Filmmaker Govind Nihalani adapted novelist Bhishm Sahni's novel Tamas on the small screen. The moving Partition drama is still considered a classic today.
Bhishm Sahni died of a cardiac stroke Friday. Here, Nihalani pays tribute to the novelist:
I was at a book shop in New Delhi. At the time I was a second unit director in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi.
The title, Tamas, caught my eye. Once I read the book, I knew I had to make it into a film immediately.
He wrote Tamas 30 years after the Partition, with an approach that was very reflective and non-judgemental. His style was extremely simple. The entire event was recorded as a tragic event in human history. The Partition affected whoever went through it, but the important thing is that Bhishamji described it so beautifully.
It was obvious that the book was written by someone extremely compassionate. The core theme of Tamas was we have extremist elements in every community, who try to create problems. They do so only to achieve political goals.
It was the best novel ever written on those times.
When I met him, I found a very sensitive and gentle person, very warm-hearted. We struck an instant rapport. And long after making Tamas, whenever I went to Delhi, I used to make it a point to meet him.
I consider him the finest writer in Hindi.
Unfortunately, I could not work on any other film with him. There are not many takers for such serious films. And it is difficult to raise money.
I feel the generation today should read his many short stories and novels.
Only then will they realise the depth of the artist and the importance of Bhishm Sahni. Only then will young people realise they should not rush to judgement after an incident happens.