In Memorium As A Producer, I Would Like The Best Because A Film Is My Baby”- Rajendra Kumar
To commemorate Rajendra Kumar’s death anniversary which falls today on 12th July 2019, we reproduce this rare interview by JYOTHI VENKATESH which appeared in the now defunct daily THE DAILY issue dated August 15, 1993, almost 26 years ago. Had he been alive, he would have been 91 now
He was virtually the silver jubilee prince among the actors who ruled the rostrum in the 60’s when every picture starring him fetched handsome returns to the distributors who thronged to buy a Rajendra Kumar film at any cost. Luck, however has not been kind to him ever since he turned producer. Because with the exception of Love Story, his maiden attempt as a producer and Naam, every other film of his turned turtle at the box office. Like Lovers, Jurrat etc.
Rajendra Kumar is now back with a big bang with his romantic social Phool directed by that gifted director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao who has to his credit, masterpieces like Pushpak, Appu Raja, Michael Madana Kamarajan and Mayuri. I spoke to Rajendra Kumar recently over a few glasses of his favorite scotch whisky Black Label in spite of his reputation as a kanjoos, on his salad days as an actor, his production plans, his son Bunty’s (Kumar Gaurav) career graph and his plans to take up direction shortly.
ON THE VARIOUS DIRECTORS WITH WHOM HE HAS WORKED TILL DATE:
There is a charge against me that I change my director every time I decide to make a new film. I have not repeated Rahul Rawail after I made the film Love Story with him, Mahesh Bhatt after Naam or David Dhawan after Jurrat. This is because I believe in providing the audience with something which is new, whether it is the content or for that matter the director, every time. I have always given a chance to any one whom I find is capable. I saw the film Pushpaka Vimanam in Kannada and liked it. I not only dubbed it in Hindi as Pushpak and released it but also asked Singeetham Srinivasa Rao who directed it to direct the film Phool for me, with my son Kumar Gaurav and Madhuri Dixit in the lead in it.
ON WHY HE CHOSE MAHESH BHATT TO DIRECT BUNTY IN PHOOL:
Mahesh Bhatt wasn’t as big a name then as he is today when I set out to make Naam with him as the director. Bunty had recommended him to me. I did not even know him personally. Sanju had come after treatment abroad and other producers were not taking him seriously. I decided to cast Sanju and Bunty together because they were great friends and suited the roles. Mahesh told me that NAAM will be a small film but ultimately it did end up as a big film. Making Naam was altogether a different trip. Mahesh Bhatt wasn’t busy at all. After his spilt with Javed Akhtar, Salim Khan was writing for the first time for me and Mahesh and I were eating and drinking together for eight hours every day. Very few in the industry have the human feel which Mahesh has. Mahesh knows how to extract work from his artistes.
ON HIS DIRECTOR SINGEETHAM SRINIVASA RAO:
He is a humble, nice man who has no tantrums, no complex and also no hang-ups. He is a very hard working guy. He is the type who will eat any kind of food and live in any kind of place and yet and yet be very comfortable. He has done a wonderful job in Phool.
ON SON KUMAR GAURAV aka BUNTY’S CAREER
I have till date, never interfered with Bunty’s career. Believe me, I never even knew what money is he charging per film. Bunty made his own mistakes and has learnt how to conduct his career the hard way. You will see a different Bunty in Phool. As a producer, I have always liked his performance. The tragedy with my son Bunty is that all his bad films have been released whereas Muththi Bar Zameen in which he has given a brilliant performance is yet to be released. I even offered to complete the film when the producer had some financial hassles but he did not take up the offer. I did not make Romance or All Rounder for Bunty. Big names like Ramanand Sagar and Mohan Kumar made those films. No actor makes a film. It is the filmmaker who makes a film.
ON MADHURI DIXIT
I signed Madhuri Dixit on for Naraaz. I liked her, when I saw her for the first time at the premiere of Karma at New Excelsior. I asked Salim Khan who she was. Even Salim did not know who she was then. I sent for her immediately. She is the most professional actress I have ever seen. No nakhras at all for her. Even her parents are without hang-ups. Because of FMC, she had to stop shooting for her new commitments and devote time to her old films at one stage when I was making Phool. What is amusing to note is the fact that some of these films are yet to be completed while Phool is now being readied for an early release.
ON ACTING IN FILMS
Filmmaking by itself is a time consuming business. If I do not give time and devotion, it is akin to cheating my producers. I have worked in Love Story and have worked in Phool now because there were roles which really needed me. I did a special appearance in Phool as a Catholic priest. I make it a point to never force myself in films unless it is justified. I am open to good offers but I am not desperate. I am happy as I am.
ON WHY HE WANTED TO MAKE A FILM LIKE PHOOL
All that I can say about the film is that it is a clean family social and a love story with a difference. When director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao narrated to me a story line of his own creation, I liked it and decided to make the film. Simplicity, basic traditional values and culture projected in the story attracted me to make Phool. It is very interesting to note that after K. Asif had made a film with the title Phool, way back in 1943, no one has made a film with a similar title though several films have come with titles like Phool Aur Paththar, Paththar Ke Phool, Phool Aur Angaar, Phool Aur Kaante etc.
ON BEING CALLED A KANJOOS
Contrary to the popular notion among the people in the film industry that I am a kanjoos, the fact is that I am not a kanjoos at all; I spend constructively. I do not waste money. Till date I have shot without budget because when I make a film, I do not want to be bogged down with any kind of financial constraints. I went out three times to select the locations for Phool with cameraman Gowrishankar. I spent about 18 lakhs just to picturize the song number Saal ke Barah Mahine.I shot the song in 13 shifts. Against my wife’s wishes, I, even let Singeetham Srinivasa Rao shoot at my bungalow in Bandra.
ON TAKING UP DIRECTON
I have been part of this line for the past 35 years. From 1950 to 1954, I had assisted Rahul Rawail’s father H S Rawail as an assistant director in as many as 6 films- Patanga, Sagaai, Saaki, Shagufa, Lehren (with Kishore Kumar) and Teerandaz (with Madhubala and Ajit). When Rawail Saab started Roop Ki Ran8i Choron Ka Raja in the 60’s with Dev Anand, I left him. I have always believed that filmmaking is definitely a full time job. I certainly do have an ambition to direct a film. To tell you the truth, I wanted to direct Love Story myself. The reason that I did not direct the film myself is that my son Bunty is not an extrovert and hence I even thought that he may not open up as an actor in front of his own father as the director.
ON HIS INTERFERENCE
I do not at all interfere with the director’s work. I do not even peep through the camera or for that matter; suggest a shot to the director, though I do admit I suggest a scene. Because a film is my baby and I, as a producer I would like the best. My director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao had once commented that on the sets I was as good as his own second assistant.
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