IshkIshkIshk Prod Story 6

Next day we shot the part of climax near Shyangboche airport. After the 6 day shooting schedule at this hell of a location got over, we had to vacate as soon as possible.
A journalist from ‘Time’ visited us here. She stayed for 2 days interviewing and clicking a lot of pictures. In fact there had been a steady traffic of journalists from Mumbai on all our locations. Dev Saab has got a way with them. Other visitors were music director R D Burman, singer Bhupinder Singh and Gogi Anand.
It was nearly mid-December and the weather was getting worse. Soon flights would be prohibited here for a long period. Shyangboche airport was very unique too. A 250 meter air strip was like a steep incline, to help airplanes gain speed while flying away and to arrest their motion while landing. Higher end of the air strip touched the mountain side. But the other end was sharply and scarily clipped off at the edge of mountain and opened straight into void of the familiar deep valley. The airplane was a 6 seater Pilatus Porter. Our transportation from here took about 5 round trips between Shyangboche and Kathmandu. Hersh asked me to travel in the last flight with him. So, I waited. Slowly each and everyone boarded the small airplane that kept coming back after a gap of nearly 2 hours. Watching the airplane take off and land gave me necessary confidence of going through the experience of this flight. Frankly I did not mind waiting, because it gave me a longer chance to enjoy that place.
On our turn the pilot announced that this was going to be on the last flight of the season. That was a little scary, because any slip could have left us stranded here for months without any rescue. I with Hersh and some Nepali helpers took our seats, buckled the belts and the plane zoomed down to the edge of the short strip. This was the first time I was flying from here. As it left the edge of the mountain, it fell down about 50 ft like a rock. It felt as if there was not enough momentum for it to take off. But in about 5 seconds, it stabilized and turned right. It took its route in the middle of the valley. The engine kept groaning hard to keep above the white fog that had covered the entire panorama from down below. The pilot could not see anything, so to be safe he had to stay above those clouds. It seemed that airplane did not have enough power. The joy-stick was pressed to the last point. There was a horrifying tension. Sometimes the plane would be tossed from side to side and sometime lost height suddenly. When it fell like a rock, our heads would hit the ceiling. A Nepali boy got so scared that he left his seat and sat in my lap holding my legs in terror. The horror lasted for more than 30 min. Only after we had cleared the mountains, the plane steadied and we could see the ground below. The pilot too relaxed, looked back and tossed some oranges towards us. His smiling face was totally sweaty. Many years later in 1981, Shekhar Kapoor would tell me that the Italian pilot who flew us died in a crash in the same area.
Like many others Hersh too had become very friendly with me during this near 3 month shoot. This relationship would later culminate into me working for his own production company ‘Indu Pictures’ and ‘Aap Ki Khatir’ would be his first film with Vinod Khanna and Rekha. He also introduced me to his wife’s younger sister, who eventually became my wife and still is…
We returned to Mumbai totally exhausted and badly sun-burnt. But in a few days only Dev Saab started shooting on the sets in Mehboob studios. As a part of climax, a set of rocks was constructed, to do close work. Then we had two days schedule on real mountain-rocks of Mumbra, near Mumbai. We had real rock climbers duplicating for Zeenat, Dev Saab and others.
We also went to Narkanda near Simla, to shoot sequences of heavy snow and blizzard. It was so awfully cold. We were standing on snow, snow was all around and storm fan was throwing snow and thermocol balls at the actors. We shot in this, colder than Nepal location, for 6 days and returned to Mumbai.
Another part of the story which moved with Dev Saab’s childhood was shot in Dr Graham’s Homes School, Kalimpong. We were here for nearly ten days.
Soon after the film was edited we started dubbing in music recording facility of Mehboob studios. Robin Chatterji the recordist had not yet started recording songs here. The theatre had just been completed. So, Mehboob management gave it to Dev Saab willingly for dubbing. Mehboob Khan had tremendous respect for Dev Saab. He used to say ‘Yeh Studio Dev Ka Hai Aur Dev Ke Paise Se Bana Hai.’ The largest stage (#3) of Mehboob studios was believed to be financed by Dev Saab.
Song recording and processing of the film had been done at ‘Film Center’, at Tardeo. Being a musical, ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’ had many songs, written by Anand Bakshi and composed by R D Burman. I met Navketan editor Babu Sheikh at their Khira Nagar office at S V Road, Santacruz. Babu has retired since long and the office too has shifted to Pali Hill, Bandra at the Anand recording studios. The mixing (Re-recording) of the film was done by unbeatable Mangesh Desai at V Shataram’s Raj Kamal studios at Parel. Mangesh Desai gave some suggestions as he watched the film over and over during mixing. So, a little patch work was done on the terrace of Raj Kamal. We also did some patch work on the hills of Lonavala.
The film finally completed and got the censor certificate in Nov, 1974. Its premier at the Metro cinema was a very glitzy affair. It was followed by a huge party at the top floor restaurant of the Oberoi hotel at the Marine Drive. My eyes were popping with the glare of publicity that actors were receiving. I felt good in knowing that I too had been a part of all this, may be on the outer periphery.
In the end, nothing succeeds like success. Being such an expensive film, ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’ didn’t even run for two weeks in Metro. Nor did it get any good reviews. It was my first painful experience of seeing so much hard work and money going down the drain, so effortlessly.

My Enemies

In today’s time I can’t imagine any country more uncivilized than China. She has always been so uncouth and unpredictable. In late 50s, as school students we used to shout slogan coined by our PM, Pandit Nehru, ‘hindi chini bhai bhai’ (Indians and Chinese are brothers). Then we would be happy seeing the B&W pictures of a chinky guy hugging and pumping Panditji’s right hand. Panditji had convinced entire country that how good our friendship with China was. And what China did in 1962?

China broke that trust by attacking us unprovoked. They occupied thousands of kilometers of our territory! That attack sent Nehru in a state of shock. His face must have fallen badly and his image of a statesman taken a huge beating. I used to sit near my Philips radio and hear the news of how deep Chinese army had invaded inside the Indian Territory. Although I had no idea how far that was. I had no sense of geography then. But I would be very scared in my dreams… chinky men in Khaki shot at me. I would be depressed hearing the voice of radio news reader, Lothika Ratnam on All India Radio, ‘Indian soldiers have lost yet another post to the surging Chinese army.’ And get a little happy if any of those posts were won back next week.

During the 2008 Olympic Torch’s Indian chapter, I heard a new Chinese version of that war. A Chinese foreign affairs person said that India had instigated us by accumulating troupes along the border way back in 1961. So now it means that I had started that war! China is sitting on thousands of square kilometers of my land and tells me that I started the war! If I started then I should be on her land not the other way round. Then Chinese violence inside Tibet also had upset me very badly. And this is the time I decided to take revenge on that fat brag of a country for hurting those world’s most peaceful monks. Khaki Chinkies had grabbed the land and now they wanted to change the life style of the only entirely spiritual country in the world.

China and Burma are the countries who do not reveal anything to either its own people or to outsiders. Citizen there live in darkness and no one knows where their country is headed.
Few years back China has changed its track and has started doing very well financially. All the philosophies and knowledge of Confucius have been buried under the mountains of money. They have never handled this kind of money, ever. That is why they cannot control their wagging tongue and attitude. They are also not used to speaking to press, because saying anything goes on record for keeps sake. They have always been hiding a million things for a single revelation.
Well I have been very upset with China’s current attitude, especially since I met Dalai Lama in Mcleodganj. I came to know many horror stories of Chinese army action in Tibet.
So, finally I decided that I was not going sit and watch all this injustice forever. I started planning how to punish both these bad pennies, China and Myanmar.

I had no option but to seek help from natural-powers. It wasn’t possible without the nature ‘hits’ I wanted to send messages like, ‘This is for saying I started the 1961 war’, ‘This is for killing the Tibetan monks’, ‘This is for calling Arunachal Pradesh a disputed territory’, ‘This is for pushing cheap goods in India’… See these nature nissiles do not operate pishing a button. They just know when to fire.
On May 6, 2008, much before I had imagined a huge wind cyclone called, ‘Nargis Myanmar’ landed there. It carried unwritten but logical messages, ‘This is for the military junta for keeping Aung San Suu Kyi in prison for so many years’, ‘This is for not allowing democratic elections in the nation’, ‘This is for keeping Buddhist monks and press under constant suppression’ and finally ‘This is for not allowing foreign donation to reach the needy after you got hit with Nargis’.
Just six days later, on May 12, 2008, a massive earthquake, 7.9 on Richter scale hit Sichuan, China. All the TV news channels were showing the same ‘Breaking News’. On final count there were huge losses of property and life (almost 88,000 died, 374,643 injured, 18,392 missing). Though I was sad for those 900 school kids. But it can’t be helped, can it? Colateral damage. Point is how would they know that why they both got hit and was there someone wishing for it?

Weapons didn’t even carry any messages with them! Damn!


Mere Mehboob Studios

Mehboob studios has been my second home between 1972-1985! It was a bustling place with film shootings in all its 3 large stages by biggest producers of Bombay then. Stage #3 was the largest in Asia during those days. Its grand wooden wall at the entry still looks gorgeous due to the old world charm.

Understanding Past Today

If events happening around you don’t inspire you or kick you enough to start writing, then it may be a good idea to write about your past. I mean use some strong, loving, moving or scary incidences from your past that should make it easy to start punching the keyboard. But I seem to have lost both areas to pick a topic from, present or past. Past is over and present is so uninspiring with all this price hikes and political puppet dances… But recently I read a very nice a piece from someone I know dearly and I thought that it was a very good idea to express what I felt in some special professional moments of my life.

Well, to earn my bread I do ‘sound recording’ in entertainment business; in medias like films, documentaries and television. I can write about my take on it from the past till present.

When I landed in Mumbai in 1972 (3 May), I started working as an assistant with one Mr. Singh, then a popular senior sound recordist. Normally working as an assistant could give no one any artistic satisfaction or professional, because you are always under the shadow of your boss, well, mostly for most. But just by chance some of my individual sparks managed to spill out, which thankfully also got noticed by some. In arty businesses, getting appreciation from appropriate quarters is much more satisfying, compared to getting adequately paid for it. To give myself a few points, I can count a few incidences which give me healthy satisfaction. First one was from 27 Dn, my first film as an assistant. After the film was over the producer told me, “you will do my next film,” which meant that the producer/director was happy enough with my work to make such a statement. For me, as a new comer, this was a huge compliment but totally private. It had to be kept as a very well-guarded secret. At no cost and through no channel, it should be allowed to reach the ear drums of my boss! I just couldn’t share my elation with anyone else for a very long time ;-(

It was lucky and also professionally practical that I assisted only one recordist that is, Mr Singh. Well, in some contrived and strange circumstances I got my first direct compliment from him only. It was connected with the shooting of a film called ‘Raja Kaka’. On one particular day, I was to do that shooting all by myself – with absolutely no one with me. Those days there used to be a lot of checking by our association (which honored me recently), to find people working without recording team of 3 people. So to handle the shooting in Filmistan Studio, Goregaon, solely by my-self for the whole day, with nearly a hundred people on the set lead by a popular character actor, needed something that I didn’t know I had. Let me explain the real stuff…

It was the set of a factory/mill, where workers are on a strike and this tipsy mill owner is screaming at them to ‘go to hell’. So there was lot of pushing and shoving by junior artistes as well as other high strung assistants in direction, camera, makeup, light boys, spot boys etc running around. So I requested the cameraman to tell me the ‘frame’ so I could place my microphone safely on a chair. The idea was to keep it far enough to be safe from the melee and close enough to pick up the dialogues clearly. I had to whisper my request to so many people to be careful, pointing to the mike on the chair. Then just before they were ready to roll, I would run back 100 ft outside the stage to the recording room to be ready for ‘rolling’ the tape. Those days the 35mm tape recorder was placed in the inside room where actually the assistant rolls the machine. After the speed stabilizes he shouts to recordist, ‘rolling’, then the recordist presses the ‘talk-back’ button connected to the set and shouts, ‘sound rolling’ and then rest of the camera, action etc happens. But the main tension was that I had to rush back to the set the instant the take was ‘cut’, to pick up the microphone and move it as per the next shot…

There was also huge weight on the head in case association’s vigilance team lands there and fines me for working without prescribed 3 people; recordist, assistant and boom-man. How I missed my boom-man that day!

Cut to 2 weeks later. The ‘mill worker’s scene’ has been edited and there was a trial show at Mahalaxmi Lab & Studios, Mahalaxmi. Lights dimmed in the very opulent private viewing theatre and the show of that scene started. I was too tense to find what I had done. I was happy to realize that it could have been used as it is, without any dubbing. In 20 min, it was over. Now the biggest surprise was in store for me! Unit members stood up and clapped for the ‘sound’! You may see an assistant ‘sound-man’ being applauded only in my business and also if unit like you a lot. I felt sheepish and kept looking down. It was my first taste of real professional satisfaction. But it seems applause was for my boss, who was sitting just next to me. He did not tell anyone that it was ‘me’ who should have been applauded. After a lot of ‘wah wah’ and handshakes we both walked out. As me and Mr Singh stepped out of the gates of the studios, he whispered in my ears, “you got such an applause for your single handed recording.” It was nice of him to say that; but even at raw age of 23, I realized, couldn’t he have said that in front of the unit members inside the theatre, “here is the guy who did this all by himself”? Suddenly something cracked inside me. I hate it when you realize cunning comes into a relationship. Worse, it then enters inside you too.
More later… perhaps.

Mehboob Studios, main gate, Bandra West

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.