Friday, July 31, 2009

July-2009


2One more month is gone. Gradually days and months are passing by with alacrity and ferocity. When I contemplated writing film diaries, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I have to write obituary every month. It is sad to know that people, whom once you watched on the silver screen, are leaving this world one by one. It is sad that the idols of your adolescent age have embarked silently on their celestial journey, and sometimes you are not even aware of it. Here I am writing about few people, who left this world in July.

JOGINDER : He died last month, June 14, 2009 precisely. His death was not widely reported in the daily news papers and I was not even aware of it. I read about his sad demise in the IMPPA bulletin of this month, and immediately flood of memories came rushing to my mind. I was studying in the Government Inter College, Allahabad and used to frequent cinema halls along with my friends. We thoroughly enjoyed Joginder’s films. He used to act in the B grade movies, which he produced and directed as well. Some of the films, which I still remember are; “ Daku Aur Jawan ”“ Pandit Aur Pathan ” and of course his most famous, well remembered one and a massive hit of it’s time “ Bindia Aur Badook ”. I have no qualms in accepting that I used to love his films for sheer entertainment value. I know, intellectuals and connoisseurs will be appalled, but during those days I use to watch all kind of films. There were no limits or choices. In acting, I liked Dilip Kumar the most but I liked Dara Singh and Joginder also. In direction Satyajit Ray was my favourite but I used to like films directed by Dara Singh and Joginder too. I enjoyed “ Bindia Aur Bandook ” and his other films as an actor and a very fond remembrance of joginder was consigned in my memory. Now after his death, he shall always be there in my memory, permanently.

NILU PHULE : On July 12, it was the final and permanent curtain call for Nilu Phule. He was an actor of amazing capabilities. After a very successful stint in theatre, he rose to dizzy heights in films. Saamna,Jaith Re Jaith and Sinhasan, all Marathi films directed by Jabbar Patel, are his extremely famous films. During his long, illustrious career he did 130 Hindi and Marathi films. Hindi film connoisseurs are not very familiar with him, though he acted in couple of Hindi films. Saaransh,Mashaal, Prem PratigyaCoolieWoh Saat Din and Naram Garam are notable among them. Those who have seen his play Sakharam Binder, a controversial play written by Vijay Tebdulkar, still vouch for his brilliant performance. Nilu Bhau, as he is fondly called by Marathi film fraternity, is gone to stage some other play in some other unknown world.

BHASKAR CHANDAWARKAR : A very little known name out of his sphere, he gave music for “ Khandahar ”“ Paroma ” and Amol Palekardirected “ Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jayen ”, a film starring Nana Patekar. In Marathi he gave music for films like “ Rao Saheb ” and “ MatiMai ”. He won National award and Sangeet Natak Academy award for his brilliance in music. He was also a music teacher in FTII, Pune for several years.

LEELA NAIDU : On Tuesday night July 28, 2009 came the news of death of Leela Naidu. Only last month I mentioned Ismael Merchantand Merchant-Ivory production’s film “ Householder ” in my film diary. Leela Naidu was the leading lady of that film, which also starredShashi Kapoor. It was the first Hollywood film with Indian stars and Indian music director. So it stayed in my memory. It’s music directorAli Akbar Khan also died last month. I still remember the day, when I saw her on the screen for the first time. I am still finding it difficult to erase the first impression of this actor, whose film I watched decades ago. With her half French half Indian looks, she was very dignified and elegant. She won Miss India title in 1654. It was in 1963, when I saw her for the first time in a film called “ Ye Raste Hain Pyar Ke ”. Because of it’s subject ,it became very controversial, at the time of it’s release. It was certified by the Censor Board with A certificate and I was dying to see it, though I was a minor in 1963. Anyhow I managed to sneak into the cinema hall, Amarjyoti Talkies Deoria, and watched the film. I must admit that more than the content of the film, I was mesmerized by the ethereal beauty of Leela Naidu. The title song, “ Ye Raste Hain Pyar Ke, Chalna Sambhal sambhal Ke ”, filmed on Sunil Dutt and Leela Naidu, still reverberates in my memory. Incidentally that film was produced by Sunil Dutt and it was the maiden production of Ajanta Arts. She also starred in “ Anuradha ” , a film directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and which won President’s Gold Medal for best film in 1960. After separation from her husband Dom Moraes and his subsequent death she slipped into loneliness. Confined to her Colaba home, she became a recluse and ultimately died at the ripe age of 69.

It is very uncanny and strange that a day after her death, Gayatri Devi, the Rajmata of Jaipur, also died. Incidentally both were listed by VOGUE in the list of the 10 most beautiful women in the world.

F.C.MEHRA : july 29 was the first death anniversary of F. C. Mehra. He came to India from Afghanistan and built a huge film empire here. Eagle Films, his banner, produced many successful films starringShammi Kapoor. His Minerva theatre, touted as pride of Maharashtra, is witness to many film premieres. I still remember the grand premier of Akshaye Khanna’s debut film“ Himalay Putra”, which was held at Minerva and which I attended. It is sad that after a year of his death Minerva is demolished. I had one more connection with Mr. Mehra. I played a small character in a serial called “ Zaban Sambhal Ke ” , produced by him. He was the producer of “ Quilla ” and he is going to have a dubious distinction of being the producer of, perhaps the last film of legendary Dilip Kumar, if the thespian doesn’t change his mind and acts again.

BIMAL ROY : At last there is another kind of news, the news which is not so  sad. July 12 was the birth centenary of legendary film maker Bimal Roy. I have seen almost all of his films. “ Do Bigha Zameen-1953 ”“ Yahudi-1954 ”, “ Devdas-1955 ”“ Sujata-1959 ”“ Parakh-1960 ” and of course “ Bandini ” and “ Madhumati ”, whose year of release I am failing to remember. My God! All world class masterpieces and all directed by just one man! As famously narrated by Dilip Kumar, Bimal Roy directed films in whispers. Apart from his celluloid masterpieces, he trained many assistant directors, who rose to dizzy heights in Hindi and Bengali film industry. Hrishikesh MukherjeeNabendu GhoshSudhendu Roy, Ritwik GhatakSalil ChowdhuryKamal BoseBasu BhattacharyaAsit Sen and of courseGulzar, all his assistants, who made marks in various departments of film making. Few of today’s generation know that he started as a cinematographer in 1935 with P. C. Barua directed “ Devdas ” starringK. L. Sehgal and Jamuna. He was the first one to insist for subtle and realistic acting, clearly breaking away from the theatrical acting, which was in vogue those days. Bimal Roy died in 1966 and with him an era ended permanently .
JULY RELEASES : The month started with a promising note. “ New York ” is a massive hit. In fact of all the releases of this year, it is the biggest hit of 2009. After this “ Kambakkht Ishq ” recorded bumper opening. Other films “ Shortkut ”“ Sankat City ” and “ Morning Walk ”were not so successful but all these films have one thing in common. They have one or more than one of my students starring in them.John, Neil and Katrina in “ New York ”Kareena in “ Kambakkht Ishq ”,Akshaye and a debutant Dipaali Siingh in “ Shortkut ”Rimi Sen in “ Sankat City ” and Divya Dutta in “ Morning Walk ”, all are trained by me. Today on July 31, when I am posting this blog, “ Love Aaj Kal ”has been released to packed houses. It stars Saif Ali Khan, another student of mine, who is also producer of this flick.

The story doesn’t stop here. There was an article in Times Of India on July 22 about 5 established stars of Bollywood, named “ Bollywood’s Five Muskateers ”. According to that article Amir KhanShahrukh Khan, Hritik RoshanAkshay Kumar and Salman Khan are the only box office reliable stars today. According to Komal Nahta Amir and Shahrukh are no. 1 and Hritik is no. 2. As per Amod Mehra, Hritik is 3rd, after Amir and Shahrukh. According to Ashok Ahuja of Percept Picture Company, Amir and Shahrukh are tied at no.1 and Hritik is clearly no.2. In every permutations Hritik is ahead of Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan. He stands there just after Amir and Shahrukh. Needless to add he is my student.

In Hindustan Times of July 25, there was another article about 5 upcoming box office reliable stars. List includes Shahid KapurRanbir KapoorNeil Nitin MukeshImran Khan and Harman Baweja. Here barring Shahid, all the other 4 stars are my students. It gives me immense satisfaction that my students are present everywhere in the industry.

A Kannada film “ Yuva ” got released to packed houses in Karnataka last Month. It stars Kharrtik ( Prajwal Shetty ). He is getting rave reviews for his acting skills in this film. I trained him too years ago.

Towards the end there is a heartening news about the collaboration ofAnil Ambani and Steven Spielberg. In Rs. 4000 crore deal Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks studio will make six films a year for global audience. The films made will be globally distributed by Walt Disney, while the rights for India will be with Reliance Big Entertainment. This is a giant step for Indian film industry, which produces more than 1000 films per year. It is more than the combined number of films produced by. U. S. A., Japan and china.

I am signing off with this happy and optimistic news. I shall be back again next month.

Vidur

www.vidur.co.in

Thursday, July 16, 2009

June 2009


2I am starting my June film diary with a sad note.So many big luminaries, whose contribution enriched our industry, left us for their last journey. They were hugely successful and they have left indelible imprints on the sand dunes of time.

ISMAIL MERCHANT comes to my mind first.He died four years ago, and May 25th was his death anniversary. I vividly remember him, when I met him for the first and I didn’t know then, for the last time. I was training his sister’s son and was very curious to know about Ismail Merchant. While studying in Allahabad, I went to watch ” HOUSEHOLDER “ and I was amazed that a film could be made and released worldwide with an Indian starcast and moreover an Indian could produce a film in HOLLYWOOD. One day his nephew told me that his mama has come from L.A. and if I wish ,I could meet him. I sprinted to his apartment, which was in the same building. I was ushered in and there he was sitting on a couch. He welcomed me in chaste Urdu and frankly speaking, I got shock of my life.I never expected that the first genuine Indian export to Hollywood would be knowing Urdu or any Indian language. He was very articulate and sophisticated. I am still in awe. Though, busy with the pre-production work of his forthcoming film, ” THE WHITE COUNTESS “ , he was kind enough to give me enough time. We chatted for an hour and then I took his leave. Little did I realize that this is going to be the first and last meeting with him. He went to shanghai for the filming of his film ‘” THE WHITE COUNTESS ” . I finished training of his nephew and  after that one day I got the news of his demise. MERCHANT IVORY PRODUCTIONS is lifeless without it’s soul.  I shall always cherish his memory and shall always be thankful to God that I could meet the legend once. I still possess the script of ” THE WHITE COUNTESS “. It is priceless for me now.

IRFAN HABEEB is another giant, who left us last month. During my ALLAHABAD UNIVERSITY days, I read his play “AGARA BAZAR “. Later on I heard about his theatre group and his various experiments with the medium. I came to know about his CHHATISGARHI plays also, but I could never meet him. When I shifted base to Mumbai I got a chance to meet him. PRITHVI THEATRE was organizing a retrospective of his plays. I went to watch his play  ” ZEHREELI HAWA “ and to tell the truth,I was awestruck. At the curtain call the legend himself came on the stage and I could watch him in flesh and blood. He was so simple and yet a gigantic figure. Much was written about him after his death but one fact was missing everywhere, that he worked in Subhas Ghai’s ” BLACK AND WHITE “ and that is his last screen appearance. Al Vida HABEEB SAHEB, it was my luck to meet you once . It’s memory will always be there.

PRAKASH MEHRA is too prominent a figure to be missed. Every aspect of his life is well chronicled, so there is nothing for me to say. Everyone knows how and when he changed AMITABH BACHCHAN’S life. In 1968,  I was studying in ALLAHABAD UNIVERSITY, when I watched a film called ” HASEENA MAAN JAYEGI “. It had Shashi Kapoor in double role. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and forgot about the debutant director. ” HAATH KI SAFAI ” and ” MELA ” were some other memorable films, which I watched without caring to know about the dirctor. It all changed when a film called ” ZANJEER ” was released in 1973.  His son was my student for a brief period and he went to U.S.A. without completing the training. So I lost touch. In December 2008 I saw Prakash ji in ” The Club “. He was frail and he could barely walk. I was saddened to see Prakash ji, walking with help of his personal assistant and that to with great difficulty. I still shudder at the cruelty of life. With his demise an era ends.

USTAD ALI AKBAR KHAN is another titan, who left us for his heavenly abode last month. Among all the above mentioned people, he is is the only one , whom I could not meet in person. But as a connoisseur of Indian Classical Music, I  could say that I know him through his work. He gave music for  ” HOUSEHOLDER” , a film which I have mentioned in this blog only. A ” MERCHANT IVORY PRODUCTIONS ” film, which I watched in Allahabad. He gave music for CHETAN ANAND’S  first film       ” AANDHIYAN “, SATYAJIT RAY’S  film ” DEVI “ and BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI’S film ” LITTLE BUDDHA “. What a terrific profile and what a terrible loss indeed.

PADMA awards were conferred on various film personalities this year too. Yesteryear’s songstress SHAMSHAD BEGAM was honoured with PADMA BHUSHAN, and actors AISHWARYA RAI BACHCHANAKSHAY KUMAR and singer KUMAR SANU were honoured with PADMA SHRI. Congratulations !

TOCHI RAINNA and TOSHI SABRI, these two innocuous names created a history of sorts in May, but I forgot to mention this case in my May Diary. It is too bizarre to be missed , so I am writing about this now. William Shakespeare said, what’s in a name? In this case problem lies in the name only. TOCHI RAINNA sang hugely popular O Pardesi song in Dev D and he was standing on the threshold of a certain stardom. At the same timeTOSHI SABRI, another singer whose voice is similar to TOCHI, surfaced on the horizon and sang an equally popular number Maahi in the film  ” Raaz 2 “. The problem erupted when TOSHI SABRI was wrongly given credit for  the songs of TOCHI RAINNA in a website. Subsequently all the event organizers started contacting TOSHI SABRI for the live shows and musical events. Over 50 events intended for TOCHI, eventually went to TOSHI and poor TOCHI RAINNA suffered in silence and finally landed up in a hospital. TOCHI’S mother died of cancer last year and his brother is suffering from TB. Poor TOCHI RAINNA !

Finally, it seems happy days are back for the film industry. Strike ended and though ”  Kal Kisne Dekha ”  and ” Paying Guest ” tanked, Yash Raj Films ” NEW YORK “ brought cheers to everyone’s faces. It opened to good response and almost 90 % occupancy. ” KAMBAKKHT ISHQ “ also opened to bumper opening ever, bringing cheers everywhere.

For the connoisseurs of music,  legendary composer MADAN MOHAN’Sunused and unheard compositions were released by Yash Raj Music. In ” VEER ZAARA “ his tunes were used by the same banner and now they are coming with 15 songs composed by the late maestro in an album titled ”TERE BAGAIR “. A rare bonanza for the connoisseurs.

I started this month’s diary with a sad note. I have no options but I am ending it also  with a sad and distressing note. SHINEY AHUJA is currently in prison. He was never a shinning example for his behaviour, but being jailed for raping his maid is not tolerable. The law of the land should be allowed to take it’s own course. If proven guilty, he should be punished. He brought disrespect to the industry. I was approached by MR. SUDHIR MISHRA to train him for ‘ KHOYA KHOYA CHAND”. I went to meet him in his, now infamous, flat. We both can not agree on a suitable time. That time I felt as if I am being deprived of an opportunity, now I feel I was saved. Thank God !

Vidur

www.vidur.co.in

May 2009


2Results of 15th Lok Sabha are out and Congress led UPA has won a decisive victory. Am I happy? No! Then, am I a BJP led NDA supporter? Doesn’t matter. So what are my political affiliations? Being an ordinary member of the film fraternity, which ever party or group I belong to, my first affiliations are with the industry I belong to. And I have no hesitation in saying that every central government has treated this industry with apathy.

Be it piracy, be it taxation or be it recent stalemate between producers and multiplex owners, government of the day turns to other side and behaves as if every thing is hunky-dory. This is step-motherly treatment. Or perhaps this is sheer negligence, because to give step-motherly treatment you have to be a mother at least. This industry is treated like an orphan, not cared, not wanted. And this despite the fact that central government earns millions in taxes from the industry.

What is the solution? Every sector of India is united and they extract their pound of flesh, sometimes more than their legitimate share, from the government of the day. So, as an industry, we have to speak in one voice. Only then our voice will be heard. Otherwise be it UPA or be it NDA, we will get same orphan like treatment. Mr. Advani or Dr. Manmohan Singh, both are gigantic figures and truly a colossus but unless and until we speak forcefully and in one voice, their apathy would be same. 

Last month was cruel for the industry. First we lost Shakti Samanta and then inimitable Feroz Khan. I have trained Shakti da’s grandson Aditya Samanta for acting, but apart from this there were no personal acquaintances with Shakti da. People know him through his films like Howra Bridge, An Evening In Paris, Aradhana, Kati Patang and several others.

During Prem Aggan days I trained Ferdeen also. While training him I came to know Mr. Feroz Khan. After his sad demise so many pages have been written about his life style, about his film making and his larger than life persona. Few worth mentioning things were missing from every article written about him. I was invited for the launch party of Prem Aggan. I was not expecting it, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a Hindu Pandit and a Moulavi performing rituals in tandem. Being a Muslim he would have done it in muslim way. But being a true Indian, he got a Pandit and a Moulavi to do the rituals. When he went to Pakistan, he sang paeans about India and famously said that conditions of muslims in India is much better. I had pleasure to be in F.K. House for lunch or dinner several times. In Fardeen’s room an idol of Bhagwan Shiv is prominently placed. Do I need to say any thing else about Mr. Feroz Khan’s secular credentials?   

The stalemate between producers and multiplex-owners continues. Every party is waiting for the other to blink first. Both parties are holding on because of the IPL matches and the month long parliamentary elections. Elections are over now and very soon IPL will also have it’s closing ceremony. After this lean period, one expects a boom of big releases but because of the petty egos of the leaders of both sides, the end is no where in site. The game of Chess continues, with no clear winners in sight. Government, which earns millions from the industry, is sitting like mythical Dhritarashtra and watching helplessly and obliviously the bizarre drama being played in front of it.

Copyright issue is raising it’s head and very soon it is going to be an epidemic. We have to find a solution for this. The curious case of B.R.Films and the legal notice, it was served by a Hollywood studio, is a pertinent example. The globalization and opening of market are opening new vistas and the world is coming closure. Gone are the days when bindas bandas of Bollywood can lift a theme from a foreign film and dish it out in front of the desi audience as their own and original creations.

The Corporate bubble burst is complete. You can call their offices and the chances are that either no one will pick up the phone or if a receptionist picks it up, she will listen to you and will connect you to the concerned department. And there, no one is going to pick it up ever to answer your queries. This decline and fall of the Corporate was imminent because of their ways and the methods they followed. Sanctioning exorbitant budgets, signing artistes at any cost and pumping millions in any kind of films were their follies and now they are paying for it.

In the decline of the Corporate, lies the rise of the independent producers. Once they dominated the industry and virtually ruled it. But after the advent of the money-bags, they faded into oblivion. It’s the time for them to rise like phoenix.

It’s the time for the single-screen theaters too to re-invent themselves. Since the advent of multiplexes, they were facing rough weathers. It’s a blessing in disguise for them also.

For Marathi films too, it was a significant opportunity. Because of the paucity of Hindi films, Marathi films were decently released in the multiplexes, found audience and raked in the much needed money.

One significant film, which was released during this period and bombed significantly, is                  “ Dasavataram ”. Kamal Hassan is undoubtedly one of our most talented and multidimensional actors. But in his latest film, he stretches himself too far. Film is a narration of a story. This film has no story worth mentioning. As for acting is concerned, actor’s job is portrayal of a well- defined character. Here Kamal Haasan tries to manipulate so many characters at one go and instead of portraying them convincingly, he fails convincingly. So much waste of energy and squander of precious money. Better luck next time Mr. Hassan. You are too talented to be ignored. 

Towards the end, I, a very insignificant person, appeal to the new government to look into the matters of this great industry. It is beset with many problems. Dr. Manmohan Singh is a great reformer. As a Finance Minister of India, under tutelage of the then Prime Minister P. V. Narsimha Rao, he resurrected India’s moribund economic condition. He can do wonders, if he wishes. As an eminent economist, he cannot be oblivious of the conditions and needs of film industry. It needs his heeling touch to resurrect it, the way he once resurrected this country’s economy. I do hope and pray that he turns his attention on the industry.

These are the random thoughts for this column. Next time, there will be another issues and another set of problems. I finish this one with lots of hope and wishing the new government best of luck and longevity.

Vidur

www.vidur.co.in