Hrishikesh Mukherjee: Classic filmmaker remembered for his warmth

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) Two years after his death, filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee is still remembered as a warm and affectionate person. Colleagues and admirers say his personality was often reflected in his slice-of-life yet classic cinema.

Remembering the director on the eve of his second death anniversary Wednesday, actor-director Sajid Khan told IANS: "His sense of comedy was intelligent, bizarre and slapstick with simple narration and direction. I have never been an assistant director to anyone, but I carefully observed Hrishikesh Da's style of filmmaking. His films had substance."

Sajid, who played an important role in "Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate", Mukherjee's last venture as a director, said today's comedies were no patch on the veteran filmmaker's timeless classics.

"Today's comedies don't stand a chance in front of his films. I think the closest one to his style was 'Munnabhai M.B.B.S.'. That is the one film in recent times that he would have been very proud of," he felt.

Manju Singh, who featured in "Golmaal" as Amol Palekar's younger sister, echoed the feeling. "When you watch today's comedies, you feel that a lot of effort and pain is taken to elicit laughter. I don't think that was his approach.

"I find it strange when I meet people who are born after 'Golmaal' was released, and they say they like his (Mukherjee's) films and they watch these films over and over again. His comedies were free-flowing and natural."

Manju says on the sets of his movies Mukherjee was a hassle- free director.

"I remember him as a warm and caring person. I never felt intimidated despite being new on the sets. When I was working in 'Golmaal', I was a mother of two young daughters. He used to tell other senior artistes, 'I will finish her scenes first so that she can go home and be with her children'."

Mukherjee, whose films could make you laugh and cry, died Aug 27, 2006. He made over 40 films in his career spanning over four decades. Another hallmark: he got the most glamorous and sought-after actors in the industry to make simple frill-free movies.

From Raj Kapoor to Dev Anand, from Dharmendra to Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan, Mukherjee directed them all.

"It's more difficult to portray simple emotions on screen than complex ones. And that's why I try to delve more into such themes. I try to make my films like sugar-coated messages, but the sugar should not exceed the medicine," Mukherjee said once.

Madhur Bhandarkar, who is known for making films on real life, has said: "As a kid I used to watch Hrishikesh Mukherjee's films in my video library. His films inspired me as they spoke about real issues and treaded a real path while being commercial and entertaining.

"Though I am still learning over the years, I try to be inspired by great filmmakers like him. I hope a few decades down the line, I get the same kind of love, affection and recognition as greats like Hrishikesh Mukherjee get more than 50 years after making their first film."

Mukherjee started his career in 1951 as an editor and assistant director to Bimal Roy. After working with him for six years, in 1957 he made is directorial debut with lacklustre "Musafir". The film didn't do well in terms of box office profits, but Raj Kapoor was impressed by Mukherjee and teamed up with him in "Anari", which earned critical and commercial success when released in 1959.

After that there was no looking back for Mukherjee. He directed classics such as "Anuradha", "Anupama", "Aashirwad" and "Satyakam".

In 1971 Mukherjee produced his masterpiece "Anand" - a complex tale that talked about hope, fear, life and death and saw Rajesh Khanna's greatest performance as a terminally ill man and Amitabh in his career-defining role.

In the same year he came up with light teenage romantic drama "Guddi" and introduced talented Jaya Bachchan to the industry. The film was a huge success and Jaya became a household name. He cast her again in "Abhimaan" (1973), a film about a couple whose marriage is in danger because of their fragile egos. In 1975, he made the out-and-out comedy "Chupke Chupke".

The magic of his films lay in its simplicity and warmth and even after decades they look fresh.

"I tried to imbibe his style in 'Heyy Babyy' in terms of the interplay of characters. I tried to keep it simple just like Hrishikesh Da. I tried not to use many gimmicks," said Sajid who made his directorial debut with "Heyy Babyy".

"If it comes to my top three favourite films, Hrishikesh Da's 'Golmaal' and 'Chupke Chupke' are two of them. If you consider books, timeless classics are not made by their content, but by the number of times one can read it and still enjoy them. Hrishikesh Mukherjee's films are also like that. You can watch them so many times and still not get bored. His films were so light and frothy," added Sajid.

Mukherjee also served as chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification and of the National Film Development Corporation.

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