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Two Scenes I Can Never Forget….

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BY ALI PETER JOHN

There are scenes and scenes to be seen and experienced in life, which makes life interesting…

I was wandering around the Ranjit Studios in Dadar (now defunct) where the superstar Rajesh Khanna was shooting with Jaya Bhaduri and other actors for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Baawarchi”. Jaya who had made it as quite a known star was sometimes accompanied by the man who was in love with her, a jobless actor called Amitabh Bachchan.

On the day I was there, Amitabh had come with Jaya and no one cared to look at the tall and unknown Amitabh, but were all excited about seeing Jaya. They went into Jaya’s makeup room and people started gossiping about them…

Two hours later, the superstar arrived in his own style with a large number of hangers on (better known as chamchaas in the industry) and Jaya and Amitabh came out of the makeup room at the same time.

The superstar had one look at Amitabh and refused to even acknowledge his presence. And when he saw that Jaya was with him, he told Jaya, “Kya yeh lambu aur bekaar admi ke saath zindagi barbaad kar rahi ho? Iska kuch nahi honewala hai.” Amitabh was downcast and Jaya just ignored him, but when the superstar went away into his own room, a very angry Jaya said, “Ek din dekhna woh jo superstar hai woh kahaa hoga aur yeh, (meaning Amitabh) kahaa hoga”. What a prediction it seemed to be from a lover for her beloved! Within years, Rajesh Khanna was out as the superstar and Amitabh Bachchan had replaced him and Rajesh Khanna could never face the shock and could never forget Amitabh Bachchan till the end when he changed his attitude towards Amitabh and when he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award of the IIFA, he kept telling everyone, “Woh award dekh rahe ho. Kisne diya maloom, Amitabh Bachchan ne”

It was another scene from the early days of Amitabh. He had made his talent felt with films like “Saat Hindustani” and “Anand”.

He was very close to the comedian and filmmaker Mehmood and even lived in his bungalow and sometimes wore his clothes. Mehmood’s brother was a very close friend as he had worked with him in ‘Saat Hindustani” and he was the only one who kept encouraging Amitabh.

Mehmood was making “Bombay to Goa” with the well-known director from the South, S. Raamanathan. Mehmood and Raamanathan were finding it difficult to find a hero for the film.

They were standing in the compound of the same Ranjit Studios where producer N. C Sippy who was producer of the film with Mehmood had his office.

Amitabh had become a very good friend of Romu Sippy, the son of N. C Sippy. He happened to reach Ranjit Studios to meet his friend, Romu. He was running up the steps to reach Romu’s office when Raamanathan looked at Mehmood and asked him who the tall man who just passed them was. Mehmood told him he was a struggling actor and a friend of Anwar Ali, his brother. Raamanathan had some strange foresight and he told Mehmood, “Why don’t we try him out as the hero of our film? He will only be the romantic hero opposite Aroona Irani, but you are the one who will carry the entire film on your shoulders”

Mehmood called Amitabh down and introduced him to Raamanathan who everyone called “Sir”. Raamanathan took hardly five minutes to tell Amitabh that he was finalised to be the hero in “Bombay to Goa”. Amitabh’s joy knew no bounds. He asked Raamanathan if he could get his clothes for the film done by Burlington’s from the Taj Mahal Hotel. Raamanathan told him it was not a rich and glossy film but just a travel film from Bombay to Goa. Little did Amitabh know how important doing this film was going to be for him.

Prakash Mehra was making “Zanjeer” and as everyone knows by now, actors like Dev Anand, Raaj Kumar and Dharmendra had refused to even think about the film, the only reason being that the film called “Zanjeer” had no songs for the hero.

The veteran actors, Pran and Om Prakash had seen Amitabh at work and strongly recommended him to Mehra. He had no other choice and so he asked his writers, Salim-Javed to see the film and specially the work of Amitabh. They came back singing the praises of the ” lambu actor” and they were excited with the action scenes of Amitabh with another new comer with a name like Shatrughan Sinha. Mehra went with the opinion of his writers and moreover Amitabh had the complete support of the heroine of the film, who else but the woman who was madly in love with him, Jaya Bhaduri.

The film was released and all the reviews praised Pran and a very few had anything good to say about Amitabh. Incidentally, Amitabh parents were also against his doing a B grade and a stunt film like “Zanjeer”. But the audience had a very different opinion about Amitabh, the new hero. And at 12 noon Amitabh was still a struggling actor, but at 3 pm, he was declared the next superstar, which strangely he still is even after 45 years.

There was a very strong bond built between Amitabh and Raamanathan and they did big films like “Geraftaar”, “Ganga Jamuna Saraswati” produced by Manmohan Desai, “Mahaan” in which Amitabh played his first and only triple role and “Zamaanat” in which Amitabh played an elderly and blind lawyer for the first time. All was well till the shooting was complete, but a problem took birth three days before the release of the film. Another film of Amitabh ” Nishabd” directed by Ram Gopal Varma and with Amitabh and a 21 year old actress called Jiah Khan played the lead characters. There was a clash between “Zamaanat” and “Nishabd”. Amitabh requested Raamanathan who had even issued ads for the release date of his film to postpone his release as he would be making many other films, but it was one big chance for the young girl. Raamanathan accepted Amitabh’s request and Zamaanat has still not been released even after 20 years. Jiah Khan was found hanging from the ceiling fan of her room under mysterious circumstances and Raamanathan who was made promises by Amitabh to get his film released kept visiting Mumbai every week with hope. This routine went on for several months and Raamanathan who was one of the most respected filmmakers in the South and in Mumbai was one morning found dead at his working table in his bungalow, “Amma” in Chennai and “Zamaanat” has still to be bailed out.

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Jaya Bachchan, Veteran Actor, Indian Cinema, Bollywood Megastar

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