Archive for the ‘RIP’ Category

Two nights in a row I read news of people I loved and admired re-admitted to hospital because their debilitating disease desired so. Two nights in a row I went to sleep asking and avoiding the terrible question, what if…? Two nights in a row I did not know I would wake up to the ‘what if’ coming true. They are stars, after all, they will be fine. And ultimately everyone has to die, they will too, but not now, not like this, I kept telling myself. But they did. I just didn’t know it would feel like this, so personal even words are saying I will give into the moment and stay silent.

Irrfan was my present, Rishi was my past, not everyone has such a glorious history; only those who share it will know. Between them they encompassed the art and commerce of the mostly silly Bollywood which both simply elevated by their sheer presence. Or even a smile. Where do I go look for them now?


The last time I felt this unnervingly devastated wasn’t yesterday, when I heard about Irrfan. The shared pain on my echo chamber of social media was so loud and deep, it somehow put my pain in convalescence. Irrfan was our present, how dare they take him away, everyone was screaming in unison. Even the ones who are generally rational and stoic about these matters. It was too deeply personal for everyone including myself, his leaving us, but in that collective heartbreak I found some solace to tide over the very, very unfair blow life and death had thrown at me, at all of us.

But with Rishi it feels like a family member has gone away and I am sitting and weeping away unable to wrap my head around what the hell is so devastating about this. The last time I felt this unnervingly devastated without understanding why was when Rajesh Khanna left us. I wasn’t even an ardent fan, just really liked him in everything he had done pre-80’s, everything that I keep hanging onto till date. I wrote about it here. I was mourning an entire era and my childhood he took away with him, making the present unrecognisable. I am sitting and mourning that again as Rishi takes away with him whatever was left of it.

But why am I weeping like a family member has passed on, Chintuji would you know? You, who with that chocolate boy innocence and lover-boy impishness never let me stay depressed for long? All I had to do was play one of your songs, mostly with RD and sing along ‘Hoga tumse pyaara kaun’ as though I meant it for you. I didn’t tell anyone but I did. You, whose manic energy uplifted everything and everyone around you in whatever dismal setting of a film you were placed in? It didn’t matter, your settings, coz whenever you were on screen it was like, ‘tere chehre se nazar nahi hathti nazare hum kya dekhe?’ You, who were so criminally under-rated despite coming from the First Family of Bollywood and being its best lover boy onscreen? When he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 for 25 yrs in the industry, I learnt the last Filmfare he received was in 1974, for his debut Bobby. That is how criminally under-rated he was and I decided to love him a little more from my end even though by then he was a pudgier version of himself, not the perfect lover boy Rishi of my dreams, but still with the same charisma, same charm, same exuberance, same enthusiasm for life.


The most attractive thing about Rishi Kapoor was not his smile, or looks, it was his enthusiasm for life that showed through in every performance. It was infectious, like how. Perhaps, that’s why when depressed all I cared to do was put on one of his songs with Neetu that RD had strung together, and live off that enthusiasm vicariously. Ek main aur ek tu, dono mile is tarah, ke he invariably put life back into my soul that was ready to give up. I still have those songs to go back to but I don’t have you anymore Rishi, and right now I am at a sheer loss what to do about that…

He was the only Bollywood celebrity I followed on Twitter for a long time, not even SRK. Twitter is such an extension of Bollywood PR it is really boring to keep buying those lies even our celebs themselves are not convinced about. But not Rishi, he was real. Fuck, he was real even in that jungle called Twitter and unabashedly so. Taking in all the hate and disdain with the same love he accepted our love. And that infectious enthusiasm for life. ‘I am ready to get back to acting,’ didn’t he say as soon as he was back from that 11-month long stint of treatment abroad? Where do I look for him now?

He was so, so, so good in his second innings. Sometimes, I thought, even better than in his prime. Perhaps, it was about the roles he got and the sincerity with which he performed them. And the accolades kept coming in, finally Filmfare was recognising him too. And he had so much more to give, and I was hungry to take. From the refreshingly honest portrayal of a Bollywood producer in Luck, by chance, to that loud, hammy, vile antagonist of Agneepath, to the cute, vulnerable, authentically middle-class father and husband of Do Dooni Chaar and more, he simply seemed to be this fountainhead of performance that kept giving. Put him in any role and all you had to say at the end of it was, waah, Chintuji, waah! With all heart and smiles. Who will I say that to now?

I feel extremely silly, and adolescent and naïve banging away at my keyboard trying to understand from where is this despair arising. The first time I felt it was with Shammi Kapoor and I have never been able to hear the Rockstar tune he performed without flinching ever since. Next was when Devsaab left us, the man we thought would go on and on living (and making films) even after we stop. He was my first love, I wrote about him here. Then Rajesh Khanna, then Shashi – that other breathtakingly beautiful Kapoor only comparable with his nephew Rishi. And then there was Sri…never mind. She was a piece of all our hearts. Sometimes, I think I will never accept she isn’t around anymore, I don’t, I won’t, I can’t.

Just like their films, and their eras they evaporated, taking with them everything that was special about growing up even in the dead, dank 80’s. And I am left screaming at the heavens at the injustice of it all. It was only films, after all, some would say. They were mere actors, others would say. They were only dream sellers and tricksters of your imagination, many would say. Yes, but then why did they stick so close to reality? Why did they inform life so dearly like it depended on them and their smiles, their styles, their guiles? If they were only dreams, is this how dreams always end? Taking away all those parts of your childhood that you thought would live on despite yourself?

But then, as you find out, they don’t. Those parts go where your beloved heroes and heroines go. And perhaps, it is better that way, they were meant to be together, they will be safe. As for us, who have been left behind, without our pasts and without all those who kept the past breathing long after it was gone, ‘we will always have Paris’. Long live, Irrfan, long live Rishi, and long live all the heroes and heroines taken away from us. I feel more anger than love right now, but as they say, anger is nothing but love that has no place to go so here is hoping all of them are feeling the love wanting to reach them. I have fused my past, my childhood, various parts of my identity and some of my best memories with you and sent them along to keep you safe and remind you that you will be loved always.

And that you will live forever. Wherever you go, we will always have Paris. I will meet you there.

Fatema Kagalwala

Remembering Kishori Amonkar

Posted: April 7, 2017 by moifightclub in music, RIP

Kishori Amonkar passed away this week. I have a failing (as against passing) knowledge of Hindustani classical music. I have what they call a good ear for music. I can discern a few ragas based on years of listening to few favorite compositions by classical vocalists. And, my one-time obsession of doing well in movie/music quizzes meant I had to know the answer to ‘which raga is this famous Hindi film song based on’ kind of questions that usually came my way. Within this limited repertoire of my classical Hindustani musical knowledge, however, I can safely say I must have listened to Kishori Amonkar for a couple of thousand hours over the years.

How it started is a story by itself.

I must have been about 11 years old when a boy named Kishore, who was about 3 years older, entered our friend circle. Or, to be more precise, our circles merged. Over months of playing cricket, football and generally wasting time together, some of the older boys in the group started calling him Kishori. I duly followed suit. On enquiring about reasons for this strange name (I had never come across a girl named Kishori), one of the older boys told me about a singer named Kishori Amonkar who occasionally featured on DD. I filed that away in my memory and went on with life. A few years later I was old enough to start buying blank T Series cassettes (Rs 12 for 60 minutes tape) and using the old Philips recorder to tape anything that caught my fancy – songs from Chitrahar, ad jingles and title tracks of TV serials. The idea of recording something was immensely fascinating. And, soon it got out of control. I’d use the same cassette to record things over and over again – news, cricket commentary, Meryl Streep’s Race to Save the Planet and everything in between.

One late Monday evening I sat with the recorder while the weekly staple – Sangeet Ka Akhil Bhartiya Karyakram – came on. Normally, I would switch off at this time and go to bed. But then the announcer mentioned the name of the artist for that evening – Kishori Amonkar. Well, I stayed back and decided to record it. I didn’t care much about what was played that evening but I recorded about 25 minutes of her signing. My summer vacations soon began and on afternoons when there was no one to play I would listen to the tapes. Since I was being indiscriminate in listening to anything that was there on them, I didn’t forward any tracks. And, so I heard Kishori Amonkar many a times over that month. In May that year, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. The state mourning that followed meant there was nothing on DD except classical music. And, there again was Kishori Amonkar. I watched her sing and what impressed me more was her persona. She had a presence; a certain magnetism that reached out to you despite your complete ignorance of her craft.

Over the next decade I kept that cassette and heard those tracks many times over especially during late evenings in solitude. There was almost a pattern in a certain year in the 90s where I would play Maya Memsaab, Libaas and Kishori Amonkar in that order before going to sleep. One fine day (or evening) the cassette gave away; the tape came out of the cassette while the song was playing and was completely mangled. From then on I listened to her sporadically. I never got myself to buy a CD of her songs. I attended a SPIC MACAY event in late 90s where I heard her sing and I came away with a sense of satisfaction of having heard a legend. That was it.

Only a few years back while scouring through Youtube, I came across a whole treasure trove of Kishori Amonkar songs. In them I found the two compositions that I had on my cassette. They weren’t the exact recordings but it was the same composition. I also learnt why one of those songs felt so right listening to them in the evening. It was Raag Bhoop – a raag to be played in the first ‘pahar’ of the night. I heard them on Wednesday evening when I heard she was no more. I have linked them here.

I was happy to note the next day she was given a state funeral by the Maharashtra Government. Maybe she deserved a bigger honour. But I’m happy that a city like Mumbai still maintains its respect for its true legends. In times when we seem ever so keen on reviving our cultural identity and nationalism, I’d think Kishori Amonkar and her legacy are true representation of what’s great about our culture. That’s what needs protection and nurturing. And, keeping that alive wouldn’t need any vigilantism. It would only need a keen ear and an open heart.

Subrat Mohanty

Remembering Om Puri

Posted: January 20, 2017 by moifightclub in cinema, Gods of Cinema, RIP
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Om Puri

CINTAA, IMPPA and IFTDA, the three film bodies recently organised a memorial event for Om Puri where his friends and fans from the film industry got together and shared their memories.

Varun Grover was there and managed to record some of it. Do check out the playlist. It has Rakesh Bedi, Satish Kaushik, Neena Gupta and Johnny Lever talking about their memories of the actor.

अलविदा, पुरी साहब

Posted: January 7, 2017 by moifightclub in cinema, RIP
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With Om Puri’s death, we have lost one of the best acting talents this country has ever produced. His body of work is impossible to match – from parallel cinema to mainstream bollywood, from indies to world cinema and Hollywood. Any terrific artist like him always leaves behind a huge legacy. But it’s always our small stories about how we felt connected with them at some point in life makes them more memorable. That connect is individual and sacred. Lyricist Swanand Kirkire shared this memory on his FB.



जब मैं ११ में पढता था, अर्धसत्य देखी थी रीगल सिनेमा में।

सिनेमा में ५ दिन लगातार, १२ से ३।

अनंत वेलनकर दिमाग पर ऐसा छाया था की कुछ दिनों बाद जब फाइनल एक्जाम हुए और अंग्रेजी के पेपर में यूवर हीरो विषय पर निबंध लिखने को आया तो मैंने दे धना धन अपने हीरो ओम पुरी पर ४ पन्ने लिख मारे।

बाहर आकर दोस्तों को बताया वो हंसने लगे ।

किसी ने जवाहर लाल नेहरू पर लिखा था और किसी ने सुभाष चंद्र बोस

मेरी सिट्टी पिट्टी गुम ।

वो तो भला हो पेपर जांचने वाले का की उसने मुझे ठीक ठाक नंबर दे कर पास कर दिया।

बहोत सालों बाद मुम्बई के शुरुवाती दिनों में मैं जानी-मानी अभिनेत्री सारिका जी के साथ एक किताब पर काम कर रहा था।

पता चला पुरी साहब उनके अच्छे दोस्त थे।

बातों ही बातों में ये किस्सा उन्हें सुना दिया ।

२९ अप्रैल १९९९ मेरे जन्म दिन पर अचानक सारिका जी ने मुझे घर पर खाने का निमंत्रण दिया ।

मैं गया तो उन्होंने कुछ लोगों को बुला रखा था ।

उनमे एक ओम पुरी साहब भी थे ख़ास मेरे लिए !!!!!

सारिका जी ने मेरे निबंध का किस्सा उन्हें सुनाया, खूब हंसे थे पुरी साहब !

सपने देखने और पूरे होने दोनों की शुरुवात ओम पुरी साहब से हुई ।

सारिका जी का जितना शुक्रिया कहूँ कम है ।

पुरी साहब आप का जाना वजूद से किसे हिस्से के चले जाने जैसा है ।

काश कोई मुझे वो पुरानी एग्जाम की कॉपी ला कर देता ताकि मैं आपको फिर से बता सकता की आप मेरे लिए क्या थे । 

अलविदा । 

– स्वानंद किरकिरे

RIP Robin Williams – Genie, you’re free

Posted: August 13, 2014 by moifightclub in cinema, Hollywood, RIP
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I was around 8 years old when I saw my parents involved in a silly argument.
It was past my bedtime, and much like a sappy movie scene, I walked to them while dragging my favourite quilt along the floor.
“When are you getting a divorce?” I asked, rather hopefully. My father laughed and wondered aloud why I would ask such an inane question.
“So that you can dress up like a lady and be my Mrs. Doubtfire”, I answered with great sincerity. I hadn’t thought it through, of course. So I added, “And I will act like I don’t know it!”

In hindsight, this moment summed up the first time a movie directly affected my subconscious. And the first time I realized what Robin Williams—a pudgy old caretaker woman who transformed into a desperate juvenile father at will—did for me.
It was no coincidence that Genie in Aladdin—another defining character from my childhood—bore more than a passing resemblance to Williams’ quintessentially-underdog face: Lantern jaw, long nose, signature flappy ears, sunken cheeks, pleading eyes and the most tragic smile this side of a cocker spaniel.
It was the sad droopy smile a smitten boy would forcibly wear while cracking lame jokes to make his girl laugh. He would believe it to be hilarious, and in turn, make his awkwardness break the ice.

I remember that smile—that of a dysfunctional husband forcing it on us, when he reasoned with wife Sally Field in court in “Mrs. Doubtfire”. That wounded Oscar-winning smile when Stellan Skarsgard—his ex-friend and rival—mocked his romanticism in “Good Will Hunting”. Or that condemned smile of unrequited love when Annette Bening refused to get over her dead husband in the more recent “The Face Of Love”.

I was too young to fully grasp the experience of watching “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Dead Poets Society” for the first time. Now I’m too old to watch it without being influenced by his following work.
But I remember never being able to forgive the makers of “One Hour Photo”. They had taken my human robot (Bicentennial Man)—in my mind, a whacky invention of the lovable Dr. Kosevich (Nine Months), mutating my memories of Peter Pan into slimy Flubber, and turned him into a blonde-haired psychopathic lab technician. What made it worse is that he hadn’t really changed. Most of it was down to Williams’ own shape-shifting genius, but tell that to a dorky teen already struggling to adjust to Jim Carrey’s new dramatic persona. The barrier didn’t have to be broken in Williams’ case, because he was a naturally gifted performer blessed with an irrevocably needy face for a comedian.
When he tried too hard, he wanted it to show—it was part of his act.
All he had to do was smile more, which led to disturbing images of unstable characters in Insomnia and August Rush.

For some reason, I was forever under the impression that he appeared in an early Batman movie as the Penguin or Ridder. This made sense because if you combine Danny Devito’s old-world gravitas with Jim Carrey’s hyperactive freakishness, you’d get Robin Williams.
He was, in flesh and blood, the resurrection of Tragicomedy.

Moreover, Robin Williams looked like a broken-hearted man. Whether he was actually one, I selfishly chose not to know.
A sad man doing impersonations and silly voices to spread joy held a different kind of charm. It gave rise to a sort of hopeful laughter—not the kind of guffawing that follows stand-up comics who bring the house down, but the kind of restless smiles that made a troubled world a happier place. It was heartwarming, funny and poignant all at once.

Perhaps this is part of his act too, I’d reason—a philosophy and way of life reminiscent of the old frail Chinese magician in “The Prestige”. Was he so committed to his craft? Was life his greatest act?

“Bechaara (poor guy)”, I’d think whenever I’d saw his face on screen. And now I know why.

He was that famous old uncle. Every family has one—the life and joy of every party and festive gathering.
But nobody noticed that he arrived alone, and would always leave alone.

– by Reel Reptile aka Rahul Desai

(This was first posted on Rahul’s blog. For more posts by Rahul, you can visit his blog here)

Dear Favourite Fatso, Goodbye!

Posted: February 3, 2014 by moifightclub in Hollywood, RIP
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As this year’s Sundance selection list came out, a friend from Calcutta pinged me on whatsapp, and asked why am i not going to Sundance. I asked why. He said two new films of Philip Seymour Hoffman are premiering this year. I told him i am sending my man to get the job done. I was serious about it, but it was too early to let the news out.

A close friend and editorial team member of this blog, Neeraj Ghaywan, was selected to get the Mahindra Sundance Award. As our long chain mail between usual suspects went on and on about who wants what from Sundance – this bag, that merchandise, those liquor, that Quinoa, i said get me PSH. I never chase actors, they all are of the same breed, and mostly, boring. Have never bothered for anyone’s autograph or photograph – be it Hollywood or bollywood. It’s always the writers and directors whose tales attract me. But PSH was different. I reminded him again and again to get me his autograph on one of the posters of his new films. But if the film turned out to be bad? Well, it never mattered how the film was going to be. Because Hoffman was always great, in every bad film too.

Neeraj reached Sundance. Updated us about what he has got and what he hasn’t. I reminded him again – Get me PSH! He said he can’t find him. I joked how it is possible to not spot such a fat man. He can’t hide anywhere. I don’t know why i was insisting so much on getting his autograph this time. Because there have been few occasions in the past where i could have managed it. Always wanted it, and always thought i will manage it some day. So never pushed the way i did this time. Now, it all makes sense. Maybe that thing call intuition.

Few years back, as a friend updated me about how he came for the screening of their films at her film school in NY as he was executive producer on one of the shorts, i asked everything possible about him. As another friend saw one of his theatre act live, and narrated the experience, i would get gooseflesh imagining myself in place of him and thinking about his act in front of my eyes. Simply because he was one of my all time favourite actor. And one of the greatest actors of this generation.

It was Magnolia when i sat up and took notice of Hoffman’s talent for the first time. And then went back tracking him in all those small roles. The fat guy in supporting roles with hardly any screen time but making an impression in every role he portrayed – from Scent Of A Woman to Boogie Night, Hard Eight to Happiness. A drag act in Flawless to a suspicious act in The Talenetd Mr. Ripley. As he started getting noticed, meatier roles came his way, screen time increased, and so did his weight. And i always found that it worked in his favour. An actor so fat, it always made him look like he was one of us – not fit, never in perfect shape. Few actors are so fat. And among those, most just use their body as a prop for comedy. That’s the general routine. Fat actors in serious roles are a rare breed (Yes, Gandolfini too). A character actor who gradually when on to become the leading man with all his weight intact, he became my favourite fatso. In any conversation whenever we would talk about films and acting, i would call PSH exactly that – favourite fatso. It made me feel as if it was all cool and casual between us, as if i knew him well, and could joke about his weight like we do with close friends.

So when he portrayed any character, it just added a natural layer to it. He always looked like that distant uncle whom you are fond of, one who would give you a bear hug on a bad day, share a beer with you after yet another heart break, and will tell you stories about love, life and experiences of yesteryear.

When i watched him in Almost Famous, that was my first lesson in journalism – Be honest, and unmerciful. I thought was it really like that. Uncool? Few years later as i landed in bollywood, it turned out to be the ultimate truth. Just replace the rock scene with bollywood films. When i watched him down and out in Love Liza, i wanted to hug him and tell that his plane will fly the best. Whenever i have got angry on phone, i remember his SHUT UP, SHUT THE FUCK UP, SHUT SHUT SHUT SHUT SHUT SHUT UP in Punch Drunk Love, and have always felt shouting exactly like that. When he got his first sex scene with Marisa Tomei in Before The Devil Knows You Are Dead, i jumped with joy and shouted YAY! He finally got one. Fat man can fuck! Why should only the Greek Gods with bulging biceps get sex scenes in Hollywood. Graduating from a creepy phone sex to a real deal, i was the happiest as if a close friend of my just lost his virginity, and that too with Marisa Tomei. Only difference was this time it was on screen. And when i decided to learn swimming, many a times i would imagine that i will bump into Jack on the other end of the pool, struggling exactly like me as he did in Jack Goes Boating,

He made it difficult to believe that he wasn’t the real Dan Mahowny, or the real Truman Capote. And then came one of my favourite films starring Hoffman – The Savages. I saw my reflection in the role he portrayed, that bittersweet sibling equation, and it made me face my own fears. “Excuse me, we haven’t served refreshments yet” bit still brings a smile on my face. Watch this gem if you haven’t.

When the news came out of his collaboration with one of my favourite screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, i tracked every possible news about it. The expectations were too high. The film left me bit cold with all its complexities, but i could not imagine any other actor who could pull that off with so much ease. He was the Caden Cotard who taught me what “Cotard’s Syndrome” is.

He held his own in front of Meryl Streep in Doubt, he made fat look cool in The Boat That Rocked. If i start counting all his films, the list is long – Charlie Wilson’s War, Moneyball,  The Ides Of March, and one of the most powerful roles in recent times – The Master.  The hypnosis he could do on screen always felt real. Has he ever done a film where you don’t remember him? Naah, i don’t recall.

As far as the autograph story goes, now it feels like Mary and Max story – an animation film which he voiced. There were no letters between us, i guess his films were enough. And like Mary, i also got bit late. Do watch this gem too if you haven’t.

Thanks for all the movies and the memories, PSH. I don’t understand actors. You were the one whom i really loved, respected, and was in total awe. It’s been 24 hours now, and it’s still difficult to believe that there won’t be any new film starring The Philip Seymour Hoffman.

– From a fanboy NotSoSnob


(PS – As far as drugs go, we all got our demons to battle. Sometimes we win, sometimes they. It’s not a choice, and it’s not easy either. So keep your judgements for some other day, for some other things)


Posted: January 5, 2014 by moifightclub in bollywood, cinema, Guest Post, RIP
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Posts on Farooque Shaikh saab are still pouring in our mailbox. Earlier Varun Grover wrote a post आम है, अशर्फियाँ नहीं (click here). And then actor Swara Bhaskar wrote another beautiful post about her memories and working experience with him (click here). This new post is by Sudeep Sohni, a first year screenwriting student at Film And Television Institute of India, Pune.


फारुख शेख सेट मैक्स, ज़ी सिनेमा और स्टार टीवी पर दिखाई गई फिल्मों के कारण दिमाग में कुछ इस तरह बस गए कि अब स्मृति से छूट नहीं रहे. सिनेमा का एक सादा चेहरा, शुक्रिया तुम्हें, ये दिखाने के लिए मुझे कि सिनेमा इतना सादा भी हो सकता है.

ख़ामोशी के जंगल जहाँ अपनी पत्तियों की आवाज़ें सुनाते हैं

तनहाई का मंज़र जहाँ अपने पैरों के निशान छोड़ जाता है

जहां दूर से एक हाथ बस हिलता हुआ दिखाई देता है

पुकारने अपनी ही आवाज़

झक सफ़ेद कुर्ते में जहाँ एक मध्ययुगीन दशक मुंडेर पर बैठा

उड़ाता है सिगरेट के धुएं में बेबसी के छल्ले

जहाँ नुक्कड़ की पान की दुकान, ठेले की चाय और कमरे की बेरुखी

तकाज़ा करती है सदी की सबसे महकी दोपहर का

जहाँ शाम का ढलता सूरज और रात की उदासी

मचलते ख्वाब की नमी छत की कड़ियों में अटका जाती है

वहीँ से शुरू होता है सफ़र तुम्हारा.



उस ठहकती हंसी से

जिसमें अब भी बंद है संसार का सबसे ख़ूबसूरत समय


जो किसी भी भाषा की भाप से पकड़ में नहीं आएगा

वो समय जो दर्ज है आँखों की खिड़कियों में

और जो चाहे तब भी उड़ नहीं पायेगा भाप बन कर

बस जमा रहेगा

किरचन बन कर रुई की लुनाई-सा

कि जब तुम दिखोगे परदे पर कहीं टीवी के

दूर तालाब के किनारे

उतर आएगा ख़ामोशी का गर्म सोता

और बहता रहेगा रगों में आहिस्ता-आहिस्ता.

This is a guest post by actor Swara Bhaskar. She worked with Farooque Shaikh in her film Listen Amaya.

listen amaya3

Perhaps the most vivid memory I have of the iconic and gentlemanly Farooque Shaikh is from the second day of shooting Listen Amaya. We were in the chaotic and uncontrolled environs of the Paraathhey Wali Gali of Old Delhi, trying to shoot sync-sound (!) a long conversational scene. It was hot, noisy and the narrow lane was becoming increasingly stuffed with curious onlookers since word had got around that the much-loved veteran actor was in Puraani Dilli. We were between shots and had eaten a large number of paraathhaas, and the production had relaxed the ‘set-lock’ so that crowds could go about their morning routine. Two scrawny men, hands-in-one-another’s-neck in the classic Indian male camaraderie pose sauntered by. One of them spotted Farooque sir and started. He came up right upto Farooque sir’s face, close enough for me to smell the gutkaa on his breath (!), peered at Sir with beady eyes and exclaimed to his friend, “Abey Frook Saik ko dekh ley!” The friend also brought his face close, looked and rejected the proposition pointing a scoffing finger at Farooque sir’s nose. “Abey yeh Frook Saik thodey hi hai! Chal bey!” They argued a bit more in this vein, peering and pointing, till the first friend turned to Farooque sir and asked nonchalantly, “Abey tum Frook Saik ho kya?” Farooque sir looked regretful and said apologetically, “Haan bhai sahib, hoon. Muaaf kar do, agley janam mein yeh galati nahi karungaa!” And that day I discovered the most telling aspects of Farooque sir as a person – grace, dignity and wit in any circumstance.

In the days that came, still shooting in that bustling, throbbing, historic part of the Capital I discovered Farooque sir’s wit was ever-ready, always decent and sometimes wicked! Again we were waiting between shots, this time in an air-conditioned sari shop in Dariba Kalan. Farooque sir sat with his back toward the shops entrance. I looked up two minutes into having entered the shop and found the glass windows of the shop plastered with faces, staring and pointing at Farooque sir’s back. “Sir you are going to be mobbed, how will we get out of here?” I asked. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell them all you are Katrina Kaif and then watch them clear out of my way.” I smiled at his reply. A minute later we were called to location. The single and novice assistant director escorted us out of the shop. Sure enough Farooque sir began to be mobbed. Holding a protective arm around me and totally unfazed he said in a loud voice in Hindi, “So Katrina! How did you like riding a cycle rickshaw?” A murmur ran through the crowd and some people began to crowd around and peer at my face before expressing their disappointment vociferously! Farooque sir however reached the cycle rickshaw comfortably and merely smiled at my horrified exclamations.

Generosity was another quality that defined the great actor. Farooque sir was always giving gifts. But his generosity had the mark of an aristocrat. The flourish of the Nawabs, who he has essayed in more than one memorable portrayal. Back in the bylanes of Old Delhi, as we shot, we passed a sweet shop.

“Swara ji, would you like a gulab-jamun?”

“Sure sir!”

He turned to the man behind the counter and said “How many gulab jamuns do you have bhai?” The man replied in Delhi’s typical surly manner, “How many do you want?”

“How many do you have my dear man?” repeated Sir.

“First you tell me how many you want.” Replied the man now cocky.

“I’ll take as many as you have.” Said Farooque sir calmly.

“I have 25 kilos.” smirked the man.

“I’ll take them all.” Smiled Farooque sir and turning to the spot-boy on our set said “Dada, distribute these among the entire unit.”

15 minutes and a scene later we stood on location and a jaamun seller wheeled his fruit laden cart by us. “Swara ji do you like jaamuns?” Asked sir.

“Yes sir.” I smiled now expecting a bag full of the tangy purple berries.

“Bhai..” Said Farooque sir, putting a gentle hand on the street vendors thin shoulder. “Give me all these jaamuns.”

The jaamun seller stared at Sir in disbelief. “This entire cart-load?” He asked.

“Yes.” Said Farooque sir simply and turned to our spot-boy, and repeated the words we would hear again and again throughout our shoot “Dada, distribute these among the entire unit.”

As an actor Farooque sir was a remarkable lesson to observe and his technique was difficult to fathom. He never spoke much about the craft of acting or his ‘process’ and one often found him reading a book between scenes. But to actually watch him ‘in action’ and witness his effortlessness when performing or (the most difficult task for an actor) just ‘being’ in the moment; one could see that here was an actor with finesse, control and depth in his craft. But perhaps what marked him as an artist with a true understanding of the medium was an aside he once made while narrating a story about Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Mid-narration Farooque sir paused and said, “An actor can never go beyond the vision of a director. This is the truth of our cinematic medium and it’s very important for an actor to understand that.” And then with the characteristic twinkle in his eye and a lopsided smile he quipped, “There you have an excuse to shirk hard-work!”

But amidst all those jokes and wise-cracks there was a profound, well-bred, well-read, genteel decency-of-conduct. And more importantly, a quiet wisdom. These qualities deservedly gave Farooque sir a reputation and public image as spotless as his impeccably starched white chikankari kurtas, and so much affection and warmth from his audiences. A raconteur par-excellence Farooque sir was a fund of stories. Stories about the industry, about actors, directors, stories he had witnessed, stories he had heard, about his own time and about the time gone by. And with each story he would sigh and philosophize about the human condition. In one such account involving an incident between a producer and a-then-superstar, Farooque sir ended with the well-known saying that “just because the sunlight is falling on you does not mean you’ve become the Sun. Today it shines upon you, brightening your countenance, tomorrow it will bestow this grace upon someone else.” Seemingly, obvious and mundane; but in our fame hungry and glory thirsty industry, what a precious-lesson-well-learnt-but-often-forgotten! It must have been an acceptance and understanding of this fickle nature of stardom that allowed Farooque sir to hold his own, carve his own unique place and identity and win the affections and remembrance of audiences in an industry that generates super-stars with almost mechanized efficiency. Though in his own words he laid all the credit and blame for his attitude, his successes and his place in the industry to ‘laziness’. Co-star and friend of many years Deepti ma’am (Deepti Naval) would oft-times chide Farooque sir saying “You MUST write Farooque! Why don’t you write??”

“Who will make the effort? All that hard-work is for your type, I have neither the discipline nor the brains.” Farooque sir would retort and begin to tease Deepti ma’am again.

But he was being characteristically modest. Nothing about Farooque-Shaikh-at-work suggested a lazy actor. It was something else. Farooque sir was an observer. He had that quality that perhaps is considered more apt in philosophers – of observation, understanding, analyzing but never judging. For a man of such sense, education and judgement, Farooque sir was also a person with great empathy. Never once in the (albeit short) time that I was blessed to know him, did I hear a harsh judgement from Farooque sir. Even when he was critiquing someone, it seemed as if he was empathizing with the person’s flaws. A man with a clear understanding of society and politics and Farooque sir always had a perfectly balanced, liberal and fearless position on world events. He seemed to relish this position. Of being able to step into the circus-ring that is Bollywood, play his part and then step out take his seat and watch the show, with that knowing smile on his face. Perhaps that is the true uniqueness of Farooque Shaikh’s place in Bollywood: an insider but equally an outsider; an actor, but also an observer. And that is why in an industry which generally espouses the ‘when-in-Rome-do-as-Romans-do’ philosophy, Farooque Shaikh held his own, and lived and worked on his own terms, truly nawab-like.

Goodbye Farooque sir, but not fair. Too soon! You’ve denied us so much that was yet to come. So many more great performances, warm stories, witty quips, wise observations, promised dinners and that peti of aam!


(An edited version of this was published in Indian Express)


आम हैं, अशर्फियाँ नहीं

“अरे और लीजिये! आम भी कोई गिन के खाता है क्या? आम है, अशर्फियाँ नहीं.” फारूख शेख साब हमें अपने गुजरात के बगीचे के आम (जो बहुत ही कायदे से छीले और बराबर चौकोरों में काटे गए थे) खाने को कह रहे थे और मुझे लग रहा था जैसे मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब कलकत्ता में हुगली किनारे बैठ कर, किसी बोर दोपहरी में अपने किसी दोस्त से बात कर रहे हों.

यह हमारी उनके साथ पहली मुलाक़ात थी. हम माने चार लोग – जिस बंडल फिल्म को उन्होंने ना जाने क्यों हाँ कह दिया था, उसका डायरेक्टर, उसके दो संवाद लेखक (मैं और राहुल पटेल), और एक प्रोड्यूसर. हम चारों का कुल जमा experience, उनके बगीचे के बहुत ही मीठे आमों से भी कम रहा होगा लेकिन उतनी इज्ज़त से कभी किसी ने हमें आम नहीं खिलाये थे. और जब मैं यह सोचने लगा कि यह ‘किसी ने’ नहीं, फारुख शेख हैं – ‘कथा’ का वो सुन्दर कमीना बाशु, ‘चश्मे बद्दूर’ का पैर से सिगरेट पकड़ने वाला सिद्धार्थ (Ultimate मिडल क्लास हीरो – थोड़ा शर्मीला, थोड़ा चतुर, थोड़ा sincere, थोड़ा पढ़ाकू, और थोड़ा male-ego से ग्रसित), ‘गरम हवा’ का छोटा बेटा ‘सिकंदर’ (जो कुछ नहीं जीतता), ‘जी मंत्री जी’ का वो बुद्धू-चालू मंत्री, और ‘गमन’ का वो ट्रेजिक हीरो जो चित्रहार में अक्सर उदास से एक गाने में भी मुस्कुराहट की कगार पर दिखता था – तो वो आम और उसके साथ की इज्ज़त बहुत बड़ी हो गयी.

अगले कुछ हफ़्तों में हम उनके घर तीन बार और हाज़िर हुए. हर बार वही सुन्दर कटे आम, और फारुख साब का खुश मिजाज़, जिसमें बहुत से पुराने किस्से और बहुत सी ज़हीन शायरी बात-बेबात निकल आती थी, हमें मिलते रहे. जितनी तमीज़ और तहज़ीब उनके सिनेमा किरदारों में २०-२५ साल पहले दिखती थी वो पूरी की पूरी अब तक मौजूद थी. उनके घर में, उनके आस पास रह के, लगता था किसी और सदी में जी रहे हैं. इत्मीनान और ज्ञान एक साथ, एक ही बन्दे में, और वो भी बंबई की इस कीचड़ से भी बदतर फिल्म इंडस्ट्री में मिलना जादू ही था.

एक दिन बात चली passion की तो उन्हें याद आया कि अपने ज़िन्दगी में पहली फिल्म शूटिंग जो उन्होंने देखी थी वो थी ‘मुग़ल-ए-आज़म’ की. वो बच्चे ही थे जब उनके पिताजी (जो बंबई में वकील हुआ करते थे) उन्हें ‘प्यार किया तो डरना क्या’ गाने की शूटिंग और शीशमहल दिखाने ले गए थे. उन्होंने थोडा उदास हो के कहा वो एक हद्द थी जिस तक हम कभी नहीं गए. फिर एक बार उन्होंने बताया कि कैसे जब अमिताभ बच्चन को पहली फिल्म की तनख्वाह मिली थी तो वो फारुख साब को ‘treat’ देने मरीन ड्राइव ले गए और दोनों ने Gaylord (जो अब भी वहीँ है) में १० रुपये का खाना खाया था. उनके इस किस्से को मैं ध्यान से सुन रहा था और इंतज़ार कर रहा था एक ठंडी आह का या एक bitterness की झलक का – लेकिन ना ये आई ना वो. Honestly, शायद उस दिन मैं थोडा disappoint भी हुआ था. फारुख शेख बचपन से हमारा खुदा था. सईं परांजपे हमारी सलीम-जावेद और मनमोहन देसाई rolled into one, और फारुख शेख हमारे बच्चन. बचपन से घर में ‘साथ साथ’ और ‘बाज़ार’ का combo-pack सुनते-सुनते और दूरदर्शन पे अनेक बार ‘कथा’ देखते-देखते वो दिलो-दिमाग में घुस गए थे. पता नहीं कहाँ से ‘आर्ट और पैरेलेल सिनेमा’ का कीड़ा लग गया था या शौक था दोस्तों को दिखाने का कि हम फ़ालतू फिल्में नहीं देखते. दिक्कत यह थी कि ज्यादातर पैरेलेल फिल्में उदास कर के छोड़ देती थीं. लेकिन जब ‘चश्मे-बद्दूर’ देखी तो लगा कि हाँ ये वाला पैरेलेल सिनेमा ज्यादा मिलता है हमारे temperament से. और इस तरह के, थोड़े हलके लेकिन फिर भी गहरे सिनेमा को फारुख शेख से हसीन brand ambassador नहीं मिल सकता था – भोलेपन और urbane-ness का ज़बरदस्त मिश्रण. ‘किसी से ना कहना’ का होटल हनीमून को होटल हनुमान में बदला देख वो subtle reaction, ‘पीछा करो’ का भयंकर वाला पागलपन, और उमराव जान का अति-ज़हीन नवाब – सब आसानी से कर सकने वाला achievable God.

इसलिए जब उस दिन देखा कि फारूख शेख को अमिताभ बच्चन से कोई गुस्सा नहीं है – ना comparison, ना ही वो हलकी सी टीस ‘वो कहाँ निकल गए, हम कहाँ रह गए’ वाली जो इस शहर में अक्सर टीवी एक्टरों को भी होती है बच्चन साब से – तो मुझे थोड़ा बुरा लगा. वैसा जब आपको किसी फिल्म में अन्याय होने के बाद भी हीरो के अन्दर गुस्सा ना देख के लगता है. लेकिन यही बात थी फारुख शेख की. उनके अन्दर बस acceptance था, और जैसा कि हमने जाना, उनकी दुनिया और बहुत सी दिशाओं में फैली हुयी थी. थियेटर, शायरी, सोशल वर्क, पढना और लिखना, खाना पकाना और खिलाना, और ना जाने कौन-कौन सी खिड़कियाँ होंगी जिनमें हमने झाँका नहीं. वही उनका सबसे बड़ा treasure और achievement था – इत्मीनान और contentment. अपने आप से, अपने career से.

फिल्म की शूटिंग के दौरान उनसे फिर २-३ बार मिलना हुआ. शूटिंग के आखिरी दिन उनसे डरते डरते नंबर माँगा और उन्होंने बड़े दिल से कहा – फोन ज़रूर करना जब कोई अच्छी स्क्रिप्ट हो.

उसके बाद मैंने २ स्क्रिप्ट लिखीं, जिनमें कुल मिलाकर ४ साल लगे. दोनों में ही फारुख शेख साब के अलावा कोई और सोचना मुश्किल था. बल्कि एक स्क्रिप्ट तो निकली ही इस वजह से थी कि मैंने सोचना शुरू किया कि अगर ये किरदार फारुख शेख साब करेंगे तो कैसा होगा. हर सीन, हर संवाद लिखते हुए वो दिमाग में रहे. यह कहना गलत नहीं होगा कि ४ साल मैं अक्सर उनके साथ रहा. २ फिल्में, जो मैंने अपने ज़ेहन में बनायीं, दोनों में वही स्टार थे. ये कहानियां मैं उनको कभी नहीं दिखा पाया. दूसरी वाली शायद अगले महीने ही दिखाता, लेकिन अगला महीना अब अगला ही रहेगा हमेशा.

उनसे आखिरी बार मुलाक़ात हुयी इस साल ‘चश्मे-बद्दूर’ की री-रिलीज़ पर. तो एक तरह से उनसे पहली मुलाक़ात (जब मैंने उन्हें बचपन में टीवी पर देखा होगा) और आखिरी मुलाक़ात दोनों एक ही फिल्म के ज़रिये हुयीं. उनको और दीप्ती नवल को एक साथ सामने से देखने का बहुत बड़ा सपना पूरा हो गया. मिहिर पंड्या की किताब (‘शहर और सिनेमा वाया दिल्ली’) उन्हें देनी थी क्योंकि उसमें ‘चश्मे बद्दूर’ पर एक बड़ा सुन्दर चैप्टर है इसलिए किताब लेकर उनके पास गया. उन्होंने कहा ‘आप घर पहुंचा दीजियेगा, यहाँ तो इधर-उधर हो जायेगी.’ मैंने उन्हें याद दिलाया कि उनकी एक बहुत ही वाहियात फिल्म के डायलौग मैंने लिखे थे. वो बोले ‘ऐसे कैसे याद आएगा यार. मैंने तो बहुत सारी वाहियात फिल्में की हैं!” मैंने कहा ‘नहीं सबसे वाहियात शायद. Accident on Hill Road.’ उसके बाद हँसते हुए उन्होंने एक बार और हाथ मिलाया.

थोड़ी देर बाद हमने बड़े परदे पर ‘चश्मे बद्दूर’ देखी. फारुख शेख और दीप्ती नवल और राकेश बेदी के साथ, एक ही हॉल में. वो दिन, उस दिन भी अद्भुत था, लेकिन अब जब फारुख साब के साथ दुबारा कभी बैठने को नहीं मिलेगा, उस दिन की याद और भारी हो जाती है. अब फारुख साब और रवि बासवानी साथ में देखेंगे जो देखना है. हम रह गए यहीं, उनकी उस मीठी मुस्कान और हमेशा ज़रुरत से आधा-इंच लम्बे बालों वाले चेहरे के aura में. उनके lazy charm, grace, और एक नए writer को दी गयी पूरी इज्ज़त की रौशनी में.

@Varun Grover

(Pic courtesy – MidDay)

RIP Jagdish Raj – the man in khakee

Posted: July 28, 2013 by moifightclub in bollywood, RIP
Tags: ,

Jagdish Raj

Back in the 1960s, a big Hollywood casting director called Harvey Wood came and selected me for a police inspector’s role. Although I had done many films before as hero and villain, I don’t know why I found popularity only as police inspector. I got a lot of acting assignments, but all as police inspector. Twenty years later, I bumped into Harvey Wood again. He looked at me and said, “Bloody hell! You’re still in the same uniform.” He asked me to mail him the details of all my films as I was onto a world record for the most occupational role. Later the Guinness book people sent a team to Bombay to verify facts before they entered my name in their book.

Jagdish Raj, actor, born Sargodha, Pakistan, 1928

Text/pic from here.

TOI report on his death is here. He played cop in 144 films. Yes, 144.