On Mukherjee's 95th birth anniversary, Shah, known for his cult comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983), speaks about the impact of Mukherjee's films and how he successfully adapted content from other works, much like Shakespeare.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee's work is like Shakespeare's: Kundan Shah
Pune - 30 Sep 2017 16:00 IST
At FTII's Smarnanjali for Hrishikesh Mukherjee on the occasion of his 95th birth anniversary, director Kundan Shah spoke about the vast influence of the director, who gave over four decades of his life to the Hindi film industry.
Shah has a personal connection to one of Mukherjee's most loved films, Anand (1971). "My personal experience with Anand was in Nagpur when my father had a heart attack. He was coming back from Calcutta and he suffered a stroke on the way so we admitted him to a hospital in Nagpur. I was there with my mother. And even though my father was in the hospital, Anand had just released there. I wanted to see that film desperately, despite my father being in the hospital... he was on the path to recovery. I was a happier man after watching Anand. That was the magnetism Hrishikesh Mukherjee had to pull in the audience," says Shah.
Shah notes that not all of Mukhejee's 42 films are great. "Thank God for that!" he says. "But there are many outstanding ones like Aashirwad (1968) and a lot of amazing comedies like Chupke Chupke (1975), Bawarchi (1972), Gol Maal (1979), which you can repeatedly see. As someone who has made comedies on television and films, I can say that he understood the basics and we learnt from him."
Shah says, "The most important thing about his comedies was the casting. Harindranath Chattopadhyay's casting in Bawarchi or like we never knew Dharmendra could do comedy till Chupke Chupke. The most important casting of Chupke Chupke though was Om Prakash. The whole comedy revolves around him."
"The screenplay crosses the line where Om Prakash seems to have some feelings for his sister-in-law Sharmila Tagore... the jealousy and all suggests that," feels Shah.
Shah further speaks about Om Prakash's ability to make the audiences laugh at him.
"In comedy its very important that someone is the butt of the joke. You won't laugh unless somebody is a victim. In real life, if you are the victim of such jokes it can be an embarassing or humiliating experience. But if you are the butt of the joke on the screen then it's great artistry for the actor to accept it. Normally, actors feel like why you should laugh at me. But they are not laughing at you, you are making them laugh at you. So Om Prakash is such a wonderful foil, and that happened because of casting. He is slightly elderly, considering there are suggested romantic feelings for his sister-in-law, but he is a brilliant actor so he fits," Shah says.
"Though Hrishikesh Mukherjee had the facility of working with big stars, he always came up with the correct person in the correct role," he adds.
The director goes on to compare Mukherjee's work to William Shakespeare's. "His work is like Shakespeare. You cannot say he is original all the time. There are times when he is adapted his films from regional films and novels. But he excelled in delivering afresh. So Bawarchi was a great film, which was based on Tapan Sinha's film, which again was based on the Hollywood broadway play called The Rain Maker."
"His oeuvre has comedy, tragedy, social dramas and others. Hrishikesh Mukherjee understood all these facets. He made a great body of work for a filmmaker. You can easily name at least 6 to 10 great films of his; films that you can watch again and again."