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'I miss my father terribly'
Syed Firdaus Ashraf | October 15, 2004 15:01 IST
When I was eight, I was at school watching a cartoon film [as a treat] on my principal's birthday. We were enjoying the film when suddenly one of my uncles came and took me away. I was very angry with him. I just didn't want to leave. I told him that I would complain about him to my father.
When we reached home there was silence in [the house]. My father was lying down. I thought, at first, that he was sleeping. I never thought he was dead. I had never seen a dead person so I guessed he was asleep.
I was too young to realise or understand the loss. But as time passed, I realised he would not come back. Forty years after his death, I realise the importance of October 10, 1964. He passed away early in the morning, around 1 am. But the news came post-sunrise after the door was broken down to find his dead body.
A lot of theories have been put forth on why he committed suicide. But I think it was an accident. He had scheduled appointments the next day with [actress] Mala Sinha for Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi and Rajsaab [Raj Kapoor] to discuss making colour films.
Some people say the breakdown of his affair with Waheeda Rehman led him to commit suicide. I don't believe is so. Their affair was over long before. Yes, he was having problems with my mother [singer Geeta Dutt] but nor do I think that was the reason.
He was depressed that day while he was sitting with Abrar Uncle [Abrar Alvi, his dialogue writer and director of Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam] in the evening. We were supposed to meet him the next day after school. Let people say what they want, but my personal view is that it was an accident.
Others say a financial crisis after Kagaz Ke Phool flopped led him to commit suicide. But he had made good money before that. Chaudhvin Ka Chand was one of the biggest revenue grossers in its time. He had made the film for Rs 1,800,000 and had earned Rs 4,800,000 from just the Bombay territory.
He had only two failures in life -- his first film Baaz, which he made in partnership with Haridarshan Kaur [Geeta Bali's sister], was a failure and the other was Kagaz Ke Phool. Kagaz Ke Phool was a masterpiece in the way it was executed. Every aspect of the film is out of this world. People did not understand the subject in its time. They understand the importance of it now. It was way ahead of its time.
My father never wanted any of us to join the film industry because he knew about its insecurities. He showed his insecurity after he made Kagaz Ke Phool. He had started getting recognition but he was pessimistic. He was introverted and could not talk about his feelings to others. He was a very sensitive person and spoke very little.
If you see his initial films -- Mr And Mrs 55 or Aar Paar -- you will notice he played very enthusiastic [exuberant] roles. By the time he did Pyaasa he had developed maturity. He changed completely with different films. He then carried that forward. Pyaasa was originally called Kashmakash. He wrote the script during the struggle of his early days. The idea was always with him. He wanted to first establish himself before going the artistic way.
I don't have many memories of him as a child. He was very fond of hunting. I went with him once to Kashmir and then again to Khandwa [Madhya Pradesh] with Johnny Uncle [Johnny Walker]. I fell into the Dal Lake in Srinagar twice and he jumped in to rescue me. He was a very reserved father, not an overly hugging type.
On our visit to the jungles of Khandwa our jeep broke down. We had to walk 15 kilometers to reach civilisation. I had a good time with him then. The biggest irony is he never won any awards. He never canvassed for awards. He never cared about them. Awards had lot of a politics behind them. He never wanted to be in that kind of politics. It is sad and unfortunate that he never got the recognition he deserved. Neither the media nor the industry gave him recognition then. Many reviews of his
The new generation has a lot to learn from him -- his dedication to work, the manner in which he worked on a subject, the way he used the trolley and camera. Though he aspired to make films without music he is still known for the best song picturisations in Indian cinema.
He was a reluctant actor. He never wanted to act but somehow he could not find the right kind of actors for his films and therefore he had to act in them. Shammi Kapoor, for instance, was supposed to do Aar Paar; Dilip Kumar was to play the poet in Pyaasa. He was a shy in front of the camera though he was always comfortable behind the camera.
If you see his films you will realise that they have not become irrelevant. All the problems of society he tackled are still relevant today. That's why his themes seem fresh though 40 years have passed. People can still identify with his films. They enjoy seeing them again and again.
I miss my father terribly. I wish I could have learnt a lot of things from him. More than the loss of a father I miss a good director under whom I could have learnt things. I think of him every day. I run his company and see his films every day. You always learn something when you see his films each time.
This feature first appeared in India Abroad, the newspaper owned and published by rediff.com