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Shilpi Bose: My father gave us lessons in film appreciation

The late character actor Tarun Bose’s daughter speaks about her father, his preferred performances, and how Sunil Dutt saved his life.

Sonal Pandya

Tarun Bose, who died on 8 March 45 years ago, was a favoured actor in most Bimal Roy productions. He was discovered at a play in Nagpur where Roy was the chief guest. Bose was 29 when he began his film acting career, but he took to the big screen as if he had been doing it his entire life.

In his 15-year career, Tarun Bose worked with everyone from Roy to Phani Majumdar to Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Bose’s daughter Shilpi shared her memories of her father and his work in an online conversation with Cinestaan.com. Shilpi Bose began writing about him on her blog, Tarun Bose and the World of Cinema, in 2013. Below are excerpts from the conversation:

What did you think of your father and his career when you were young as he discussed anecdotes from shooting?

I was born into this life. I was used to seeing him as an actor. For me it was just a job he did. Just as every other father had a job, so did my father. However, back then in the early 1960s children did not understand the word ‘shooting’ as easily as they do now. Those days hardly anyone owned a camera. Of course, as my friends and I grew up, they understood who my father was and though I no longer regretted that he did not have an office job, I continued to take his fame and work in my stride. For my brother and me, it was a daily routine.

Most of the anecdotes I have heard from my mother and a few from my brother because when my father passed away I was quite young. I did hear a few of them from him; yes, it was interesting to hear because my father was an excellent narrator. He shared everything with us, and he had this quality of explaining and narrating things well, keeping in mind the listener’s age. My father would constantly be discussing shot compositions and the finer points of filmmaking and cinema at home. You could say he gave us lessons in film appreciation.

With Sharmila Tagore in Anupama (1966)

With which films was he happy with his performance?

My father passed away when I was a school-going kid, which means I was yet to be old enough to discuss such matters with him. This much I know that actors are usually never satisfied, they always feel they could have done better, but I am sure he was happy with Anupama (1966) and Gumnaam (1965). In the case of Anupama, my mother used to say that my father was very happy to have had the opportunity to work with Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He had known Mukherjee during his days at Bimal Roy Productions, but it was in Anupama that he had the wonderful experience of being directed by him. My father felt that his performance was enhanced because of his direction.

My father played an alcoholic in Jyot Jale (1973) directed by Satyen Bose. I know for a fact that my father was very happy with his performance; everybody praised him, one of them being Raj Kapoor. Some people even wondered whether my father had actually consumed alcohol for the sake of authenticity. My father laughed at such comments telling them he was acting, he would not have been able to perform had he been drunk. Unfortunately, however, the film flopped.

Your father was discovered by Bimal Roy at a play and later cast in his production, Apradhi Kaun (1957). What kind of a relationship did the two share?

From what I have heard from my mother, they shared a very warm relationship. Bimal Roy was like an elder brother to my father. After seeing my father in the play, I believe Bimal Roy talked a lot about my father when he returned to Bombay. When my father arrived in Bombay, everybody told him, 'Bimalda has been praising you.' This was confirmed by Dilip Kumar when my father first met him on the sets of Madhumati (1958). When introduced to my father, Dilip Kumar said in fluent Bengali, ‘Oh, so you are the one whom Bimalda has been praising.’ Not surprisingly, my father was shattered when Bimal Roy passed away.

With Sunil Dutt in Usne Kaha Tha (1960)

Can you tell us about the incident on the sets of Usne Kaha Tha (1960) which you write about in your blog when Sunil Dutt saved Tarun Bose, both on screen and in real life?

I had been hearing about this incident from my mother. This scene was being shot in an army facility. A small portion of this facility was given to the unit of Usne Kaha Tha for the shoot. In the remaining area the army was conducting routine exercises using tanks and various other equipments, as a result of which there was a lot of noise in the vicinity of the film shoot.

In the scene being shot, my father was supposed to be injured and had to slowly move forward unaware that a tank was behind him. The assistant, who was supposed to signal to the driver of the tank to move, mistakenly gave the signal earlier than he was supposed to. Due to this mistake, my father was quite close to the tank and the driver of the tank could not see my father. The unit members were frantically shouting to my father to move away from the path of the tank but my father could not hear them due to the noise all around him. Mr Dutt threw caution to the winds and decided to push my father away from harm’s way without giving a thought to his own safety. In the scene too, Sunil Dutt pushes his lover’s [Nanda's] husband [Bose] and thereby prevents him from being run over by the tank.

Sunil Dutt, in his hurry to save my father, was a little rough with him. My father, who was unaware of all the real-life drama that took place, was a little confused. He did not know that Mr Dutt was not enacting a scene but [actually] saving his life. The director [Moni Bhattacharya] thought it prudent not to tell my father what had actually happened, Mr Dutt too remained silent; they felt that if my father became aware that he had been brought back from the jaws of certain death, he might not be able to give the shot. The director just told my father he would like a retake. It was only after the shoot was wrapped up that my father learnt the truth.

Have you thought about writing a book on your father and his career?

Actually no, all we [Shilpi's brother and she] wanted to do was have a website on my father. The idea of the website turned into a regular blog after I saw the response to my guest posts about my father on Memsaab Story, a blog by an American Hindi film fan Greta Kaemmer. I was supposed to do just one post but I ended up doing six posts for this blog due to the wonderful response I got from the readers.

Also read: Tarun Bose, the forgotten actor