Saturday, July 22, 2017

Aashiqui Twenty Seven Years A Journey That Was : by ~ Niilesh A Raje

Twenty-seven years the journey that was when Gulshan Kumar along with Mahesh Bhatt presented the musical rage Aashiqui. The curiosity of this romantic movie started right from the time the poster was released. The way the couple was seen to be making love passionately under the coat and smooching each other followed by the tagline "Love Makes Life Live". Even today after almost over two decades the love story of Rahul Roy and the dusky girl from Delhi Anu Aggarwal still resonates fresh in the hearts of the lovers. 

Aashiqui was the love story of youthful love between a homeless parentless orphan girl (Anu Aggarwal) and a singer guitarist (Rahul Roy). The venue was Sea Rock Hotel, Bandra a common friend's luncheon that Anu chanced to meet the director Mahesh Bhatt of Aashiqui. 

Anu wasn't too keen to get into movies her only aim then was to fly back to Paris. Each time Mahesh used to call her Anu used to reply, "I will call you back". Finally, when Anu went to meet Mahesh Bhatt couple of days later at his shoot location she politely declined the offer as she had to return back to Paris before the next season of haute-couture begins. Pat came the reply from Mahesh Bhatt, "We will complete the shoot in three months". This response was like, "There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip". 

The next day, in an old house in Chimbai Village in Bandra, Anu lip-synched the song - "Jaane jigar jaane man . . . jaanam jaane jahan". Chimbai, the 400-year-old beach in Mumbai was once a quaint fishing village. Rahul Roy and Anu Aggarwal who came from nowhere became the talk of the town. Even the signature style of actor Deepak Tijori became a rage. Not to forget the hair style of Rahul Roy. It looked as if the masses had accepted this new theme of love namely Aashiqui. People were able to connect to them as the cast was seen to be somewhere from daily walks of life. Apart from the great story line was the haunting music that captivated the ears of many music lovers. Having good songs in a movie can alone make the movie hit looked to be a distant dream for many film makers then. Aashiqui had indeed a good storyline as well.

Aashiqui was actually as inspiration from the personal life of Mahesh Bhatt. "I couldn't forget the day when Gulshan Kumar came to me and he lived up to his words. He was an unusual man". I was shooting in the suburbs when Gulshan Ji approached Mahesh Bhatt and said, "Aap Ka Naam Mahesh Hai Na. Will it be ok if you and I work together in synergy towards a musical film in which there would be roughly about 8 or 9 songs I guarantee you we together would set the nation a blaze. I would take the music into every home and heart. Gulshan Kumar came from nowhere but he could take a thousand MBA Graduates and teach them lessons in Management. Aashiqui was launched in Sudeep Studio in Mumbai" admits Mahesh Bhatt.

Director Mahesh Bhatt wasn't apprehensive taking new entrant like Rahul Roy or Anu Aggarwal. Right after his first take with Anu, he said, "Ok" happily. That only shows the creative confidence of the director. It was, "Love In The Times of Cholera" book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that really helped Anu Aggarwal study and prepare well for the role. 

The film also marked the career of singer Kumar Sanu and music composers Nadeem-Shravan. The first song that got recorded was, "Nazar Ke Saamne Jigar Ke Pass".  The movie swept away with four Filmfare awards to its credit. 

Nadeem Shravan (Filmfare Award for Best Music Director) 
Kumar Sanu (for "Ab Tere Bin") Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer
Anuradha Paudwal (for "Nazar Ke Saamne") Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer and 
Sameer (for "Nazar Ke Saamne") Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist

Starting with the movie Aashiqui Kumar Sanu's career took him to exalted heights. He was awarded the Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer Award for five consecutive years. He also holds the Guinness Book world record for recording the most songs in a day, 28, in the year 1993.  

We also had seen the anger in the eyes of Tom Alter and Reema Lagoo playing their part equally well in the movie. Reema Lagoo began her journey with Mahesh Bhatt in the world of movies with Aashiqui in which she played the role of a single parent to Rahul Roy supporting her son in his matters of the heart. 

The letter from Anu to Rahul which read, "Rahul aagle shanivaar library ke baju wale classroom  mein milna 7:30 baje Anu" and the song follows, Dheere Dheere Se Meri Zindagi Mein Aana. Director Mahesh Bhatt reminisced how he used to meet his crush then when he was in Bombay Scottish School in the late 60's.     

Today's generation of songs may bore listeners after a week of their production whereas songs of Aashiqui have been soothing the ears of people for several decades. Not to forget the curtain opens up with the song only and the voice of Kumar Sanu, "Bas Ek Sanam Chaahiye Aashiqui Ke Liye" where the title of the movie comes in the first opening lines only. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

39 Years of DON ( Anecdotes of an Iconic Thriller ) : by Niilesh A Raje

With Amitabh Bachchan's movie DON completing 39 years of its release I would like to share few interesting anecdotes with respect to the following song from this movie - "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana".

While there have been many hit songs that feature Amitabh Bachchan but "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" song from the movie DON is amongst the first few songs of Amitabh Bachchan which feature just him and the opposite cast (Helen) in this song and no one else. We had earlier seen him feature in the song say from Bombay to Goa but that was amongst a group of people. Hence this song sets him apart from the rest of the pack. Yes, later after the movie DON we did see Amitabh Bachchan feature in many more toe-tapping numbers who came up with his own dancing style.

The song, "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" was the first song from the movie DON which was shot in the leading studios in Mumbai, Mehboob Studios (Bandra). The look and feel gives one the impression it was shot in one of the leading hotels in the suburbs. The check style jacket and the emerald green colored shirt which Amitabh wore in this song was the same one he had purchased it from Cecil Gee - London's Leading Stylist for men's wear. Not to forget Amitabh Bachchan's graceful entry in the movie impeccably dressed with his personal Ray-Ban glasses was also bought from London during his visit.      

DON, a Spanish word which means “Gentleman” or “Nobleman” indicating the term of respect for a man usually followed by his first name. Director Chandra Barot who directed the 1978 Amitabh Bachchan starrer “DON” was right when he showcased Mumbai as the city of opportunities and success stories, a city for dream and dream merchants and a city of Gold.

The song, "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" was the first song from the movie DON which was shot in the leading studios in Mumbai, Mehboob Studios (Bandra).  Lyrics were by Indeevar Saab and melodious voice was of Asha Ji for this pulsating song. The word Dil in this song makes it sound that this song is romantic but in reality, it was never a romantic number. On the contrary, in this song, Helen tries to seek revenge with Amitabh for having killed her fiance. Helen had already performed earlier in numbers like, "O Haseena Zulfonwaali" and "Piya Tu Aab Tho Aaja". So, far Helen to perform this number "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" wasn’t too difficult. Kalyanji Anandji's music continues to soothe the ears of music lovers even today. I equally love the background music heard during thriller or action sequence in this movie. Dialogues none other than Salim-Javed.

The choreographer for the song was P L Raj (birth name Devraj Peter Lewis) who was in his early 30's while the movie DON was in the making. He was amongst the leading choreographer during 60s and 70s within Hindi Cinema. In 2001, P L Raj was honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for technical excellence. Today, his son Lesle Peter Lewis is a popular composer and a member of the duo Colonial Cousins.      

Director Chandra Barot’s DON attained the cult status in India, proved to be an iconic thriller and dialogues constantly mouthed by innumerable fans. The primary reason for the project DON being the director Chandra wanted to help his friend the producer of the movie Nariman A Irani who had suffered a big financial setback. 

Director Chandra Barot finished his Senior Cambridge Examination in 1959 and had spent most of his life in Dar es Salaam. Between his Senior Cambridge Examinations and results, he had 6 months time frame. His father mentioned him about part time vacancy at Barclays Bank. Chandra immediately took up the offer at Barclays Bank and worked with the organization, not for 6 months but full time for a brief period of nine years making it as his full-time profession. Very few can imagine a Corporate Executive from an MNC goes ahead in life to become a Creative Director. Chandra was known for dressing well and flaunting fancy accessories he possessed then.

I dedicate this piece to all the fans of the 1978 movie DON. Watching the movie (several times) I had the impression that DON means a Man in Powerful Position but now I also view it from Spanish angle meaning “Nobleman” or "Gentleman" expressing honour or respect to highly respected Mr. Amitabh Bachchan Ji and also to the whole crew of the 1978 starrer DON for giving each one of us an iconic thriller.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review : Bollywood Boom ( India's Rise as a Soft Power ) : by Niilesh A Raje

Penguin Random House India are delighted to release the new title Bollywood Boom by National Award winner Roopa Swaminathan. Her last book Star Dust: Vignettes from the Fringes of the Film Industry won the coveted Swarna Kamal for Best Writing on Cinema.

Bollywood is bold, beautiful and happening. And it’s happening now. From Raj Kapoor to Amitabh Bachchan to Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood has been India’s best cultural ambassador, be it in Russia, Africa or East Europe, and now in the UK and the US. 

In Bollywood Boom, National Award–winner Roopa Swaminathan explores the spectacular success of Bollywood in the twenty-first century and its rapidly rising power to influence the world. She argues that besides international goodwill, Indian cinema brings to the country real income through trade and tourism, and also enhances its global standing. Extensively researched and peppered with fun anecdotes, this remarkable book shows how Bollywood has the power to mold India’s fortunes by winning the hearts of people across continents.

The world is feeling the impact of Bollywood like never before. From the Oscar-nominated Lagaan to Bajrangi Bhaijaan to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Bollywood has come a long way since the watershed Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and the UK Top Ten debut of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Where earlier it was in Russia, East Europe, and Africa that Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan enjoyed a devoted fan base, today the entire world is as entertained by the three Khans as by the international stars Irrfan, Priyanka and Deepika.

In Bollywood Boom, National Award–winner Roopa Swaminathan opens a window to the spectacular success of Bollywood in the twenty-first century and its direct contribution to India’s rising soft power and influence. Using extensive research, a compelling argument and fun anecdotes, Roopa shows how Bollywood not only brings to the country real income through trade and tourism but also enhances its global standing.

Roopa Swaminathan is a National Award–winning writer, filmmaker, and scholar. Her book Star Dust: Vignettes from the Fringes of the Film Industry won the coveted Swarna Kamal for Best Writing on Cinema in 2005. She has also written, executive-produced and directed a feature film for NFDC, Five by Four. Roopa has a doctorate in international relations from Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Presently, Roopa commutes between writing in Pune and teaching wherever there are passionate young minds is working on her upcoming books and trying to sell her screenplays.

Author               Roopa Swaminathan

Binding               Paperback

EAN                        9780143429180

ISBN                0143429183

Language         English

Language Type Published

Number Of Pages 272

Price                        Rs 399/-

Product Group Book

Publication Date 2017-04-17

Publisher                 Penguin Random House India


Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Making of Marathi Play CODE “मंत्र” : by ~ Niilesh A Raje

There has always been lots of curiosity amongst the common masses when it relates to the story of our Indian Army who are far across from their home and loved one’s protecting each one of us. The rigorous training they undergo to make it up being part of the army and the practice of discipline one needs to adhere to as part of their professional work environment is indeed notable. So when viewers get the opportunity to witness drama that unfolds the plot about the life in the Indian Army then Marathi play CODE “मंत्र” is no exception. The play CODE “मंत्र” is set up against the background of the Indian Army.

Even before I could ask any question to actress Mukta Barve about the making of the Marathi play CODE मंत्र” wherein she is seen playing the lead role alongside actor Ajay Purkar what captivated my attention being the title itself and the way it has been designed. I was intrigued which excited me to ask Mukta my first question, "Why the title of the play CODE “मंत्र” is written in two different languages where CODE is written in English and ”मंत्र” in Marathi? What was the thought process when the design was made that makes use of two different languages? It's very rare that one finds the title of the play or movie that makes use of two different languages. Perhaps the crew of CODE “मंत्र” may have the answer but I don't.  

The journey goes back to the first week of January year 2016 when producer Dinesh Pednekar was invited to watch the Gujarati version of the play CODE “मंत्र”. He was so impressed watching the play that he could not resist himself but call Mukta Barve during the interval. He suggested her to watch this Gujarati version of the play CODE “मंत्र” as he had already made up his mind to come up with the same play in Marathi. Now whether Mukta might agree or decline to work in the Marathi version of this play was totally subjective.

Without wasting time and with no knowledge of Gujarati language Mukta went ahead and watched the Gujarati version of this play not once but thrice till she got straight into the heart of the story. Having got convinced she then conveyed her decision to Mr. Dinesh Pednekar that she is ready to play the lead role in the Marathi version of the play CODE “मंत्र”.

Mukta has played the role as Military Law Expert Ahilya Deshmukh. Now came the challenge to find someone who would play the lead role (male) opposite to Mukta and the search started. Research revealed that it was Mukta’s Mother who recommended the name of actor Ajay Purkar to play the role of Colonel Prataprao Nimbalkar.

Initial days the rehearsals were on from 10 am to 5 pm but with the passage of time they spread over to twelve hours shift from 10 am to 10 pm such was the level of commitment from each one of them who were part of this vibrant Marathi play CODE मंत्रThe whole crew comprised of forty artists who were ready in a span of forty days to perform live on the center stage each one giving their own power-packed performance. And, once the courtroom drama unfolds it’s interesting to see the Military Law Expert Mukta (Ahilya Deshmukh) and her voice resonate inside the courtroom who is seen to ask blunt and pointed questions be it the petitioner or respondent appearing inside the witness box.

To achieve the milestone of completion of fifty successful shows in short span of seventy days is indeed creditable. As of 8 March, 2017 Marathi version of CODE “मंत्र” has already completed 150 shows and is still counting. CODE “मंत्र” has also been the recipient of many awards which includes Maharashtra Times Award for the Best Marathi Play and Zee Gaurav for the most captivating Marathi play for this year. To sum it up not to forget actor and writer Sneha Desai got the inspiration to pen down the Gujarati play CODE मंत्र” from the original play first produced on Broadway namely "A Few Good Men" play by Aaron Sorkin. To know more about the day in the life of Indian Army then watching Marathi version of the CODE “मंत्र” is an absolute must making your watching experience more enthralling.  

Director:  Rajesh Joshi 

Cast :  Mukta Barve, Ajay Purkar, Umesh Jagtap, Atul Mahajan, Kaustubh Diwan, Faiz Khan, Sanjay Khapre, Milind Adhikari, Vikram Gaikwad, Amit Jambekar, Swati Bovlekar, Sanjay Mahadik and Ajay Kasurde

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Amar Akbar Anthony ( The Captivating Storyline ) ~ by : Niilesh A Raje

Filmmaker Manmohan Desai etched his place in history of Bollywood for delivering some of the biggest hits that whizzed audiences away into a world of make-believe, where simple people did wondrous things and made you laugh and cry with them.

“Anhonee Ko Honee Karna Hamara Kaam Hai”

(Making the impossible possible is our job)

Manmohan Desai, The Man Himself               

Born on 26th February, 1937 to a Gujarati couple Kalavati and Kikubhai Desai, Manmohan Desai moved to the Khetwadi locality in Mumbai at the age of four. Mumbai, the city of dreams and dream merchants had always been his home. This love for the city of Mumbai was often portrayed on the screen in his movies.

Not many had heard of Khetwadi then in the early 80’s. There was a time when the nondescript Khetwadi was not reflected in the maps of the city. No doubt the taxi drivers gave blank look when asked for the address for MKD Films.

Desai had film making in his blood stream. His father was a film producer who owned Paramount Studios (later Filmalaya) and made films, mainly stunt films, between 1931 and 1941. When his father passed away at a young age of 39 due to a ruptured appendix, the family plunged into heavy liabilities and debts. Desai’s mother was pretty clear about not wanting to “live with debts”. She sold off the massive bungalow they owned in Versova and the cars to repay the debts. Only thing that she did not sell was the studio as it was the source of their monthly income then.

Amar Akbar Anthony (Evergreen Entertainer)
Amar Akbar Anthony, the evergreen entertainer which has captivated millions of movie lovers continues to be one of the most remembered films for its performances, dialogues and scenes. The maker of this mega hit, the maverick Manmohan Desai etched his place in history for delivering some of the biggest hits of Hindi cinema that whizzed audiences away into a world of make-believe, where simple people did wondrous things and made you laugh and cry with them.

Desai had stumbled upon the idea for Amar Akbar Anthony from a news item he had read in an evening newspaper. An alcoholic man named Jackson was fed up with his life and one day he packed his three children in a car and decided to drop them off in the park. Manmohan Desai’s story began from where this news item ended.

Desai twisted the story and did away with the alcohol angle. In the film’s story when the father returns he finds that all his three children have gone missing. The eldest kid Amar (Vinod Khanna) is adopted by a Hindu police officer, the second one Anthony (Amitabh Bachchan) by a Catholic priest and the third one Akbar (Rishi Kapoor) by a Muslim tailor.

Amar Akbar Anthony was also Kader Khan’s first blockbuster as writer. It was the first and last time when Rafi Saab, Lata Didi, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh Ji sang a song together in the film ‘Hum Ko Tumse Hogaya Pyar Kya Karein’. There were three different male voices for the heroes but only Lata Mangeshkar for all the leading ladies.

My Name is Anthony Gonsalves

The most memorable character among the trio is of course Anthony Gonsalves. The original name of Amitabh Bachchan’s character was Anthony Fernandes. It was music composer Pyarelal Ji who requested Late Manmohan Desai to change it to Anthony Gonsalves after his guruji’s name. Anthony Gonsalves was one of India’s leading violinists and music arrangers who later moved to Goa after retirement.

The inspiration for Anthony came to Desai from the real life character Antav, a bootlegger who was staying close to his home in Khetwadi. He used to wear a funny hat and conversed with Desai in his lingo, “Desai, kaisa hai? Dikhtaich nahin!” Director Desai was fascinated by his character and decided to model the character of Anthony Bhai on him.

The song ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves’ begins with these lines spoken by Anthony when he emerges from the Easter egg – “You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the hemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity.” It is an almost exact quotation from a speech in the Parliament of the United Kingdom given by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in 1878. Disraeli (who was referring to William Ewart Gladstone) used the word “inebriated” rather than “intoxicated.”

Medical Disaster

Amitabh Bachchan had once said, “He (Desai) would first design the `items’ that he wanted in the film then he would shoot them and then write the (screenplay) to link them up.” Interestingly, Desai was known to do some of the craziest stuff but it always worked for him.

       Remember the famous `blood donation’ scene, where three sons of a mother donate her blood at the same time? The scene was criticized for being a medical improbability. Three separate tubes carry the men’s blood to a suspended bottle from where one tube carries the collected blood to the mother Bharti (Nirupa Roy)! The credits end and then the main story begins.

A medical impossibility. But Desai did it and it is said that when the scene opened, there was unbelievable applause in the theatre. That’s the unique and highly saleable creativity that director Manmohan Desai exhibited.

The Shoot Locations

The place where Kishan Lal and his family who are seen living in an old home is part of Bandra. The songs and items from the movie that were executed first.  The items included the Easter Egg scene, Saibaba Qawwali and Bachchan’s drunken scene in front of the mirror. Most of the shoot had been indoors in studios as in RK, Kamalistan and Ranjit. The Saibaba song was shot in the outskirts of Mumbai city then namely Borivali where Saibaba temple was built. The song “Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai Pyaar” was shot in the quiet Aksa beach. The indoor church scenes were done in Don Bosco Matunga while for outdoor shoot it was Mount Mary church in Bandra. The indoor church scenes were done between 3 and 4:30 pm only as it used to get dark inside.

Those were the days when movies were being played in large single screen cinemas and these were considered to be huge success only if they ran twenty five consecutive weeks – the silver jubilee as they say. Amar Akbar Anthony witnessed the seventy five week long run making Desai reach the exalted position as the most successful director not only for the year but also for the decade. Amar Akbar Anthony is the only movie where the titles start after twenty three minutes and thirty seven seconds and is considered to be the longest amongst Hindi films. The titles open up with the tinge of emotions and the song, “Ye Saach Hai Koi Kahani Nahin . . . Khoon Khoon Hota Hai Paani Nahin”.        
Desai always believed that parents came above God and of course, above self. Hurt them and you hurt yourself was his simple belief which continues to echo even today in the world of cinema. In most of the Manmohan Desai films one thing was evident; he always showcased his profound respect for the mother figure. He said, “In my films I always talk about ‘Ma Sherovali’. I feel a woman is a supreme creation. It is she who conceives, she who bears the child after nine months, she who takes care through hardships. She brings into the world a new life. I rate them very high.

The man who firmly believed in the “Lost and Found” formula left behind an indelible mark in Bollywood film history, with films that spun magic with great music, top order performances and thoroughly enjoyable storylines that worked even with a touch of incredulity.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar ( Front Rank Author of India ) ~ by : Niilesh A Raje

Tribute as token of my love and respect to the front rank author of India namely Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar on his 126th birth anniversary today.

The Startling Predictions

The story goes this way. One of the Uncles of Ramji Sakpal who had turned Sanyasi came in the company of some Hermits upon Mhow in Central India where Ramji Sakpal used to reside with his family. One of the women from his family was on her way to the river for washing purposes happen to pass by the group of Hermits among whom was their old relative. The lady at once recognized him. Ramji Sakpal ran towards him and requested him to bless their house with his visit. The sanyasin had renounced the world hence did not agree to come and pay visit to Ramji’s house. However, he bestowed on Ramji Sakpal a boon that a boy would be born in the family who would leave an indelible mark in the history of India. The boon arrived on the 14th day of April 1891 the birth of a boy the 14th child of Ramji Sakpal. He was named as Bhim and rose to fame as the front rank author of India. He was none other than Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar whose eternal search for knowledge coupled with lofty ambitions took him to exalted heights and raised himself from dust to doyen. Yes indeed, Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar set golden benchmarks in the history of our nation and freedom struggle as well.

Ambavadekar becomes Ambedkar  

There was a Brahmin teacher in the High School by the surname Ambedkar where Bhim studied. This teacher loved Bhim very much. During their school recess the teacher would drop daily part of his own meal into the hands of this little boy Bhim. The original surname of Bhim’s father was Sakpal. Bhim drew his surname Ambavadekar from his native Ambavade. However, this teacher took so much liking to this young boy that he even went ahead to change his surname from Ambavadekar to his very own surname namely Ambedkar in their school records.

Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar well remembered his teacher who had treated him kindly during his school days. Much later in life when Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was on his eve of departure for the first session of Round Table Conference Baba Saheb received hearty congratulations letter from this same teacher.

Denial To Learn Sanskrit

During school days both Bhim and his elder brother were denied to take up Sanskrit as the second language. They both had no other option but to take up Persian language. Not to forget Bhim passed his Matriculation Examinations from Elphinstone High School. Bhim obtained 282 marks and his highest score was in the Persian language. Looking at his average marks in high school then not many would have ever imagined that Bhim would be that same boy who would have his name well remembered in the history of India.

The Turning Point

Bhim had learnt from his sisters that boys from village have found jobs in mills in Mumbai. He made up his mind to take up the job of winding boy in the mills of Bombay then (now Mumbai). He did not have enough money either to reach Mumbai. He decided to steal the purse of his aunt in whose company Bhim used to sleep on the floor. For three nights back to back he made his attempt to steal the purse tucked up at the waist of his aunt but no luck. Finally, on his fourth attempt Bhim was successful but only to get half an anna in it. With that small amount travelling to Mumbai was ruled out. The episode of stealing money caused anxiety in Bhim and he made up his mind that he would study hard looking forward and clear all his examinations so that he can earn his own livelihood without depending upon his father. From that day onwards he put in all his energy in getting good education. The same teachers who were once disappointed seeing his grades were then recommending his father to give him the best possible education.


In June 1913 The Maharaja of Baroda thought of sending some students to U.S.A. for higher studies at Columbia University. Bhimrao was advised to apply for one of the scholarships which the state had advertised. He did so and finally the Maharaja decided to send Bhimrao along with other three students for higher education. The agreement was signed that he would serve for ten years at Baroda State after completion of his studies.

Finally, Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar arrived in New York in the third week of July 1913. He seized every possible hour for his study for which Bhimrao was given a life’s opportunity. After long hours of concentration and hard labour Bhimrao devoted to research and he finally completed his thesis which was accepted by Columbia University in the second week of June 1916. After a very successful career at Columbia University Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar now turned his attention to London and he left America in June 1916 to study further with London School of Economics and Political Science. He had persuaded the Maharaja of Baroda to grant him permission for pursuing his higher studies in London. While he started his work on his thesis he was informed that his period of scholarship was over and was thus called back to India by the Dewan of Baroda. He was determined to come back to London to complete his pending studies. With kind recommendation from his professor, Prof. Edwin Cannan he secured permission from London University to resume his studies within a period not exceeding four years from October 1917.

There was a vacancy in Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, Bombay (now Mumbai). Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar wrote letter to Lord Sydenham, former Governor of Bombay (his London acquaintance) requesting him to recommend him to the Government of Bombay for the post of professorship in Sydenham College. His interview went well and finally Government appointed Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar as the professor of Political Economy in Sydenham College. Few years later Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar arrived in London once again to pursue his pending studies with the London School of Economics and Political Science.

One thesis was completed by him in 1921 while in October 1922 he completed his famous thesis, “The Problem of the Rupee” and submitted it to the University of London. In March 1923 Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar while he was in Germany was called back by his professor Edwin Cannan who asked him to rewrite his thesis without changing his conclusions. With financial resources running out he could not stay any further in London to rewrite his thesis. On his arrival in Bombay in April 1923 few days later he re-submitted his thesis, “The Problem of the Rupee” from Bombay. The examiners finally accepted it and to his great joy Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science.  
Leaders Are Readers

There have been so many books and articles written by Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar on varied topics readily available. So be it economics, politics, regional or law related one would find his thoughts reaching to his readers through the medium of writing.

There goes an old adage, "Leaders Are Readers". Perhaps not all readers are leaders, but all leaders have been compulsive readers. When it came to reading Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was no exception. “Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Reading” or be it “Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Books” this combination was always inseparable. Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was too fond of books. He had a wide collection of books. To have his own books, to read them, make important notes from them and have these notes committed to his memory was the key thing Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was madly in love with. He had razor sharp memory and he could easily tell with authenticity which reference is in which book, which page and which paragraph.

His burning to desire to possess books was insatiable. While in school instead of reading regular textbooks he exhibited his interest in reading books outside his regular school curriculum. Bhim’s father was well aware of his passion and love towards books and he never wanted that his son be deprived of this. On the contrary his father always supplied Bhim with new books even if it did mean borrowing money from his two married daughters. He ensured that the lamp of reading was always burning for Bhim. In his college days Prof. Muller of Elphinstone College used to lent him books to read.

Also, later in life when it came to buying books Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar never thought twice about it. If he did like the book he would just go ahead and buy it in his collection. Even when he was not keeping well and just five days before he passed away Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar paid visit to bookshop at Connaught Place to have look at new arrivals and ordered some books to be sent to his residence.  

There are so many books authored by Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar and the list is indeed comprehensive. If one does watch movies based on his life, read books written on him or for him one can understand his journey of life was indeed inspiring and remains an immense source of motivation to each one of us. It's just not possible for me to cover all his defining moments in this short piece of mine. Whatever I have penned down remains to be my small tribute to this prolific writer and compulsive reader Late Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar.    


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pinjra Saga ~ by Niilesh A Raje

Eminent Director Late V. Shantaram Marathi movie "PINJRA" was re-released in digital format this year. 31st March 2016 marked 44 years of completion since the movie was first released on the same day in the year 1972. The plot revolves around a respected village school teacher (Dr. Shreeram Lagoo) who falls in love with a travelling dancer (Sandhya) and later faces a moral dilemma. The movie was one of the biggest commercial success of its time and also won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Marathi for the year 1972.

In my article herewith I won’t delve into the plot or synopsis details of this movie. I would rather focus more on behind the scenes what happened before and during the making of this iconic musical hit Marathi movie “PINJRA”. The whole shoot of the movie was completed in a span of just 40 days then.

It was the veteran actor Dr. Shreeram Lagoo who had played the lead role in this movie. Dr. Shreeram Lagoo is well known not as a good film and theatre actor but also holds the reputation of being an eminent ENT Surgeon Gold Medalist.

Two Backstage Visitors

One day post completion of his play there were two individuals who were waiting in the backstage to meet Dr. Shreeram Lagoo. One individual was by the name Ravindra who was in his relations and was working as an Assistant Director to the eminent director Late V. Shantaram then. Other individual was Mr. Anant Mane also a Film Director.

Ravindra said to Dr. Shreeram Lagoo, “Anna Saheb (means V. Shantaram) is in the midst of making new Marathi movie. To lead the lead role as an actor we both (Ravindra and Anant Mane) have recommended your name to Anna Saheb to play the lead role in his upcoming movie. As we both have watched several Marathi plays we are positive you would give complete justice to the role that would be offered to you in his upcoming Marathi movie. However, Anna Saheb has not seen you perform till date live on the center stage so we request you at least come down and meet him (Anna Saheb – V. Shantaram) in person”.

Hearing this Dr. Shreeram Lagoo said, “It would indeed be a matter of pride for me to meet Anna Saheb (V. Shantaram Ji) an eminent director and a man of such great stature. However, whether I would work or not in his movie shall be decided by me only when I am done reading the script. So first things first you’ll first arrange to send me the script. Let me read it then we can decide when to meet director V. Shantaram Ji”.

To which Ravindra replied, “Anna Saheb never discloses his script to anyone before. That’s his style of working”. Pat came the reply from Dr. Shreeram Lagoo, “I too do not accept any roles prior reading the complete script. That’s my style of working”. Both Ravindra and Anant Mane were now looking at each other and totally confused what to do next.

Mane said, “Dr. Saheb you see in this line of show business one got to be really very careful when it comes to your script. It’s an accepted fact that good scripts do get stolen. It’s not that we don’t trust you but due to such incidents taking place Anna Saheb has been very particular and stringent about all these issues”.

But, Dr. Shreeram Lagoo was upfront and equally firm in his opinion for reading the script first before concluding on anything. 

Mane realized this and said, “We both would try to bring the script for you to read first. However, the fact that you have read the script before should not be shown or disclosed to Anna Saheb (V. Shantaram Ji) any time during the course of your meeting with him”.
This assurance from both Ravindra and Anant Mane brought smile on the face of Dr. ShreeramLagoo. He felt, “If I like the script there is no harm in going ahead. However, if I don’t like the script at least I get the opportunity to meet this legendary director V. Shantaram Ji”.

The script was indeed well written and Dr. Shreeram Lagoo felt it gels well keeping his age in mind and his role that of respected village school teacher who later falls in love with the travelling dancer.

Title of the movie was “PINJRA”.

With Mr. Kiran Shantaram (Son of the veteran director Late V. Shantaram and Jayashree). An eminent Indian Film Personality and former Sheriff of Mumbai and Chairman of V. Shantaram Foundation

The Meeting with Late V. Shantaram

Finally the day came when the meeting was finalized between Dr. Shreeram Lagoo and Director of the movie Late V. Shantaram. Venue was Mumbai’s iconic RajKamal Studio where the legend had his office. RajKamal studio in Parel was the same studio where superstar Mr. Amitabh Bachchan had shot many important sequences for his blockbuster movie 'Deewar' which includes “Khush To Bhaut Hoge Tum”, “Mere Paas Maa Hai” and death sequence. Rajkamal was best known for Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), Amar Bhoopali (1951), Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955) and Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957).

The meeting was very cordial they did not discuss anything related to the movie script. Anna Saheb was curious to know more about Dr. Shreeram Lagoo’s work in the Marathi play “Natsamrat” and who was the writer who had written the script etc. Anna Saheb would always be interested to know the person whom he meets is just interested in his work or is also abreast about surrounding events and happenings. That was exactly he wanted to judge from Dr. Shreeram Lagoo when he asked him the author’s name and who is he who had penned down the script of Natsamrat.

The meeting lasted for around 45 minutes and Anna Saheb concluded it by saying, “Dr. Saheb you would work in this project. Other details would be communicated to you by my team members Ravindra and Anant Mane”.

The Remuneration  

It was communicated to Dr. Shreeram Lagoo the shooting of the movie would commence next month and would be completed in a span of forty days. Most of the projects by Anna Saheb (V. Shantaram) were always completed in forty days’ time frame at a stretch.
The time frame made Dr. Shreeram Lagoo bit apprehensive as he was ferociously busy and booked with dates for three different Marathi plays from three different producers. These dates had already kept him busy for next sixty days. He had never worked in Marathi movies so to commit forty days for his first project “PINJRA” made him all the more nervous. It was like either you accept one project here and reject the ongoing three Marathi plays.

Anant Mane went and spoke to Anna Saheb regards the busy schedule of Dr. Shreeram Lagoo. Finally the agreement was Dr. Lagoo would give ten days per month for the next four months to complete his schedule of forty days.

When asked for commercials to be charged Dr. Shreeram Lagoo being novice in the Marathi Film and this being his first project was also not sure how much to quote. All he knew was while acting in movies the remuneration was much more in comparison to Marathi plays. He also knew the remuneration was much higher in Hindi movies but this was his project to be done in Marathi.

Those days in early 70’s Dr. Shreeram Lagoo used to get Rs 150/- per live performance. He used to perform at least one live Marathi play per day.  So shooting for “PINJRA” for forty days would equate to Rs 6000/- is the remuneration Dr. Shreeram Lagoo asked for.
Rupees six thousand was indeed a very high amount to be commanded and asked for especially this being Marathi movie. The final price communicated was Rs 2,500/- to Dr. Shreeram Lagoo reason even in those days (1971) the main cameraman from Rajkamal Studio was paid Rs 300 per month. Also, this being Dr. Shreeram Lagoo’s first project in Marathi movies an amount worth Rs 2,500/- was justified right is what Anna Saheb and his team members Ravindra and Anant Mane felt.

The Robbery on the Sets

The whole shoot of the movie “PINJRA’ was done in Maharashtra Kolhapur and the nearby villages out there. Once famous studio “Shalini” out there was purchased by Late V. Shantaram and was named as “ShanthKiran Studios”. Which sequence would be shot the next day and where all these details were disclosed to the whole crew at least one day prior.

One day when Dr. Shreeram Lagoo reached the sets early morning he saw all the crew members part of this project were exhibiting nervousness. Investigation revealed that a night before robbery had taken place at the studio. All the costumes and belongings that were part of the project were robbed overnight. Now to get new dress stitched once again would mean a delay of at least 4-5 days which means the schedule of forty days (ten days per month) would definitely get extended. This thought made Dr. Shreeram Lagoo more nervous as he knew his busy schedule for the next six months. How and when now would he be able to meet his commitment for forty days is what kept him thinking all the time. Dot on time 9 am Anna Saheb (V. Shantaram) came at the shooting venue on learning of this incident he later said, “Let’s first get all the clothes stitched again today for those whose shooting was scheduled today. Then step by step let the tailor stitch the clothes as per rest of the shooting schedule. Let’s put in few extra hours daily for next few days for whatever time we lost today. Let’s not forget Dr. Saheb (Dr. Shreeram Lagoo) needs to be released in ten days timeframe with no further delay as was agreed earlier”. Hearing this Dr. Shreeram Lagoo was not only speechless but his level of respect towards Anna Saheb (V. Shantaram) increased ten folds on hearing this. That was the mark of this man in great stature the eminent director Late V. Shantaram – The Man Who Altered the Course of Indian Cinema.

The classic Marathi Film "PINJRA" remains to be one of Indian Cinema's greatest cinematic achievements even today.

And for those who missed it there is always another opportunity to watch it once again which got re-released in the digital format.

"Tumhawar Keli Mi Marji Bahal”