Awtar-3 (April 19, 1974: suspense cleared)

I have written two posts on the death of my friend writer, producer and director Late Awtar Kaul. They can be found here1 and here 2. In the entire drama of his absence from his PG place with me and all of us waiting for his return…

To remind readers that we friends were waiting for him on that fateful 19 April in 1974 evening to celebrate and drink to 27 Down winning Best Hindi Film national award for 1973. We all waited and waited… finally drank to our hearts content, ate the food lying there. If I can remember, then some left, then all left. I went to sleep, rather heavily drunk. It was a humid night, when the owner Jayant Patel woke me around 3 am to take a call! A police arrived and took me to Nayar hospital to identify the body of the person we waited all evening…

It took very long to come out of the depression and extreme sadness of Awtar’s untimely death. But a very important point kept poking me “did Awtar know that he had won the award or not?” If he knew about it, then it was good, because he must have been celebrating with friends of his level. But he did not know then it would be the saddest story one would come across.

I have made friends with Adeep Tondon, a cinematographer from FTII. I have known him for very long, because he our senior and well meet here and there… One day I called him to my house to break into ‘lets meet as friends’. I showed him the poster of 27 Down hanging in my room… and he opened a huge cache of his memories. I couldn’t believe my luck! I asked him all that he knew about Awtar and he knew really a lot…

Awtar was second assistant in Ismail-Merchant’s ‘Bombay Talkie’ starring Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendal, Aparna Sen, Cinematographer was Subrata Mitra. Adeep assisted him in two films in Calcutta. So, Adeep met Awtar for the entire production of Bombay Talkie, which is important knowledge, as to his way of working, behaving etc. When a person new in this business dies, his foot prints are lost. As no one knows him that well, unless personally. So there are points like, he used in car to pick up Shashi Kapoor from Everest apartment etc. He had to be on his toes as these foreign productions demand very professional attitude…

Coming to the point; evening of 19 April ’74, I was zapped to know that on that evening Awtar and Adeep were having a drink together at the Ritz bar at Churchgate. This was known to me. After that there was darkness. Adeep said Awtar did not know that he had won the national award, because they were also together at the Samovar, Jahangir Art Gallery. Those days there were no televisions in public places. After a few drinks they split and Awtar went to White House and Walkeshwar with his female friend, where his another friend Harkishan (a celebrated painter) was able to see them from his room. He saw all the drama of their fight. The girl climbing the parapet threatening to jump into the swollen sea. He trying reach out and stop her. Girl finally screaming and jumping. Awtar calling for help. People throwing nylon rope for the rescue. Awtar too jumping into the waves. Trying to hold the rope, the girl. Finally massive waves banging him on the side wall many times…
I am happy that this important chapter is all tied up and closed for me.

Late Awtar Kaul, during shoot of 27 Dn, sometime in 1973

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