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Padma Vibhushan, Hrishikesh Mukherjee The Messiah Of The The Middle Class

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Ali Peter John

I challenge God who is the creator and any great mind of today which works modern day miracles to create another Hrishikesh Mukherjee. I spent some of the best years of my life watching Hrishida as he was better known, but I swear that I could never understand how the great man’s mind and heart worked. I challenge any of the best filmmakers of today to make forty-two films in forty years and without compromising on content or quality. I can go on challenging people to do what Hrishida did, but what’s the use of challenging people at a time when people are not in a condition to accept challenges and be at least an nth of what Hrishida was….

I will give you a list of the films he made and the stars he worked with, from Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand down to Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Amol Palekar and from Nutan, Sadhana and Sharmila Tagore to Bindiya Goswami, Juhi Chawla and Zeenat Aman and many more. And you can imagine what a great gift he was to Indian cinema.

I had my own loving encounters with him, I say loving because he was love and care personified. He called everyone ‘beta’ and I too had the privilege of being his ‘beta’.I used to see him regularly at the Mohan Studios where his mentor, Bimal Roy,Nabhendu Ghosh, Moni Bhattacharya and other similar kind of thinking directors had their offices in little rooms which could be blown away by any storm, mild or strong. He was always dressed in a loose pyjama and a kurta and chappals on his feet. He was very much a part of the industry and so much out of it and yet he made some of the most outstanding and memorable films.

My first serious meeting with him was when I had the responsibility of approaching him to be on the jury of the ‘Screen’ awards. He was one of the busiest directors and the head of government institutions like the Central Board of Film Certification and other boards, but it took him less than two minutes to say yes to my request and then unlike many other members of the jury, he attended every screening and every meeting associated with the awards. I knew how he performed as the Chairperson of the CBFC. He was unlike most Chairpersons before him a very understanding and very helpful Chairperson. Very few or no films were banned or even cut drastically during his tenure. If there was a film that flouted the guidelines of the CBFC, he offered to help those filmmakers by asking them to submit their films to him on a personal level and he would edit and put the film in shape to be passed by the censors.

He had worked with every big star and had even created his own stars, but he could deal with them like a father dealt with his children, as a result of which he got some of the finest performances. I can go on and on about the miracle man and messiah who created a new trend in filmmaking by making films about the problems and issues faced by the middle class, generally. There have been many other makers who have tried to imitate or follow him, but little did they know that a Hrishikesh Mukherjee had come only once and would never come again. He only had friends and admirers in an industry where making enemies and having rivals was a way of life. There can be so many books written about his films, one book for all the forty-two films he made, but who cares for the greatest minds in this industry where pygmies have ruled most of the time?

I hated the industry when this same man had to face innumerable problems towards the end of his career. Stars who were not even born when he was at the peak of his career gave him trouble by disrespecting time and all that he stood for. In one of his last films, he was so disgusted with the stars that he decided never to direct a film again and took to directing TV-serials. To add insult to injury, he was once called by a corporate company to discuss the chances of making a film. He had to approach the receptionist counter and give her his name and the purpose of his visit and the man who was always a follower of rules and discipline did what he was told to do. The girl shattered him and even amused him when she asked, “Hrishikesh who?”and asked him to sit on one of the sofas in the foyer and he finally lost his cool and quietly walked out of the corporate office. He never tried to approach any of the growing corporate houses again…

He soon fell sick and was diagnosed for renal failure for which he had to visit the Lilavati Hospital every alternate day. He had sold off his bungalow in Union Park which had any number of dogs and and very few humans. I saw it as a reaction to the behaviour of human beings and how he must have felt that dogs were more faithful and deserved to be looked after and loved more than human beings. He shifted to an apartment in a building called ‘Anupama'(the name of one of his more popular films).

His problems with renal failure kept growing worse and he had lost interest in making films and did not even look or react at all the major awards he had received during his lifetime. I remember how Sunil Dutt asked me to accompany him to pay a visit while he was alive still in a bed which to my stupid mind looked like a coffin made for him even before he could die. During that meeting, he went into a round of nostalgia and remembered all the stars he had walked with and how he had handled them like spoilt brats. After Dutt Sahab left, he made a request to me. His son, Sandeep Mukherjee who had directed just one film had suddenly died at a railway station after a massive asthmatic attack. Hrishida said his son had left some forty thousand rupees and he wanted me to use it for myself and when I staunchly refused to, he asked me if I could donate the money to some charitable cause. I told him that I would come again….

I went to his house one morning and no one was opening the door for me. I didn’t know whether I should have got angry or try and understand and went away to office.The next morning, he called me to say sorry because he said the time I had come was the time when he was in excruciating pain and he didn’t want me to see him in that condition. A week later, I recieved a call from the woman who was taking care of him and who had come to know about all closeness who told me that it was all over. Hrishida had bid farewell to the world of films and the world.

Will there be another Hrishida? If you are a part of the industry and if you know anything about him, please go home and ask yourself for the answer when you are all alone in your room.

SOME OF THE FILMS HE MADE–“Musafir”, “Anari”,“Anuradha” ,“Chhaya”,“Asli-Naqli”,“Aashiq”,“SaanjhAurSavera”,“Anupama”,“Gaban”,“MajhliDidi”,“Aashirwad”,“Satyakam”,“Pyar Ka Sapna”,“Guddi”,“Bawarchi”,“Abhimaan”,“Namak Haraam”,“Chupke Chupke”, “Mili”,“Chaitali”, “Alaap”,“Gol Maal”, “Khubsoorat”,“Naram Garam”,“Rang Birangi “,“Kissise Na Kehna” and “Achha Bura”

And as for the actors, from Ashok Kumar to Zeenat Aman, he had made all of them know what acting really was and that was the reason why every actor wanted to work with him. In fact, Amitabh and Jaya had even given him blank letters with their signatures, giving him the well-deserved right to direct any film with them as a team.

Can you feel your head going into a whirl? It has to, because if it doesn’t, you will have to do a checkup to know if you are still human. Do we need a Hrishikesh Mukherjee now? If we have to save ourselves and our cinema from falling into rotten gutters of nonsense and stupidity going into our films, we certainly do, but where will we find another Hrishida???

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Hrishida, Death Anniversary, Amitabh Bacchan, Jaya Bacchan, Rajesh Khanna