A Man Of God, In A World Of Films, By Chance?
Ali Peter John
He made some of the best known films for more than forty years, but he was a man who was known spiritual than materialistic. He seemed like a misfit in the world of films, but he also was totally and passionately in love and dedicated to the making of films, films which had sense and meaning besides the entertainment they provided. He had some spiritual message and some scenes and a song or two which was either entirely religious or partly religious. His songs sung in honour of Maa Sherawali (Vaishno Devi) have become part of the religious practices followed in holy places and homes regularly. He was always a man who talked about God and religion more than he talked about films and sometimes even mingled the two in his regular conversations and dealings. In fact, when he retired from active filmmaking, he would often be found on the sands of the Juhu Beach early in the morning, preaching to a group of regular followers who found his discourses far more superior and better inclined towards all that was godly and divine than the teachings of other gurus, seers and pontiffs and pandits and pundits. He continued to be a religious man till he seriously fell sick and was unable to do anything, but in the other hand, I could see how dedicated he was to films when he was almost in a state of nowhereness, but made it a point to attend office with his son-in-law Rakesh Roshan and sat in office till he was taken home. He was very sick during the last few months of his life and finally walked into the arms of eternity on the morning of August 6. One more Titan of the industry had fallen and gone away, only to be remembered forever.
‘J. Omji’ as he was known in the industry is said to have started his career as a part of the set-up of the production house of Mohan Segal where the late Mohan Kumar who also was related to him later and who died just some months ago also worked. The two men were educated, enthusiastic and ambitious. It was these qualities that made them start their own banners, Mohan Kumar with Emkay Films and ‘Omji’ with ‘Filmyug’ and both the banners literally flew high for the next forty years.
‘Omji’s’ religious leanings could be seen even in the way he started the titles of all his films with the alphabet ‘A’. He started as a producer with “Aas Ka Panchi” in 1961 and then kept producing films like “Ayee Milan Ki Bela”, “Aaye Din Bahar Ke”, “Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke”, “Aankhon Aankhon Mein”(with his son-in-law, Rakesh Roshan as the leading man).
He felt the confidence of directing his own film and made a very superior commercial film with his very first attempt with Rajesh Khanna, the then ruling superstar as the hero and Mumtaz who made a hit team with Rajesh Khanna in his film, “Aap Ki Kasam”. The film with suspicion in a marriage being the focal point was a superhit with some great performances by Khanna, Mumtaz and Sanjeev Kumar in a guest appearance.
The success of “Aap Ki Kasam” made him direct other films like “Aakraman”,“Apnapan”,“Aashiq Hoon Baharon Ka “, “Aasha”,“Aas Paas”,“Apna Bana Lo”, “Arpan”,“Aakhir Kyon? “,“ Aap Ke Saath” ,“Agnee”, “Aadmi Aur Apsara”,“Ajeeb Dastaan Hai”,“ Aadmi Khilona Hai” and “Afsana Dilwalon Ka”.
He made films with some of the biggest stars like Dharmendra, Asha Parekh, Rajendra Kumar, Saira Banu, Rajesh Khanna (two films, “Aap Ki Kasam” and “Aakhir Kyun?”), Jeetendra with whom he made the maximum number of films, Reena Roy with whom he made her best film, “Aasha”, Smita Patil and Tina Munim (“Aakhir Kyun?”), Rakesh Roshan, Sanjeev Kumar and right up to Rahul Roy in what was to be his last film as a filmmaker.
‘Omji’ made some exceptional films like “Aandhi” which he was humble enough to say he couldn’t direct himself and asked Gulzar who had written the script to direct the film which was roughly based on the life of the ex Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi and made with the legendary actress from Bengal, Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar. “Aandhi”got into a storm with the censors, but like a good producer, ‘Omji’ stood by his director, Gulzar till “Aandhi” was out of the storm and is now considered one of the best politically oriented films in India. He also directed an unlikely for him subject like “Bhagwan Dada” with Rajnikant in the title role. It was the first film in which the very young and handsome Hrithik Roshan should his interest in films by being the junior most assistant and I had several occasions to see Duggu push the trolley and carry messages to Rajnikant and even get a firing from ‘Omji’ whose grandson he was (Rakesh Roshan was married to Pinky, the adopted daughter of ‘Omji’, he had no children of his own).
‘Omji’ was a filmmaker who had a command over all the elements that went into the making of a good film which was also successful and that is the reason why most of his films were not only successful at the box-office, but were applauded by one and all.
He was a man who strongly believed in getting the industry the status of an industry and he worked towards his goals the best when he was the president of the Film Federation of India.
He was one of the most respected filmmakers in the industry and even among the powers that be in Delhi.
But more than anything else, he was a family man to the core. He encouraged Rakesh Roshan to first become a producer and then kept inspiring him to take on the reins as a director and Rakesh has always considered him his Guru and their respect for each other was mutual. They had their offices in the same building in Santa Cruz and now towards the end of his life in Commerce Centre in Oshiwara. Some of the leading filmmakers were his admirers as a man,a filmmaker and a leader.
The man who besides being a man of God and a man for the making of movies was also one-man who had so many other men in him which were active all the time, till they could not be active because the man himself had moved out of the orbit of the living and joined the supernatural power which had such a strong hold on him and his life….
ZINDAGI KE SAFAR MEIN JO GUZAR JAATE HAIN MAKAAM, WOH PHIR NAHI AATE, WAS THE MOST POPULAR SONG OF “AAP KI KASAM”. BUT ‘OMJI’ WAS A MAKAAM (LANDMARK OR MILESTONE) WILL KEEP COMING BACK AS LONG AS HIS FILMS ARE ALIVE AND HIS SON-IN-LAW AND GRANDSON, HRITHIK KEEP HIS VALUES ALIVE.
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