Meaning he was referring to Rajesh Khanna, you used to talk to Rajesh Khanna in those days?
No, a little distance had come between us. I will also tell you the reason for this. Actually after ‘Andaz’ we were about to make a film. We were going to Bangalore on the release of the film and it was discussed in the flight itself that Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini should make the next film. At that time I had an idea. The name of the film was ‘Birju Chala London’. Rajesh liked the talk. Hema also said, okay. But, then the matter did not work out. Further. By that time he had become a super duper star. By then many things had started happening about him, how this and how that. Then these stories were also being heard that they do not come on time. So I left the narrow lane that why to get into all this mess..?
And, you did four films with Amitabh Bachchan. Whenever Amitabh Bachchan’s films are mentioned, your films will be mentioned in it. But, there is one film in all these ‘Shakti’. How was it a challenge to cast?
Look, since my youth, I had a dream to do a film with Dilip Kumar. I thought it would never happen, but if it happens, it would be wonderful. At the same time, I had this thought in my mind that if there is a film like ‘Mother India’ then it will work, otherwise if I make it with her, it will not be good. I told Salim-Javed the idea of a film made in the South. Story of an honest police officer whose son goes on the wrong path. We had taken the rights to it as well, but when the script was made, it was completely different from it except that the story was still of the police officer and his son. The producers of the film, Musheer Riaz, returned the rights of that South film, which was later made with Jeetendra in it. When our story was ready, we felt that the father-son conflict would be very good in it. But, by then Amitabh Bachchan had become a huge superstar. He was doing all kinds of characters. He had become a one man variety performer in a way. Were doing everything from action to comedy, drama, tragedy. His name also started causing panic. We all thought let’s think of a new guy. Thoughts were also given on some names but then it did not go on roaming around. I said, let’s ask. When we talked, he said, okay, we will do it. Dilip Kumar had already arrived by then. Rest what happened is history now. Such a coincidence happened that it did not happen again. There is only one film in which both are present. I also got a lot of satisfaction from this film. ‘Shakti’ after ‘Sholay’ and ‘Shaan’! Once again it was like hypnosis..
It must have been a challenge directing Dilip Kumar?
There was no problem. I can say that there was no problem in the entire film. We had heard many things about him but this did not happen at all. I think the reason behind this must have been the coincidence of both the veteran actors of the film. I remember sitting in the chair right next to him at the premiere of ‘Sholay’. As soon as the first train sequence comes in the film in which Gabbar’s gang comes to commit train robbery, he said, ‘Hey, toh second reel hi hai aur yeh to climax aa gaya’. Now what will you do now. How will you be able to tie the film? So much action and all this is the climax of the picture.
And, one last question regarding Mithun Chakraborty. When you cast him in the film ‘Bhrashtachar’, all Mithun’s fans felt that yes, now Mithun has become a superstar as he has got Ramesh Sippy’s film. You also took him because of his stardom?
Actually that film started with Rekha because her character is the central character of the film. And, then it was that Mithun Chakraborty was a good artist but his fame was more about dance and action. But, from the few scenes that I had seen in his films, I felt that this actor is good. Everyone else who does this is fine but the cast is also very good. I was making the serial ‘Buniyaad’ at that time and in those days people were less interested in cinemas and more in television. People’s visits to cinema halls had reduced. So I thought that a completely commercial film should be made. So the writer (Manohar Shyam Joshi) of the serial ‘Buniyaad’ narrated a line of a story that there is a journalist who wages a war against corruption. At that time an atmosphere of corruption was also going on, so a lot of things were happening.
The process of building a relationship with strong female characters and social situations in your films has been yours since your first film ‘Andaz’, was it all under a well-thought-out strategy or did you choose such stories just because of the constant connection with the audience?
You got the pulse right. The film ‘Andaz’ was my first film but its heroine was a widow. The film was way ahead of its time but the audience liked it. All the other female characters you will see in my film are like a part of our society. When a director builds a relationship with what is happening around us, then only cinema can build a relationship with the audience. Salim-Javed also contributed a lot in this. Javed is younger than me, his birthday is also in January, so our thoughts were quite similar and that’s why we became friends.
Occupation:Indian film critic and reviewer
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Masters in Mass Communication
Career: Sangeeta Verma started her career as a freelance writer and film critic and continuing it.