Films: Photographic Journey Through Time – Hindustan Times

Movie stars were just as captivating off screen as they were on screen and these rare photographs – and the memorabilia associated with them – prove it.

When Amitabh Bachchan was off press

As Amitabh Bachchan turns 80 this year, I remember the many times I ran into him, the most memorable to me being when he released two of my books (the first by himself- same and the second, jointly with Aishwarya Rai) and the time he did an interview with Rajesh Khanna.

When I took this photo of Bachchan in the mid-1980s, however, he was not on good terms with the press. The feud was a year before I became a journalist so, as a rookie, I was excited to photograph the superstar and watch him in action. Bachchan had appeared for the mahurat of family friend Romesh Sharma Diljalaa (1987). There were no army of bodyguards around him in those more innocent days, but I remember him deftly handling the inevitable crowds that resulted from his entrance.

I remember calling Amitabh years later the next morning Kaun Banega Crorepati broadcast for the first time and complimenting him on this turning point in his life. When he asked me, “Why don’t you participate as a contestant?” I replied, “No thanks. I like to put others in the hot seat.

Asha Bhosle shyly played with her braid

Asha Bhosle sporting her signature hairstyle

Although I largely interview and photograph movie stars as a journalist, I have also actively pursued big names in parallel film fields. I was over the moon when RD Burman agreed to a joint interview with his wife and muse, legendary singer, Asha Bhosle.

Frankly, I was amazed at the dynamic between the two. Pancham, as he was affectionately known, was rather serious, belying the amusing image I had of him thanks to the many acts my generation had enjoyed themselves. On the other hand, Asha, conservatively dressed and makeup-free, gave shy peals of laughter while coyly playing with her braided choti. But that voice! It was the same one that had added extra sizzle to vampires like Helen (Piya Tu Ab to Aaja1971), Bindu (Mera Naam Hai Shabnam1970) and Aruna Irani (Sapna Mera Toot Gaya1975).

Madhuri Dixit likes to laugh

Madhuri Dixit & Anil Kapoor on the set of Ram Lakhan

I took this photo of an extremely slim Madhuri Dixit alongside Anil Kapoor during the location shoot of Ram Lakhan (1989). Madhuri wasn’t a star yet…but what a difference the following months made in both of our lives. I became editor of Movie magazine in October 1988 and within a month Madhuri Dixit had become a huge star after dancing up a storm for Ek Do Teen in Tezaab (1988). We were among the first to feature his solo on the cover of a magazine.

Madhuri and I have had many casual conversations over the years and she likes to let out her famous tinkling laugh in real life too. I was once recounting how I managed to lock myself out of my own car and she found my use of the word “manage” hilarious. But, she is lace strung with steel.

Jab Rekha and I met

Rekha with Archana Puran Singh at Mehboob Studios

Rekha and I first met while filming Deepak Shivdasani Ladaai (1989) at Mehboob Studios. She was a photographer’s dream. When my colleague Patrick Biswas introduced me: “It’s Dinesh. It’s a…” Interrupted Rekha icily, “Journalist.” She added, “I can smell one, instantly.” I cheekily retorted, “You must have a good nose for eternity. that I wear now.

After five years, I met her again, this time with an appointment for a long interview about her 40th birthday. She broke the ice in her Bandra office with, “I’ve met you before. On the sets of Ladaai. You were accompanied by Patrick. You were sitting with Dimple. You were wearing a beige shirt. His memory is astounding.

Manmohan Desai and his dry mind

The late filmmaker Manmohan Desai with his son, Ketan

I captured this moment between filmmaker Manmohan Desai and his director son Ketan as they had an intense creative conversation. It was around 1985, and senior Desai was practically king of the box office, having helmed blockbusters such as Sachaa Jhutha (1970), Dharam Veer (1977), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), and Naseeb (nineteen eighty one). Subsequently, however, Desai faced a brutal reversal of fortune.

I prefer to remember him in his best spirit when I saw him on the sets of Coolie (1983), one of the first shoots I attended as a reporter. For one sequence in the film, Amitabh Bachchan had to lift the slender Rati Agnihotri, while Rishi Kapoor had to lift Shoma Anand. Director Manmohan Desai told Rishi, “If you can’t lift Shoma, I’ll make him lift you.”

Deepti Naval, the poetess

Actor Deepti Naval

Deepti’s sense of style, like her choice of films, is highly individualistic. She wears sarees with a unique flair and I found her Versova residence truly one of a kind – with plants galore, curtains instead of doors, and a glass centerpiece placed on top of a stack of books.

We had the late veteran actress Nadiraji in common – we were both close to her. Nadiraji was extremely possessive of his library where Keats and Mirza Ghalib rubbed shoulders with the books of which I was the author. I once borrowed a book of poems written by Deepti from Nadiraji and committed the deadly sin of losing it. Nadira never let me hear the ending until I stumbled across the book while cleaning Diwali and returned it. Deepti’s poems, some of them profound, gave me a glimpse into her mind.

The unusual friendship of Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar

The mahurat of Allah Rakha

I took this group photo [above] with several stars of the day at mahurat of Allah Rakha (1986). Seen from left to right are: Sanjeev Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Meenakshi Seshadri Jackie Shroff, Director Ketan Desai, Anupam Kher, Raakhee and Rati Agnihotri.

The Shammi Kapoor-Sanjeev Kumar friendship was already decades old. They first teamed up in the 1960s as friends of opposing ideologies in sashaai (1969). Then Shammi cast Sanjeev as the main man in her first directorial venture Manoranjan (1974) and they went on to work together in films like Vidhaata (1982). Sanjeev couldn’t do Allah Rakha due to health reasons and the cast went through major changes, but it was good to see the camaraderie between the two veterans at the mahurat.

Jackie Shroff—still grounded

Jackie Shroff posing sportily on the floor

It shocks me to realize that I have known Jackie for 40 years now! To his credit, he’s kept it real throughout these years and remains grounded. I could ask him to pose on the not-too-clean floor in the middle of a busy filming location…and he would oblige.

Three years ago, he came as a guest at my media workshop… and was in no rush to leave until he had well and truly charmed every attendee. Beaming with friendliness, he spoke about the importance of being mentally prepared in this trade, shared the importance of breathing techniques, and sprung an approachable philosophy. Ajay, an aspiring actor, had driven from Pune in his newly purchased car; Jackie sat in his car… and went about his week.

Anita Raj is the girl (hat)

Actress Anita Raj poses for a photo between shoots

The 1980s were when every star worth their salt frantically divided their time between two dozen films. Anita Raj was one of those buzzers I regularly met in the studios and exchanged pleasantries with. I saw her wearing this hat once and insisted on her posing because I thought it transformed her angular face in a very attractive way.

Later, I met her at the Snowman Glacier in Breach Candy and we both let out a whooping scream like two red Indians. Even though I only interviewed her once, she was always warm.

Well Dressed Bad Guy Danny

Danny Denzongpa looks dapper on the sets of Oonche Log

Unlike his caddie, Gulshan Grover, Danny Denzongpa didn’t really believe in outlandish costumes to signal a threat. On the sets of Log of Oonche (1985) starring Rajesh Khanna and Salma Agha, Danny was handsomely dressed in boots and a riding jacket with leather elbow patches. Although he directed Khanna and his then-girlfriend Kim in a thriller, Phir Wahi Raat (1980), Khanna and Danny did not meet between shots and sat in different corners.

Dinesh Raheja is an acclaimed film historian, columnist and TV screenwriter who has been writing about film for over three decades.

From HT Brunch, July 23, 2022

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