IshkIshkIshk Prod Story 3

After a marathon schedule of 42 days & nights, we were given a welcome change. There was no night shooting on November 19. We all were blessed due to Zeenat’s birthday on this day. So, in place of Nagra, amplifiers, lights and camera, there were drinks, dinner, conversations and most importantly relaxation. I am sure for this break the unit must have genuinely wished and blessed Zeenat. I sat in the company of Fali Mistry. He was beginning to get very fond of me. Although I was in awe of him, I was enjoying listening to his stories from the nostalgic past. Fali Saab had been around for a long time. His first film was Dilip Kumar’s ‘Udan Khatola’. He had also worked on my all time favorite ‘Guide’. After dinner Fali Saab was rotating his large goblet of brandy and talking to me about finer points of drinking. Similar relationship was developing between me and senior actor Nadira. She would affectionately insist on me that I call her ’mom or mamma’. She proved it beyond doubt when she took care of me for seven days, when I fell very ill due to some stomach ailment. She made my bed in her room and did not allow me to step outside. My assistants had to manage the show in my absence.
It is a fact that whenever there is an outdoor shooting, the unit members have returned home as friends, for life.
After a while we were moved to a village called ‘Dhampus’. But there was no village in sight. Dhampus was all mountains and valleys providing a great back-drop all around. Reaching here was very tedious. Fali Saab was on a pony because the climb was rocky and very steep. When he reached up, he was panting very heavily and looked mortally scared. I was quizzical. He kept his hand on my shoulder for support and said leaning heavily, ‘Aaj Main Bach Gaya’. He told me that his pony had stumbled and slipped on some loose rocks. So he got off the pony and had to walk up a part of the climb. Fali Saab was nearly 6ft tall and was a very heavy man too. He had health problems associated with being over weight, like diabetes. He used to be careful about his diet. Although Dev Saab trusted and needed him totally, I would still think, it was very bold of him to come and shoot in a place like this.
Next to a heavy set frame of Fali Saab, Arri-IIC camera looked insignificant. One night during the lighting of a shot Fali Saab saw a pretty foreigner chatting with Dev Saab. With a smile he called me by his side and started looking here and there. He took out a small comb from his hip pocket and combing his hair he casually mumbled to me ‘Dev Ke Saath Woh Chhokri Kaun Hai (who is that chick with Dev)?’ I said, ‘Koi Jouranalist Hai Fali Saab (she is a journalist)’. He said, ‘Achchhi Hai (she is pretty). Dev Ko Kahan Se Milti Hain Itni?’ I was enjoying the trust that was building between me and a very celebrated senior technician.
Later everyday after shooting in Mehboob studios, he would give me a lift in his Mercedes or Nadira in her Triumph. On some occasions they even waited and looked for me too, if I was late. Fali Saab had also started sharing some semi dirty jokes with me. He would laugh heartily after telling one. He also shared some of his private past with me. He once took me to a Parsi lady’s home in Bandra for a cup of tea. After we left he told me in his car that she was his ex-girl friend. He bragged to me once about a big heroine coming to his hotel room.
Fali Saab had an assistant called S R Dabholkar (no more now). In Dhampus I had a massive fight with him. He tried to act smart with me when I was in my tent and 4 drinks high. That was a big mistake he made. I screamed and hurled abuses at him. After the fight he went away and I ended up drinking almost an entire bottle of rum – neat. That still stands as is my record binge. Next day during the shooting of the song ‘Chal Saathi Chal’, Fali Saab told me that I had gone way out of control and Dev too was listening to your screaming. I must have felt bad for it, but nothing could be done then. In Dhampus the sun would go behind mountains very early. And because of slower film speed, it was difficult to get right exposure. But the light would be enough to play ‘Gulli Danda’. Our carpenters had made Gulli Danda from a little branch of a tree. So I along with few light boys and Vijay-Oscar would play our hearts out to an audience of Dev Saab, Zeenat and Fali Saab with other staff.
All of us had to wake up very early for a ticklish reason; to make potty in outdoors. I remember one dark morning I was headed towards a bush in the dark when I noticed a figure resembling Zeenat. I of course promptly changed my direction to find another bush. One evening on this location would go down in my life as extra special. We all sat around a small fire and everyone managed to convince Dev Saab to sing something for us. Without much fuss he sang ‘Jahan Mein Aisa Kaun Hai’ by Asha Bhonsle from ‘Hum Dono’. He sang very well. It has been my favorite song since then.

Page from the Past

Mr. Dev Anand (Dev saab) huge Indian actor, producer, director expired on December 3, 2011 in London.

He died in his sleep due to a massive heart attack (as reported).

Many people in Mumbai’s film circle, knew about my 12 year long association with him and Navketan. Here are some of the condolences messages from my family and friends:

(PS: please do not bother about the spellings and spaces etc. i have retained them as it is.)

G S Bhaskar: Sir, joining you in prayers for Devsaab, the rarest of rare gems. You are fortunate to be associated with Navketan with with that wonderful humanbeing. Pranam. -bhaskar G. S.

(Reply: Thanks Bhaskar. He got such glowing tributes from all over. Take care)

J R Kamble: DEEPEST CONDOLENCE . DEV SAAB IS MO MORE… He lived in DES AND DIED IN PARDES. I saw DES PARDES IN DES -BOMBAY AND PARDES – SINGAPORE. I saw his last in FTII.

(ReplyL)

Pranav Mehta: Mama. I am sorry on the demise of Dev Anand ji. It is a great loss to the country.

(Reply: Thanks pranav, I’m feeling very sad, after years. Happy to shed a few tears)

Meera Bhardwaj: Dev anandji’s death mst hv jogd sevral memoris.

(Reply: Yes Meera. Feeling very upset, choked, sometime tearful :-(

Apy: hey Arun. personal nostalgia must b flooding,

(Reply: Yes it is)

Prashant Desai: May the soul of Dev Anand rest in peace. V wil miss u Devsaab

(Reply: Yes prashant true)

KK Jaisawal: So sad… Dev saab is no more

(Reply: Yes i m very upset)

Indu: Dev uncle died this morning in london

(Reply: Yes came to know thanks, very sad)

Hersh Kohli: Uncle Dev died of heart attack in London

Tarun Hriday: Hope u r abreast Dev Anand dies in London. 2011 witnessed a lot of deaths from field of art n culture n films. One more coincidence kalika arriving today only. Tarun

(Reply: Yes Munna strangely your sms was first, then Hersh. I just spoke to him… I am feeling very sad. I knew the time was ripe. But i am happy that i felt choked and tearful for him)

Wrote to Amit: Feeling like crying…extremely sad

(His reply: Dev Saab: Eternal!)

During shooting of Ishq Ishq Ishq, 1974

Reviving Immortality

This is dedicated to a person having practically no significance in the glittering world of cinema. I would not claim him to be a great friend of mine too. He had much more important and closer friends in his life. Late Prabhu Dayal or Prabhuji, was fairly senior to me. In fact on paper Prabhuji is not even as someone totally ‘down under’ kind of guy. He acted in a few films like Hum Dono, CID, and House No 44… and also assisted in direction in early Navketan movies like Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Kala Pani, Gambler, Farar… I am happy to say that if you Google, ‘Prabhu Dayal’, you will not go empty handed. IMDb too has a page on him.

Well, I decided to write about Prabhuji, because a five years old incidence got suddenly refreshed in my mind. But before I talk about that incidence itself, I will have to project a long flashback sequence…

I met Prabhuji in 1974 when I came back from Nepal after the shooting of film, ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’. Soon I became a Navketan man and started regularly visiting their office in Khira Nagar on S V Road, Santacruz. Prabhuji would also drop in once in awhile, have a cup of tea, make some loud noises with his old colleagues like Gogi Anand, Vishwa, Sehdev, accountants Raman and Mr. Pisharodi and then leave. Prabhuji’s professional association with Navketan was over much before I joined them. Physically he was a very thin and scrawny looking person. He was bald, had a boney face, sunken teeth and a hooked nose. The veins in his arms seemed embossed extra high. He might have been very athletic in his younger days. He always walked in with a lot of energy and spoke in a loud and energetic voice. In conversations he used a fair amount of bad words but he did it almost poetically, without meaning any of it.

Inside his head he carried an amazing collection of English quotes, Urdu shayari and Farsi (Persian) poetry. On every occasion he had something profound to render. Being a fan of Sher-o-Shayari myself, I liked him immediately. He would narrate an entire Nazm or Ghazal (Matla to Maqta) in Farsi or in chaste Urdu without a hitch. Such was his memory and knowledge of both the languages. The more I did not understand those poems, the more I was impressed by him. After he would finish the narration, his lips would curl in a way that said ‘isn’t that deep?’ Among us all perhaps Gogi Anand was the only person who got some hang of all that.

Gradually I came to know that his wife Uma, was one of Dev Saab’s nieces. I thought that made him an insider in the camp. As a newcomer, I was impressed by anyone who had an easy access to Dev Saab. And Prabhuji was one of those few who could just fling open boss’s room to say ‘hi and bye’.

One fine day there was no shooting and Prabhuji had casually walked into the office. He saw many pretty young girls (wannabe actresses) perched on the brown wooden benches in famous long Navketan passage to meet someone; or anyone who was involved in casting. They were all well dressed and were there for one obvious reason, ‘for getting a chance to face the camera’ in a Dev Anand movie! Prabhuji pushed open the ‘Production’ cabin. He found many young guys, assistants in production and direction chatting away loudly. I too was one of them. He asked us to shut up with a harmless swear word. Then he said, ‘what is wrong with you all Navketan men? So many young girls are waiting outside and you men are happily chatting here like women? Have you all lost your virility? What has happened to this film company?’ He looked up and mourned. Then he stretched out his left arm towards us and ended his outburst with a ‘you all are no men, shame on you all’, before walking out. That was Prabhuji in his elements…

Some years later, I too got married to a girl in the periphery of that family. After which he became very nice to me and started treating me as a younger family member. He had a daughter, Abu. He doted on her. In fact she was the only bright patch in his life; everything else was dark and pointed south. Soon he started keeping unwell and thus stayed home. For years he received a small supporting pension like amount from Navketan office and some of his bro-in-laws too contributed for his survival.

One day his Abu suddenly fell very sick and soon died. She was a young girl of about 20 or so. This shattered Prabhuji down to the core. I met him during one of those bleak days. He hesitated to talk to me, to avoid getting choked with emotions. Another day, I saw him chewing a ‘paan’ in 4-Bunglow area. He was so weak that he could not stand straight due to that mild tobacco’s intoxication. He walked away with unsteady steps. I felt he was justified to intoxicate himself to cover up the huge mound of sadness that had become a part of his weightless personality…

Later I learnt that he lost his eyesight and soon, his hearing.

It is not hard to imagine, how a man must feel when there is total blankness around him. No picture, no sound! No communication. There was no one to say anything with a touch. Situation was, ‘someone has to guide your hand to a plate and you eat, puts a glass in your hand and you drink’. But how many people’s touch could he recognize? Except for his wife, no one was in touch with him anyway.

Now, I am at the point when I am ready to write that, which made me start writing this, to start with. One day I was coming from the market when I saw Prabhuji sitting outside a shop right under his home. He was sitting there, may be for fresh air. But I was really happy to see him. Very warmly I said ‘hello Prabhuji, how are you?’… There was no answer. I placed my hands on his knees and sat down in front of him and spoke again. He kept his hands on mine, but did not react. Then I remembered about the loss of his hearing and blindness. I got up and stepped back in order to gauge what else I could do in order to communicate. My head was not working. I kept looking at his face and noticed his eyes well up slowly. Suddenly I realized that there would be no man poorer than him at that moment. I walked off before my own face got wet…

This is the incident that crossed my mind last week and in a flash I had the solution to that day’s problem, although way, too late. I could have communicated with him… by writing my message on his palm with my finger! I could have told him my name! He had not lost his speech, so he might have replied. He needed to have a conversation with someone; with anyone and at that time I could have conversed with him. But my brains had deserted me that day.

I would imagine that meeting between us, as one of my most intense moments of my life. No dialogues, no communication, no looks; just a situation that could not be overcome. Maybe there is no reason for anyone to remember Prabhuji, think or talk about him; fondly or otherwise. He might not be a material worth remembering or worth giving a thought to; but I am so happy to have written this piece. After all everyone is entitled to some years of immortality after death. This is my sincere effort to inject immortality in the nameless and weightless soul that was, Prabhuji.

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.

Mere Mehboob Studios

From the end of 1972 till 1985, Mehboob studios was my second (sometimes first) home. I was very friendly with entire staff, be it Raghu the canteen boy, assistants in music studio, camera attendants, lightmen. Kamil, the sound room in-charge was very close to me as we worked together for so many years. The sound recording section was a royal 1000 sqft space!
One day I asked Zahoor bhai (manager cum telephone board operator), ‘who would currently be the oldest employee of the studio?’ He said, ‘there is a lightman called Ganapat Rao’… I knew him well obviously. Next time Ganapat was passing by I stopped him and asked him to give me his autograph on my stupid telephone diary. I can not explain how shocked and elated he was… I normally I don’t wish to turn my clock back even by a day… but for such rare feelings.
Sometimes it makes me teary emotional… Khair, I got the real inner feel of those times. Can’t say it was enough; but thank goodness, to have walked the floor where Mehboob Khan, Raj Khosla, Dilip Kumar, Dev saab, Madhubala, Fali and Jal Mistry, Dwarka Divecha… created magical cinema. The realization is certainly fulfilling… Plz understand that even if I add hundreds of names from my own memory, it can never ever even nearly complete the list.