Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: auteur, Cannes film festival, Chetan Anand, Directr's cut, film education, film workshop, hindi cinema, hindi film industry, indian auteur, indian cinema, Indian film stars, indian popular cinema, Kudrat, neecha nagar, oorvazi irani, Producer's cut, Rajesh Khanna, sorab irani
A Real Story of a conflict between A Super Star Actor- Rajesh Khanna and Cheten Anand a Super Star Director
Musing of a Veteran Producer/ Director – Sorab Irani .
So much is said about Rajesh Khanna post his sad demise in all media, I am reminded on this occasion of a interesting real life story which I would like to share.
A little known fact is that Chetan Anand’s debut film,Neecha Nagar bagged the Palme d’Ore (Best Film) award, at the first ever Cannes Film Festival in 1946.
It was my honor and privilege to have worked and observed and to have learned so much about cinema from this great truly Indian cinematic genius
Chetan Anand was the first director to cast Rajaesh Khann is his film ‘Aakhri Khat’. Latter when his career started flagging a bit, Rajesh Khanna thought he needed a great director to make a film with him and he approached Chetan Anand. I was at that time general manager of Chetan Anand’s production company – Himalaya Films. In those days films were produced largely on star-power, and if a project was initiated by a Star it was good news. However Chetan Anand was in financial trouble and in a meeting with Rajesh Khanna confessed to him that he had the right subject but no money. Chetan Anand always had ready stories in his head, he thrived on the creative process that resulted in a film idea and at any given time had a great oeuvre of film stories. In that meeting where I was also present he narrated the story of ‘Kudrat’ to Rajesh Khanna and Rajesh Khanna loved it.
In a week’s time Rajesh Khann was back at Chetan sahibs Juhu seafront shack with a producer in tow one B. S. Khanna. It was all settled in that sitting that B. S would finance and produce the film and that Chetan Anand would direct the film and so the film ‘Kudrat’ was born.
This is not the story of how ‘Kudrat’ was made, which in itself is fascinating but about the antics of stars and a conflict that developed pre release of the film between Chetan Anand and Rajesh Khanna.
The film was very hot, the music was already a super hit. It then transpired that Kakaji arranged for a private screening of the film and decided on a course of action which was unethical for sure but not entirely unheard of in the Bollywood of that time. Encouraged by his chamchas he decided that in order to hog the entire credit of the success of the film he had to reduce the roles of the others like Vinod Khanna, Raj Kumar, he high jacked the editor of the film, and started reediting the film. The editor informed Chetan Anand quietly as his conscious troubled him, he was in great awe of Chetan sahib and had worked together for over a year to shape the film.
I got a call from a very distressed Chetan sahib at 6 am in the morning asking me to go to the editor’s house and bring him over to meet Chetan sahib. I was also very amazed that any one dare tamper with the edit of a director like Chetan Anand. By 7.30 am I was at the editors house in Matunga but he was absconding. I went to the shack and Chetan was furious. Kaka would not taking his calls nor was the producer B. S. Khanna, the conspiracy was clearly unfolding. What do we do. I went with Chetan sahib to Navarang Lab, spoke to the owner protesting but the owner claimed helplessness as he had to follow the instructions of the Producer of the project owing to the large sums of money involved. We then decided to file complaints with the Film Editor’s association and with the Film Producers association requesting this be stopped. In the night I started getting threatening calls. Some one called my wife and told her that she would find my dead body by morning. I was out and there were no cell phones at that time, so when I called home my wife was weeping and scared silly. Now I was indeed very angry and being in Juhu at the time went to B. S Khanna’s house to confront him, he was not home but I got him on the phone from there and asked him about all this nonsense about threatening calls to my wife and told him very plainly that I was not one bit intimidated and if it did not stop I would lodge a police complain. Later I spoke to Chetan sahib and he too complained that he had a similar experience of his residence getting threatening calls.
The next day the producer B. S Khanna claimed total innocence about all the goings on and said nothing was true, we demanded that we need to be allowed to examine the final cut negative and talk to the editor and informed him that no one had a right to make changes to the final cut of the film. He diplomatically said it was too late, the negative was involved in the process at the lab of making copies of the release prints.
Gloom set in at the shack, it seemed that the Rajesh Khanna camp in connivance with the producer B. S Khanna have prevailed.
In an unprecedented move Chetan Anand decided to go to the Bombay High Court to stop the release of his own film.
The case came up before the astute Parsi judge Justice Lantern. The whole film industry was there. Justice Lantern denied us the relief that we were seeking although sympathizing with our case but saying that huge sums of money would be lost of the third parties namely the distributors if he granted us the ad interim relief and posted the matter for regular hearing.
The real point of this story is not to malign anybody but to raise critical questions – who has the right to the final cut of the film, the director or the producer. Who decides what the audiences will see, financiers/producers or the creators the/directors. Added to this perennial existing conflict and tussle enter today the marketing guru’s who with sampling and consensus building marketing methods start confusing matters completely. What happens to an Auteur director if he is not also the producer of the film. Food for thought and meaningful debate.
Written on Special Invitation
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