Vidur’s Film Diary-June 2009

2I am starting my June film diary with a sad note.So many big luminaries, whose contribution enriched our industry, left us for their last journey. They were hugely successful and they have left indelible imprints on the sand dunes of time.

ISMAIL MERCHANT comes to my mind first.He died four years ago, and May 25th was his death anniversary. I vividly remember him, when I met him for the first and I didn’t know then, for the last time. I was training his sister’s son and was very curious to know about Ismail Merchant. While studying in Allahabad, I went to watch ” HOUSEHOLDER “ and I was amazed that a film could be made and released worldwide with an Indian starcast and moreover an Indian could produce a film in HOLLYWOOD. One day his nephew told me that his mama has come from L.A. and if I wish ,I could meet him. I sprinted to his apartment, which was in the same building. I was ushered in and there he was sitting on a couch. He welcomed me in chaste Urdu and frankly speaking, I got shock of my life.I never expected that the first genuine Indian export to Hollywood would be knowing Urdu or any Indian language. He was very articulate and sophisticated. I am still in awe. Though, busy with the pre-production work of his forthcoming film, ” THE WHITE COUNTESS “ , he was kind enough to give me enough time. We chatted for an hour and then I took his leave. Little did I realize that this is going to be the first and last meeting with him. He went to shanghai for the filming of his film ‘” THE WHITE COUNTESS ” . I finished training of his nephew and  after that one day I got the news of his demise. MERCHANT IVORY PRODUCTIONS is lifeless without it’s soul.  I shall always cherish his memory and shall always be thankful to God that I could meet the legend once. I still possess the script of ” THE WHITE COUNTESS “. It is priceless for me now.

IRFAN HABEEB is another giant, who left us last month. During my ALLAHABAD UNIVERSITY days, I read his play “AGARA BAZAR “. Later on I heard about his theatre group and his various experiments with the medium. I came to know about his CHHATISGARHI plays also, but I could never meet him. When I shifted base to Mumbai I got a chance to meet him. PRITHVI THEATRE was organizing a retrospective of his plays. I went to watch his play  ” ZEHREELI HAWA “ and to tell the truth,I was awestruck. At the curtain call the legend himself came on the stage and I could watch him in flesh and blood. He was so simple and yet a gigantic figure. Much was written about him after his death but one fact was missing everywhere, that he worked in Subhas Ghai’s ” BLACK AND WHITE “ and that is his last screen appearance. Al Vida HABEEB SAHEB, it was my luck to meet you once . It’s memory will always be there.

PRAKASH MEHRA is too prominent a figure to be missed. Every aspect of his life is well chronicled, so there is nothing for me to say. Everyone knows how and when he changed AMITABH BACHCHAN’S life. In 1968,  I was studying in ALLAHABAD UNIVERSITY, when I watched a film called ” HASEENA MAAN JAYEGI “. It had Shashi Kapoor in double role. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and forgot about the debutant director. ” HAATH KI SAFAI ” and ” MELA ” were some other memorable films, which I watched without caring to know about the dirctor. It all changed when a film called ” ZANJEER ” was released in 1973.  His son was my student for a brief period and he went to U.S.A. without completing the training. So I lost touch. In December 2008 I saw Prakash ji in ” The Club “. He was frail and he could barely walk. I was saddened to see Prakash ji, walking with help of his personal assistant and that to with great difficulty. I still shudder at the cruelty of life. With his demise an era ends.

USTAD ALI AKBAR KHAN is another titan, who left us for his heavenly abode last month. Among all the above mentioned people, he is is the only one , whom I could not meet in person. But as a connoisseur of Indian Classical Music, I  could say that I know him through his work. He gave music for  ” HOUSEHOLDER” , a film which I have mentioned in this blog only. A ” MERCHANT IVORY PRODUCTIONS ” film, which I watched in Allahabad. He gave music for CHETAN ANAND’S  first film       ” AANDHIYAN “, SATYAJIT RAY’S  film ” DEVI “ and BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI’S  film ” LITTLE BUDDHA “. What a terrific profile and what a terrible loss indeed.

PADMA awards were conferred on various film personalities this year too. Yesteryear’s songstress SHAMSHAD BEGAM was honoured with PADMA BHUSHAN, and actors AISHWARYA RAI BACHCHAN, AKSHAY KUMAR and singer KUMAR SANU were honoured with PADMA SHRI. Congratulations !

TOCHI RAINNA and TOSHI SABRI, these two innocuous names created a history of sorts in May, but I forgot to mention this case in my May Diary. It is too bizarre to be missed , so I am writing about this now. William Shakespeare said, what’s in a name? In this case problem lies in the name only. TOCHI RAINNA sang hugely popular O Pardesi song in Dev D and he was standing on the threshold of a certain stardom. At the same time TOSHI SABRI, another singer whose voice is similar to TOCHI, surfaced on the horizon and sang an equally popular number Maahi in the film  ” Raaz 2 “. The problem erupted when TOSHI SABRI was wrongly given credit for  the songs of TOCHI RAINNA in a website. Subsequently all the event organizers started contacting TOSHI SABRI for the live shows and musical events. Over 50 events intended for TOCHI, eventually went to TOSHI and poor TOCHI RAINNA suffered in silence and finally landed up in a hospital. TOCHI’S mother died of cancer last year and his brother is suffering from TB. Poor TOCHI RAINNA !

Finally, it seems happy days are back for the film industry. Strike ended and though ”  Kal Kisne Dekha ”  and ” Paying Guest ” tanked, Yash Raj Films ” NEW YORK “ brought cheers to everyone’s faces. It opened to good response and almost 90 % occupancy. ” KAMBAKKHT ISHQ “ also opened to bumper opening ever, bringing cheers everywhere.

For the connoisseurs of music,  legendary composer MADAN MOHAN’S unused and unheard compositions were released by Yash Raj Music. In ” VEER ZAARA “ his tunes were used by the same banner and now they are coming with 15 songs composed by the late maestro in an album titled  “TERE BAGAIR “. A rare bonanza for the connoisseurs.

I started this month’s diary with a sad note. I have no options but I am ending it also  with a sad and distressing note. SHINEY AHUJA is currently in prison. He was never a shinning example for his behaviour, but being jailed for raping his maid is not tolerable. The law of the land should be allowed to take it’s own course. If proven guilty, he should be punished. He brought disrespect to the industry. I was approached by MR. SUDHIR MISHRA to train him for ‘ KHOYA KHOYA CHAND”. I went to meet him in his, now infamous, flat. We both can not agree on a suitable time. That time I felt as if I am being deprived of an opportunity, now I feel I was saved. Thank God !



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