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Home > Movies > Memories

'Badhiya Insaan Tha'

Shashi Kapoor | May 26, 2005 19:01 IST

Shashi Kapoor has a lifetime of memories to share about his filmmaker friend, Ismail Merchant.

This, saysLata Khubchandani, is just a glimpse:

Ihave known him for 45 years. I met himin 1961. He had gatecrasheda press conference of mine for the film, Chardiwari.

He had come there with a German ladycalled Belgano, a representative of some movie magazine in Germany.

I knew her.

Ismail said to me, 'I want you to do my film.'

I looked at him and laughed. I asked him if he had made any film. I was sceptical about his knowledge of filmmaking.

The next day, he came with (partner) Jim Ivory, so I realised they were serious about making a film.

The film was Devgad, with Saira Banu. It never materialised.

Then, after a few months, he came again with another idea.

He gave me this English novel to read. It was The Householder,by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. I read it and liked it very much. So we started working on it.

The Householder was among my first batch of films -- probably my fourth or fifth film. Ismailhad made two negatives -- one for Hindi and one for English.

I grew to like and admire Ismail,and understand his method ofworking without any money (working ona tight budget). He completed the film in Rs 6 lakh (Rs 600,000).

Ismailhad a different attitude towards making a film. He worked even when he never had money.

I remember once, we had completed halfof The Householder, but Ismail hadn't paid me a penny. The film was being shot at one go in Delhi.

I used to come and go to Bombay (now Mumbai), as I was working in other films, too.

I put my foot down, and told him, 'If you don't pay me now, I will not come from Bombay for the next shooting day.'

He promised to pay. I knewhe didn't have the money.

But he paid me. And I said, 'Arre!'

I started working. I was happy,but later realisedhe had borrowed the money from my wife. Jennifer (Jennifer Kendall) had always been very soft with him. Mosttimes, she used to buylunch for the entire unit.

SoI wentand showed her the money veryproudly,and said, 'Here's the money. Ismailpaid me.'

And she said, 'That's very good.'

Aisi harkatein badmash karta tha (He would be up to all these tricks, the rogue).

But the ultimate reason wasgood.

He wasn't buying things for himself -- cars, clothes or whatever. He was making a film, a good film. Everyone liked him for it.

He paid me inwaysI can never never forget. When my wifewas very very ill in London,I was down in every way, including finances.

I had a film thatwas ready but was sitting for a year-and-a-half, waiting to release: Utsav.

Ismail cameto the hospital to give me money. Badhiya insaan tha. He was a gem of a person. It wasn't as if he was doing it as a favour. He just did it.

He might have been strict as a producer, but he was very soft. When you were facing bad times, he was very good.

After my wife's demise, hewas very concerned about how I was going to manage.

He hadseen howJennifer hadlooked after me. He had seen our romance, our life together. I had known Jennifer five years before I met Ismail. He used to call up my kids and ask about me without my knowledge.

We had such a good friendship. We had similartastes in our likes and dislikes. If we didn't like anything, we would tear it to bits, both of us.

He was a very good friend, very understanding.

Big stars worked with him -- Paul Newman, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Hopkins, so many others.

I did films like The Householder, Bombay Talkie, Shakespearewalla, Heat And Dust, The Deceivers, Muhafiz (In Custody) with him.

He directed mein Muhafiz (1992). I was a bit apprehensive initially, and called up Jimin New York.

We were to shoot in Bhopal. I asked Jim whether Ismail would be able to direct.

Jim told me, 'Don't worry. He willdo it.'

Jim was hardly with us for a week.

We shot for 12 weeks in Bhopal. He was good as a director, and madea very nice film.

His most outstanding quality was his love for making films. He started talking about films very early in life. Even before he had completed his MBA in America.

You know, hewas a student and an usher at the UN.He would tell you he was a part of the UN. But he never told you what he did there.

When he went to meet Paul Newman, he said, 'I'm a merchant from India making films.'

He was a very good cook and created his owndishes. Hewrote more than two, three books on cooking.

He had six sisters and a lot of nephews. One of his sisters is dead.

I remember once, I was unawarehe was veryill. I knew he had ulcers -- youget ulcers when you are in the film business, but I didn't think it was serious.

He said, 'I'm going to havethis little operation.'

AndI said, 'Yes okay.'

He was asked to go home the second day afterthe operation. But thenhe started this internalbleeding and had to be hospitalised again.

When I first heard about his death last night, I thought someone was crying over the phone at the news of Sunil Dutt's demise. I had beenthere all day.

When I understood, I couldn't believe it.

He wanted to be buried here (in Mumbai).It will be at the same place where (Sunil Dutt's wife) Nargis was buried (the Khoja cemetry in Marine Lines, southMumbai).

Jim Ivory rang methis morning.

They have been together for so long. Their partnership is the longest ever. Itismentioned in The Guinness Book of Records, too (for independent films).

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Number of User Comments: 6

Sub: Ismail Merchant

I had the priviledge of working with Merchant Ivory Production and Shashi Kapoor in The Deceivers with Pierce Brosnan in lead. Shashi and Ismail were ...

Posted by Manoj

Sub: Loveable - Son of Mother India

May his soul rest in peace. i loved sunil dutt very much, his latest flim MUNNA BHAI, is the one which is loved not only ...

Posted by Anagha Gadgil

Sub: ismail merchant- shashi kapoor's statement

very touchingly stated feelings. Hope there is a retrospective of all the movies he has mentioned. I have seen Householder and found it to be ...

Posted by anjeneyan

Sub: A Collection Item...!!! :o)

This article is a Collection Item...!!! Ismail Merchant & Shashi Kapoor's relation is honorable. Amazing description 'n care 'n understanding shown. Real nice article. Worth ...

Posted by Rajminder

Sub: Muhafeez of Merchant

Muhafeez, In Custody, is argubly one of the best movies one saw in the 90's. Pity in the milee of movies from M/S Chopras,Johars and ...

Posted by Maneesh Taneja



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