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Article Hindi

Amit Khanna: Vishal Anand was a rare gentleman in Hindi cinema

Vishal aka Bhisham Kohli holds a special place in my heart as I wrote my first song for a film he produced and acted in, says the writer-producer-director.

Amit Khanna

One of my early friends in Mumbai, Bhisham Kohli (aka Vishal), died on Sunday evening after a long illness. Bhisham holds a special place in my heart as I wrote my first song for a film he produced and acted in — Chalte Chalte (1976).

Bhisham Kohli hailed from the illustrious Anand family. His mother was Dev Anand's sister. Two of his brothers, Yash and Hersh, are film producers, Shekhar Kapur, Suneil Anand and Ketan Anand are his cousins, Parikshit Sahni is his brother-in-law, and Purab Kohli is his nephew.

In spite of this, Bhisham did not have it easy. He tried his hand at several businesses, including manufacturing speakers. He had a knack for technology which was quite rare in the film industry. In fact, he had made a special set of speakers for RD Burman's music room (he was a good friend of Pancham). He then hung around Filmalaya acting school for a while, learning acting from PD Shenoy. He was quite friendly with his generation of actors and filmmakers.

Bhisham finally got a break in Devi Sharma's Hamara Adhikar (1970) and went on to act in a few films such as Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (1972), Taxi Driver (1973), Intezar (1973) and Hindustan Ki Kasam (1973). When he realized that his career as an actor was not making much headway, he turned producer with Chalte Chalte in 1975.

One day he dropped in at Navketan Films and was chatting with me about how he was not getting time from his composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal who were very busy then. Coincidentally, I had just met Bappi Lahiri who was trying to make his debut in Mumbai. I arranged a meeting between the two and when, during a sitting, Bhisham suggested I should write the lyrics, I agreed for a lark.

In the end, we got a terrific soundtrack for his film Chalte Chalte. The songs are popular till today. I went on to write songs for a couple of more films for him — Dilsey Miley Dil (1978) and Kismat (1980) — and these, too, became popular. I also wrote the dialogues for Dilsey Miley Dil and Kismat. He directed other films, including Maine Jeena Seekh Liya (1982) and Aakheer (2002).

Bhisham was simple and kind-hearted, and we hung out often in the 1970s and 1980s. We would go out on drives to the Aarey Milk Colony or watch films or have a meal together. Later I got too busy with my own work and our meetings became few and far between. I regret that now. However, we did talk on the phone once in a while.

He had not been keeping well for some time as he had chronic asthma and other ailments. I spoke to him about a month ago and we promised to meet after the lockdown. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

I will treasure fond memories of Bhisham. He was a rare gentleman in 'Bollywood' and all I can say today to a friend who has gone away is that you remain in our hearts. 'Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna' will linger for a long time.