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Greatness vs Success

These filmmakers were box office kings, yet no one talks about them today. Why do we forget our legends so easily?

True greatness is the ability to inspire in others, the mission you set out for yourself. And that is as true of filmmaking as of anything else. Sadly, greatness is not always synonymous with recognition, especially in a business as fickle as the film industry. Here are my top nine filmmakers who have inspired me to keep raising the bar for myself.

Manmohan Desai

Although he’s not forgotten and even today’s generation watches his films, he’s my guru. He is immortal and going to be remembered for many, many years to come, for his body of work. For me, there was no one else like him and never will be. People have grown up watching his films. When you talk about entertainment, there is no bigger director than him. Outstanding! Even if you watch his films today, for example Bachchan saab’s (Amitabh Bachchan’s) films, they entertain you thoroughly.

Manmohan Desai is not talked about as much today as he should be. He and Prakash Mehra were both the number-one directors of their time in our country. In Manmohan Desai’s films, it was the entertainment factor. Let me put this simply. Let me explain what Manmohan Desai is. Bachchan saab has done many films to date, so many back-to-back hits. Take Deewar and his popular character of Vijay. But when he used to  travel by car and his car stopped at a signal, people didn’t call out for Vijay, they called out ‘Anthony bhai!’ because of Amar Akbar Anthony. This is Manmohan Desai’s cinema.  

Manmohan Desai’s films were made on a huge scale. Think Naseeb. Actually, all these directors in the league of Manmohan Desai were musically very strong. Today people are like, get this one to do the music or get that one do it. Mr Desai is a filmmaker whose films we’ve watched and learnt from. His films are larger than life, but there is so much emotion as well. The song Chal mere bhai from Naseeb, featuring Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan, still gives me goose bumps. He was very good.

Manmohan Desai is known but we don’t talk about him much. Knowing is not enough; nobody talks about him. Prakash Mehra too. These were box office kings. There was rivalry between the two of them also. Bachchan saab worked with both. It is not easy to handle big artistes. They knew how to do it. They used to quietly listen. Chintuji (Rishi Kapoor) had mentioned once how they were all making fun of the blood donation scene in Amar Akbar Anthony. But Mannji said, wait and see how the audience reacts to this scene in the theatres. And he was right. I would still like to do something like that.

Prakash Mehra

In Prakash Mehra’s films, emotion, drama and family were important. Prakash Mehra used to make films quite quickly. His song picturisation used to be amazing. He was another genius where commercial cinema was concerned. Prakash Mehra used to write lyrics also. He was a great lyricist. He has written many hit songs. Even though people today do watch the great movies he made in his time, we don’t remember him. We don’t talk much about Prakash Mehra. He was the man who brought in the tag line ‘angry young man’. Bachchan saab has been known for this since Zanjeer.

Vijay Anand

I have loved the cinema of many directors. Goldie (Vijay Anand) was one such, a modern director. His combination with Dev Anand was so good. Even today, his style of cinema and shooting is considered remarkable. Take Johny Mera Naam, for example. It was shot very well because he was an editor also. He was brilliant. Just look at the song picturisation in Guide! He was a class apart as a director.

I was fortunate to have got an opportunity to work with him. Goldie saab was a producer as well. In those days, he produced a film that was being directed by his nephew, Chetan Anand’s son, Ketan Anand. It featured Rehana Sultan as the heroine. I was the editor on that film.

Can you imagine, Goldie saab used to come and sit beside me and ask me what I was doing. He himself was an ace editor. I have had interactions with him, but I was in awe of him. He made a thriller with Dev Anand, Vyjayanthimala and Ashok Kumar, called Jewel Thief. He has made such amazing movies. He also directed Teesri Manzil, produced by Nasir Husain. Musically also, he was very strong. All his movies had fantastic music. Do we remember him? The honest answer would be no. He’s living in the memories of a very few of us.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Like Manmohan Desai, Hrishikesh Mukherjee is going to live forever through the body of work he produced in his lifetime. Yes, we do remember him, but my question again to all of us is, do we remember him enough? Do we talk about him enough? The answer would be no.

Movies today are inspired by the masters… watch the trailer of this new movie Badhaai Ho; it is Hrishida’s style of film. Ayushmann (Khurrana) is today’s Amol Palekar. Hrishida was all heart too. There were no big budgets. But his films would always work. That kind of cinema is still working. Hrishida also had a different kind of music; he worked with Salil Chowdhury. His Anand… what a film that was! He also made Chupke Chupke, and many more. There is this one film of his that people have remade to death, and that is Gol Maal. The punch lines in that film were amazing. A single actor playing double characters, he was the first director to do that.

Basu Chatterjee

Basu Chatterjee is close to Hrishida in legendary status. He has made so many good films. He was a value-for-money filmmaker. But in today’s generation I doubt if anyone knows the kind of great cinema that he’s given us. Alas!

Shakti Samanta

Another great filmmaker, he gave us Rajesh Khanna. His films were influenced by Bengal. Some of his films are remakes of films from there, but then he has also made films like An Evening In Paris and Kashmir Ki Kali with Shammi Kapoor. The music in his films, particularly his collaborations with Sachinda (Dev Burman), produced songs that are memorable even today.

Again, I am fortunate to have worked with Shaktida. I was the editor on his film Alag Alag. It was a Rajesh Khanna home production. It starred Rajesh Khanna and Tina Munim. He was so simple and so easy to work with. I remember I used to go to Natraj Studios. His office was there. I used to edit there. He would just come over; there was not much discussion. His shooting style was also simple. He would take simple shots, but he never lost sight of the story. He was one of the most successful directors. I really enjoyed working with him.

Raj Khosla

Raj Khosla was another amazing director. He was Mahesh Bhatt’s guru. Mahesh Bhatt learnt from him. He was also musically very strong. How many of us remember or know that Sholay has its origins in Mera Gaon Mera Desh. The music of that film and its songs are outstanding. He made another film, Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, with Nutan. He has made social films also. Just look at the list of films – Do Raaste, Woh Kaun Thi?… show me one director even today who has such a versatile filmography. The unforgettable song Jhumka gira re, featuring Sadhana, was also from one of his films, Mera Saaya. What a director!

V Shantaram

V Shantaram was a very senior director. But the type of films he made and the films he made about prison convicts, who can forget them. Do Aankhen Barah Hath, what a film, what a thought. He made a lot of social films. At Rajkamal, his studio, where I have worked a lot, a lot of mixing used to happen. My career started there. I used to see the posters for his films there. His son Kiran also used to meet me. He made very different kinds of films. There was this film on dance starring Sandhya, called Navrang. By the time I came into the film industry, he was no longer alive. But career-wise he is one of the senior directors of India. He is a stalwart. V Shantaram was very big. Just like we did, I would want today’s generation to grow up on the kind of cinema he made.

BR Chopra

What a director! Look at his films – Nikaah, Tawaif with Rishi Kapoor, Naya Daur, which is my favourite film. Remember that song from the film, Ude jab jab zulfein. Dilip Kumar did a fantastic job in that film. All his films had a social message. I had an interaction with him also. He had become very old, but he used to come to watch films when there used to be trial shows at his BR theatre. He had come to see one of my films, Deewana Mastana. It is actually a Manmohan Desai film as it was produced by his son Ketan Desai. He had written a letter to me, I still have it, saying, ‘David, what a film you made’. Only a great filmmaker would acknowledge someone else’s work.

- David Dhawan

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