By Jyothi Venkatesh
Though he is just two years elder to me, I have always called Mithun as Mithunda or Dada. Today, as I wish him a happy birthday, I cannot resist remembering the very first time when I met Mithun Chakraborty at Sarika’s apartment where she had put him up when Mithun and Sarika were shooting for a film way back in 1975, some 44 years ago.
It will be interesting to note how I met Mithun Cahraborty in the first place. I was slated to interview Sarika for Free Press Journal and when I went to interview Sarika, who was I think only 18 at that time, she suggested that I interview a new actor called Mithun Chakraborty who had come from Kolkata and was shooting with her in those days. When I was reluctant and told Sarika that I had a long way to go from Juhu where she was residing to Worli where I was staying, Sarika very wetly offered to ask her driver to drop me home in her car.
When I thanked her and told her that I had to hurry home to have dinner as my mother would be waiting for me, she offered me dinner prepared by her before I was dropped home and I just could not say No to the pretty girl who was not only a child star but also to her credit a hit film like Geet Gaata Chal. I interviewed Sarika first, went over to the apartment where Mithun was staying, interviewed him and came back to Sarika’s house for dinner and then I was dropped by her driver to my house at Worli.
Though I used to keep bumping into various parties after our first meeting, it was at Melkote near Bangalore where Boney Kapoor was shooting for his film Hum Paanch that I could really bond with him a lot. Interestingly, it was Boney Kapoor’s younger brother Anil Kapoor who was the production controller for the film Hum Paanch. Boney Kapoor had rung me up when I was in Bangalore to cover the International Film Festival which was on there in 1980 and invited me to visit him and cover the shooting. Boney told me that Anil would pick me up from the hotel where I was put up. With Amrish Puri , I drove to Melkote where Mithun was delighted to see me.
During the shoot for his debut film Hum Paanch, Boney Kapoor is seen serving food to his cast & crew, It’s not all, he also had constructed 20 make shift cottages with attached bathrooms for their stay as the nearest hotel from the location was more than 100 kms away, during the shoot. There were 2 separate cottages for a movie theatre & a Club house for indoor games. He also made a badminton court and the movie theatre had a choice of 40 different movies to entertain the cast & crew whenever they were not shooting or for that matter after the pack up.
Boney can be seen serving food to the cast. Sanjeev Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Raj Babbar, Gulshan Grover, Shabana Azmi, Deepti Naval, A.K Hangal, and Uday Chandra can be seen eating together. I stayed at Melkote for two days and enjoyed Boney Kapoor’s excellent hospitality. It is sad that today no producer bothers to invite the media to locations to cover their shooting.
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The day I had to leave, Boney asked me to hop in the car which was taking Mithun and Deepti Naval to the airport at Bangalore. It turned out to be a fun ride with me, Mithun and Deepti all the way from Melkote to Bangalore. I can still not forget what a prankster Mithun was and how he generously ordered for half a dozen bottles and how Deepti was scared that we should not get drunk with beer. Mithun , I remember, winked at me and by way of playing a prank, asked the driver to stop the car on the way and asked Deepti to get down from the car when she refused to drink beer. When Deepti got down, to my chagrin, the car took off with Deepti stranded on the road with tears flowing down her cheeks. Just when I was worried that Mithun was drunk with the first bottle of beer, to my great relief, he again winked at me and asked the driver to reverse and pick Deepti from where we had left her.
The last time I bumped into Mithunda was at the party hosted by my friends Vivek Agnihotri and Pallavi Joshi to celebrate the success of their film The Tashkent Files at a small resto bar in Andheri where Mithunda made a special exception to his rule of not attending any party and turned up to express his solidarity with Vivek who had directed and produced The Tashkent Files. We spoke a lot and also promised to meet each other soon.
However, Mithun became incommunicado once again after the party and two years ago, when Praveen Shetty, a Georgia based hotel owner who also owned a hotel in Dubai wanted me to get Mithun Chakraborty to fly down to Georgia to be the chief guest at the opening of a restaurant in memory of the late Raj Kapoor, I just could not contact Mithun personally or through his phone and his ex Manager quoted a bomb to the owner if he wanted Mithun to be the chief guest and the hotel owner decided to get in place of Mithun Chakraborty Raj Kapoor’s son Rajeev Kapoor, on my suggestion, especially since Rishi Kapoor was ailing. Rajeev Kapoor flew with me to Dubai first and from there we went to Georgia for the opening of the restaurant which was incidentally named Jimmy Jimmy, since after Raj Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty is also extremely popular in Georgia.