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When filmmaker Ravi Tandon said, “No producer or director can say that he can sell his film on his own”

Raveena Tandon’s father Ravi Tandon was known for Amitabh Bachchan starrer films like Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Khuddar.

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Raveena Tandon with father Ravi Tandon

By Jyothi Venkatesh

We reproduce an earlier vintage interview of director RAVI TANDON by JYOTHI VENKATESH which appeared 42 years ago in MID-DAY dt August 26, 1982

Today Ravi Tandon is right on top of the world because Khuddar starring Amitabh Bachchan in the title role and directed by him has hit the jackpot and is topping the box office charts. Today, no one cares to remember that the same man had once, not long ago, churned out failures like Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Apne Rang Hazaar, Chor Ho To Aisa, Jhoota Kahin Ka etc because in the film industry nothing succeeds like success and your popularity in the tinsel world is directly proportional to the success of your latest film.

Ravi Tandon is indeed a rags to riches story. Believe it or not, the fact is that he had made his modest beginning in the film industry as a peddler of door closers and made the transition from an assistant to a director to a producer-director. What sets him apart from his other colleagues in the industry is his modesty and affable nature in spite of success which often transforms one in the industry.

I met Ravi Tandon recently at his seaside apartment at Juhu for this exclusive interview. When I reached his pad, he was surrounded by a large group. They were discussing the scene which they were to picturise the very next day for a film called Dawa, starring Jeetendra and Reena Roy. After disposing of his people, Ravi settled himself comfortably on the sofa and we started our conversation.

Also read: A tribute to the Ghazal maestro Pankaj Udhas

Excerpts:

ON HIS MENTOR R.K. NAYYAR:

It was R.K. Nayyar who gave me my first break as an assistant in films. His Sahara starred Manoj Kumar and his wife Sadhana. It was 18 years ago. The film, unfortunately for me, was shelved after nearly three reels were canned. I had assisted Nayyar in his Aao Pyar Kare starring Joy Mukherjee and Saira Banu. In Aao Pyar Kare, Sanjeev played a side character. I had also assisted Nayyar in his Love In Simla and Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke. From 1959 to 1964, I worked as Nayyar’s assistant.

ON HIS AMBITION TO ACT:

At one stage in my life, I had a burning desire to act in films. I had even joined Filmistan. On a princely salary of Rs 100 per month, I used to do different roles as an extra. In one scene I used to work as a soldier and in another I used to stick on a beard and act as a dacoit who is being persuaded by the same soldier. I used to stay at Borivali and walk all the way to Goregaon to report for shooting because I did not have money even to pay for my very modest bus fare. I realized I wasn’t cut out to be an actor and decided to be behind the camera.

ON MANOJ KUMAR:

Manoj Kumar is responsible for my entry in films as a director. It was he who asked the producer of Balidaan to entrust to me the job of direction. When I got the break from Manoj, I was working as the chief assistant of The King Brothers who had come to Bombay all the way from Metro Goldwyn Mayer to make the Maya Series for TV. I was drawing a princely salary of Rs 1400 and yet I decided to take a risk and become an independent director when Manoj called me over. He was one of my clients for my door closers.

Also read: Manmohan Desai: Entertainment was his middle name

ON THE STAR SYSTEM:

Today I have no qualms in confessing that no producer or director can say that he can sell his film on his own. Why didn’t Yash Chopra direct his film Noorie himself? He had assigned the job of directing Noorie to Manmohan Krishna. Didn’t he? The reason is it is not at all practical to make a film and sell it with new faces. Give me a producer who has more confidence in me than in the star cast and I am game to make not one or two but ten films without the so called well known stars.

ON CHOOSING A SUBJECT:

When you make a film, you should cast your actors to suit the subject as it is of paramount importance in filmmaking. Universal sentiments are a must to sell a film. Even though Waqt Ki Deewar was a formula film, it fared well at the box office because it was based on the emotional upheavals in a man’s life and the audience could identify itself with the characters projected on the screen. Amitabh Bachchan will not suit a subject which Chintu alone can do. Aalaap did not do well though Amitabh acted well in it because the subject wasn’t suitable for Amitabh. So did Zinda Dil and Zehreela Insaan flop because no one could accept Chintu as an angry young man.

ON MAKING A FILM WITH NEW FACES:

I do not go after glamour though I am a part and parcel of the film industry. I believe that you can touch a heart whether you depict a jhopadpatti or a mahal. I am making a film called Pyar To Hona Hi Tha for producer Asheem Kumar with a new actor called Tushar Pandit only because I needed a boy without an image for the film. The subject demanded that I cast an unknown boy.

Also read: “Today on his 85th birth anniversary, I still recall my dad Joy Mukerjee’s smiling face”, says his son Sujoy Joy Mukherjee

ON AMITABH BACHCHAN:

The best thing to have happened to the film industry in India is Amitabh Bachchan. I have yet to come across a star, who is as punctual and disciplined as Amitabh. No wonder he is being hailed as the most important person in India next only to our Prime Minister. Indisposition or not, Amitabh does well. If a good director is there to direct him, the project starring Amitabh Bachchan becomes commercially viable. You need a distributor to buy your film and an exhibitor to screen it. And a star draws both the distributor and the exhibitor to a film. It is a complete chain which no one can hope to break.

ON THE CENSORS:

The Censors have the most atrocious sense of judgment. Not realizing that sex and violence are a part and parcel of our day to day life, they frown upon them even if a filmmaker tries to incorporate them in his film subtly. I feel that the censors should ban Bible, Geeta, Ramayana and Mahabharata because rape scenes were there in all these epics.

ON RAAJ KUMAR:

Producer Ravi Anand wanted me to direct Sultaan with Raaj Kumar in the title role. A day before the film could be launched, I was in for the shock of my life when Raaj Kumar walked in and showed me the dialogues and the camera movements for the various artists in Sultan written by him. I told Raaj on his face that no star had ever directed me or dictated to me and I had worked with the biggest stars-Manoj Kumar, Chintu, Amitabh, Jeetendra, Shatruighan Sinha and Sanjeev Kumar. I told Raaj Kumar to direct the film himself and walked out of the project in disgust. Look at what had happened to a seasoned director like Asit Sen when Dilip Kumar started interfering with him when he was directing his Bairaag.I asked Ravi not to waste his money hiring a director like me to sit on the chair and act like Raaj Kumar’s dummy.

Also read: Chote Nawab Review: On adolescence and betrayal!

ON HIS FILMS ON THE FLOORS:

Right now I am directing two films apart from Dawa. One of them is Bond 303, an unabashed commercial based on science fiction, starring Jeetendra and Parveen Babi and the other one is Rahi Badal Gaye starring Chintu, Shabana and Padmini Kolhapure, an out and out emotional subject. After making Anhonee and Apne Rang Hazaar as a producer, I realized that I just do not have it in me to make the rounds of financiers, secretaries and distributors and hence stopped setting out to produce films. Being busy as a director, it is next to impossible to dabble in production too. You tend to compromise if you are also a producer.

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