Films: Photographic Memoirs – Hindustan Times
Whether the canvas was a film set or the outdoors, my camera lens sought to uncover different facets of the stars – both established names as well as the endless cast of newcomers.
I had to load my Nikon camera with a roll, click, then have the negatives processed. The expenses involved were far more than the revenue from this supposed side gig, but it was a creatively rewarding experience that rewarded me with many unique and iconic images that have been captured for posterity.
Sunil Dutt—A gentleman
I took this photo of Sunil Dutt in Khandala when he gave the muhurat kick for Ram Lakhan of Subhash Ghai in 1988. It was a mega event with the whole cast including Raakhee, Anil, Jackie, Dimple, Madhuri, Amrish Puri, Anupam Kher and Saeed Jaffrey present. Dilip Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha and his wife Poonam were the other guests. Sunil Dutt was a close associate of Subhash Ghai, who gave his son Sanjay Dutt a big break with Vidhaata and later in the title role of Khal Nayak.
It took me 17 years to get Dutt to accept a cozy date. He had miraculously escaped death when a six-seater twin-engine charter plane crash landed in Nasik district. Dutt survived the crash with bruises and was leaning on a cane when I encountered him. He had left his bungalow and was living in an apartment. He went into flashback mode and spoke at length about his time as a radio announcer who interviewed movie stars.
When I asked him why he wasn’t making a movie with his son, Sanjay Dutt, he laughed, “I have to line up in a long line of producers to meet him and I can’t do that.” After the interview, although he was dependent on a cane, he accompanied me to the door of his house.
Mohnish Behl—A Room with a View
I took this photo of Mohnish Behl in 1985 in his beautiful and sumptuous sea-facing penthouse in the Colaba skyscraper, Sagar Sangeet. I used to stop by Mohnish frequently for three reasons: Mohnish’s laid back and friendly personality, the breathtaking view from his house, and the hope of meeting his mother, the famous actress Nutan. We invariably sat on the balcony and took in the view; I have no memory of his living room! Mohnish introduced me to Nutan once, but we barely exchanged pleasantries. I met her years later on the Karma sets at Film City, but our casual conversation was prematurely interrupted by an astrologer.
Mohnish and Jackie Shroff were the only two actors I invited to my wedding; Mohnish couldn’t attend mine, but I attended his.
After our marriage, we lost sight of each other. I remember Salman telling me how a delighted Mohnish hugged him so tightly after the success of their blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya, he broke Salman’s expensive Ray-Ban sunglasses that were kept in his top pocket.
In 2005, I was very excited when I heard that Mohnish Behl was being considered to play the role of business tycoon, Jai Walia, in the TV series Kasamh Se, a show I co-wrote for Balajee. However, for reasons unknown to me, Ram Kapoor eventually stepped into the role.
Sooraj Barjatya—Make an exception
I took this photo of Salman Khan and Bhagyashree in 1989 at Natraj studios. They filmed together for Maine Pyar Kiya by Sooraj Barjatya. Since Salman was not yet a star, there was no buzz around him.
I knew Salman from his frequent visits to the office of my Movie magazine, and I was probably allowed to take this picture by the reluctant Sooraj Barjatya only because Salman entertained me on sets. Sooraj Barjatya, like Aditya Chopra, has always kept the press at bay. But I was lucky that Sooraj attended the release ceremony of my book, The Hundred Luminaries Of Hindi Cinema, co-authored by Jitendra Kothari and me in 1996. The book was published by Amitabh Bachchan and Sooraj did one of his rare appearances, rubbing shoulders with Anupam Kher, Dimple Kapadia, Archana Puran Singh, Ramesh Sippy, Manoj Kumar, Nadira and music manager Laxmikant, among others.
After watching Maine Pyar Kiya at a special press screening in 1989, I predicted that there would be no stopping it later; Salman chuckled uncertainly. The film was released on December 29 and became a smash hit. The day after his release, I went to Bandra, Salman’s Galaxy apartment, facing the sea, to congratulate him in person. He came down the stairs from his house to the first floor and greeted me warmly.
Smita Patil – The object of all desires
I took this photo of Smita Patil at a movie launch with Raj Babbar and Meenakshi Seshadari in the late 1980s.
I greatly admired Smita’s work in Arth, Mandi, Bazaar and Subah, but my favorite performance of all time, the one that left an indelible impression on me, was Bhumika. In a fictional depiction of the life of an actress (Hansa Wadkar) going from one torturous relationship to another, Smita Patil was at her best.
At that time, there were two fan camps: Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil. I didn’t belong to either, but my brother Sunil was clear – he watched Namak Halal 20 times just for Amitabh-Smita’s song Aaj Rapat Jaayen To.
I remember coming to the film sets of Dev Anand’s Anand Aur Anand at Mehboob Studios in 1984 hoping that Smita would do an impromptu interview with me. She noticed another reporter hovering around the film sets and asked him bluntly, “Why are you flying like a bee? The reporter remarked, “There are no chairs,” and Smita smiled and said, “Come on, share the stool I’m sitting on.”
I took this photo of Moushumi Chatterjee with Dharmendra and Danny in 1986 during Pahlaj Nihalani’s Aag Hi Aag lunch break on the outskirts of Bangalore. The location, rocky terrain, was where Amjad Khan’s lair was established in the epic hit, Sholay.
In 1988, I was with her again when she toured with Dharmendra for Sikka in Chennai. Dharmendra said to her, “You look very pretty in that saree.” I spontaneously said, “No, you make this saree pretty.”
Moushumi burst out laughing and said, “Dharmaji, seekho, seekho [learn.] It’s the right way to compliment a woman.
Boasting the ability to think on her feet, when Raaj Kumar, known for making co-stars uncomfortable, deliberately called her “Mosambi”, she started calling her Rani. He was embarrassed and said, “People affectionately call me Jaani, not Rani.” She retorted, “And I am Moushumi not Mosambi.”
Jaaved Jaffrey—Rock ‘n’ Roll in Bandra
Inspired by the movie The Fiddler On The Roof, I took this photo of Javed Jaffrey atop the once popular Sea Rock Hotel Javed had become a dance sensation after the song, Bol Baby Bol Rock N Roll in Meri Jung (1985 ). Before writing this piece, I revisited this song on YouTube and saw Subhash Ghai, the director, in a long appearance as trumpeter. Subhash, like Hitchcock, always made a fleeting appearance in his films.
As Javed’s dance had become the talk of the town, I asked my objective friend, Rakesh Shrestha, to film Javed’s dance in unimaginable places like on top of a roof, on a car hood and hung from a lamppost to accompany my article. While Rakesh was clicking color photos, I took black and white photos. Javed obliged me all the way and struck graceful dance poses while scaling poles and roofs as artfully as a monkey.
I think that was the first and last time I interviewed Jaaved. To paraphrase one of his quotes, he said, “I haven’t had any formal dance training. I did all my learning in the different forms of Western dance during the galas of the Bandra fair with my Catholic friends.
Pooja Bedi—As Awkward As They Come
Pooja Bedi is crazy and fun. Who else comes into my office with a newly acquired pet – a fluffy dog - will let him pee all over the glass top of my cabin table and flee the scene with “Ask your peon to clean up the mess,” laughing all the way to the elevator.
We did some crazy things together, leaning on the Ouija board to figure out who would marry Sridevi (it was weird, with my finger roaming the board like she had a life of her own), and some daring photo shoots that must have left the prudish red-faced brigade.
The photo is of Pooja in London where she accompanied me for a sponsored gala. I had injured my foot and was hobbling around Kolhapuris to one of the fancy malls. As I winced in pain, Pooja jumped on a shopping cart, threw me in as one of her purchases, and rode away unbothered by all the stares we were getting.
And, to express my gratitude, and for a photo to be saved in my memory drawer, I planted it in the shopping cart and took it back to our car.
Dinesh Raheja is an acclaimed film historian, columnist and TV screenwriter who has been writing about film for over three decades.
From HT Brunch, October 22, 2022
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