and his own cousin JEEVAN ( Omkar Nath Dhar ) both of whom were kashmiri Pandits .In fact JEEVAN and DK built houses adjacent to each other at Bandra .
Inspite of his hectic film schedules , D.K. was always a family man. He loved to spend time with his children and family . The family lived at Parel, Juhu Tara Road and Bandra . His house was always full of family guests comprising his parents , brothers and sisters. To his nieces and nephews , he played a caring uncle and Mama . He was a caring brother to his sisters who were very close to his family and children. He never spent money on horse races nor was he fond of liquor or parties .Oh yes he liked smoking.
He is known to have helped his brothers and sisters in all possible ways he could . To his in-laws also he played the dutiful role of a caring son in law .
D.K. Sapru also acquired good and working knowledge of Homeopathy and was seen reading Homeopathic books quite often during his spare time. He then started practicing this school of medicine and would treat everybody without any charge often buying medicines and distributing them free.
THE BAD DECISION
Sapru also committed a folly of producing films . One can say that he was misguided by some selfish friends .Though he had learnt some lessons from his first home production Patitpaavan , a movie that earned him a few thousands only yet he took up another production project ” Bahadur Shah Zaffar”’ and brought in a large star cast that included Sudesh Kumar , Chand Usmani ,Shyama , Rehman ,Jeevan, Ulhaas ( M.N.Kaul ) and Nirupa Roy .He pooled in all his resources and raised loans for the project mortgaging his spacious new Bunglow .The movie did not sell on Box office . That landed the family in great trouble. The house had to be sold to repay debts . Reema was sent to Lucknow for higher Education where she lived with D.K. ’s sister . Sapru knew that Reema was too much attached to the house and would feel deeply hurt .Inspite of his financial crisis , D.K. ensured that his children get best education . Preeti Studied at St. Joseph’s High school Mumbai so did Tej get a good schooling .
Sapru turned diabetic during his later life. Inspite of his failing health he decided to make a last attempt to produce another film JEEVAN CHALNE KAA NAAM. By Now Reema was a trained screen play / script writer . She wrote the script and the family signed in Sanjeev Kumar , Rekha , Shashi Kapoor . DK fell ill suddenly and had to be hospitalized for about a year . The project was abandoned. D K was also operated upon for a malignant growth in his shoulder and finaly died of a heart attack at a young age of 63 years in 1979. His favourite child Reema was already married at that time . And by then he had also turned a grand father .
So long so much …..
Autar Mota is a Banker by profession. He is a Blogger , Translator and writes in English , Urdu , Kashmiri and Hindi. A well Travelled man , he is fluent with kashmiri ,English , Punjabi , Dogri , Hindi and Urdu languages . His write-ups have appeared in many national magazines and journals.