I mentioned in my last post that my father preferred to play the villain, I came to know about this from one of his interviews that I chanced upon long after he had passed away. Mum too confirmed this, after all one got a better opportunity to showcase one’s acting talent through such roles. I never saw Benazir in my father’s lifetime. Much later we did manage to get a video cassette, but it was such a terrible one that I could make head nor tale of the film. Recently I managed to get the DVD and finally I had the pleasure of seeing my father in Benazir. This was just the kind of role he enjoyed playing. He didn’t have to do anything indecent like molesting the heroine for instance. I had mentioned in my guest post for Memsaabstory - The Soft Hearted Villain, he disliked doing such scenes.
Benazir was not his first outing as a villain, Shama,another Muslim social co-starring Suraiya and Nimmi, which like Benazir was also in Urdu, came much earlier, but as I am still on Bimal Roy Productions, Benazir is the topic of this post.
I have heard several things about Benazir from some of the unit members and I will be sharing those interesting bits of information and anecdotes with you. From what I have heard, S.Khalil the writer and director of Benazir had earlier made a film by the name of 'Bhaijaan' starring NoorJehan . After a quick search I found this song on You Tube, I think this is the film, unless there was another 'Bhaijaan'. Any way coming back to Benazir, Khalil was keen to remake this film with Meena Kumari and he was on the lookout for a popular banner that would present his film. Bimal Roy initially agreed to present the film but I am told he later decided to step in as full-fledged producer.
Afsar Nawab (Ashok Kumar) is a rich man who, despite being married (Nirupa Roy is his wife), is hopelessly in love with Benazir. He spends huge amounts of money on Benazir and Star Theatre. Benazir, however does not love him, she just respects him and is obliged to him.
Anwar, blissfully unaware of all this, falls in love with Shaida his Bhabijaan’s (Nirupa Roy) sister.
Shaida is only too happy to return his feelings much to the irritation of Shaukat( my father).
Shaukat is Afsar and Anwar’s cousin.
He has set his heart on Shaida who detests him.
I loved my father’s performance in this film, his villainy was absolutely subtle, for instance there is a scene in this film when Afsar Nawab having discovered Shaukat’s mischief throws him out of the house, I noticed the slight scornful smile on my father’s face (see screen cap below) that was I think quite a subtle piece of villainy.
Meena Kumari initially refused to do the film, for she just couldn’t see herself working opposite a young Shashi Kapoor, whom she had seen as a child and who had almost grown up in front of her. However, she was coaxed by Khalil to do the film, and what was the result? Obviously not too good, she looks like his mother.
Do you see the ad below? I chanced upon it when I was searching for my father’s interview where he had talked about his preference for playing the villain. I could not find it, but I found this old Hindi film magazine called Suchitra, it is quite old, it is dated January 31,1964. According to my brother (that is, if memory serves him right) this magazine was the earlier avatar of one of the popular Hindi film magazines those days, Madhuri.
This ad is of Limical, which I guess is short for limited calorie. This was for those who did not want to put on weight. You might well ask, what is this doing in a film blog?. Well you see, I am told that during the making of this film, while everyone had normal meals, Shashi Kapoor survived on Limical under strict instructions from his wife. Mrs Jennifer Kapoor, I must say, was one sensible lady, Shashi Kapoor was the only Kapoor who was slim, trim and handsome. The moment his wife passed away and he decided to put on weight for his film 'Utsav', he never got back to his original shape and it is quite disheartening to see him on the wheel chair now.
I also found this feature on Benazir in the magazine.
Sweet Memories and Early Lessons in Film-making
While watching the shoot my brother found it strange that Ashok Kumar was wearing a very light blue pyjama kurta. He was so used to seeing everyone wearing white pyjama kurta that out of curiosity he asked dad about it, that was when dad explained to him the technicalities that go into making of a film. The light blue, he explained, helped reduce the glare that resulted from pure white clothes while shooting a black and white film, when you see the film you do not see the light blue but white clothes.
While on technicalities I have been meaning to talk about another aspect of film-making that was prevalent during my father’s time. In fact the reason I call this blog Tarun Bose and the World of Cinema is that I wanted it to be not just about my father but also about how the world of cinema was during his time. I would like to talk about it now; it is to do with the practice of dubbing a film. Sometime during the late seventies or perhaps the early eighties, film-makers in India began using Arriflex cameras. These cameras have the advantage of portability being quite lightweight as opposed to the motion picture cameras used during my father’s time. However, one of the disadvantages of this camera is that it makes a lot of noise, as a result the dialogues that are recorded on the set cannot be retained in the film, therefore the film-makers were and perhaps still are compelled to get the actors to dub for the film in sound proof recording studios. That was not how it was during my father’s time. The cameras then did not make a noise, therefore the sound recorded on the spot could be retained. On the spot recording meant that there had to be absolute silence on the sets. Right from my childhood I had learnt to be absolutely silent on the sets, I guess you cannot blame me for not being too enthusiastic about visiting the sets as a child, for the slightest sound would alert the sound-recordist and the director would shout “Cut”. The directors those days used to start shooting by saying, “ Start sound, start camera, silence, action!” That does not mean that actors did not have to dub at all for their films, they did dub but only those scenes which were shot outdoors where you have no control over the extraneous sound or noises that creep in while shooting. Sometimes while shooting indoors too, it was likely a sound would creep in unnoticed by the sound-recordist. All this impacted the clarity of the dialogues as a result of which those scenes too had to be dubbed by the actors. One of the advantages of this system was the actors did not lose their spontaneity; there was no need to artificially add sounds to a scene for the natural sounds could be retained. Just look at the scene below and please increase the volume and you will be able to hear the natural sounds of dad pouring the tea and the rattling sound of the cup and saucer as Shashi Kapoor places it on the table.
Interestingly, I think it was during the nineties that some film-makers started using what they call sync – sound which I guess is obviously short for synchronized sound. It is a new term for what used to be done in the past. I guess they may now have some better cameras which help facilitate the use of sync-sound and of course much better equipment for recording the sound. What I found amusing was that while Usha Kiron was not comfortable with dubbing, Madhuri Dixit was not comfortable with sync-sound. When she came back to act in 'Aaja Nachle' after a long break, she said in an interview that she was just not comfortable with the silence on the sets, as she was used to noisy sets. However I do not think that all films use sync sound nowadays, dubbing still continues.
I think I should call a halt to these lessons on the technicalities of film-making. Film-making is not just about technicalities, it is also about unnerving incidents. One such film in my father’s life was 'Usne Kaha Tha', that was one eventful film in my father’s life. So the next post is going to be about 'Usne Kaha Tha'