Monthly Archives

May 2021

An artist called MF Hussain – Day 2001

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“MF Hussain is as big an artiste as Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso and Van Gogh only we don’t realize it now” said Shabana Azmi while inaugurating his exhibition in Dubai. The year was 2004.

In the following years, a controversy related to his painting blew out of proportion and Hussain was forced out of India. He died in June 2011 a lonely man in a foreign country, far away from his family and loved ones.

In my long career I met MF Hussain a couple times. The first time, when I was visiting Bakul Patel and he dropped by suddenly. The first thing MF Hussain did on arrival anywhere, was to go the washroom and clean his feet. Everyone knows that he traveled barefoot everywhere, to parties, to funerals, to movies and to restaurants.

To be continued

Goodbye Dutt – Day 2001

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Sunil Dutt had slight temperature the previous night; he had spent all day packing all his belongings into shift into their new home next week. He had been calling all his friends personally to attend their housewarming party, but the party did not happen. Dutt said goodbye before shifting into his new home. He had been writing his memoirs and they were left incomplete on his desk.

His children fulfilled both his incomplete dreams. His body covered in the Indian flag was departed from from Imperial Heights his new home and his daughters, Priya and Namrata completed his memoirs and released it at a grand event in Mumbai.

In the coming years, the Dutt siblings face many hardships, Sanjay Dutt battled with more misfortunes and Priya Dutt battled with perils of a political career but life goes on and as long as the sibling and all the children are together under one roof on separate floors, they know they can count upon each other.

concluded

Together & Apart | Day 2000

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Sunil Dutt and Nargis built their careers on merit, Nargis was14 when her mother launched her in 1943 Taqdeer while Dutt started on Radio Ceylon before his debut in 1955 Railway Platform. Everyone knows about their love story and the fire on the sets of Mother India. Life was bliss until 1979 when Nargis rushed back from Delhi suspected of having jaundice. She was taken to Breach Candy Hospital and the next day, flown to New York, admitted to Sloane Kettering Cancer Center.

Everyone assumed she would soon return soon but she returned only a year later after innumerable surgery.

Life fell apart for the Dutts post the demise of Nargis and it took years for the family to put together the broken pieces but tragedies visit uninvited and so that morning when Sunil Dutt did not wake up at his usual hour, his staff contacted the children. Everyone came rushing but it was too late.

To be continued

Story of Heartbreaks | Day 1999

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The villagers knew that Papaji always kept his promise. He promised the villagers he would showcase Mandoli on the big screen and shot Dakoo Aur Jawaan there, in fact, Reena Roy and Vinod Khanna stayed at his family home.  He promised his mother he would build a memorial in her honour and he did, on the banks of river Yamuna. When he died, Sunil Dutt was working on his autobiography and his children felt they owed it to their father to complete the book and together accomplished Mr and Mrs Sunil Dutt a story heart breaks!

They had so much in common, both were born in the year 1929. She as Fatima in Calcutta to a Muslim mother Jaddanbai, a thumri singer and father Uttamchand Mohanchand, a Mohyal Brahmin. He was born as Balraj Dutt in Khurd, Jhelum to landlord Devan Raghunath and his wife Kulwant Devi, both Mohyal Brahmins. While Sunil Dutt had a troubled childhood reared by his widowed mother who faced many hardships to raise three children, Nargis was raised in the lap of luxuries and easy success.

Both remained committed to responsibilities, Nargis carried her personal staff, driver Kasam bhai and maid Ameena to her new home, whom her children addressed as nana-nani and Sunil Dutt was the father figure for all his siblings.

To be continued

Dutt and Dutt |Day: 1998

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May and June are months associated with Nargis and Sunil Dutt. Nargis was born on 3 May and died on 1 June. Sunil Dutt was born on 6 June and died on 25 May. Their anniversaries are as entwined as their lives. Sunil Dutt once told me that every time he returned from work, Nargis would be waiting on the parapet of their garden overlooking the sea, “It was her favorite spot and after she was gone, I would often sit there, just to feel her presence.” 

When you lose a beloved, the mind rewinds to their smallest details. In 2007 the Dutts had resurrected their bungalow into a swanky building and were looking forward to shifting there. The family had planned a grand housewarming coinciding with Sunil Dutt’s birthday and he called all his friends personally a few days before the big day, Sunil Dutt passed away in his sleep!

They say time heals all wounds but some wounds never fade. For the film fraternity he was Dutt saab, for the villagers of Mandoli, he was Pappaji. Ever since he migrated from Pakistan with his mother Kulwanti in 1948, Balraj Dutt remained connected to his roots. When his debut film was released, he traveled the entire village by a truck to Lakshmi Theatre, Yamuna Nagar and kept up with this tradition for all his new films.

To be continued

Madhuri: I submit to destiny – Day 1997

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Before the pandemic I had bumped into her Madhuri Dixit inside an elevator as we headed for the same screening and she looked genuinely delighted to see me. So, was I and asked if she was content with her journey of marriage and movies? She flashed the famous radiant smile, said, “Good or bad times, I’m always content as long as I’m creative and constructive”. What about money, not everyone is as fortunate as her?

“Well, I’m not obsessed with possessions, money is important, it instills security, particularly for a woman, it provides a roof above the head, makes you liberated but beyond a point, money is just paper. I’m a believer of destiny, nothing in life happens just like that, there is meaning to every encounter and I submit to that drama of life.”

She is right, she submitted to destiny and it brought her back to motherland, show business and to dance, here’s wising a dancing year in advance.

Madhuri: Not attracted to politics – Day 1996

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What about your speeches, are they rehearsed too? “No, no, speeches cannot be scripted, that would be so hollow. It has to emerge on the spot, straight from the heart as a reaction, only then can it touch the audience.”  She was always logical and old guards believed that she had the potential to be groomed as an effective leader. She widened her eyes, “Are you hinting at politics? Please no, I’m not inclined, maybe something for the downtrodden that too if it comes naturally not for the sake of taking up a cause” she concluded.

True to her promise, Dixit never fell for the offers made by different political parties from time to time and ruled on the wish list of all her filmmakers even after motherhood. Her detractors said it was because she was diplomatic and never disagreed with her directors. Madhuri disagreed vehemently, “That’s not true at all, when I’m not convinced of a scene, I always express, but if the filmmaker does not agree, I withdraw because he is the captain of the ship. Most directors are always clearheaded and find the actor’s conflict interfering with their vision”.

So how does an artiste resolve his conflict? She pondered for a while, “Sometimes, a scene appears awkward but then the director enacts it for you, it becomes simple. I often feel that we actors’ complicate matters by over thinking. I don’t know how other actors resolve it but I prefer to submit to my director, I trust that he will ride me to the shore.”

Madhuri Dixit – Day 1996

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For a long time now, the media dedicates the month of May to Madhuri magic. It is not without reason, her other contemporaries, Sridevi, is no more and Juhi Chawla has more or less retired but Madhuri Dixit despite marriage, motherhood and whole new generation still holds her own.

In 1999 when she got married, the film fraternity was unsure how she would balance an overseas marriage and a career back home. She did it effortlesslyand resurrected her presence in show business.

Over the decades a lot changed and a lot remained the same. Madhuri Dixit lives in the same home, differently done up of course and inhabits three generation, her mother, Snehlata Dixit, husband Dr Nene and her two sons.  Film and web projects still line up for her and the proof it is her dance show on television and dance academy on YouTube.

She was always distant as a person even though she had known you for a long time and said it was part of her persona. How do you always manage to retain your poise in public, I once asked her? She laughed, said, that what everyone described as poise was extreme nervousness. “When I’m on stage, I’m so anxious that my knees are quaking, but I flash a smile and because I’m a good actor people believe it”.

Coming of age parents – Day 1995

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The mother on the Indian screen for good or for bad was always for her children but in case of conflict between the spouse and the off spring, the mother supported her husband. The first time this changed was in Maine Pyaar Kiya, in a crucial scene after opposing his father Salman Khan asks mother Rima Lagoo, ‘Maine glalat kiya?’ and a tearful Rima shakes her head and embraces Salman. In Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge when Farida Jalal discovers Kajol and Shahrukh Khan together in the courtyard, she is filled with hope not fear and urges them to flee and follow their dream.  

Come 2000 and the mother (rather the family) was slowly disappearing from the big screen. Ram Gopal Verma said he was bored of the relatives and Yash Chopra who had built a career on family dramas sidelined the older generation in Dil Toh Pagal Hai. In Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na Ratna Pathak Shah revived the motif as a new age mom and Farhan Akhtar’s coming-of-age Dil Chahta Hai revived image of contemporary parents. When Aamir Khan’s father senses he is low, he says, ‘I want you to come back’. The film was a success not just for the portrayal of the youngsters but their supportive, realistic parents.

Mothers who reflected change – Day 1994

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Another film featuring Sulochna in her later years was Johnny Mera Naam. Two scenes stand out in my memory. The first when her son, Dev Anand appears in disguise at the door and she pulls off his moustache, making it clear that she cannot be tricked. The mother in this case is super intelligent and she proves it in the climax when villain Jeevan asks her to point out to her son and Sulochna deliberately and helplessly points to Pran to save Dev Anand.

When young heroines played mothers, filmmakers camouflaged their roles as Bhabhi maa to stroke their ego and I think the concept first emerged with Bhabhi Ki Choodiyaan where Meena Kumari rises at day break going about household work singing ‘Jyoti kalash chalke…’ as her besotted devar follows her from room to room… In Chhota Bhai, an exasperated Nutan has punished her mischievous devar to stand on one foot on the terrace. At dusk, while serving dinner to the family Nutan realizes that he is still there waiting for her release orders, so she charges up the staircase and pleads forgiveness.  The film held a strong social message that Bhabhi is more than a mother!

To be continued