Haryanvi painter Prithvi Soni began his career as an art director, before immortalising stars on handmade posters. When poster making became an extinct art, Soni began to evolutionise his skills, a process that he describes as “both a boon and a bane.” The 63-year-old says, “Nothing can surpass the credits of a self-made artist, though it’s sad that this art form exists no more. And though technology has made things simpler and more efficient, computerised output is not a collectible. A poster is a collector’s item.” Recalling his start in the profession, Soni says, “My first Bollywood assignment was to paint a banner for the 1965 film, Arzoo, starring Rajinder Kumar and Sadhana, which went onto become a super hit. I handled the publicity design for several films after that.”
Hema Malini inaugurated my art show at Malasha Art Gallery near Mumbai airport a few years ago. I had done the titles of her show, Women of India and Mohini, a telefilm directed by her. My painting of Hema and Dharamji is in her collection. I once invited them to my work studio and they both arrived immediately without asking how big or small my studio would be. A huge crowd had gathered, and Dharam touched the feet of an old woman who loved his films and wished to meet him.
I gifted Sunil Dutt his painting on his birthday. Nargis was alive then. He visited my studio after that, as he too was an ardent art lover. For me, Dutt Saab is alive forever.
I played the goon in Galiyon Ka Badshah with Smita Patil. At first I was worried as it was a solo scene. But Smitaji put me at ease. In fact, I made this portrait of her during the film with a knife. At one point I had to drive her to Pali Hill and jump. I didn’t know how to drive. A driver drove the car and we did the jump. Even then, Smita was extremely calm and cooperative, something I can never forget!
I met Raj Kapoor for the first time on the sets of Satyam Shivam Sundaram (’78) and sketched him in two sittings. I love the happiness he spread with Mera Naam Joker (’70) and art aficionados always love my painting of Raj Kapoor in a joker get-up.
I turned actor and scored roles in Galion Ka Badshah (’89), Saudagar (’91) with Raj Kumar. We kept meeting after that. At the time of his death, many newspapers published my paintings of Raj Saab as memoirs. He was a unique actor.