In his book “In The Afternoon Of Time” Haribansh Rai Bachhcan recalls that on completion of wedding of Amitabh Bacchan and Jaya Bhaduri, Hari Bansh Rai Bachchan embraced Tarun Bhaduri (Jaya’s father) and congratulated him on getting a son-in-law like Amit, expecting him to say the same in respect of Jaya. But he said, ‘My family is utterly ruined.’ Did Jaya recall it during Abhishek Aishwarya marriage? Meanwhile the association with Bombay Film Industry continues.
But these are faces seen on celluloid or voices heard on the background track. What about the invisible or unheard men and women who bring the entire production of a movie together, direct it from behind the camera and write its story, scripts and dialogues? Erstwhile Madhya Pradesh that included Chhattisgarh had some notable exports to Bollywood in these fields as well. Now, Rumi Jafry keeps that proud track record going. “God Tussi Great Ho’ starring Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra released in August might have had a mixed record at the box office. It might have even been dismissed by the critics as a crude Indian take on the hit Hollywood movie ‘Bruce Almighty’ starring comedy superstar Jim Carey and Morgan Freeman. But it doesn’t take away the fact that Jafry has established himself as a top writer-director in Bollywood. Jafry left his modest government quarter accommodation in Tulsi Nagar of Bhopal almost two decades back and has worked his way up the hard way even as part of his family continues to live in its modest home near the lower lake in the walled city.
Directing a star-studded cast that includes Big B and Salman Khan apart from Priyanka Chopra signals his arrival as a serious player near the top of the pile in the cut-throat world of Bollywood. Starting out as story, screenplay and dialogue writer, he was firmly entrenched in the David Dhawan camp, doing a dozen projects with the most successful purveyor of tamasha movies throughout the 90s. Jafry says, “It’s been a mixture of hard work and luck. I am grateful for everything that I have today.”
JP Chouksey, a noted film critic and himself a film writer and producer, most remarkably of Naseeruddin Shah-starrer `Shayad’ and `Katl’ Starring Sanjeev Kumar, says,”While Rumi has achieved commercial success as a director, his forte remains dialogue. His best perhaps came in Chalte Chalte, the Aziz Mirza film for which he wrote dialogues.” The only other serious name from Madhya Pradesh currently in Bollywood as far as film direction goes is Sudhir Mishra, who spent his formative years in the university town of Sagar. While Jafry’s and Mishra’s vocations might be same, they inhabit different worlds altogether. Mishra is a critically-acclaimed director known for his alternative and arthouse cinema like ‘Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin’. His latest venture was ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ starring Soha Ali Khan. Mishra is the grandson of former chief minister, the late DP Mishra. It is a little known fact that DP Mishra was himself a serious player in the business and once owned his own production house Dhuandhar Productions.
Around the same time as Mishra’s in the 60s, Chhattisgarh also had some serious players venturing out in Bombay. One of the most notable among them was Kishore Sahu, a producer-director and an actor most remembered for his performance as the cussed, jealous husband of Wahida Rehman in Dev Anand’s immortal mega-hit `Guide’. However, the State’s Bollywood connection dates much further back. In 1949, Gopikrishna Vijayvargiya, a native of Guna who later settled down in Indore, made a black and white movie `Preet Ka Geet’ starring the vamp of yesteryear, ‘Shashikala’.
The State’s commercial hub Indore, in fact, has been an assembly line of movie producers. Even Lata Mangeshkar, the most phenomenal female voice ever in Bollywood, has produced a few films, the most successful being `Lekin’ directed by noted writer, lyricist and director Gulzaar as also ‘Jait Re Ja’, directed by Dr. Jabbar Patel. Painter MF Hussain, who hails from Indore, has also tried his hand at movie production and direction with Madhuri Dixit starrer `Gajgamini’ in the 90s that was nevertheless panned by critics and bombed at the box office.
The Nasaria family of Indore had produced a movie `Majboor Mashooq’ during the silent era. The Williamson camera of 1917 make that was used to shoot the film is still preserved in working order by the family in Indore. Likewise, Chouksey points out, even the then ruling family of Indore, the Holkars, one of whose descendents is actor Vijayendra Ghatage, had tried their hand at movie finance as far back as 1922. The erstwhile Maharaja’s sister was married to Indore businessman Boliya Sarcar, who produced Jehan Ara starring Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar and directed by Jaan Nisar Akhtar, father of Javed Akhtar. At the peak of Indore’s connections with Bombay, there were many business and industrial families from the city financing movie projects. However, the trend declined once corporate finance became the order of the day around a decade years back.
Gwalior’s connection to Bollywood may be limited but no less significant. Lyricist Javed Akhtar spent some of his childhood years in Gwalior before completing his graduation in Bhopal. One of the most stunning beauties to have appeared in a Bollywood film was Vanmala, the daughter of a high-ranking official in the erstwhile Gwalior state. Starring in Sohrab Modi’s Sikandar, she also produced Marathi movie Shamchi Aai which won the first President’s gold medal. However, she gave it all up to tend to her ailing parents and after their death, shifted to Vrindavan to take care of the diseased and the elderly.
From the days when such formidable lyricists as Kavi Pradeep, Sadanand Kirkire, Rahat Indori and Nida Fazli made their invaluable contribution to traditional movie-making, the movie business has seen directors exploring different themes. As a result, the likes of Mir Ranjan Negi, the hockey goalie from the doomed 1982 Asiad, have been able to provide technical inputs for superhits like Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Chak De India’ last year. As the business of infotainment expands with films at the top, the State could well see more of its names pop up on the marquee.
Earlier refrence to Bombay Film Industry.