By Chaitanya Padukone
The turn-out of mourners this morning at the funeral of 86-year-old veteran prolific producer-director filmmaker-writer-lyricist Saawan Kumar Tak (who was ailing and passed away last evening) was rather disheartening. Except for actress Padmini Kolhapure-Sharma, hardly any of the other ‘A-List’ yesteryear star heroes or heroines who had worked with the top director were present. Perhaps a silent, grim yet eloquent testimonial of the stark reality of how sometimes the entertainment industry tends to function.
Hats off to ‘late’ Sawan’s buddy 86-year-old veteran actor Prem Chopra (he had an amazing negative role in director Sawan’s 1983 landmark movie ‘Souten’) who attended the final cremation rites and remained there all through. Besides Tak’s grieving nephew Naveen Tak and close relatives also seen offering their homage were director David Dhawan (he had ‘edited’ the same milestone musical movie ‘Souten’), veteran director Ramesh Talwar, Rajil (Ameen) Sayani, Ashoke Pandit, Sham Kaushal, actress Sahila Chadha, character actor Jugnu, Ashvin Thakkar, comedian Sunil Pal, and a few others. On an optimistic note, one hopes the star artists and others who were unable to make it will possibly try to attend the ‘Chautha’ religious event which will be held this weekend.
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Meanwhile, several Bollywood actors and composers have expressed shock over Sawan’s sad demise. Hugely talented composer-singer ex-wife Usha Khanna (they had separated) said in her grieving tribute, “Even while we were married and together, I always felt he was more a friend than husband, it hurts that I’ve lost my dear friend. We collaborated together on many movies (‘like ‘Souten’ for instance) in which he also wrote the lyrics and he always gave me complete creative freedom. We continued to remain in touch until recently,” shared Usha.
Actress Anu Aggarwal, who worked with Saawan Kumar in the maverick thriller movie Khal-Naaikaa, was in tears. She reacted, “He will be missed. May he rest well in the better place he has gone to.” While speaking to us about her equation with the late filmmaker, she says, “Sawan Kumar Ji was an extraordinary visionary and a brave filmmaker. He dared to make a movie, in which the female protagonist turns into a psycho killer. In the 90s, and pretty much even now, the concept can easily be termed unique. When he approached me for Khal-Naaikaa (1993) with a video of the American film, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992), I was mesmerized by the intensity of the role as an actor. I can call it a dream role without blinking an eye.”
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Anu adds, “I will always be grateful to Sawan-Ji for trusting my acting skills, choosing me for a challenging and older character amongst the experienced, leading actresses of the time. It was diametrically opposite to my character in my first film, Aashiqui. It takes a fine filmmaker like Saawan Kumarji to envision you in a character that’s starkly different from the one that has catapulted you to instant fame. I will forever be grateful to him for showcasing me an avatar I barely knew I could pull off.”
Asked why he had this fixation for ‘Souten’ or even ‘Bewafaa’ in many of his movie titles like ‘Souten Ki Beti’ and ‘Sanam Bewafaa’, the outspoken Saawan had justified when I personally met him at his Juhu residence, last year on his birthday (August 9th). Justified Saawan-Ji, “The bold tag ‘Souten’ and ‘Bewafaa’ has ‘anti-heroine’ negative shades to it which is impactful and impressive. It always proves to be an intrigue-attraction for the audience. In fact, I also made a daring movie ‘Khal-Naaikaa’ (1993) which had Anu Aggarwal giving a mind-blowing screen performance as the vindictive, nasty woman defying her ‘Aashiqui’ lover-girl image,” asserts amazing lyricist Saawan who confesses that ‘Ishq’ has mostly been his off-screen inspiration. “By nature, I am impulsive and spontaneous and I get mental flashes of creative lightning.
Continued Sawan, “Which is how I was able to conceive scenes and write simple-yet-inspiring lyrics of so many evergreen songs like ‘Zindagi pyar ka geet hai, Isse har dil ko gaana padega—Zindagi gham ka saagar bhi hai, Hans kay uss paar jaana padega’. Or the unique situational song “Issi liye, mummy ne meri, tumhe chaai pey bulaaya hai’ .
Of course, abundant credit also goes to Usha Khanna-jee for composing the catchy, hummable tunes,” informs Saawan who made his directorial debut with ‘Gomti Ke Kinare’(1972), in which he directed the legendary icon Meena Kumari.“
“There was so much I learned working with the great-yet-so-modest actress-poetess Meena Kumari-Ji. It was because of Meena-jee, that I laid the solid foundation of my career,” enthuses Saawan-Ji who was the first Bollywood director to showcase the breath-taking blue-green waters and exotic foreign locales of Mauritius in his movie ‘Souten’.
What legendary Yash Chopra is for snowy Switzerland, Saawan Kumar Tak is for mesmerizing Mauritius. Saawan Kumar Tak began his career as a producer on the 1967 film Naunihal. He is credited with giving Sanjeev Kumar, the lead actor in the film, his screen name. In 1972, he made his directorial debut with Gomti Ke Kinare, Meena Kumari’s final film.
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At the turn of the century, he made a number of films featuring Salman Khan, including Sanam Bewafa (1991), Chaand Ka Tukda (1994) and Saawan… The Love Season (2003). After his demise, Salman took to Twitter to pay tribute to his mentor-director. “May U rest in peace my dear Sawaan-ji. Have always loved n respected U,” he tweeted.
A prolific lyricist, director Saawan Kumar often wrote the lyrics for most of the songs in his films as well. He wrote lyrics for other filmmakers as well. Among his most notable and popular songs were Zindagi Pyaar Ka Geet Hai from his film Souten, as well as Pyaar Ki Kashti Mein, Janeman Janeman and Chand Sitaare for Rakesh Roshan’s 2000 musical mega-hit, Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai, which marked the debut of Hrithik Roshan and Ameesha Patel.
(The writer of this story-article Chaitanya Padukone is an eminent senior film, TV, and music journalist & author of memoirs book R D BurMania)