IshkIshkIshk.Prod Story 2

The film had a large star cast. Shekhar Kapoor and Zarina Wahab were introduced in this film. Shekhar and child actor Padmini Kolhapure were newcomers who would go on to become very prominent personalities in future. Until then Shekhar had been a practicing CA in London. Padmini was a child of about 8-9 years. Other major actors were Premnath, Nadira, Iftekhar, Jankidas, Sudhir, Birbal, Trilok Kapoor, Madhup Sharma, Maruti, Ranjan and Nana Palsikar. Shabana Azmi and Komal (who later married Shatrughan Sinha) too were fairly new in the business. Shabana we all know has reached pinnacles of fame in various fields. Dev Saab had also selected a group of 12 pretty young girls to play as a group of trekkers in the film. Most prominent among them was the established model Shiela Jones.
In the morning of ‘day one’ as our raft was half way, we noticed Dev Saab pacing up and down ready with make-up, dressed in green leather pants and yellow shirt. He was shouting at us telling that we were late. Shooting started with scenes of Premnath, child actor Satyajit and comedian Maruti. It is late morning in the scene. Premnath is mad at sleeping hotel workers (child actor Satyajit and Maruti). Satyajit was supposed to have overslept, so he was to be woken up roughly by Premnath. Premji (Premnath) said he will do a direct take without rehearsal. He came screaming from far, shook up Satyajit roughly and perhaps even slapped him. Satyajit was not expecting so much energy in the scene. He got very scared and after the shot he developed fever and was sick for 3 days. He also brandished a knife at Maruti and he too seemed mortally scared.
Later during night shift we started playback sequences of songs, ‘Mujhko Agar Ijazat Ho To’ and ‘Kisi Na Kisi Se’, inside the large circular dining hall. This restaurant had glass windows all around it and a fire place in the middle. During the song shoots all twelve model girls, Zeenat Aman, Zarina Wahab, Padmini, Shekhar, Kuljit, Gautam Sarin, Nadira and Premnath participated. We shot that night and every night till about 2-3am. After pack up all of us would rush to wrap up the equipment, in order be the first to take the raft. The second round would delay you surely by about 15 min. Initially a hotel boy was assigned to pull it for us; but soon it was clear that he was not going to get any sleep doing that job. Thus soon enough unit members themselves took it over. For the young technicians of the unit, it was quite enjoyable too. In fact my selection to be a part of this film was done with my age in mind, then 23 years. Navketan’s earlier recordist Mr. J M Barot was quite senior by then and could not have kept up to the rigorous physical demands of this film. Mr. Barot was associated with Navketan until their previous film ‘Heera Panna’ and has had a long association with them. I was told that Dev Saab had a meeting with his close associates on this point and Gogi Anand had suggested my name to him. I will thank him forever for trusting me and linking me to such a famous personality and his esteemed banner.
Dev Saab loves to have energetic people around him. He likes to see his people on their toes, full of energy, rather than sitting around and looking dull. And I fitted the bill. I would say that hiring me for ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’ was as beneficial for Navketan, as it was for me. The shooting schedules and locations were so strenuous that older technicians would not have survived it. We shot, two shifts a day, i.e. day and night for 42 days without break. That is ample proof of the tough shooting, we had. We slept only between 3am and 7am. For me it was a little worse, because I had got hooked on to drinking. Me, Vijay and Oscar (choreographers) would drink like devils and eat our cold dinner from the restaurant at 4am, everyday! I survived this physical abuse since I was a tough 23 then.
For a few days we shot at another pretty location called ‘Tibetan Camp’. I did my first shopping of Nepali trinkets, copper medallions, beads etc out of my daily allowance of 35 Nepali Rupiyah. We shot scenes of flashback with Premnath and Zeenat Aman. Zeenat had to insert pieces of cotton pads behind her cheeks in her mouth to look different. She played Premnath’s wife (she dies later) and her own mother with this look. Other actors in this sequence were Iftekhar, Ranjan and A K Hangal. Mr. Hangal played a Hindu priest. He did similar roles of a priest in three more films with me later. ‘Kalabaaz’ was another one, yet again with Dev Anand and Zeenat. All the locations that we shot on were totally unexplored by any other camera. As an assistant recordist I hadn’t traveled much. I had just been to Goa once (for ‘The Witness’). Nepal looked so pretty to me. I also had this excitement in my chest that technically I was in a foreign country for the first time in my life, never mind without passport. Navketan had made I-cards for all of us and that was enough.

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.