Blast from the Past – Hrishikesh Mukherjee Interview: They reduced Amitabh Bachchan to a stunt man.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee Interview from Filmfare September 1998. There are lot of interesting things about Anand, Bawarchi, Guddi, Satyakam, Abhimaan, his favorite actor Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha.

Click on Continue Reading for rest of the Interview

  1. dwnpiyush 10 years ago

    Interesting interview, thanks for sharing. I didn’t like the slight tone of arrogance in most of his answers. Recently I saw two movies of his made by him in the 80s- Kisi Se Na Kehna and Naram Garam- Both were good, but not as satisfying as his earlier comedies- both very heavily influenced by his other works especially Golmaal. There are a lot of movies made by him that I haven’t seen yet- I think I should hurry up 🙂

    • Author
      sputnik 10 years ago

      You are welcome. I had seen Naram Garam on DD when I was a kid and enjoyed it back then but when I recently tried to watch it again I did not find it that funny.

      Every director starts making similar movies at some point and Hrishikesh Mukherjee did that too. Chupke Chupke, Golmaal, Khoobsoorat, Naram Garam, and all of his later movies involve lying and/or doing a drama to fool someone. Even Mili can be called the female version of Anand. But he still has a great filmography.

      • dwnpiyush 10 years ago

        Yes of course, he has an enviable filmography. But I would still put Gulzar slightly ahead of him simply because of the variety in his works- also because Gulzar wrote most of his movies hmself (wrote the songs too)- I am making the comparison because if I am not wrong, both Hrishikesh Mukherjee and he started as assistants to Bimal Roy.

        And like I said I haven’t seen many of HM’s films- so maybe my observation is a little premature! But still, I haven’t seen a lame Gulzar film yet (yet to see Hu tu tu, Meera, Mere Apne, Libaas)- while HM did make some lame films- tried watching his Raj Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna starrer NAUKRI recently, but couldn’t- maybe was too tired that day!

        • Author
          sputnik 10 years ago

          I think both are great directors and favorites of mine. So its hard for me to pick one over the another. I have seen mostly his 70’s work but Hrishikesh Mukherjee made movies which were more populist/entertaining while Gulzar made movies which were more sensitive in nature and dealt with human relationships.

          I did not like Hu Tu Tu. Mere Apne was good. Have not seen Meera and Libaas. I don’t think Libaas is available anywhere. Is it?

          • dwnpiyush 10 years ago

            No I don’t think Libaas is available anywhere- though some dialogues were released on a cassette evidently with some songs- I think they are available on moifightclub- I really wish to see the film- wonder why it is not released on video

          • tulmul 10 years ago

            Sputnik.. Meera was Big Flop and Hema had big grudge that Lata didn’t sing for meera and She still carries that feeling… She thinks meera flopped coz Lata was not there.. Seen all those movies mentioned…

            Somehow, I m ignoble for my Love of Small movies 🙂 .. Gulzar movies are immensely helped by Pancham.. one has to read gulzar to know what pancham meant for him and his movies..

        • tulmul 10 years ago

          HM is far better filmmaker than Gulzar, even though I love Gulzar but gulzar also has made films which are lame n copied or inspired… The greatest thing about HM and which clearly distinguishes him from most of other film makers is His movies are know not by the stars but by the Characters they play… Character is what shines through and its the character that resides in one’s mind after the show is over…

          I can say I have see almost all the movies of Bimal da, Guru dutt( my most fav), RK, Gulzar, HM and Basu… and even among this illustrious group, I can firmly say its only HM movies where Character is more powerfull than Star and that’s Big achievement of HM… Gulzar has touched various aspects of life, be it mere Apne( student politics, violence) to Hu tu tu ( politics again), along with Kushboo, kinaraa, Parichay, Aandhi( Pol bio of Indira Gandhi), Mausam( his best) , Angoor, Machis…

          • dwnpiyush 10 years ago

            Which films of Gulzar are lame acc to you? Just curious?

          • tulmul 10 years ago


            I said “also” not only…

            Hu tu tu is WTF movie as far as I m concerned, even though there are supporters of that movie also, Meera was lame one..

            Some of His movies are very slow, If same has done by others that ppl wld have said big bore, even though I m ignoble lover of small movies.. silliness bores me not slow languid narrative of movie… Khushboo is Slow, so is Kinaara.. I have to peep into my mind to recollect all those movies as I have seen them way back not like you afresh 🙂

            Gulzar is more Potent as Song writer.. right now unparalleled in BW…He also knows that what he can do and say in song is more succinct, terse and concise and movies take hell of time to do that…

  2. tulmul 10 years ago

    Thanks Sputnik 🙂 !!!

    Another Gem Blast from the Past… and what a man and director, editor.. HM, Bimal da, Guru Dutt, RK…. extraordinary minds and talents…

    • dwnpiyush 10 years ago

      @ Tulmul

      I never said that you said ‘only’ 🙂 I was just curious to know which films of his you didn’t like much. Haven’t seen Hu tu tu and Meera so can’t comment. But yes, some of his movies are too slow for some people to like- Kinaara is the one I like the least out of all his movies that I have seen- Even Namkeen was slow- but I would rather call it unhurried 🙂

      • tulmul 10 years ago

        But kinaara has one brilliant song from Lata, “naam ghum jaayega” 🙂

        It was just a quip 🙂

        Most of his films move at his own defined pace, which may become too much for new watcher unless one is accmilitised …And HM movies move you.. be it Anand, Namak haram, Satyakaam, Mili( even though he changed the end for some reasons :P), Abhimaan…

        Have you seen Bimal da’s films??? they all belong to his tribe and greatly influenced by leftist thinking ..

        • dwnpiyush 10 years ago

          I have seen Bimal Roy’s Do Bhiga Zamin, Bandini, and Madhumati- you can visit my blog to read my views on them 🙂 🙂

  3. aryan 10 years ago

    Brilliant interview after very long time especially directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee. I love to read this kind of interviews its a gem. He completed Anand in just 28 days which is amazing. Amitabh leaving Guddi is a sad episode.

  4. narad_muni 10 years ago

    Gr8 post sputnik!
    Thanks a ton… Hrishi da is my favorite film maker of all time ( in Bollywood).
    His ability to make movies which are meaningful and entertaining at the same time is something which makes him stand apart… and I don’t see anyone before or after him to have done that in a consistent manner.
    Also, the point dear tulmul raised about the characters of his movies being remembered and not the stars (though his movies often starred the biggest superstars) is no small achievement.
    I am still waiting for the next Hrishi-da… Raju Hirani is doing a good job nonetheless but I find Hirani qualititatively no where near Hrishi-da.. Hirnai’s movies are increasingly becoming more n more full of loud comedy and cheesy melodrama.

  5. aryan 10 years ago

    HM said Abhimaan is based of the life of well known couple from the film industry, I saw their marriage coming apart because the woman was superior to the man. The man earned tremendous fame. But the woman was far more talented. Ultimately, they divorced.

    I want to know who was/is the couple from our film industry any guess members!

  6. Author
    sputnik 10 years ago


    “Meera was Big Flop”

    I have seen only a couple of scenes from the movie but Gulzar’s movies cannot be judged on hit/flop parameter.

    “but gulzar also has made films which are lame n copied or inspired…”

    Same can be said about Hrishikesh Mukherjee too. His movies Anand (Ikiru), Namak Haraam (Beckett), Abhimaan (A Star is Born) were inspired and his movies like Bawarchi (Galpa Holeo Satyi) and Chupke Chupke (Chhadmabeshi) were remakes of Bengali films. As far as lame movies are concerned most of his 80s stuff can be called lame especially his last Jhoot Bole Kauwa Kaate.

    “The greatest thing about HM and which clearly distinguishes him from most of other film makers is His movies are know not by the stars but by the Characters they play… Character is what shines through and its the character that resides in one’s mind after the show is over…”

    I think the same can be said about Gulzar’s movies. A very important thing is here that the best of Hrishikesh Mukherhjee’s movies like Anand, Namak Haraam, Bawarchi, Chupke Chupke and Golmaal all benefited from Gulzar’s screenplay or dialogues. People still remember those dialogues.

    I agree with you that some of Gulzar’s movies are very slow paced or boring. I thought Khusboo was ok but agree with you that Hu Tu Tu was a WTF movie. I also thought Kitaab started off well but it then went on and on. Same with Lekin – at first it was very intriguing and mystical but the movie did not know when to stop. Not everyone will have patience for that.

    Gulzar is more literary more writer type so his movies are slow paced and take time to arrive at the conclusion whereas Hrishikesh was a editor first and that is the reason why his movies are never boring or slow paced (at least the 70’s ones that I have seen).

    But I will post a Gulzar interview on Hrishikesh Mukherjee in my next comment and you will be happy to read that 😉


    Agree with you that “Hirnai’s movies are increasingly becoming more n more full of loud comedy and cheesy melodrama.” He is more like Hrishikesh Mukherjee on steroids or he is more into cheesy melodrama ala Manmohan Desai.


    Abhimaan is actually inspired from a Hollywood movie A Star is Born but the couple mentioned here are supposed to be Kishore Kumar and his first wife, Ruma Ghosh.

    • Raunak 6 years ago

      Nice comparison… But there are a few things i would like to point out here-first of all Golmaal neither had dialogues nor screenplay done by Gulzar. Gulzar saab only wrote the lyrics .. 🙂 Secondly as far as dialogues of Bawarchi and Chupke Chupke go, they are mostly mere translations from the original bengali movies, from which they were made . 🙂 Thirdly, in any case Hrishida usually got his dialogue written in bengali first himself or by the author,on whose work he was basing the film on, and then got it translated/transcreated in hindi. A classic example of this is Satyakam, where the dialogues by Rajinder Singh Bedi were, brilliant translations of the original bengali dialogues by Narayan Sanyal. And fourthly, Hrishida too like Gulzar and Basu Chatterjee, wrote many of his films including Anupama, Anand, Aashirwaad etc. But unlike the other two, he couldn’t do the ‘hindi’ dialogue as his hindi was quite poor. Another thing- Gulzar, although a great poet, hasn’t actually written the stories of most of his films, contrary to popular perception. And this includes Namkeen & Kitaab (both Samaresh Basu), Ijaazat ( Subodh Ghosh, though it was changed a lot), Lekin (Rabindranath Tagore), Angoor (William Shakespeare), Khushboo ( Sarat Chandra Chatterjee) etc just to name a few. Yes he wrote screenplays, but then that was something that HM and Basu too did.

      Finally, I think films Anand, Abhimaan, Parichay, Angoor etc shouldn’t be seen as copied/plagiarised/inspired bcoz in most of the cases they are either only similar in theme (Anand) or official adapatations (Angoor).

      • Author
        sputnik 6 years ago


        First of all welcome here and secondly thanks for your very insightful comments.

        You are right. Golmaal’s screenplay was by Sachin Bhowmick and dialogues were by Dr. Rahi Masoom Reza. I was under the mistaken impression that Golmaal’s dialogues were by Gulzar.

        My comment was in reaction to some earlier comments about the difference between Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Gulzar. I like Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Gulzar almost equally. Both are greats. Agree that their films cannot be termed copied/plagiarised/inspired in the usual sense.

  7. Author
    sputnik 10 years ago

    Gulzar on his long association with Hrishikesh Mukherjee

    “Hrishida was the Masterjee and I was one of his better students. Some of his most major work as a director featured with me as his writer. Our first film together was Biwi Aur Makaan for which (singer) Hemant Kumar sent me to Hrishida. It was the first film where even the dialogues were in song- form. Hrishida was always playing around , kicking the ball around. He knew the medium so well.

    He started his directorial career with the experimental Musafir. It had three separate stories in one film. He was so much ahead of his times. He started the trend of parallel cinema much before it actually started. His early films like Anari, Anuradha , Musafir and Mem Didi were not boy-girl stories. Hrishida was the pioneer of the parallel cinema . He’s often give me literary short stories to adopt. He made Mem Didi which had Jayant in the lead. Ashirwaad had Ashok Kumar in the lead and in Bawarchi he cast Rajesh Khanna without a heroine. Jaya Bhaduri played his sister! In Anand, Kishore Kumar was supposed to play the lead but he opted out at the last minute. I asked Rajesh Khanna if he’d be interested and he jumped at it. ‘You take me to Hrishida.’ Hrishida and I designed Mili as the male version of Anand.

    In the 1970s I virtually wrote all of Hrishida’s films. It was the golden period of my life. We’d often argue about our scenes. But I always listened to what he said. I remember we had argued about a scene in Guddi. Hrishida had wanted a dialogue which I didn’t. He was right. The audience broke into applause during that dialogue. I think I bloomed as a writer with Hrishida. Most of the time I wrote the screenplay and dialogues . In Guddi I wrote the story as well. Among my lesser know films for Hrishida were Alaap, Arjun Pandit and Sabsa Bada Sukh which was a very innocent film about two young men who wanted to experience sex. Yeh chali nahin. In Namak Haraam we had to change the end because Hrishida had promised Rajesh Khanna the death scene.

    He had so many jokes to tell. Shooting with him was like a picnic. A few months back I met him, He had grown his beard. And he started telling his jokes. Nobody could make light-hearted film like Hrishida. Chupke Chupke, Gol Maal and Khubsoorat were all written by me. He made humorous films —I won’t demean them by calling them comedies consistently. He was like my father. I’d run to him with my problems.”


    • tulmul 10 years ago

      Thanks A bunch Sputnik 😀

    • tulmul 10 years ago

      I had Immense respect for Gulzar because his such quality… He knew the worth of his mates, be it male or female and this is simple missing now.. its all sycophancy and pure selfish motives and gains now.. Imagine, Gulzar, bimal da, pancham, salil da or madan mohan together and Ideas bouncing from one mind to another…

      and I still believe even after your long terse reply that in HM movies Character rose to its zenith, at the End movie is the Director’s medium and his signature can never be touched but may be copied or inspired …

  8. aryan 10 years ago

    Here is the difference between Hrishikesh Mukherjee films and Gulzar Films.
    In HM movies wholesome, innocent, funny and meaningful.

    In Gulzar movies sensitive, lyrical,relief from the violent films that filled in 1970s and 1980s.

  9. Prem Parayar 10 years ago

    Hrishikesh Mukherjee , Basu Chaterjee , Gulzar, such wonderfull talents , i think they live in their films and it also talks about their personal characters , beliefs in life . They definitely had a big impact with their movies in the lifes of people of their time and till now.

  10. Author
    sputnik 9 years ago

    Today Sep 30th is Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s birth anniversary. So those who missed can check out this interview.

  11. yakuza 7 years ago

    Amitabh on Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Haider..

    • Anjanpur685Miles 7 years ago

      @yakuza, the thing is that amitabh has praised many substandard films based on personal equations etc that his words dont matter at all to anyone.

      The line from his blog “When you see good products each Friday of the week…” says a lot about his nature.

      • yakuza 7 years ago

        Well he appreciate young cinema and young talents since beginning .. During QSQT, It was bachchan first who praise Aamir in public at filmfare awards that year.

        “amitabh has praised many substandard films based on personal equations”

        I know atleast three instances which is just opposite to what you are saying :

        1. Despite his bitter relations with Anurag Kashyap, He praised GOW-1&2 and even wrote review.

        2. Despite very good equation with Akshay, he didn’t like CCTC and TMK and didn’t utter a single word after attending premier. For CCTC he went London for special screening, but didn’t like movie at all. On his blog he just mention that he attended premier to oblige Akshay.

        3. Ditto for TMK

  12. Author
    sputnik 6 years ago

    The benign terror of Hrishi da
    The legendary film-maker was like a strict but lovable schoolteacher to actors—an exclusive excerpt from a forthcoming book on him

    Jai Arjun Singh

    ‘Yaad rakho… acting mein aath aana gussa, chaar aana dimaag, do aana shanti, ek aana humbleness, ek aana guroor.’ (Fifty per cent of acting is anger, 25 per cent is brainwork, the rest is divided between stillness, humility and pride.)

    Game master David in Chupke Chupke, tutoring the nervous Sukumar for his performance as Parimal

    ‘We would groan, “Arre, yeh film khatam kyun ho rahi hai? When are you making the next one, Hrishi-da?’”

    The late Farooque Shaikh,
    speaking with the author in 2013

    On a special 2010 episode of the game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), hosted by Amitabh Bachchan, the appearance of Dharmendra as a guest allowed audiences the nostalgic pleasure of watching Veeru and Jai (or Professor Parimal and Professor Sukumar) bantering and reminiscing, thirty-five years after their most memorable work together. And Dharmendra reversed the show’s usual order of things by asking the first question:

    “Amit, hamaaray kaunse aise director thay jin se hum dono ghabra jaate thay, darte thay—jaise kisi schoolmaster ya headmaster se?” (‘Amit, who was the director we both were afraid of, the same way we’d be afraid of a schoolteacher or principal?’)

    If the question had been addressed to a regular KBC participant who judged the personalities of directors by the things that happened in their movies, he would have needed a lifeline or three to get the answer right, and may have faced eviction nonetheless. Ramesh Sippy, he might have said first, thinking of Gabbar’s sadistic games or Shakaal and his torture chamber (Shaan) or Seeta being tormented by her vicious aunt (Seeta aur Geeta). Second choice may have been Manmohan Desai, who planted Dharmendra in a miniskirt and Amitabh in an Easter egg in separate films released in the same year. But no. ‘Hrishi-da ke saath hum dono kaampte thay kyunki unka ek rutba hee aisa tha (We would tremble before Hrishi-da, such was his aura),’ Bachchan told the audience.

    This is not the mental picture one gets of Hrishikesh Mukherjee from watching his films or from the many recollections that cast him as an avuncular, much-loved figure. Shooting Jhooth Bole Kauva Kaate in 1997, he asked Juhi Chawla—who was a little nervous working with someone so revered—to think of him as her grandfather. And both Dharmendra and Amitabh, among many other stars, have said elsewhere that he was family to them and that they would have willingly worked for him anytime without asking to see the story or script.

    Yet the schoolmaster imagery often crops up too. Those who didn’t fit into the Mukherjee world or couldn’t take to his types of movies or his old-school style of working may not have cared for it. In his typically no-punches-pulled memoir And Then One Day…, Naseeruddin Shah recalled being chastised at the FTII in the early 1970s for showing disrespect to veteran film-makers: ‘actually only to Mr Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who tried explaining to us in words of two syllables why in movies the director is so much more important than the actor and was told by us to cut the baby talk’. It is perhaps the only aggressive personal remark about Hrishi-da that I have encountered in everything I have heard about him, and coming as it does from a man who is famously unwilling to be part of back-patting fraternities within the movie world, it deserves attention. When I first read it, I was reminded of the stories about Alfred Hitchcock rubbing some actors the wrong way because of his treatment of them as chess pieces (or as ‘cattle’, to mention a famous Hitchcock quote) who were subservient to the larger visual design of the film.

    That doesn’t compute though: Hrishi-da may have been a chess enthusiast (he played on the sets and was a voracious consumer of books about the game), but he was also much more of a ‘people person’ than Hitchcock was, and less interested in the formal elements of film-making. One explanation may be that when dealing with FTII students, he allowed himself to get pedantic on occasion, and the young man who used to carry around books by film theorists like Sergei Eisenstein in the 1950s made an appearance. In other words, perhaps I was wrong when I said a few chapters ago that he was represented in his own films by the ‘David type of old man’ rather than the ‘Utpal Dutt type’. Perhaps his personality had shades of both.

    ‘Everyone loved him,’ the actor Biswajit (who presumably never exchanged notes with Naseeruddin Shah on this subject) told me in Mumbai, ‘but everyone was a little scared of him too, because he could be like a teacher—a Master Moshai! He never indulged any stars, no matter how big they were. And he was very particular about punctuality. “I won’t tolerate anyone being late,” he would say, wagging his finger at us like he was standing at a blackboard.’ Sushil Bhatnagar, who played a small part in Arjun Pandit, recalls Sanjeev Kumar being perpetually late and slinking to his tent for a costume change when he thought Hrishi-da wasn’t looking. But the ‘headmaster’ noticed all right and—eyes never leaving his chessboard—remarked to his assistant, ‘See, Hari is sneaking in—he knows I will scold him if he comes to me first. Well, I won’t say anything to him yet. Let him keep sweating!’

    Nor did he have much patience for finicky actors who wanted another take—especially in the later years, when he was very conscious of budgets and the need not to waste film stock or time. Deepti Naval, a beneficiary of Hrishi-da’s parental concern long before she worked with him, discovered this aspect to his personality when they did Rang Birangi together. ‘If he had okayed a shot and I said, “Please, just one more take, I think I can do that better,” he would make a dramatic gesture to the production assistant and tell them, “Chalo, Deepu se voucher sign karvao—she wants to do this, so she has to pay for the extra footage!”’

    He could get actors to do what he wanted by putting things across in funny or practical terms. In an email interview, Asrani recalled the song—‘Binati sun le tanik’—that he performed in his own voice at the beginning of Alaap, where he plays a tangay-wallah taking Alok home from the station: ‘It was originally to be sung by Kishore Kumar, but he couldn’t come to the recording studio for some reason. Hrishi-da immediately asked me to sing the song in my own voice. I was scared, but he told me, “Tonga-wallahs are not singers—just sing like a tonga-wallah would sing!”’ Persuading Asrani in this situation was no great challenge for a man who had convinced a very reluctant Dilip Kumar—one of Hindi cinema’s biggest stars—to sing for Musafir twenty years earlier.

    ‘I can never imagine Hrishi-da saying something like “Accha, ab gadhe pe baith jao, ya chhoti chaddi pehen ke bhaago, ya cake mein gir jao (Okay, now sit on a donkey, run around in your underwear, fall into a cake)”,’ Deven Varma told me in Pune. ‘The quality of comedy in his films reflected his personal tastes.’ But despite his emphasis on clean and wholesome humour, Hrishi-da could shake things up a little when he felt it was required. Varma recalled being reluctant to do the climactic scene in Buddha Mil Gaya where he and Navin Nischol dress up as women. ‘I said, Hrishi-da I won’t do this, maa aur behnon ka mazaak nahin banaoonga—that isn’t the type of comedy I do.’ Hrishi-da’s response—no doubt aimed at lightening the air rather than making an actual philosophical statement—was: ‘But you aren’t making fun of Indian women, this is a Hawaiian dress you’re wearing!’ It worked. The principled Varma did the scene, and he needn’t have worried—he and Nischol are so goofy together that there is no question of finding it vulgar.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this impish side to Hrishi-da’s personality emerged in subtler ways in his treatment of actors. There is an oft-told story about how he once ‘punished’ Dharmendra for being late for a shoot by canning a scene without him, then shooting and putting in an insert of the star dashing out from a place that had a ‘Toilet’ signboard next to it. (The scene is near the end of Chupke Chupke.) But watching Satyakam, I imagined another, more playful form of castigation. In one early scene in that film, Dharmendra, required to speak in shuddh Hindi, mispronounces the elegant word ‘parichay’ as ‘preechay’, in a recognizably Jat accent. Perhaps Hrishi-da got back at his star by casting him, years later, in a role that would constantly require him to speak in high-sounding Hindi!

    In any case, the welcoming house owner of ‘Anupama’ (the name of Hrishi-da’s house) could be a disciplinarian if a performer was too full of himself. ‘I have worked with the greatest of stars, and I have always been clear that while your opinions are welcome, the final decision is always mine,’ he said in a 1998 interview to The Times Of India. ‘After all, the film is my visualization…I know exactly how one sequence will link up with another.’ It is perhaps in this light that one should consider the story about Hrishi-da refusing to take Balraj Sahni’s suggestion for a subtle change at the end of Anuradha. There is also an anecdote about the climactic scene of Anand, where Bhaskar mourns his friend’s death. Amitabh Bachchan came to the sets having worked himself into high emotion, all prepared to let go once the camera rolled. Hrishi-da asked him to tone it down. ‘He put on a good show of histrionics during the death scene, howled and screamed—but that was not what I wanted. I wanted him to get angry with his friend, not mourn him.’ But watching the scene, I feel another reason could be that Hrishi-da didn’t want Bachchan monopolizing the scene too much because that might have taken attention away from Anand. If an individual contribution, no matter how impressive it might be in isolation, is in danger of working against a scene’s intended effect, a hard decision needs to be taken.

    From the beginning to the end of his career, Hrishi-da cast popular actors in lead roles. The list includes those who had an established screen persona before they worked with him (the 1950s star triumvirate of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand falls in this category, as do Meena Kumari, Suchitra Sen, Guru Dutt and Mala Sinha), it has younger performers whose screen images were to some degree or other shaped by him even though some of them went on to do other kinds of roles (prominent in this list are Dharmendra, Jaya Bhaduri, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha), and it includes actors who tended to be more malleable, less associated with a specific type of role: Balraj Sahni in Anuradha, Usha Kiran in Musafir, Ashok Kumar in Aashirwad, Sanjeev Kumar in Arjun Pandit.

    The big stars of the 1950s brought the baggage of their existing images to the early films, with variable results. So Dilip Kumar fits very well in Musafir because it is a Devdas-like role, exactly what the third segment of that film calls for. Raj Kapoor is mostly well-used in Anari, and the film has other good things in it in case you get tired of him, including fine performances by Lalita Pawar, Nutan and Motilal; on the other hand, the self-flagellating aspects of Kapoor’s screen persona are allowed to go badly out of control in the 1962 Aashiq, which is one of Hrishi-da’s most pedestrian films.

    However, to watch Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan in Anand, Dharmendra in Anupama, Jaya Bhaduri in Guddi or Rekha in Alaap or Khubsoorat is to see the creation of fresh possibilities, and a more assured helmsman, moulding fresh clay to his requirements. Working with these younger actors before they had become too set in their ways, Hrishi-da could use them in specific types of roles, toy with our expectations of them: consolidating Dharmendra’s bhadralok persona and later using him so well as a comedian; or allowing Bachchan’s flair for simmering anger full expression in a framework outside of mainstream cinema.

    Even in the early days, he had a clear knack for seeing how a new actor would fit into the desired universe of a film. He chose the fresh, arch Leela Naidu for the title role in Anuradha himself, and watching the film you can see how she brings an immediate plausibility to so many scenes, such as the one where Deepak (after realizing that Anuradha is in love with someone else) tries to be the noble, martyred man, offering to shield her from her father’s wrath by claiming that he doesn’t want to get married—to take the responsibility on himself—but Anu refuses to be the submissive, favour-accepting woman; she holds her head high and says no, this is my cross to bear.

    Not that Hrishi-da always had his way even with the younger lot. ‘Don’t mind your make-up—make up your mind,’ Sharmila Tagore recalls him saying aphoristically during the shooting of Anupama, and apparently there was good reason for this. Here was a film about a diffident wallflower who had grown up without parental love, didn’t have any friends and stayed cloistered in her large, cold house; and yet Tagore, who was just rising to stardom and on the rush of being a Hindi-movie heroine, insisted that she wear her stylish bouffant hairdo in the film. ‘Hrishi-da tried telling me the hairstyle simply wasn’t right for the character, that it was too trendy,’ she told me during an interview, ‘but I was immature and persistent and wouldn’t listen—and so eventually he gave in and said we’ll work something out. He managed to shoot me in such a way that the character didn’t look unduly glamorous or dolled up, but it was a small blot on the film’s integrity, and I still feel guilty about that.’

    Such stories help explain why a certain type of film—one that seems like it was intended to be ‘realistic’ and character-driven—might look just a little glossier than it needed to, the people a little more like film stars than they should. Even a Master Moshai can occasionally be stared down by a privileged, confident student.

    Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books India from The World Of Hrishikesh Mukherjee: The Filmmaker Everyone Loves by Jai Arjun Singh. The book is available for pre-order on and will be out in stores next week.

  13. Author
    sputnik 6 years ago

    Mumbai Mirror | Sep 27, 2015, 12.54 AM IST

    By Khalid Mohamed

    With a book on Hrishikesh Mukherjee all set to release, a film critic and filmmaker uses the occasion to remember Indian cinema’s ‘gentle giant’.

    Cut to a rain-whipped evening. I was just about to hop into an auto rickshaw after a labyrinthine interview, conducted in a room scented with jasmine spray on the coats of a dozen pomeranians, cocker spaniels, and a particularly dour Alsatian.

    “Bocha,” my eminent interviewee called out, as I was about to putter away from his Bandra oceanfront bungalow. The dogs howled in the style of a Led Zeppelin crescendo. And there he was, unfurling a vintage umbrella with a curved teakwood handle. “Take this. Don’t get wet, sardi lag jayega, be cyaareful,” he said with grave concern.

    The way he always would be after a series of Q and A sessions for an, ahem, in-depth director’s profile for Filmfare. Post the next sitting, he handed over a tin of rosogollas, with the request, “Share sweets with the elders, bocha.” He had also tossed me an aged, sepia-paged novel, Edmund Wilson’s Memories of Hecate Country, accompanied by the strict warning, “Read only after getting okay from your parents. It is bohut adult-adult bocha.”

    Bocha? I guess I was a bacha, battling to sprout a gravitas oozing beard. After the next, wrap-up talkathon, he had squinted at the wispy whiskers, “You shave bocha, that looks like fungus,” and wondered. “By the way, have you started on Hecate Country? Parents did not object?”

    “No, they didn’t because they are no more,” I responded. “Oh, I’m sorry, what happened?” I didn’t expand on that. Journalism meant being purely professional, not personal. “Bocha, you don’t want to tell me, theekh hai. Sorry. Can my car drop you to the railway station?” A rick was cool by me.

    There was always a touch of the instinctively intimate about him. So, I’ve little doubt that if Jai Arjun Singh, author of The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, had released the book on September 30, his 93rd birth anniversary, Hrishida would have intoned, “Bocha, why spend so many years writing about me? I don’t deserve it.”

    Criticism, he fielded gracefully, even if I would carp that his representations of women were frequently submissive, his technique staid, the fade-outs pace-slackening, and ‘Sir, why the stock background music?’ He wouldn’t flinch. Alaap was the only film he defended vehemently. “Couldn’t you see,” he complained, “that I had the guts to put a tanpura in the hands of Amitabh Bachchan instead of a gun? My mistake.

    Everyone wants Amit to be angry.” If I’d been strong enough to venture into Hrishiland for a reappraisal, the lengthiest chapter would have been devoted to the first film he directed, Musafir, which I saw at a re-run at the old-worldly Alfred Talkies in Grant Road. Alfred was as empty as a beggar’s bowl, a certified flop it was showing there only because it featured Dilip Kumar in one of its episodes. The story followed tenants who drift in out of the same room in a heartless city.

    An episode with Kishore Kumar exuded humaneness in the tradition of Italy’s neo-realist master Vittorio De Sica. The usually zany Kishore Kumar portrayed an unemployed youth who is believed to have wasted money on a cinema ticket. Er, but wasn’t I doing the same? Wasting money on Musafir instead of a school textbook? The guilt persists. This was all so real, meliked, mesobbed.

    No vendor of daft dreams, he had that gift to solder the credible with wishful thinking: Anari, a Simple Simon romedy with the ever-endearing Raj Kapoor, clicked big-time. There was no stopping the cameraman-editor-turned-director from Kolkata. He could be offbeat, onbeat, he could be terrific … pause … once in a cheesy moon, he could be dreadfully disappointing. For heaven’s sake, what was that Pyar ka Sapna about? A bewigged Mala Sinha romancing the starch stiff Biswajit? Eeesh.

    Every one of us who cherish combo packs of laughter and tears, today has a pick of the best of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Mine: Anand and Mili which extracted buckets of tears (terminal illnesses do, but not with his degree of empathy), Abhimaan (a retread of A Star is Born, with S D Burman’s sublime music) Chupke Chupke (hahahaha), Gol Maal (tee hee), Satyakam (Dharmendra rocked), and Anupama (Sharmila Tagore’s eyes wandering on a book, a killer close-up). Willy-nilly, Hrishida canonised the Medium Wave. Not too daring, not too fiendishly formulaic.

    Over decades, Hrishida amassed honours and responsibilities of the ticklish kind. When he presided over the National Film Development Corporation, parallel cinema’s frontliners weren’t exactly delirious. What does he know of avant-garde cinema, they huffed. To that his take was, “Bocha, please tell Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani that I admire them, they’re rewriting the grammar of filmmaking. But I belong to the old school. I make films with a beginning, middle and ending. Is that a crime?”

    In the eyes of the purists, it was. That didn’t stop a bunch of them, though, from landing up at his home, close to midnight once. “They wanted some money to buy liquor,” he laughed. “I told them, don’t drink rum, drink good whisky. I hope I gave them enough cash.”

    The last time I met Hrishida was at the shoot of Jhooth Bole Kauva Kaate. Irreparable ailments had restricted him to a chair before the video playback. After that bid to remain in the saddle, Hrishida endured constant dialysis check-ups.

    On the exhortation of Jaya Bachchan, I phoned him to ask if I could visit. A weak voice answered, “Yes, of course. I will call you up when I’m feeling better. All fine with you?”

    That call never came. I’ve preserved that umbrella with a curved teakwood handle.

    That umbrella’s no longer usable. So what? It’s as priceless as its donor, the gentle giant of Indian cinema.

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