Gogi Anand

Someone said ‘you are as unique as everyone else is’. Like everyone else in my life too there have been many people who not only crossed my path; but also walked along with me for a while… some stayed long enough, some as little as 24 hours. At various stations some got off, some of them grew big, while some others made me grow. This cycle does not stop. People always keep flowing in and out of everyone life adding value and making a difference. People keep joining your track and leaving it as and when they find their own destined diversions. I have decided to identify some of these people, who made a difference to me. I am not talking about any great human or a saint who gave me a life changing advice or a Mantra! I am trying to identify ordinary people who happen to be my friends and whose one little gesture or an insignificant decision significantly changed the course of my life. One such person was late Arunmitra Anand, popularly and lovingly known as Gogi Anand.
Gogi came to Bombay to take up to movies. He was related to the illustrious Anand family. He was well educated and extremely well read person. Well, in that sense entire Anand family consists of educated people.

Soon he was recommended to go to the Film Institute of India at Poona to study film making. He chose screenplay writing. To be sure of admission, it is said that he took a letter of recommendation from his uncle Dev Anand. There was no problem in admission. After he completed the course he returned to Bombay in 1963. He must have been too eager to find his own place in the glittering movie world and also realized that real work experience would give him much than campus studies, especially since Anand family was right at the top in this business those days. Navketan group was constantly making movies, so getting involved in serious work was no problem. Gogi started assisting in direction in their films. He worked in Navketan films like Prem Pujari, Gambler, Teen Devian and Heera Panna.

Sometime in 1970-71 Gogi launched his first directorial venture, Double Cross, a thriller with his uncle, Vijay Anand, as the leading man and Rekha as its heroine. Vijay Anand did a double role in it. The film was produced by Gogi’s cousin Yash Kohli (popularly known as Baba), also Dev’s nephew. This was Baba’s first feature too as a producer. Baba’s time was ripe to become a producer since he was already a very experienced production hand. He was production controller of some big Navketan films like Heera Panna (1973), Tere Mere Sapne (1971), Prem Pujari (1970) and earlier to that Jewel Thief (1967). So Gogi and Baba worked together in two of those films. R D Burman was their close friend, so it was not too difficult to launch an interestingly put together film project. Double Cross released in 1972, but did not do too well at the box office. 

I too had reached Mumbai in May of the same year. It was an electrifying experience for me to get in contact with the people from Navketan camp. Whenever I met someone who knew Dev Anand or had worked with him, was enough for me to turn terribly dreamy. In such an emotional state I met Gogi sometime in early 1973, when I joined the unit of ‘Doosri Seeta’ as an assistant recordist. The film starred Jaya Bhaduri and Romesh Sharma, who were my friends from the FTII. In fact I was very close to Romesh. Even the cinematographer K K Mahajan, was an ex-FII. KK was also a close friend of Gogi. They had shared a large room with a great sea view at Mount Mary in Bandra for many years. So this film was produced with a great camaraderie between the entire unit.

In the meanwhile Gogi managed to start his third film ‘Darling Darling’. I was an assistant in this film too. During this period Gogi was very busy shooting and looking after editing for Doosri Seeta. In the meanwhile Doosri Seeta completed and its release date was announced. This would be the first film to release that was going to carry my title. I was very happy. One of the days during Darling Darling’s shooting at Sun u Sand hotel, I was told about premier of Doosri Seeta at Ganga-Jamuna theatres (they are not functioning now) at Tardeo. I was extremely excited in anticipation to be part of the starry premier crowd, which I had only envied by seeing pictures and reading the magazines during my college days.
On the premier day after an early pack up, caravan of Darling Darling’s entire unit headed towards Ganga-Jamuna. Dev Saab was in Zeenat’s car. I was in Dev Saab’s car with some others. Cinematographer Fali Mistry was also with us along with many other smaller actors. But alas! Tragedy struck hard, spoiling all my chances of attending the first premier show of my life! No one could reach the theatre. The city was experiencing exceptionally heavy cloud burst that day. Our caravan could reach only till Worli… With a heavy heart I watched all the cars being turned back by the traffic cops. I was hurt deeply when someone said that it was a bad omen for the film. Somehow all of us reached back Sun n Sand late at night. I slept in the room that was hired for the shooting. It had rained so hard that I could not go home for next three days, due to flooding. Tragically the film too got washed out at the box-office very badly.

Gogi was developing a soft corner for me as we met practically every day. He was becoming like an elder brother to me. I remember he took me to see the premier show of God Father at the Sterling. We had to come back late night in a taxi and I was dreading to think about the fat bill that I would have to pay at my home. But when Gogi got off at his home he gave me enough extra money to reach my house too. I guess he liked me due to my sincerity and enthusiasm at work.

I would always reach the studio much before the shooting shift started. Many times even stage would not be open. I remember once during Doosri Seeta shooting at Filmistan, I found Gogi was already there. He was comfortably lying on a bench and reading the script. I asked him what time did he reach? He said 7.30. Next day I was there before him for a 9.30am shift!
Gogi was an avid reader. I remember Gogi listening to and narrating Urdu couplets with another literary person Prabhuji (Prabhu Dayal). They had worked together in early Navketan films.

Once, during one of my rare free days, I was engrossed in playing carom with kids at my paying guest place. I was enjoying myself. The phone rang and the land lord, Jayant Patel told it was for me. I took the receiver and I heard someone saying that he was calling from Navketan office. My heart missed a beat. I asked him what was it about, he said ‘we want to hire you as a recordist for our next film to be shot in Nepal.’ I was flabbergasted. I pleaded, ‘I would not able to do it, as I am only an assistant right now.’ Hearing the names of Navketan and Dev Anand, a hush had descended in the room. Everyone was listening to my conversation. After a little hesitation I took down the address. After an hour long bus journey I was climbing a ‘rickety wooden staircase, Khira Nagar, Santacruz’. I met Hersh Kohli here. I was being pushed to decide fast though I was extremely scared to take up a Navketan film to be shot abroad. If it was a smaller banner or shooting was in Mumbai, I might have gone for it straight away. Hersh pushed me harder, ‘in four days unit is leaving and all the names have to be finalized’. Well, rest is history for me…

Much later I was informed that Gogi had personally recommended my name to Dev Saab. He had to also remove all doubts in Dev Saab’s mind about me. This one single point had changed the course of my life, then. It also fulfilled my childhood fantasy of experiencing the phenomenon that Dev Anand had been. Later for very long whatever I did in my professional life, I did it as a Navketan man. I had to leave work of ‘Darling Darling’ in between until I came back after three months. Well, ‘Darling Darling’ too bombed and after this Gogi took very long to put a project together. Many years later I remember he asked me to work with him for a film; I said ‘of course any time’, but the film never took off.

As long as I was with Navketan I met him often, either on sets or in office. I decided to enter field of documentaries in 1985 and asked to be relieved from Navketan. From then on Gogi went out of loop for very long. He would fall ill often due to his excessive drinking and tobacco habits. Once I went to see him at Nanavati Hospital, with our old colleague Amit Khanna. Gogi was being discharged that day. He looked very thin; but cheerful. But I was amused and shocked to notice that even in the hospital he had made arrangements to get his tobacco with the help of a ward boy!
No doubt at that stage nobody could imagine that Gogi would ever make a movie again. That was a fair judgment, but I did not like that nobody seemed to have a positive word for him. I don’t think people visited him. Gogi was lonely and out of work for a long period! That is how the film industry works. The more successful you are busier you will be. Only Gogi’s well wishers and close friends knew him as a bright guy, who could have made it – period.

Sometime in mid 90s, I heard that he was directing a daily TV soap for Balaji. I was so happy for him. That series was doing well too. He was beginning to make a name for himself in television! Soon after that he became a part of Plus Channel, where I was too working. He was hired to direct, ‘Swabhiman’, which too turned out to be a very successful daily soap. I was happy to see that finally he had found his eluding ground in television. It was nice to see his title in every episode during the audio mixing. Technicians from Swabhiman sets told me that Gogi was doing very well as a director and he had picked up the strings of multi-camera set up very well. He would finish a day job well within an allotted shift.
Gogi never got married. He never had a steady girl friend too, except for a short time during Doosri Seeta, when he had a live-in arrangement with someone.

There were some light moments in his life too. He once kept a pet monkey in his house. It was rumored that the monkey would jump down to a grocery store and steal potatoes and run back home. He would also christen the monkey with a name; whom he did not like those days. Another popular story was about a suitcase full of coins. Gogi had been dumping lose change in that suitcase for years. Finally it was full to the brim and couldn’t be carried due to its weight. I had the opportunity to see it once. He always boasted about it, until one fine day I found him sheepishly grieving about it. It seems his servant had vanished with the famous suitcase.

I was informed of Gogi’s last hospitalization by K K Mahajan and Praba. Some of us went to see him in Asha Parekh hospital. He was on life support system. There seemed no hope. His eyes were shut. His relations had been informed to be there. I felt very bad at his condition especially with a lingering thought that it might be the last time, I was seeing Gogi.

He died the next day. As soon as I got a call, I reached his house. But his body had not arrived till then. I entered his bedroom. Gogi’s garlanded photograph was placed on the ground. After spending few long moments staring at the photograph, I left; to promptly return next morning to be a part of his unit, one last time…

I decided to put this piece together because nowhere on the internet I could find any useful and definite information about Gogi, not even about his birth or the date of his death. Some posthumous comments bracketed Gogi with words like ‘anonymous’ and ‘unsung’. According to those Gogi may have been lost in the oblivion. But they don’t know that he had his days too. He may have gone without making an earth shattering film, but he did commendable work for television. He had been very busy for most of his life, except for a few years. Lean periods are common for any film professional. For me he was a very special person and ‘the’ reason that put my professional life on a faster and higher track. The least I could do for Gogi was to share some of the relevant information about him with people, especially with who might be interested.

I have known Gogi’s younger brother Kaka too, since long. He was very nice to give me Gogi’s birth details:

“Arunmitra Anand lived between Aug 22, 1942 and Oct 25, 2004. He was born at Gurdaspur to parents Shri Vishwamitra Anand and Shrimati Gargi Devi Anand.”

Finally through this reflection if I did manage to remove ‘unknown, unsung and anonymous’ labels stuck on my friend, I would consider myself fortunate.

Nadira Mama

Feb 9, 2006 a scroll at the bottom of a news channel frame announced – “Nadira died early in the morning. She was suffering from meningitis. She was 74”… it took a few moments for the news to sink in; “Nadira ji has expired!” Instantly a large net of memories from the past fell over me. In so many years in this field I developed relationships of various levels with many actors, technicians and workers. As I think today, Nadira would be a very special for me. The reason for is not so much that I found many great qualities in her; but in the fact that she made me feel special. When we worked together, our relationship was only becoming better. I did not work for this relationship to grow. She did. She just decided that this is the way she will be towards me and she stuck to it.

She has been around since ‘Aan’ and I was too junior to her. In the start of my career, I worked with her only in three films, ‘Darling Darling’, ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’ and ‘Aap Ki Khatir’. In the first film I was only an assistant and second film (Ishq Ishq Ishq) was my first film as an independent recordist. So I was completely raw then. I also did an interview with her for Plus Channel much later. But I guess I met her last time many years back in a party. She had been very affectionate and kind to me right from ‘Darling Darling’. I used to live as a paying guest in Girgaon, then. And she was in a building called Vasundhara at the Peddar road. So every day after shoot’s pack up at the Mehboob studios, she would approach me to ask if I was going home. If I was free then I would immediately say yes, but as a technician some time I would take time wrap up things and put them back neatly. In that case she would wait for me for a few minutes without any problem. I would get a lift in her red ‘Triumph’ to Haji Ali, from where I would take a taxi home. At this point I must mention two other gentlemen too who so willingly gave me lifts in their Benz and Premier cars, numerous times. They were cinematographers Late Fali Mistry and Late Jal Mistry. Nadira was a very kind hearted and helpful person. It is my honor to put on record some notable incidences in my life of which Nadira was a part.

Once after ‘Darling Darling’ shoot at Mehboob studios her car stopped at the Bandra station crossing. The signal turned red and as always beggars of all kind surround the cars to beg. They start knocking the car windows and pester people. Nadira ji was wiping her sweaty face with a napkin, when a beggar in white shirt and pant extended his palm towards her. There it goes, I thought. She looked at his face through her large glares and in a moment her body was shaking. Just before the signal turned green she managed to dish out a fiver, gave him and sped on. Five rupees was big money that time. My ‘conveyance allowance’ used to be that much. But I realized at the next red signal she was completely worked up and was crying bitterly. I was zapped. Patting her shoulder to comfort her, I asked, ‘who was he Nadira ji?’ She told me, ‘that man was ‘Purushottam’. He has acted in 5-6 films a long time ago in lead roles. But as you can see, he has turned into a total wreck and a drunkard.’ She had seen him after ages, she told. She stopped the car at Haji Ali and I got off…
Much later I came to know that she called up right people and spoke about Purushottam that got him some work on television. She also got him an interview on local Bombay TV station and somehow organized a small regular income that would be sent directly to his family. She did not want Purushottam to have access to that money as it would be lost on liquor.

Second incidence is from ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’. In October 1973 I was in Pokhara, Nepal for a three month long shooting schedule. In a few days only I fell sick very badly due to some stomach ailment. Only thing I remember today is that my stomach pained horribly. Somehow Nadira saw me looking sick and immediately took me to her hotel room and organized a doctor. She was staying close to the shooting area. After she came to know of the cause of sickness, she ordered an extra bed for me in her own room. It was placed on the floor in the middle of her and her maid’s bed. She ordered prescribed diet food for me from the hotel kitchen. She gave me prescribed dozes on time herself or her maid if she was not there. I was sick for 6 whole days. She totally took care of me for all those days. Very gradually I got better and went for shoot from her room itself. My friends had got my clothes from my room. She did not allow me to go to my hotel for many days. Only after ensuring from doctor that I was completely well, she let me to go my own hotel.
Sadly this news traveled to Bombay totally distorted and spiced. People asked me strange questions about her. They spoke to her also similarly. She was mad at all this, but could not avoid this hearsay.

Last important incidence happened sometime in mid 90s. This was the first time I went her house. We were shooting her interview for Plus. During long Q&A session she spoke eloquently about her past. Among many details of shooting of ‘Aan’, she narrated incidence multiple retakes of a ‘slap shot’ with Dilip Kumar and how she endured all the pain. She was ecstatic when Raj Kapoor approached her for a song ‘Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh’in Shri 420. She had high regards for the great film maker.

After a while during the interview she was not required, as we were taking random shots of her house, trophies, photographs etc. I saw her standing near her bedroom door and realized that she looked very different. I was sure she had a drink or two, as she looked clearly intoxicated. Her personality changed and suddenly she seemed very frail. Her maids saw this and helped her to her bed. She lied down and called me to sit near her. I was a little scared because she was not in her senses and was looking unwell. Any ways I sat down next to her. Then she found a comb, gave it to me and asked me to comb her hair. It was crazy. I have been very close to her. But I felt totally awkward in the presence of my unit members. More over I was a senior person in ‘Plus’ and ‘Arunji (me) combing Nadira’s hair’ did not make a pretty picture. Next thing she did was to ask me to call her Mama. After being forced a few times, I said ‘Ok mama. She said ‘no ok mama, just mama’. I said, ‘Nadira mama’. She said ‘NO, not Nadira mama, just Mama.’ Well I had to call her mama many times over, to handle her swinging mood.

This factual stuff may sound comic and odd; but it’s not difficult for any sensible person to realize what ‘Nadira mama’ had gone through in her personal life; how much she got, what she lost and what she could never get…

TV news said ‘Nadira was admitted to a hospital at Tardeo’. She was suffering from meningitis and other ailments’. As I heard this I wore my shoes and started on my journey to Tardeo some 30 km from my home. I reached the hospital and asked the staff to guide me to her room. But I was not allowed to go up there as she was in ICU and was in coma. A kind lady told me that I could come back and see her when she is out of ICU. I turned back disappointed. I knew it in my bones that I was not going to see her again, ever.

I felt it ironic that with her life, were gone my chances of returning the huge favor I owed her.

On the location set of ‘Aap Ki Khatir’. She was a very profession person, totally punctual and would give the director many options of a ‘take’.

Jalal Agha

Although we are from the same alma mater, I met Jalal Agha very late in my professional life. For the first time we worked together was in a Mithun-Ranjeeta starrer film called ‘Kismet’. It was a 3 days playback shoot for him as a guest artiste. The movie was completed and released in 1980, did fairly well at the box office and then like always – all was forgotten.

Many years later we met yet again. This time it was during a seven-day outdoor shooting schedule of a Marathi TV series called ‘Pravasi’. Outdoor shootings are great adhesive agents for the unit members. Many of such friendships have got sealed for life. Pravasi was a 4 part MTDC promotional program, being made by Baba Majgaokar with whom I had just finished his earlier Marathi series called ‘Najuka’. Marathi was not Jalal’s mother tongue, but he worked hard on his lines and did pretty well. At that time Jalal and I, just about knew each other’s existence; but as I mentioned it was the outdoor shooting that really brought us closer and turned our acquaintance into a close friendship. My family too happened to visit that location for a day and that worked even more in my favor in bringing Jalal to our home; fairly often later on. Jalal was very fond of children. When you love your children a lot but can’t get enough time with them, you look for other sources to satiate your channels of missing affection. This is what happened with Jalal. After estrangement, his wife got married again and moved to Germany along with their children. I am told that saving money for traveling to Germany had become his permanent agenda. He wanted to be with his kids as often as possible. Thankfully perhaps his relationship with his wife had not soured too badly; otherwise that too might have become a major road block against him. Let me put down here some of the incidences with him that I and my family always cherish.

My daughter used to be a boarder at the St. Mary’s School, Pune. As soon as Jalal came to know of this, he offered, ‘I go to Poona often, if you need to send anything, I can gladly deliver it for you.’ For us there was always something to be sent, mainly food stuff. So sometime he would drop in at my home and pick up things or I would go to his Juhu apartment and drop them there. During her vacations my daughter would tell us that Jalal uncle visited her a few times that we didn’t even know about. He would entertain her and her friends in the school compound that made them all very happy. After all when a star comes to meet you in your school, it certainly becomes a big deal for all the young children. In fact she must have felt important among others, because ‘Jalal’ had come to meet her. My daughter told me one day that he gave her an idea to make some pocket money. He said ‘I will sign many autographs in your rough book and you could sell them for 2 rupees each.’ We still enjoy his crazy but lovely gestures like this.

One day he called me and said that he was leaving for Poona and I should get the packet to sent to his place. Around 4 pm, I reached his house with my small packet. At that time he was busy packing his own bag. I gave him the parcel. He asked ‘will you have drink?’ I said ‘no thanks, I don’t drink in the afternoon.’ He added ‘no? Actually if you don’t have a drink, I will not take your packet to Poona.’ I said ‘come on Jalal, it is 4 O’clock in the afternoon and the day is so hot’. ‘Ok, then take it back’, he handed the parcel back to me. Let me open a little window to show my inner self here.

With all the due to respect and love for all my actor friends, I often feel a bit insecure in their company. It is because I cannot fathom from their faces as to what is right and what is not and to what extent. And if the person happens to be a friend it gets all the more tedious to judge what he means. They make the scene so damn convincing. They are equipped to play the fool at will and a poor non-actor ends up playing in their hands.

Back to reality; to my shock Jalal offered me not beer or wine; but black rum with water! He kept packing his bag and kept refilling my glass as well. I think he also gave me something to munch too to counter that bitter medicine. An had hour passed. By now he had affectionately force fed me three large drinks. He was also done with his packing. I had seen my parcel placed safely inside his bag. Now he was ready to leave. He was going to drive to Poona alone. He picked his bag and we both came down in the lift. He must have enjoyed my wobbly walk.

Once we invited him once on my birthday. Generally in my house the parties used to last well beyond 1.00 am; but that day by midnight most of our friends had left and Jalal had not even made his entry. I thought either he has forgotten the day or the directions to my house. There were no cell phones then. Around 12.30 am, we gave up and started closing, when I felt someone whispered my name from the street. I rushed to the balcony; there was no one. I let it pass. In a few minutes the voice was heard again. This time we all came to the balcony; and found Jalal driving his Gypsy very slowly and calling me softly. He had been doing it for sometime; calling my name softly and driving up and down, in the hope that someone will hear and respond. He was so civilized in not screaming my name or honking in the middle of the night. In his next trip down my road, he saw us all in the balcony, parked his Jeep and came in. He was such lively person that after due ‘sorry sorry’ he made his drink, asked for Bob Marley music and let his hair down. I asked him ‘why were you whispering my name from your vehicle? You could have honked or called a little louder. Thank god it was quiet enough for us to hear you.’ He said ‘no it is too late to create a nuisance’. He had taken 3 rounds outside my gate whispering my name, because he was not sure of the building. But I am sure it is also not easy to find someone who would be that conscientious, especially an actor! [Sorry to put them in this bracket again] He made us laugh by imitating my daughter’s gestures while playing ‘Uno’. In spare time during that the outdoor shoot he used to play Uno, a card game with my daughter and my son. In fact he had introduced that game to our family and we were addicted to it for very long.

Well, Jalal sang along every Bob Marley song. He knew the entire album in sequence. One visual part that I remember is when he was about to enter the toilet to refresh, the opening music of ‘I shot the sheriff’ started. On beat, he retraced his two steps backwards from the toilet door, did a jig on the beat, sang the first line and then went in. He was totally a cool, down to earth guy and not to forget, a good friend.

He expired suddenly in Delhi due to a massive heart attack. It seems he had been warned by his close friends to get his health condition checked. But this was also true that he did not wish to spend his limited funds on himself. He wanted to save it for traveling to see his children. His body was brought to his apartment and I went to see him. Some of his family members were wondering about my identity. So I made it short and sweet. I patted his cheeks and bid good bye. His family and friends did not know that one hot afternoon sometimes in the past, this guy had blackmailed me and forced 3 stiff drinks down my throat. And now he was being forced to turn into an inaccessible star, who is not allowed to meet an unknown guy like me.

T. K. Desai

My friend and colleague T K Desai expired in the morning of Jan 6, 2007 at his Bandra home, leaving behind his wife, 3 daughters and 2 sons.

T K Desai was a film ‘art director’ in Bombay’s film industry, now known as bollywood. He was a very sought after and popular person, easy to work and deal with. For a very long period he was mainly known to be a Navketan-man; just as I was, for a few years. He was much senior to me, though. He studied in the premier. J J School of Arts, Mumbai. After finishing his education he joined M R Acharekar’s art school as a faculty for a brief period. Mr. Acharekar was art director with India’s leading film production RK Films and Studios. So naturally TKD joined him in this field too and did many films of RK camp, as an assistant, set painter, property assistant etc. He worked in movies like, Jagte Raho, Shree 420, Dil Hi To Hai, Anari, Ab Dilli Dur Nahin. He was also associated with films like Amrapali, Kohra and Chaudhvin Ka Chand. In 1963 still an assistant, he entered Navketan camp, in Vijay Anand’s ‘Tere Ghar Ke Samne’. In 1965 he got his break as an independent ‘art director’ in Amarjeet’s ‘Teen Devian’. In Jewel Thief his work was hailed. He won Filmfare awards for Kohra (B&W) and Des Pardes.

My association with him started in 1972, when I was a recording-assistant in Gogi Anand’s film ‘Darling Darling’. On the sets T K Desai’s energy bowled me over. He seemed to have solutions to every requirement on the set. TKD was a very short man with a pronounced belly. His nose was very large and disfigured. He could be considered fairly ugly in this field of predominantly pretty and handsome. But no one including himself had any time to give it a vaguest of thoughts. TKD must have been one of the busiest and popular art directors of his time in Bombay.

Well TKD would be the person with whom I worked on maximum number of films. We both were parts of Navketan; including most of its sister concerns. I would imagine that out of my measly 30 odd films, TKD and my credits must have shared the screen time in 15 of them.

During ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’ we spent a whole lot of time together in Nepal. After coming back from Nepal, I too was considered to be a part of Navketan camp. Dev Saab and Navketan were heady with the success of Hare Ram Hare Krishna. His last release Heera Panna’s soft landing on the box office did not affect spirits of the camp. So, many movies were lined up in which we both worked together. Overlapping production of films like Des Pardes, Jaaneman, Loot Maar, Bullet, Kalabaaz etc made us meet every day for many years. That is a lot of interaction. There were more films to follow. We went for an outdoor shooting to Nainital for Kalabaaz and to Coorg for Anand Aur Anand. I remember at Coorg after a few drinks he got a little aggressive with me. He was showing off with his strength on me by hugging me very tight. In defense I managed to lift him; but could not put him down straight. Due to this he fell down. Later in the morning there were a lot of ‘sorry sorry’ and it was all wiped off the slate with ‘good morning’.

My last film with TKD was ‘Kaun Ho Sakta Hai’, which was shot entirely in Lonavala. I worked as a Production Designer in this film. This gave me a chance to work with him, in his own department. Due to this, instead of meeting only during free times we met during work too. I did get some valuable production insights by watching his way of working. At 78, he was energetic, able to think fast and provide alternates to create the required effect on screen. We went for walks during our free times. He was advised some form of exercise to keep fit. He would walk very slowly, but walk for an entire hour. I noticed walking slower made my muscles ache more than walking at my regular speed. He was very fond of flora. It was rainy season. So every corner of this hill station looked fresh and green. He would stop and look at wild flowers and plants and talk about them, sometimes even pick them up to take them back home. He also told me stories about his career, family and life in general. We were meeting in this film after nearly 20 years. There were a lot of gaps in my information regarding him and his career, which I was happy I was able to fill up…

On the morning of Jan 23, I along with Hersh Kohli went to meet TKD’s grieving family nearly two weeks after he had expired. I had come to know about his death very late. But as soon as knew it, I wanted to visit his place. His daughter opened the door for us and offered us seats. In a short while TKD’s very pretty wife appeared, sat near her husband’s enlarged photograph and sobbed softly. While his daughter filled us with details, “he was chatting with the family till 2.30am, he went to the toilet early morning, came out complaining of discomfort, collapsing on the bed, someone running to call the doctor from opposite house and… doctor pronouncing him ‘no more’. She said it was a very severe heart attack and in a matter of 5 minutes he was no more. Lucky, he did not have to suffer.” I totally agree with the lady. I too am happy he did not suffer.

Before leaving TKD’s house, I put my specks on, went to the blow up of his photograph and took a long hard look at his face smiling from behind a garland of fresh flowers. He wore his familiar cap and expression. As a comforting gesture I touched his wife’s shoulders. In response she sobbed a little louder. We said Namaste to all and slowly stepped out…

With this, the formalities were over and then started a mental test for me. Am I going to visit them ever again? I started questioning myself. Was it the usual ‘show your face’ show or will it have more depth? Will I be breaking my friendship with TKD just because he is dead or I should make plans to keep it going? Only the time will tell.

I came home and phoned Mrs. Desai to speak to her, to start a dialogue; but she was not yet out of her depression. She gave me the phone number of TKD’s assistant Ramesh, to get any information that I may be looking for. Ramesh spoke at length, “after working for nearly 50 years in this line, no one from any production house came to see TKD when he died. He was totally bitter about the ways of this ruthless film industry. He was cremated and even after all the other ceremonies were over; no one called up.” He was very bitter about Dev Saab too. “TKD worked all his life in Navketan, at least someone could have come to pay condolences from there or Dev Saab’s behalf. He used bad-words for the association of art directors, who did not bother to send any representative when he passed away.”
TKD as I said earlier was very popular among film producers, very technical, artistic, and excellent team member. But when he died he was not in the big league. He was so humble a man that no one felt any compulsion to visit his dwelling to console the family – including me.

‘Kaun Ho Sakta Hai’, a film in which I was lucky to work along with TK Desai, who was the Art Director.