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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.

The film industry is motive- oriented

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VINOD MEHRA tells JYOTHI VENKATESH

Today it is Vinod Mehra’s 30th death anniversary as he died on 30th October 1990. To commemorate the late actor’s 30th death anniversary, we reproduce this interview exclusively for bollyy.com and Mayapuri readers with VINOD MEHRA by JYOTHI VENKATESH which appeared 41 years ago in the now defunct monthly PICTURPOST issue dt June 1979)

Meeting and talking with Vinod Mehra is a rare pleasurable experience which one can cherish for a long time to come. Vinod Mehra is perhaps the most unassuming filmi guy I have ever come across.

VINOD MEHRA

He makes friends with you the minute you are introduced to him. In an industry which abounds with people who turn snooty the day their first film is released, it is indeed refreshing to note that there are quite a few normal persons like Vinod. As Vinod himself puts it, he has no starry airs about him, only because “I can act only when the camera is on and hence I am very natural off the screen.”

Vinod is a mamma’s son. No wonder he loves his mother dearly, more than any other person on earth. He does not smoke in front of his mother. Nor does he have booze sessions at his place, like some of the other stars, out of respect for his mother. The Sunday I tracked down Vinod for this interview at his Pali Hill residence, Vinod lay sprawled on the carpet amidst a lot of cassettes. He was transferring a bhajan from a friend’s cassette to his stereophonic equipment, because his mother was very fond of that particular bhajan.

VINOD MEHRA

According to Vinod, he had never struggled for roles in the real sense of the term, as a raw newcomer. This, in spite of the fact that he did not come out of the portals of the Pune Film Institute, like some of his contemporaries. “I am a self-made actor”, is Vinod’s favorite quip. The number of films that he has turned down actually amounts to more than the number of assignments that he has bagged till date.

“Today unfortunately, though I am self made, unlike some of the struggling newcomers from the Institute, I have not yet become a major force to be reckoned with by the industry. For the last three years, I have been restricting the number of films that I agree to sign. At any time, I don’t keep more than 15 films on the floors.”

Some of the important films of Vinod on the floors at the moment are Sansani, Khoon Kharaba and Dial 100 opposite Bindiya, Dushmani Yaar Ki, Premika opposite Usha Solanki, and Aahat opposite Jaya Bhaduri, Jaani Dushman and Kartavya with Rekha and Dharmendra.

“You are as important as the number of assignments you have on hand. Today if you do not have more than 20 films on hand you are not a busy artiste and dubbed as no good. That is the reason, I have neither become extremely choosy nor gone on a wild spree of signing films left, right and center.”

Vinod confessed to me that often he got the feeling that he was a step ahead of his contemporaries in the industry in the sense he was ahead of the time. “When I did stunt films like Elaan opposite Rekha and Parde Ke Peechey opposite Yogeeta Bali, stunt films was deemed to be untouchable even with a pair of tongs and the social was the in thing of the day.”

“My films suffered as a result but thanks to Shakti Samanta, I made my bow in Amar Prem, which convinced the audience that I could be equally effective in social set ups too. But unfortunately or me, when Amar Prem was released, the tables had turned and stunt films were being made in large numbers while the socials had become taboo from the point of view of the box office.”

To date, Vinod has acted in about 50 films, since he made his debut with Ek Thi Reeta opposite Tanuja in 1971. His experience of eight years in the industry has taught him how motive- oriented the industry and its inhabitants can be. “The moment my film is a hit, my producers go in for a bigger star- cast and set- up with the profits they get because of me, completely forgetting all about my existence. That’s the industry for you. I have learnt to put up with it. Everyone is interested in furthering his or her own career, you see, nobody can live on ideals alone, like love and fresh air. The whole thing is that ke bhaiya sab se bada rupaiyya.”

Vinod staunchly believes in luck and destiny. “Along with me, Sameer Khan and Ratan Chopra were the other two finalists in the United Producers’ talent Contest. Ratan was chosen finally and Sameer and I rejected outright. Today, tell me where is Ratan? His Mom Ki Gudiya flopped and unfortunately Ratan is nowhere in the picture.

If Roop K. Shorey had not spotted me at the Gaylords and offered me the Ek Thi Reeta role, I may have remained the marketing executive at the Goldfield Mercantile Company, where I was employed at the time I had made my debut in films. I tell you I had not at all planned a career in films. It was only at the instance of Babu, Moushumi’s husband that I agreed to appear at the United Producer’s Talent Contest.”

Sunday, at Vinod’s pad in his bungalow can never be quiet and peaceful. Visitors troop in one by one. And Vinod does not mind a wee bit, for he looks forward to meeting his friends after working round the clock for a week. “I do not work on Sundays normally.” But then he has to relax his regulations and work one Sunday or two for directors who press him. At home, Vinod sports a colorful lungi and just relaxes with a book on his diwan.

While this interview was on, B.R. Ishara dropped in to discuss with him the story of his next venture. After Babuda left, Vinod tells me that for people like Babuda, he has no qualms to work for less than his usual price, because “basically Babuda is a creator”. Director S. Ramanathan also dropped in to say hello and discuss business. For, he is one of the partners of Vinod’s estate in Bangalore, where Vinod grows fruits and vegetables, besides rice.

Vinod Mehra is interested in wielding the megaphone when the right time strikes. “To take up direction, I should be in either of the two extremes. Either no good as an actor and hence trying to regain my fame by resorting to direction or tired of working as an actor in more than a hundred films and hence venturing into direction.”

Surprisingly Vinod is against the multi star trend in filmmaking since Sholay hit the scene. “The fact that Sholay succeeded in no guarantee to the fact that every other multi star film is going to be a hit. The trend is bound to fail and lead to flops miserably. The completion of the various films under production is bound to pose a big problem, what with the dates of one star clashing with that of the other.

Besides, tell me how many times the audience can go on seeing the same few faces on the screen in every other film? As a result of this craze for casting more than one star in big films, the story is now getting made- to -order to fit in the stars and their images. It is like cutting your body in order to squeeze it inside your coat.

The producers alone are to be blamed for this state of affairs today. They have gone hysterical about the trend, even though the fact remains that multi stars is not a big necessity in films.”