Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017 | Last Update : 11:52 PM IST
One of the Neena and Kundan’s fellow strugglers was Satish Shah, who first met the director at Film and Television Institute of India in 1974.
As Bollywood mourns the loss of its master of satire and comedy — Kundan Shah — we speak to those close to him about their memories associated with the filmmaker.
When Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro first burst onto the silver screen, it became one of the foremost films to attempt a dark satire on Indian politics and red-tapeism. A prolific group of actors, screenplay writers and makers came together to make a cult classic, despite its poor reception at the box office in its initial days. From Naseeruddin Shah’s struggling photographer to Satish Shah’s corrupt police inspector, the role of every single character was woven with perfection.
However, the man who created the hard-hitting storyline and helmed the film — Kundan Shah — is no more. The director suffered a heart attack and passed away in the early hours of October 17, leaving the industry grieving.
Veteran actress Neena Gupta recalls the early days of struggle together on the sets of Jaane Bhi Do… fondly. “We were all strugglers in those days. I think it was Kundan’s first project as well and we had a tremendously fun time working together on the film. It was more like being a part of a theatre group than the kind of atmosphere you find at a film shoot today. We all knew each other as we were all trying to make our mark in the industry at the time. Kundan was one of the most focused people I have met. I remember once we are all on a lunch break and he finished his food in five minutes and was ready to go back to shooting. Half of us hadn’t even started eating! That was just the kind of focus and dedication he had,” she smiles.
One of the Neena and Kundan’s fellow strugglers was Satish Shah, who first met the director at Film and Television Institute of India in 1974. Satish takes great pride in saying that he was part of the first student film, first advertisement, first feature film and the first TV show that Kundan ever made. “Just a month ago, we had a meal at my place and now I am so disturbed that he left us so soon. We were also always in touch. He was such a contented and a happy man. He had certain ideas about everything, but he never imposed them on anyone. We never allowed our difference of opinions hamper our friendship in any which way. We always used to get nostalgic about the work we had done together and discussed if we could do something in future,” says Satish, who had said in an interview that he was on the way to visit Kundan’s family, as soon as he heard the news.
Producer Ramesh Taurani, who also worked with the director in more than one of his films, regrets the loss of such an inspiration to the film industry. “I got the news in the morning and I was in a state of shock. He was an iconic filmmaker. It’s a huge loss for our industry. I have produced his films Dil Hai Tumhara and Kya Kehna. I have worked with so many directors but I haven’t come across anybody who is as sorted as this man was. He was so clear-headed and was so experienced. He would make sure producers are not in loss and could make the film in a tight budget. He was an inspiration to many new sets of directors,” he sighs.
Perhaps almost as iconic as Jaane Bhi Do… was Shah’s movie Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na. Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, whose real breakthrough into Bollywood was with this movie, found herself shocked and saddened when she got the news as soon as she got into town from New Delhi.
“He created a character for me that the world remembers me frankly, so he will always be special to me. I was very new when we did Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa. He had a rough manner with actors. I used to cry a lot on sets but over the years, I got to know him, and I was very close to him. I used to go to office sometimes. He was a good man. I was very much in touch with him over the years. In fact, I had promised to him that I would take Kaveri (her daughter) to his house and have lunch with him but that never happened. It just goes to show you that in life you should never defer things when you are supposed to do them,” Suchitra laments.
Perhaps a bit out-of-place in the world overrun with new media, public relations and social media, Kundan was an old soul, confesses Neena. “He wasn’t very PR savvy or up-to-date with social media. But he was a one-of-a-kind director. It’s sad that he won’t be making any more films,” she elaborates.
Satish agrees. “Unfortunately, he was not cut out for the way the film industry actually works. He was a very dedicated and diligent soul. I will remember him as a simpleton, who believed in cinema and not movies,” he ends on a nostalgic note.
— With inputs from Pratyush Patra