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A Witness To The Rise Of “Mr India” And What Is Happening To The Same Mr India Today!!!

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Ali Peter John

I have been living very close to the Versova beach in Mumbai for the last 48 years and have been a witness to rapid changes that have come over the area which was once only known as an ancient village of the fisherman of Mumbai and where a BEST bus used to ply once in an hour and where taxi drivers refused to take passengers after 9:00 p.m. for fear of facing thieves, smugglers and bootleggers, where policemen was only visible once in a way and where justice was done on the spot. The only film people who lived in and around the area were the well-known actor Premnath, who had his holiday home which he visited every Saturday and Sunday and was said to have orgies, struggling filmmakers like BR Chopra, Gulzar, Sagar Sarhadi and theatre personalities who lived in shanties and the only two men who had homes of their own were Jawahar Kaul, who was a popular hero who had done films with heroines like Vyjayanthimala and a choreographer called Sohanlal and they were later joined by the gorgeous actress, Geeta Bali who after making quite a name for herself and marrying Shammi Kapoor died of smallpox at a very young age and history continued and today Versova and all the surrounding areas have taken over from posh areas like Malabar Hill, Pali Hill, Juhu with almost three fourths of the celebrities of the film industry living in posh bungalows and luxurious multi storeyed buildings in dream apartments of their own. I leave the rest of the story of the rise and rise of Versova to all kinds of historians who have come up in every corner of Mumbai….

Some time in the early eighties, I walked out of my house and reached the main road facing the sea and was surprised to see a number of people working on some kind of a structure facing the sea, somewhere near the age-old Muslim kabrastan and the place where Sajid Nadiadwala’s Empire now stands, with the Versova fisherman’s village standing just a kilometre away. I knew from experience that it was a set being built for a film and on making enquiries found out that a film called “Mr India” was going to be shot there for the next few months.

As I kept going and coming to office, I found out more details.“Mr India” was to be a film produced by Boney Kapoor who had established himself after producing films like “Hum Paanch” which was like some kind of a mini precursor to all the multi-starrers which were to come and during the making of which, Anil Kapoor, Boney’s  younger brother was only a glorified junior production assistant whose job it was to keep the stars and the journalists and the large number of guests who attended the shooting in a village called Melkote in the Mandya district of Bangalore. Incidentally, it was during the shooting of “Hum Paanch” that the well known director of the south, Bapu who was directing “Hum Paanch” saw the making of a hero in Anil and asked Boney to give him a break, but not before he himself signed him to play the Hero in a Kannada film. “Hum Paanch” was a very big hit. Boney kept his promise made to Bapu and Bapu directed Anil in “Woh Saath Din”, which led Anil on his journey to stardom.

The excitement at Versova continued to grow. Shekhar Kapur who had made a name as a director after “Masoom” was to direct “Mr India” which was said to be a futuristic film based on a script by the writers with a magic touch, Salim-Javed. It had a very interesting star cast with Anil Kapoor in title role, who had to wear just one costume throughout the film, which was something a hero did for the first time. Sridevi who was still to get accustomed to the way the films were made in Bombay was to play a glamorous journalist with a mind and with a funny bone and a magician in the art of dancing some of the most sensuous dances without looking vulgar even for a moment was play Anil’s heroine and the biggest surprise was Amrish Puri who was the ultimate choice to play the kind of villain never seen in Hindi films before, Mogambo who was to zoom Amrish Puri to superstardom and become an icon. The others who played the vital roles were Satish Kaushik, who was also Shekhar Kapoor’s chief assistant director, like he was in “Masoom”, Annu Kapoor who had a small role as the bumbling editor of Sridevi, Ajit Vachani, Bob Christo and a number of other small time villains. The highlight of the film were the special effects since it was the story of a man who could grow invisible and then turn visible again at any time under any circumstances and the impact it ultimately made left an entire generation of film goers in a state of disbelief, which was one of the reasons why the film turned out to be a cult film and still is even after 33 years.

There have been so many changes since the film was released in May 1987. Sridevi reached the Pinnacle of her success, then married Boney Kapoor, had two daughters, Jhanvi and Khushi, took a long break, made a grand comeback with “English vinglish” and then suddenly died under mysterious circumstances leaving many questions unanswered. Amrish Puri went on to become one of the greatest villains ever tell his own success scared him and he one day fell a victim to a mysterious ailment and died two days later. Shekhar Kapoor tried making another film of the same genre called “Time Machine” with Aamir Khan, Raveena Tandon and Amrish Puri. The film was shot off and on thrice and was finally shelved. He tried making two other films which also didn’t go beyond the launching stages. Boney Kapoor was so carried away by his experiences with working with Shekhar that he asked him to direct “Prem” to launch his younger brother Sanjay Kapoor and Tabu and another big film called “Roop Ki Rani Choro Ka Raja” with Anil, Sridevi, Jackie Shroff and Anupam Kher.“Prem” took time to make and one fine day Shekhar Kapoor just gave up directing both the films and left to join channel 4 to direct a controversial “Bandit Queen” based on the wildlife and times of the dacoit queen Phoolan Devi, which brought him international recognition and he followed it with another big film called “Elizabeth” entirely shot in the UK. He was ranked among the 10 top directors in the UK, but it is difficult to say what went wrong, but he was back in India trying to make a film called “Pani”, which he has still not been able to make. He has started some kind of a big-time buisness in the digital world. He also had the time to direct the music album for his only daughter Kaveri Kapur.

Another major highlight were all the children who were born natural actors and Shekhar had the great knack of handling child actors like he had previously proved in his first film, “Masoom”, which gave the industry full-fledged actors like Urmila Matondkar and Jugal Hansraj.“Mr India” saw child artist like Ahmed Khan go into a leading choreographer and a director, Karan Nath into a not so successful Hero (he was recently seen in his family production, “Guns of Banaras”) and Kunal Khemu who has been the brightest off the lot.

And another good thing about the film was the music of the unusual combination between the team of Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Javed Akhtar.

Two big splits have taken place ever since “Mr India”. The film happened to be the last film written by Salim-Javed, after which they went their own ways and have not even thought of trying to come together again. They only time they came together was when Sumit Mehra, the son of Prakash Mehra tried to re-make  “Zanjeer” and they together charged him such a staggering amount that he and his project both crumbled and to add to his misery the film was also a disaster from which he has not been able to recover and the industry cried out in one voice saying, “yahan sab kamine hai, yahan koi kisi Ka nahin hota Hai, yahan girte hue ko koi koi Sahara nahin deta hai, Aur girata Hai.”….

And now 33 years later, I am still where I was, but the world around me has changed, India has changed and every value who is facing a grave threat…. And to keep with the changing values, there is a huge move to re-make the iconic “Mr India”. The successful (?) Director Ali Abbas Zafar, who has made films like “Sultan”, “Tiger Zinda Hai” and “Bharat” has sold his idea of making “Mr India” into a trilogy to Zee studios after getting the rights from Boney Kapoor. But Shekhar Kapur is screaming for and says that they cannot make the film without consulting him and has even move the court over the matter. In fact, mamla itna gadbad Hai that even Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, the daughter of Mr India (Anil Kapoor) who has found her voice these days and has even used it against the CAA NPR and NRC has raised her voice in favour of her father, Anil Kapoor who he says should have been consulted about his most important film being remade, but had no idea about anything like that happening till he saw it happening in the media.

Aage kya hoga? Aajkal khuda Bhi Na Jane?

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Mr India