The Phalke studio
Sadashivrao Tapkire ( Make up man)
This pertains to the time of Kaliamardan. Hindusthan Film Company had put out an advertisement in newspapers: ‘Wanted children for roles in movies’. In those days, working on stage in movies was frowned upon. However, my father was modern in outlook. He had a good knowledge of medicine. Besides, we lived in Nashik. He took my elder brother and me to Dadasaheb’s house. I was eight years old. My brother was my senior by three years.
My father said to Dadasaheb, ‘I don’t expect any salary for them, but please arrange for their education’. He had only agreed to that, but also paid us a salary of Rs. 10 per month. He kept me in his own house. To begin with, he gave me the role of one of Krishna’s playmates in Kaliamardan. His daughter Sonutai(mandakini) did the role of Krishna. I called her ‘Tai’. In the same movie, I had to do the role of a girl in one episode.
Dada was furiousness incarnate. His children never strayed near him. Only Sonutai and I could be near about. Sometimes he lovingly told us stories too. He would never tolerate lies. A liar would have no mercy at all. Dadasaheb would give him the severest punishement. Because of this, the children had decided that they would rather now tell a lie, no matter the beating.
Everyone had to work in every department. I had developed an interest in make- up. However, after about a year, Dadasaheb’s relations with the partners were askew and he went to Kashi. Some of us, therefore, left Hindusthan Film Company. For a year, I stayed at home. Later, I started acting in plays. When Dadasaheb rejoined the company after about a year and a half, those who had left were also taken back in the company.
I started doing my own make-up, copying Ravi Verma’s paintings, as I had got to act in each movie. Gradually, I started doing the make-up of others too. Once Dadasaheb came to the makeup department and saw it. Finding that I spent more time in the make-up departments and did not go to the other departments, he sentenced me to work on the make-up department only. For me, the punishment was a boon and I started concentrating on make-up.
My inborn artistic talent did not escape Dadasaheb’s notice. He began to encourage me. A master of the art of make-up, he suggested improvements in my work which increased my enthusiasm and self-confidence. Even then my doing different roles in movies continued, along with the work of make-up. When he came to know that I did make-up by copying Raja Ravi Verma’s paintings and had compiled a collection of such paintings, he said that I had done the right thing and gave me some paintings from his own collections. They were very useful to me. My make- up work began to be appreciated by the company. I was with Dadasaheb up to Gangavataran.Thereafter I began working with other companies as a make-up man. My fame reached Madras and a famous company like Gemini invited me and selected me. Later on I became their chief make up man. There were twelve persons working under me. Such was my lifestyle that I lived in a bungalow and had a car at my disposal. I worked with them till 1972.The fame and prosperity that I achieved was all due to Dadasaheb’s blessings. I will never be able to forget his debt. Truly speaking, I realized when I grew up that I did not have the physiognomy for becoming an actor and so I became a make-up man. Dadasaheb not only made me an expert in this art, but my cultural development in his home was also useful to me throughout my life. Even today, I become emotional when I think of him.