Writers of yesteryear did not have technology to aid and abet them. Their work was creative, poignant and unforgettable
We don’t talk about the writers who gave us some of our most memorable films. Today, writers are more valued. They also have a huge advantage with the many platforms coming up where they can showcase their talent. The writers from before our time faced many challenges, because there was just cinema at first, and even the platforms that came later were limited. The way writers back then contributed to our industry despite those challenges is something I think we should always remember. Now writers are given the importance they deserve and are doing well financially too. Earlier, it wasn’t like this and hence we should salute the writers of before.
Arjun Dev Rashk
When I first thought of writing for films and got an offer to write dialogue, I wondered what new thing I could write since everything had already been written. I watched a few movies for inspiration and among those was Dil Ek Mandir. The dialogue in that film was just amazing. I saw that the writer was Arjun Dev Rashk saab. After that, he wrote one of the classics of Hindi cinema, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, which was also an important film in Raj Kapoor saab’s career. Although he did not write many films, he was an amazing writer. He also received the Filmfare Award for Best Dialogue. I don’t think many people know about Arjun Dev Rashk saab and I think his contribution should be mentioned first.
This fantastic writer penned stories and screenplays. He has a long list of titles in his filmography and among them are many important works. Waqt and Dhund are just two examples of his amazing writing. Today, we should remember him and his contribution as it is a very valuable part of the history and heritage of Indian cinema. Whenever we talk about Hindi cinema, its reach into the hearts of the people, the stories that have touched the audience, we should definitely mention the name of Akhtar Mirza saab.
Many films in those times would have the story-screenplay by Akhtar Mirza saab and the dialogue by Akhtar-Ul-Iman. Waqt’s iconic lines were written by Akhtar-Ul-Iman saab. And lines from that film are still quoted today, like ‘Jinke ghar sheeshen ke hote hain woh doosron ke gharon par patthar nahi phenka karte’. Iman saab was also a poet. Nazmein likha karte the woh. He was very educated and well-read, and the lines he has written for the Hindi film industry are still an inspiration to all, especially to us writers. We should salute him, and whenever I get a chance to talk about such things on any platform, I always mention his name. The truth is that if we can be half the writers that these men were, it would be a great thing for us. I consider all these people my gurus and it is from them that I have learned everything.
S Ali Raza
Not only am I sure that today’s generation doesn’t know who he is, I am equally sure that many people of my generation are also unaware of him. But S Ali Raza was a very important writer. There was a film called Saraswatichandra in 1968 that he wrote the dialogue for, and got an award for too. What lines he wrote! The level of thought he portrayed in Saraswatichandra is something that inspires me even today. He wrote many big films after that, and was a great human being too. I did not have the opportunity to meet him but some people I have worked with, worked with him before, and from them I have heard about how amazing he was. He was a very lively, carefree person and a brilliant writer. I think the last film he wrote for was English Babu Desi Mem which starred Shah Rukh Khan and Sonali Bendre. His contribution, his work, his dedication to writing are things we should commend and remember.
We used to call him Sachinda and I got the wonderful opportunity to work with him. He was one of the screenplay writers for Krrish, for which I was penning the dialogue. I think he was a walking, talking library of cinema. He must have written about 100 Hindi films. He also knew quite a lot about world cinema. At a time before the DVD culture came to India, he would sit in the US and watch films with the technology available there. Then he would come down and share his thoughts with us. He was a very nice, polite person.
When we were working together on Krrish, trying to introduce a superhero to Indian cinema for the first time, we would sit and discuss the project at Rakesh Roshanji’s house. And even though he was a senior at the time, he had his finger on the pulse of the youth and their way of thinking. When I narrated the first draft of my dialogue for the film to everyone, they each reacted in their own way. But the one line that Sachinda said is something that I still remember and will never forget. He told me that the thought was right but the dialogue didn’t have zing. Imagine someone at that age still having the right approach to a young film like Krrish! Then I wrote a second draft, which he liked. I think any list of writers in Hindi cinema would be incomplete without the name of Sachin Bhowmick.
Again, I consider myself lucky that I got to meet Nabenduda. His son Shubhankar Ghosh was making a film that I was writing for, and so I would visit his house and that is where I would meet Nabenduda. I would sit with him and discuss writing with him. He was a very educated, intellectual person. All the films he wrote became classics. He worked with Bimal Roy on movies like Sujata and Parineeta. I feel lucky that I got the chance to talk to, meet and learn from him. Later in life, he directed a film called Trishagni. I am connected to his family even today. I am in touch with Shubhankar Ghosh. He is like a brother to me. His wife, Soma Ghosh, got a Padma Shri award. Nabenduda is a very important name when we talk about writers in the Hindi film industry. He contributed immensely to cinema.
Though he has many films to his credit, some of his most memorable were with Amitabh Bachchan. Writing commercial films targeted at the masses is a challenge. Coming up with a good idea is very difficult. Writing a film that is aimed at a niche, small audience is comparatively easier. But to write a film that reaches an educated audience as well as an illiterate audience with the same intensity is a big challenge. Prayag Raj saab was an expert at that. He worked a lot.
Everyone knows of the contribution that Salim-Javed had in Amitabh Bachchan’s career. Prayag Raj had an equal contribution. When I was studying for my Bachelor of Arts degree at Allahabad University, we went to watch a film called Gangaa Jamunaa Saraswathi. I saw the poster outside the theatre. Back then I didn’t know that I wanted to be a writer, but I saw the poster and his name inked there, ‘Written by Prayag Raj’. And I don’t know why, I felt that one day there should be a film poster jahan mera bhi naam likha jaye, ‘Written by Sanjay Masoom’. One can say that I felt a connection with him somehow, because it was his name that put the idea of writing for films in my head. The films he wrote for, the contribution he made, has been very important. He has seen an entire era of films in the industry and has a long list of important films to his name.
When we talk about the writers that we did not give importance to, one of the names that comes to mind is Sujit Sen. If I give just two examples of his writing, Saaransh and Arth, one can understand the depth of his talent and brilliance. He worked quite a bit with Mahesh Bhatt saab and even after they went their separate ways, he wrote many good films. But neither did he get his due recognition back then nor is he remembered today. I feel lucky that even though I didn’t get a chance to meet him, I saw his actual writing. I saw a scene he wrote and his handwriting was so beautiful, jo kehte hain moti pire hue hain, it was like that.
Films like Saaransh and Arth changed the face of cinema back then and although we know about the films and still talk about them, we don’t mention or even know the brains that worked on them behind the scenes. There was an interesting line that Sujitda would say, ‘Ek Bengali, English mein likhta hai, Hindi cinema ke liye’. His understanding of cinema, his screenplays, the characters he would bring to life, were unbelievable. Without him, this journey would not be complete.
It is disheartening that he is not mentioned at all any more. But I would like to mention one film that he had worked on, which was directed by Mahesh Bhatt saab, called Daddy. It is a favourite film for a lot of people and was an important one for Bhatt saab too. Suraj Sanim saab had also written a film called Awaargi, and Bhatt saab’s first film Lahu Ke Do Rang. Then there was the film Heera Panna, which he wrote, among many other important ones. Suraj Sanim is a name that I think we should always remember when we talk about writing.
I have mentioned only nine writers here but there are so many others who also have not got their due. I don’t think there can be enough room to incorporate all the writers that fall into that category. But I think it is a great start that Box Office India has made, in remembering nine forgotten gems. There are other writers like OP Dutta, who wrote for JP Dutta saab; he wrote the dialogue for Ghulami, which inspired me a lot. Then there is Santosh Saroj, Shabd Kumar, Honey Iraniji and Professor Jay Dixit.
Writers have always remained behind the camera and have never come into the spotlight. We are a shy bunch. I hope that some day, someone writes about Sanjay Masoom too! But the bottom line is that the writers should be talked about and should always be remembered.
- Sanjay Masoom