In this exclusive interview, filmographer RAJINI ACHARYA tells Senior Journalist JYOTHI VENKATESH that the late actor Sanjeev Kumar had given Shatrughan Sinha a loan which the latter did not repay him in his lifetime.
You have made a film on Mohammad Rafi and are going to come up with a film on Sanjeev Kumar. Tell me about yourself!
I have spent almost 35 years in the film industry in Mumbai in various capacities. I was a journalist writing columns in newspapers at one time. I then turned into a PR guy and was the PRO for several films as well as TV serials including Nukkad , Ramayan and Circus. Then a stage came when I was the co-producer of the film Apmaan. I was also the Vice President of the TV channel ATN where I made several programmes for Diwali as well as New Year. I have also produced and directed short features for youtube.
You call your film a lifeography and say that you have made a lifeography on Mohammad Rafi. What is the difference between a documentary and a lifeography?
Documentaries are near to reality. You cannot add fiction or songs to a documentary to make it more watchable and are required to be very true to life whereas lifography. You can take some ‘filmi’ liberty to make a lifeography more watchable as you want to reach the masses by sugar coating and presenting your film by using songs and background music. After making a lifeography on Rafi, titled Dastaan E RafiI I am now making a lifeography with the title Dil Dhoondtha Hai on Sanjeev Kumar who we used to call Haribhai. I plan to come up with his lifeography in not only Hindi but also English, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Arabic languages
How would you describe your lifeography on Mohammad Rafi?
Dastaan-E-Rafi was an introspective attempt to discover the real human being behind the glory of legendary singer Mohd. Rafi as industry celebs and his dear ones recall his life journey. The film traces his beginnings, right from his birth in Amritsar to his entry in Bombay, his days of struggle to his achieving stardom, the various ups and downs in his life including differences with Lata Mangeshkar over royalty issue, his being sidelined after the emergence of Kishore Kumar as a playback singer post 1969 to his powerful comeback in the mid-1970’s and then his untimely death in 1980.
Even decades after his death, Mohd Rafi is fondly loved and remembered by fans all over the world and that proves his genius and greatness. His lifeography features Shammi Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Jeetendra, Khayyam, Pyarelal, Shamshad Begum, Ghulam Ali, Pandit Jasraj, Bappi Lahiri, Uttam Singh, Amit Kumar, Udit Narayan, Adnan Sami, Kersi Lord, Lekh Tandon, Sanjeev Kohli, Mubarak Begum, Usha Timothi, Anuradha Paudwal, Raju Naushad, Rehman Naushad, Ruhan Kapoor, Amar Haldipur etc along with Rafi Saab’s brother and children as they share their memories about the great man.
Why and when did you decide to make a lifeography on Sanjeev Kumar?
Sanjeev Kumar was the only actor who could do any role in films, whether it was that of a hero, a comedian or a supporting actor, like say Balraj Sahani , Motilal or Rehman. Even Rehman could never play the hero like Sanjeev Kumar did.
What did you find interesting about Sanjeev Kumar?
I found it interesting when Sanjeev Kumar told me once that in a Gujarati play, he played a ‘sipahi’ who had to stand next to the king by holding a bamboo in his hand. He said that the toughest thing about that character was that he did not require reacting or delivering any dialogue. Sanjeev was an all rounder, a rarity in the film industry today.
How easy is it to make a lifeography?
If the family of the person on whom I am making a lifeography steps forward to support me, it is very easy to make a lifeography. Not otherwise. In the case of Sanjeev Kumar, I am making it because his nephew in Rajkot agreed to give me an interview in which he stated that Sanjeev Kumar had given Shatrughan Sinha a loan which the latter did not repay him in his lifetime.
Is it necessary to take permission or pay the relatives if you want to make a film?
If you ask for permission, issues are bound to be there for sure over payments but it is not possible or feasible for any lifeographer because there is no revenue accrual at all when you set out to make a lifeography. It is purely passion that leads one to make a lifeography.
Is there censorship mandatory when you make a lifeography?
Censorship is mandatory when you set out to make a lifeography, especially if you plan to send it to a film festival like say IFFI or PIFF and want to get a prestigious award.
Which was tougher- making a film on Sanjeev Kumar or Mohammad Rafi?
Making a film on Sanjeev was easier as there were more people who were ready to talk to me about Sanjeev Kumar. The cost of production for the Rafi film was very high. It cost me 50 lakhs of rupees to shoot because I had to take my crew to Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan to interview Rafi’s brother who stays in Lahore. Among the celebrities who I interviewed for the film on Sanjeev Kumar were the theatre stalwart Arvind Joshi, Shatrughan Sinha and Sachin Pilgaonkar
Is it true that Shatrughan Sinha went out of his way to help you make the film on Sanjeev Kumar?
Yes. Shatrughan Sinha booked a suite in the Hotel Sun N Sand to enable me and my crew to shoot his interview for the film on Sanjeev Kumar at his own expense and insisted that my crew also have lunch at his expense there. Sanjeev Kumar and Shatrughan Sinha were the best of friends and Shatrughan Sinha had even told Sanjeev Kumar that he would get married on the day of Sanjeev Kumar’s birthday so that both of them can celebrate his wedding as well as Sanjeev Kumar’s birthday together.
Did you also interview all the heroines of Sanjeev Kumar including Hema Malini and Sulakshana Pandit, who had loved and lost Sanjeev Kumar?
The project on Sanjeev Kumar has been put in limbo because of the pandemic which started in the beginning of last year. I am yet to talk to several celebrities including Hema Malini and Sulakshana Pandit. The idea behind the project is to pay a tribute to Haribhai and not to talk about his love life or denigrate him
Which other aspects of Sanjeev Kumar are you planning to cover in your film?
Very few actors in Bollywood were adept at bringing a smile on their face as well as tears on their eyes, like he did in the film Naya Din Nayi Raat in which he had essayed nine different roles. The film will set out to show that Haribhai , as Sanjeev Kumar was fondly called by everyone in the film industry was not a kanjoos as was the common perception about him, but a dilwala.
Is it true that you are also planning to come with a biography on Sanjeev Kumar?
Yes. I am planning to come up with the biography of Sanjeev Kumar in Hindi, Gujarati and other Indian languages, like I had come up with a book on Mohammad Rafi when I released my lifeography on Rafisaab.
In what way is the lifeography on Sanjeev Kumar different from that on Mohammad Rafi?
Lifeography of Sanjeev Kumar is quite different from that of Mohammad Rafi. In fact, each film has its own distinct flavor. The lifeography on Rafisaab had 15 lakhs viewership. I had sold the satellite rights for the Rafi film to Zee TV while the other ancillary rights to Shemaroo.
Which other lifeographies are you planning to come up with a film on Kasturba Gandhi too in the future?
Besides the films on Rafisaab and Haribhai, I am also making a film called Baa on Kasturba Gandhi. It is 30% ready. The highlight of the film is that I have interviewed all the members of the Mahatma Gandhi family, including the grandson as well as the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. I plan to shoot in Ahmedabad at the Ashram, besides in Bihar and South Africa.
I believe that you have also made a film on the renowned musician Avinash Vyas!
Yes. Avinash Vyasji was called the Bhupendra Hazarika of Gujarat and had won over 25 State Awards for his repertoire. It is called Sur Shabdonu Sarnamu. Not only did I complete the film but also got it censored. The biggest compliment came from a member of the Censor Board who congratulated me and praised me for the film.
Even though your films on Avinash Vyas and Kasturba Gandhi are yet to be released, you are also making a film on the unsung and unknown make up wizard who specialized in prosthetic make up called Victor Pereira, who has worked with stalwarts like Sharmila Tagore, Asha Parekh, Mumtaz and Hema Malini.
Yes. Right now I am making a film on Dr Booch. I also have plans to make a filmography on Victor Pereira, the makeup wizard, who quit working in the film industry after working for quite a period of time, and turned into a wig maker.