Wednesday, October 31, 2007

At work

A photo taken at Prakash studio when it was handed over to the workers to be run by Vijay Bhatt. Seen in the picture is Jay Prakash Narayan.

Miss Gracy, a character actor in the film Kissi Se Na Kehana

Character actor Samson in the film Nadiya Ke Paar in 1948.Make up by Papa ajoba.

Kishore Sahu in the film Sindoor (1947) Papa ajoba hand made the wig that Kishore Sahi is wearing in this photo by hand by literally sticking each hair at a time.

Janwar 1965

With his favorite star Shammi Kapoor on the set of Janwar

Make of the comedian Rajendranath for the film An Evening in Paris (1967)

Leela Chitnis in the film produced by her company called Kissi Se Na Kehana in 1942, a film on which my grad dad was an assistant.

Character actor Shukla from the film Kissi Se Na Kehna (1942) done by Papa Ajoba when he was an assistant make artist.

Lacquering Rajashree ( V. Shantaram's daughter) on the sets of the 1965 film Janwar.

Post No 7: Some Photos from My Mother's Wedding Album

Saira Banu with my aunt and my grandmother

Sadhana eating icecream.

From right to left: Shobhana Samrath, Nalini Jaywant both of them are my grand mother's cousin sisters, my grand mother, Shobhana Samarth's mother, Tanuja's sister Chatura,Tanuja, my mother & father.

Asha Parekh with her mother (Right) and my grandmother at my mother's wedding

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Post No 6: sadhana cut

Sadhana Cut

“Do you know that even today little girls go to beauty parlors and ask to get a ‘Sadhana Cut’, if they want a fringe on their foreheads?” says the charming Sadhana when I go to meet her with Papaajoba in her very seventies looking Bungalow at Santacruz in Bombay. She continues, “You know I have a very big forehead and before I did my first film with S.Mukherjee, Nayyar Sahab (R.K.Nayyar who she later married) and I were great fans of Audrey Hepburn so we decided that I would have a fringe like her to hide my forehead. That time nobody in India had a fringe. So we went to a Chinese hairdresser and got it cut. So that’s how the Sadhana Cut came in to fashion.”

In 1960 she did her first film called Love In Simla but she says her first film was, ‘Parakh’, where she was playing a ‘gao ki ladki’ so R.K. Nayyar advised her that they should release Love In Simla before so when Parakh released she says, “all the people were very impressed because they felt that this girl can do glamorous as well as gao ke roles.”

While she and my grand dad talk I sense a great camaraderie. But the power dynamics between a star and a technician are obvious. My grand dad refers to her as Sadhan-ji and she lovingly calls him ‘Dada’. They both are sitting down sipping their drinks, she drinks vodka and he is drinking whiskey. She is also constantly chewing some sort of gum. I am afraid to ask but my grand father brusquely asks her why she is eating so much chewing gum. She pauses and replies in her husky voice, “Dada maine bahut salon se cigarette chod di hai, toh yeh uske liye hai”.

I continue to ask her about what the advent of the colour film meant to her. She says she was doing two films at the time one was Who Kaun Thi (released in 1964) and Mere Mehboob (released 1963). She says, “we were all very thrilled that we would be seen in colour and everyone of us wanted to look good in the colour and I was bit hesitant then to do a black and white film after that. My grand dad did her make up in both films. She says that make up was a little too white, even pink at times.

My grand dad interjects and explains why it had to be slightly white or pink; he gives the example of their trials with the film Nagin. He continues to tell his stories, many of which I have heard over the last several months. In fact I will not be wrong in saying that he hardly lets Sadhana talk. I am irritated at first, thinking it’s the whiskey but slowly through the course of the interview I realise what he said to me at the beginning of this project, “I don’t want to be an also ran,”. I also realize that maybe for the first time he is centre of attention in front of her. This project is about him, she has to merely add to the stories, not be the focus. It’s also the first time she realises that he knows a lot more technically and his memory is far better than hers, he is 85 and she is about 69.

“You know in Around the World 8 Dollars, a film I did with Raj Kapoor, I remember him telling me that my make up was too white while his face had a nicely tanned look. You know though when colour became popular everybody thought everything in the film should be colourful. There was so much colour that it would hit the eye. They would put a girl in a pink dress in front of a pink wall! It took them a little time to get used to colour film but they were learning slowly but the idea was that, agar color film hai toh there must be a lot of colours in it.”

We are interrupted by a plateful of kebabs which she abstains from eating as she is watching her weight. She continues, “Colour film was bloody expensive therefore sometimes they would only have one song in colour and they used to have only about 20-30 prints of a film for the state of Maharashtra." Papaajoba continues by telling Sadhana that, “at that time there were no baby or dinky lights, so the artist's skin used to burn. She takes it from there saying, “There were no air conditioned studios also.”

“You know during Waqt, this was soon after Mere Mehboob I had discussion with the dress designer and said what is this? We actresses have only two choices when it comes to clothes, either we wear saris or salwars. Why don’t we try churidars? But my designer said no it’s a Muslim dress. So I told her let’s do a fusion, a churidar and a kurta with embroidery here,” she points to her bust line. She continues, “I told Yash (Chopra) I am supposed to be a young ladki so why can’t I wear a churidar? He said, ‘meri picture mei nahin chalega’. Anyway I got the tight churidar made with a tight kurti on top with embroidery and wore mojris and showed it to him. To that he said, ‘wow that looks fantastic!’”.

Sadhana clearly was a trendsetter after the Sadhana Cut and churidars she says she sparked off another fashion trend, the mojris. She points to her foot and says, “see look at this finger of mine, it is smaller than the rest and I have ugly feet. I was very conscious of my feet so to cover them I started wearing mojris. There is one more reason I had to wear them, see I am 5 feet 6 inches tall, then the Buffon added a little more to my height and then if I wore heels I would be 5 feet 10 inches tall and you know most of our heroes are short. Once Raj Kapoor was given a stool to stand on, it was for a film called Dulha Dulhan, it was a very bad film. You know but when you wear Mojris your walk is very different than when you wear heels. In those days the shoe shop, Metro, in Colaba used make special mojris for me and the owner once gave an interview to the press and told them that I had a little crooked finger. But do you know Waheeda has crooked fingers on both her feet?"

By now she is on her third vodka and I have finished off my grand dad’s left over whiskey, so we are all nicely warmed up. So I venture to ask her about the casting couch in those days? Sadhana says, “those were innocent days, today of course there is a casting couch. Those days you fell in love, sometimes with a married man even, but you got married to him.” I was hoping to hear a little more gossip than that. A little more prodding perhaps so I ask her who her favorite male co-stars were? She says, “Oh! I was very comfortable with Rajender Kumar and Shammi Kapoor. They were the nicest two guys in the industry and I really enjoyed working with them. But can I tell you this? But please don’t write this, Shammi had a real reputation so I was really scared to work with him in Rajkumar so at first I kept my distance. But then I realised what a wonderful person he was. One day Shammi told me, " Sadhana you are not my cup of tea and there are two women in the industry who are like a Frigidaire, you and Saira," but I turned round to him and said , Shammi I think you are not my cup of tea." She tells me a couple of more stories but I must keep my promise to her by not putting it on record.

I ask her about star rivalry in those days and she very calmly replies, “See it was very simple if you wanted a pretty looking girl for your film, they would cast Saira, if they wanted a good dancer then it would be Asha (Parekh) and of you wanted an actress then you chose Sadhana. I was very punctual; I would be ready with my make up sharp at 9.30 a.m. in the morning. For the shooting of Rajkumar we were staying nearly two hours away from the location so we would wake up at 2 a.m. every night get ready with make up and costume by 4.30 a.m. and reach the location at 7 a.m. sharp and that time we didn’t have air conditioned vanity vans like today. So a lot of times we had to use the jungle as the loo. Nowadays they shoot in Switzerland and Australia.”

There are stories that I have grown up hearing of how Sadhana would come and pick up my grand dad in her Buick and that was probably the only Buick in town. To that she says, “Oh! Yes everyone knew that was my car.” I had also heard this story where my brother accompanied my grand father on a shoot in Lonavala with Sadhana and it was her birthday and my brother was told to wish her but he refused and said like any three year old would, “it cannot be a birthday until there is no birthday cake.” On that comment Sadhana sent her driver all the way from Lonalava to Bombay to buy a birthday cake just for my brother. Sadhana doesn’t remember this story and many others that my granddad tells her. I guess it is just that some stories the stars will never remember or maybe that my grand dad has a superb memory.

This evening though is about the star so it ends with her telling us about her crazy fans who would stand outside her bungalow for hours and , “once there was a mad fan who would throw gifts into my compound, he would throw watches, radios” says Sadhana. But as we leave her bungalow, located in a dark lane, nobody stands outside it, it is quiet and lonely, papaajoba and I get into a rickshaw and leave.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Govinda ala re

It is the 4th of September and me and papaajoba are standing in his house and watching young men from the various 'mandals' trying to break the dahi handi that is tied outside the building. The din of various Govinda Ala re songs fill up the air. I remember that one of the most famous songs is picturised on Shammi Kapoor. Papaaajoba goes on to tell me that it was one of the first Janmashtami song and that it was shot in a lane in Girgaum in Bombay, the same lane the director of the film Manmohan Desai lived in. He also goes on to tell me how on that day of the shoot even though Shammi Kapoor didn't need any make up he had gone to the location just to part of the fun. Here's the song.

Monday, August 13, 2007


This photo is taken during the film Rajkumar and this was on the day they were shooting the song "Aaja aayi bahar...". The song required small boats to float around rhythmically. In this photo the director K.Shankar (extreme right with the round hat), Shammi Kapoor and my grand dad (in all white with the sun glasses extreme left) are helping steer these boats.

Vat 69

On holiday with friends at Daman during prohibition days.

I had heard of VAT 69 but was not quite sure of what it was, so I decide to ask my grand father. He replies impishly ," its a costly whisky".
This photo was taken when he and his friends were on holiday at Daman.Due to prohibition in Bombay they used to have to go to Daman which was still under the rule of the Portuguese for a "boys night out".They also came back with several bottles of perfume called Evening In Paris. He said the perfume was duty free in Daman and cost about Re. 1.50/- versus Rs.60 in Bombay. Incidentally about a decade later Papa ajoba was the make up man on a film with a similar name, An Evening In Paris, starring Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore.
In this photo my grand father is on the extreme right and then Jagtap Dada- Chief recordist for Filistan, Mr. Pathak- Also a sound recordist for films like Bees Saal Baad, Sholay.

more photos

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Post 5

Papa Ajoba’s recipe for colours:

Around 1942-43 when Papa ajoba joined Raj Kamal they used to make their own make up. Described below are the materials and the process by which they created colours & powders.

Coloured Foundation: We used to mix coloured powder that was used for painting houses with petroleum jelly in a doctor’s mixing plate with a knife that was flexible. Then we took zinc powder and mixed it with the coloured powders. After making the colour we would boil it, then strain it with cloth, then fill it in containers, so we had: whites, blue, blacks. These were the lining or the base colours.

Max Factor came to India around 1939 or 1940. Before that there was only one German Company called Leichner. We used to get sticks of colour from them but it was really hard. So used to take a little from the stick on our hands and then ‘pat on that make up’.

Max factor was expensive and our lining colours were better. Max Factor had tubes that were numbered. 21 to 31 for the Indian skin, ladies used numbers 27, 28, 29 and for the gents we used 30, 31.

Right at the start around 1904 in theatre they used use powders and water and we used to call it water painting. They used to use this water paint on their hands and face. Therefore the theatrical white make up in early theatre and also early cinema. For.e.g. in Phalke; films the faces look white. This was also because in early days the lights, both in theatre and cinema were not so powerful and the bright white faces caught the light better.

At a point in time grease used to be mixed with coloured powders or paint. But big theatre stars like Bal Gandharva used ‘loni’ i.e. homemade butter to mix the colours instead of grease.

Coloured Powders: The coloured powders were made of French chalk which is white in colour. You had to grind the French chalk and make sure that there were no solid particles and the powder had to be soft. Then to that powder we would add whatever colour that we wanted.

Post No. 4

Brief background of Geva Colour as Papa Ajoba explained it:

Technicolour means it is made up of three colour negatives instead of two in black and white. Ambalal Patel of Film Centre in 1950 brings the agency of Geva colour to India. But the film was very thin and had a yellow tinge. The film needed lots of 5KW & 10 KW lights. If while shooting a 1% shadow was registered after exposing the film it would show up as a 10 % shadow so to avoid shadows people would use very bright lights. In 1950 & 1951 they started taking the Geva Colour tests. They realized that due to the bright lights the artist’s skin started burning and they needed to keep an ice box on the set and use Chamois leather. In order to test a Long Shot on Geva colour they went all the way to Prabhat studio in Pune as the studio had many lights as well as generators. They also shot an outdoor close up in Pune and Papa Ajoba seems to suggest that the outdoor light in Pune is stronger than the light in Bombay.

Nandlal Jaswantlal’s film Nagin was shot partly in Geva colour. Over 2 to 3 years the Geva film started improving.

Jimmy Vinning, the expert:

An all British crew was shooting a film called Bombay Flight 470. The crew was also testing the colour film. Mukherjee Saheb told papa ajoba to be an assistant to Jimmy Vinnig who was a leading make up artist. Papa Ajoba was introduced to J.V. and they exchanged pleasantries. But when Jimmy started his make up he said to papa ajoba, “Mr.Tipnis I don’t allow anyone in my make up room”. Papa ajoba left the make room and went and sat in the park. In the meantime Mr.Mubarak, the actor shows up and asks Papa Ajoba, “why are you sitting outside?” Papa ajoba narrates the incident to him and Mubarak says to him, “you come with me and I will see how he’s not letting you in.” He then goes and confronts Jimmy and Jimmy admits to have told my grand father to leave. Mubarak then says, “Mr. Vinnig, Tipnis has done 4 films in Geva colour and the results are better than yours in the film Mayurpankh. Papa Ajoba concludes this story by saying that “Jimmy Vinning apologized to me and after that Geva was widely used”.

The make man and the Camera man:

Papa Ajoba says that the best judge of the make up is the Cameraman (he insists on calling the director of photography as we know them today as cameramen). He says, “If anything went wrong they ( the cameramen) would guide us. The guidance by a good cameraman is essential for the make up man”. Some of the name he takes are Dwarka Divecha who was the cameraman for films like Sholay. Then he worked closely with Fali Mistry and Jal Mistry, Radhu Karmarkar and G.Singh. He also worked in close association with N.V.Srinivas who was the cameraman on most of the Subodh Mukherjee films.

I have continued transcribing and here I continue from where I left off. He starts off by talking about Junglee and deviates to talking about coming of colour with a reference to the film Nagin. I look up the films in encyclopedia of Indian Cinema for technical notes. It reveals that the 50’s from Jhansi Ki Rani in 1953 right upto Junglee (1961) was very important for the consolidation the color film. Incidentally papa ajoba talks about this decade by chance.

AG: You were telling me about Junglee?

PA: han, yes Junglee I haven’t done it. You know what happened in Kishore Sahu’s Company I had kept Dinoo Indulkar and Ram Patrivar. So after a few years that company shut down. So Dinoo came to me so then I took him on at Filmistan, that time we had done Nagin picture partly in color.

AG: what do you mean partly in color?

PA: Partly means half, the last part almost was in color. But before that we had taken many trials in color, with color. In the year 1950 (pause) ummm…that…ummm whose that…ummm he had a laboratory ummm Film centre, the man who owned film centre. I forgot his name he was big man. So he himself used to bring that Geva color film to Filmistan and we had done trials with that. That Geva colour was so slow that we needed lots of light 5 K and 10 K as there were no other lights and the actor used to be very troubled because his skin would burn. So we used to keep an ice box on the set and keep pieces of Chamois leather…means Camel’s skin. But now days you get artificial also, with that we used to soothe the artist’s skin.

AG: This was in 1950?

PA: 50’s

AG: Color?

P.A: When color first came. There was Ambalal Patel, Ambalal Patel of Film Centre, he himself used to come with the film.

AG: Of Film Centre? He developed and brought it?

PA: Yes, he had taken the contract. The Geva agency was with him. It used to be very slow but then gradually after processing it became okay. I will tell you a story about the film Nagin.

AG: But wait please tell me about what changes had to be made in the make up styles due to the coming of color.

PA: That’s what I am telling you. So when we were taking a test for the film, there was an English cameraman called Chinn.

AG: Chinn?

PA: Ya. Chinn. He was one of the cameramen for the film Treasure Island. You know they have different cameramen for different units, so he was the one who told me, “ Mr. Tipnis…”

AG: So he was the cameraman for Nagin?

PA: No! the company brought him.

AG: for what?

PA: For colour. But he did not do any picture. Nagin picture he did…ummm..who is that cameraman?

AG: Fali Mistry

PA: Fali Mistry Saheb had done it. Chin told me to make the make up lighter, on the lighter side. So do it like this…like that…(makes gestures with his hand ,as of he is painting) So I did it like that. But because the film was so slow the artist used to get troubled so the shooting did not happen. But later then Nagin became partly in colour and then film became much better.

AG: Fast?

PA: They did some procedure so when the first trial was done for Nagin on Vajantimala with the sets and all with colour. We saw it the next day and it had a lot of yellow in it. So Mukherjee Saheb said lets change the make up and bring that bring Jimmy Vining, so we will called him. And because I really wanted to learn, I said okay no problem, let’s call him. On the 3rd day what happened, Fali Saheb came to me and said, ‘ Tipnis we will do one more trial with Vaijanthiji. But I told him, “ but Fali Saheb, Mukherjee Saheb has said we have to call Jimmy Vining.” So Fali Saheb said to me, “ no no need, it is not your fault”. See the greatness of such a big cameraman. “its not your fault, its my fault.” Fali Saheb continued, “I took a little piece of film and went and developed, printed and corrected it. The make up you had done yesterday was correct. Let anybody say anything, don’t listen to them just listen to me.

AG: But what had gone wrong?

PA: Wait, I will tell you. You know what had happened there was a lot of yellow in that Geva colour. I had done it right so then Fali Saheb had put filters and all that and reduced it. Therefore then later we used to do pink makeup.

AG: why?

PA: To kill the yellow because the effect yellow on pink is not that much. That‘s why we had started pink make up. But then slowly Geva Colour went and Eastman came, so now days they can do natural make up.

PA: Junglee film was produced by Subodh Mukherjee. Should I speak in Hindi all the time? So then my own man Dinoo Indulkar who was working with me then, first I had kept him at Sahu Saheb’s company. But when Sahu saheb’s company shut down then he worked with me. So I kept him at Subodh Mukherjee’s because he had asked me, “tipnis give me a good man like you.” So Dinoo who was unemployed I put him there so that film was done by him.

* In 1933 Prabhat’s Sairandhri was processed and printed in Germany. So it is the first colour film seen in India.

* Kisan Kanya – 1st color film by Gidwani (1937) was India’s first indigenously manufactured colour film. After that Ardheshir Irani of Imperial had bought rights to the Cinecolour process and set up a colour lab.

While experiments in color might have continued but as we all know that India’s first Technicolour film was Jhansi Ki Rani, by Sohrab Modi (1953)

Then the next major color film was Mayurpankh 1954 directed by Kishore Sahu.

Nagin follows in 1954 directed by Nandlal Jaswantlal produced by Filmistan. Papa ajoba was a part of process of understanding the advent of the color film.

Hatim Tai by the Wadias in 1956 is in Colour.

Mehboob Khan’s Mother India in 1957 is a remake of Mehboob’s 1940 film Aurat. The use of colour impacts the images created drastically.

Pardesi – 1957. In hindi &Russian directed by K.A. Abbas.

Tumsa Nahin Dekha 1957, Nasser Hussain’s directorial debut, produced by Filmistan and starring Shammi Kapoor and Amita is partky shot is colour.

Chaudhavi Ka Chand in 1960 partially shot in colour.

In 1961 comes Junglee starring Saira Banu and Shammi Kapoor. It ran for 52 weeks all over India.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Post 3

This month’s post is a part of the interview transcript. There is a lot more to the tape but I have sort of presented just a snippet here. AG are my initials and sometimes I refer to my grand father as PA (Papa Ajoba) or then RT (his name Ram Tipnis). He speaks mostly in Marathi and so while translating it I have tried to retain the flavor of his speech, so some sentences seem oddly constructed in English.

Also please scroll down to the older post, there are some old pictures on location.

AG: Papa Ajo how did you first meet Shammi Kapoor?

RT: You know what happened that time, a film called Aanand Math was on and there was a sequence where Papa Prithviraj ji, who is everybody’s guru in the film, is riding on the horse for propaganda. So then there was a shot where he had to ride on an elephant through the forest. So then that time we… you know today’s Jija Matoshree Garden, in the old days it was called Ranicha Baug. So we decided to shoot there… he was to sit on the elephant and all. So then Papaji told me that, “Dada now we have to come to Goregon for make up and then we will have to go to Parel, instead of that why don’t you come to my house? I live in Parsi Colony.” So I said okay, then I took all my material and went to his house the next day. We were shooting in the Rani Cha Baug for two days. On the first day I did my make up and I left. Then after the pack up, I came home. On the second day I was doing the make up, so that time his lanky son came and said, “Papaji”

AG: Talk in Hindi no.

(He hesitates)

RT: (Papaji mein wahan Aspi Irani ki yahan test ke liye jaa raha hoon) I am going to Aspi Irani’s for a test. So I need your blessings. So papaji, as usual gave him his blessings and then said to him, “that look Shammi, you know this man’s dad, he is also an good artist… he is a drama artist…; stage artist”

AG: (interrupts) did he know your father?

RT: (Ignores me and continues) … he is an artist, he knows of my father Madhavrao Tipnis and that time in Mumbai one contractor had put up 2 shows of “Agrahoon Sutka” (Shivaji’s Escape from Agra) so Papaji had seen one show.

AG: Were you acting in it?

RT: My father was acting in the play as Shivaji.

AG: Which year was this?

RT: That only... 49 or 50 at Shreerang theatre.

AG: Agra hoon Sutka?

RT: Agrahoon Sutka! So he had seen it. So that time once he suggested, “I want to meet your father Tipnisji”. So I said, “Okay” … So then…

AG: Which year was this Agrahun Sutka?

RT: 49, 50.

AG: 49?

RT: Must be 50, ‘So in that Agrahun Sutka I want to play Aurangzeb and your father will play Shivaji, so tell him that we will do a play like that,’ said Papaji to me. So I organized for them to meet.

AG: So then what happened when they met?

RT: Later that contractor who was to organize the play did not do anything.

AG: Why?

RT: He just didn’t do anything… there must be something.

RT: So then Shammi Kapoor Saheb had come, he took blessings from Papaji and then Papaji introduced us, so he touched my feet also and then he left. After that, I saw one thing in Papaji, the two days that I went there, to his house, I saw on both days on both sides of the staircase, there used to be people sitting. Papaji helped them so much.

AG: People? Which people?

RT: Poor people, needy people and then…

Ag: In need of money or acting parts?

(He ignores me and continues)

RT: Listen! Then papaji would ask them” I had given you a letter did you get the job?” “What happened with you? And you? Did your child get medicines?” He would continue asking the people till the end of the stairs. So I asked him, “papaji forgive me but how do you remember all of this?”, so he said, “Nothing Tipnisji, if we help someone, you remember who needs what help… so according to that” That’s the big thing about Papaji, he helped the poor people a lot.

AG: But tell a little more about when Papaji met my great grandfather.

PA: No, no nothing much, they talked a bit, I was not with them but there was Morey Dada who was a make up master who used to work with Papaji in Prithvi Theatre also.

AG: Morey make up master.

PA: Yes, Morey Dada he was in Bhau’s (my great grand father) Maharashtra Natak Mandali (silence) and he was a good astrologer.

AG: So he worked in our company as well as theirs?

PA: huh? He was… he was.

AG: He was in Maharashtra theatre company also and Prithvi Theatre also.

PA: Later, when Prithvi Theatre started, he worked there.

AG: But Prithvi theatre started more recently.

PA: Ya exactly, so that time he told Papaji, you do this… that and then he specified an auspicious time. That’s why the first few plays that took place in Prithvi Theatre … plays like Shakuntala and for all those plays Morey dada was the make-up man.

Then after that we shot there for two days , then after that I met Shammi Kapoor in Xavier’s college, there was a variety program. (Changes to Hindi) So the college people had called me there for make up. So I went. So there was a skit called Bhoot.,.. Bhoot … It was called Bhoot. It was being done by Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Nath… the comedian. Understood? So then Shammi Kapoor told me “Arre Dada aap toh mujhe Papaji ke saath ghar main mile the”, I said “Haan sahib mila tha main aapko” Toh oos time se pehchaan thi. After that Shammi kapoor Sahib and I met directly at Filmistan. Filmistan…

AG: Rajender Kumar or Rajender Nath?

PA: Rajendra Nath… comedian. In Filmistan a film was being made called Hum Sab Chor Hai so in that I.S.Johar was the director and actor and with him there was Majnoo, both of them were comedians and Nalini Jaywant was the heroine and Shammi Saheb was the hero… so that time I met him again for the second time … during Hum Sab Chor Hai.

AG: Was that his first fillm?

PA: No he had done about 5-6 films before that.

AG: So what did you think of him when you saw his first few films? Did you think that, “hey, I know this guy”

PA: Ya, but what was the big deal? I knew all the actors. All the people were known to me. So that was the first film Shammiji did with Filmistan. The second was Tumsa Nahin Dekha…

AG: That was hit no?

PA: Oh that! That was a super duper hit.

AG: So you had done the make-up in Hum Sab Chor Hain?

PA: Ha, ya… Hum Sab Chor Hain, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, understood? It was a hit film. Amita and Shammi Kapoor and it was Nasser Hussain’s first film as a director.

AG: Tumsa Nahin Dekha?

PA: Tumsa Nahin Dekha was a hit. Amita was the heroine she was also beautiful, I worked with her also. Prakash’s film Goonj Uthi Shehnayi, she and Rajender Kumar, I was the makeup artist for that one, it was a black and white film and Filmistan…

AG: Was this a Filmistan film?

PA: No… Goonj Uthi was Prakash’s … Prakash film Company the ones that made Ram Rajya and Vijay Bhatt, a very big producer and director, the owner of Prakash Studio and he was a very good man and I think his son is a camera man and his grandson is a director, that Bhatt. So that’s when I shot with Amita in Mahableshwar, Panchgani for Goonj Uthi Shenai so I did that and that’s when I met Rajender Kumar and then I met Rajender Kumar again…

AG: Rajendra Kumar?

PA: Yes, Kumar, Kumar the hero, the ones they call Silver Jubilee hero… all the films he did were Silver Jubilee hits. So when Mere Mehboob in colour started around 1961 I met him then that time I used to go there for Sadhana’s make up.

AG: Wait wait we were talking about Shammi Kapoor

PA: Ok.

AG: So then what happened after that? What happened after Tumsa Nahin Dekha?

PA: After Tumsa Nahin Dekha … he slipped out and he became a hit… then afterwards…

AG: Dil Deke Dekho?

PA: That was later he acted in a few Filmalaya films. Then he acted in Subodh Mukherjee’s Junglee. There, the make up man was an old assistant of mine, Dinu Indulkar, he was an assistant somewhere else. But in 1949 Kishore Sahu started his own company and Kishore Sahu and I had very good relations, because of a film of his called Sindoor was a produced at Filmistan and I did the make up for that and that time the wigs, the wigs that one wears on the head were not there. So then Sahusaheb said “Kya karne ka?” So I said, “Nothing I will apply the hair”, So he said “Yes?” Then I put hair and showed him.

AG: How did you put the hair?

PA: We have a method! (Irritated)

AG: What is the method?

PA: With spirit gum, that method has no name.

AG: But what did you apply that on?

PA: You apply spirit gum to the forehead… forehead and you take patches of hair and stick them on. Its good work, rather delicate and he had liked it and that time I was acting in plays and also painting. Sahu Saheb himself was a very good painter that’s why he and I used to gel along after I put the hair he was very happy with me.

AG: For which films?

PA: Sindoor, It was a Silver Jubilee film.

AG: Which year?

PA: I don’t remember the year.

AG: But Filmistan?

PA: Filmistan. And what happened with Sahu Saheb was that he had a very good opinion of me. There was another reason for this, Shobhana Bai Samarth, she is my wife’s cousin sister. When he got to know that, I rose in his eyes. Then later when Sahu saheb started his own company he said “Tipnis you will never leave Filmistan as you have a good salary and status there so you come and do my make up and go and then keep some juniors over here, that’s when I called Dinu Indulkar, at that time when he was staying with someone at Kamathipura”.

AG: At Kamathipura?

PA: Dinu knew someone and he was not married then. So I put him onto Sahu Saheb and then there was another boy called Ram Patrivar, who was also an assistant there.

AG: What was that company called?

PA: I don’t remember but the picture was Rim Zim. Sahu Saheb and Ramola, a famous actress from Punjab was acting in that film. I would go there put the hair and come. Then later, one day when I had gone to Shobana Samarth’s house, she had just returned from America. So then she had bought a wig, gents, it was for Moti Lal because Moti Lal had given her the measurement or something. So she showed it to me, she said it’s a gents wig, we don’t get this here. I told this to Sahu Saheb, while Rim Zim was going on. I said to him that you have good relations with Shobana, you take the measurement for your wig and send it. According to that we sent it. While Rim Zim was half way through, the wig arrived. So then we started putting that wig for him.

AG: You were saying about the wig on a thin net or something.

PA: In the old days we didn’t get a nicely finished wig for men. There is something called the fine net so that wigs are made on that and when stuck in the front so one cant see it because it is so fine. This net we saw there for the first time. Then there was a make up man called Jimmy Vining, from England for Jhansi Ki Rani and Zanak Zanak Payal Baje with V. Shantaram that was a color film, for that. So he had brought it.

AG: The wig?

PA: The net! So we had seen it. Then later a wigman from Calcutta had come to me and said, “I like this, I am a wigman and he used to do good work, his name was Rashid, because in Calcutta there is a wigman called, Abdul Bari, he has 5-6 shops in one line all wig shops. But he didn’t know about that fine net wig. So we looked all over Bombay for fine nets and we found it and gave it to Rashid.

Then he made a wig for Kishore Shau and seeing that wig our S. Mukherjee, Filmistan’s managing director and he was a big producer, he asked “Sahu Saheb did you bring this wig from foreign?” He replied saying “no no you know, that wig man from your company, he made it.” So Mukherjee Saheb called me to the office and asked me who our company’s wig man was? I said I have someone and then I introduced Rashid to him and he was really good, he used to make good wigs and beards so quickly, that don’t ask. Then after he left our company he went to Chennai… and he was with Shivaji Ganeshan’s company. There he showed the people the technique of fine nets and then there also fine net wigs started being used.

Friday, May 4, 2007


# 5: Cast & Crew of papa ajoba's first film Municipality. Papa Ajo sitting down on the LHS of the man who has the clap board in front of him. If you enlarge the image you will see the clap board reads 16th Sept 1941.

Three men & the Break

# 4: Left to right, three men who gave my papa ajoba his first break in films: Madhavrao Joshi, writer K.Narayan Kale & producer Bapurao Apte. (Municipality 1941)

Kissi Se Na Kehana

# 3: Shooting of the Leela Chitnis film Kiss Se Na Kehana. From left to right, sound recordist, Nanubhai Desai, Pahaadi Sanyal (of New Theatres), Keshavrao Date, Man near camera is Krishna Gopal (Director & DOP of the film) & his assistant Drona. My grandfather is sitting under the camera looking up.

Bal Gandharav with My Great grand father

# 2: My great father (on sofa. LHS) with Bal Gandarva (on Sofa RHS) in his last days, with comedian Dhumaal.( sitting down LHS)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

In black & white

Photo # 1:Outdoor at Mahableshwar, for the shoot of Filmistan's Munimji. This during the filming of the famous song, Jeevan Ke Safar mei grand dad diagonally above Dev Anand and next to young Sunil Dutt & right above villain Pran's head.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Post 2

On the first day papa ajoba warned me that a few years ago (almost 15-20 years or so) a writer named Mr.Kunthalkar wanted to do a story in Screen on the technicians in Hindi Cinema and he called the article, ‘they also served’. Kunthalkar approached my grand father and asked him for an interview. Papa ajoba flatly refused saying that he didn’t want to be an also ran. So when I start talking to him he makes it absolutely clear that he is the protagonist and must not be a secondary figure. Talk about an empowered subject. So we begin, me my protagonist and his stories…

A brief background:
Papa ajoba was born on 8th June 1921 in Mahad. His father Madhavrao Tipnis & his uncle Yeshwantrao Tipnis started a theatre company called the Maharashtra Natak Mandali (1904) and did prose plays. (*Prose plays versus the popular form of marathi theatre called Sangeet Nataks or musicals. A famous star of the musicals was Gandharva) Papa Ajoba traveled with his fathers’ theatre company till he was eight. After which he had to go to school in Pune. In school he was the oldest boy in Kindergarten. But he was often cast in plays because of his father. So in a sense he was acting on stage before he was reading or writing. Papa Ajoba used to memorize his dialogues by making his older brother read them to him.

At the age of about 20(around 1940) papa ajoba had to start looking for work in order to support his 7 siblings and ageing parents. One of the big reasons for the decline in their living conditions was the arrival of cinema, especially the talkie. His father’s theatre company in it’s hey day had about 60 to 75 people: actors, their families, technicians, even chefs and barbers. But by the end of the 30’s most theatre companies started to close. Papa ajoba says, that, “the audiences were really attracted by the talkies. In the cinema they could see a variety of things, new places. It was a new medium that people got attracted to and most theatre companies started closing down. My father used to do at least 30 shows a month. Now he was reduced to doing only show a month. It was a hard time for us. Since I had failed in SSC I decided to look for work and support my family.”

For a while he played in a boy scout’s band and earned about a rupee a night. He acted in plays that were shown in clubs. One day when was acting in called Paisach Paisa (Only Money) written by Madhavrao Joshi, he heard that an older play called Municipality also written by the same playwright was being made into a film by K.Narayan Kale & Bapurao Apte. of Brilliant Pictures. So Papa ajoba went to Madhavrao Joshi and asked him for a recommendation letter. The reco read, “ he is a good boy and his father is a well known marathi stage actor.” Armed with the letter he went to Mr. Vasant Thengdi who was the lead actor as well as the production in charge for the film. He told papa ajoba to look after the props while the actors rehearsed before the shooting schedule started. So he was like the 4th or 5th assistant director in today’s times. When the shooting finally started for the film he was made an assistant to the make up man Mr. Bhaurao Datar. Along with make up he was also given an acting role of about 5-6 scenes as a lawyer for the Municipality.

The film was not a success, at least not as much as the original play had been. Brilliant Pictures closed down. So papa ajoba went back to doing plays at an amateur level, a step down for a man from a family of theatre veterans. He got paid about ten rupees a night on a good night and sometimes nothing at all.

In the meanwhile papa ajoba was approached by Dada Paranjpye who had quit Prabhat with V.Shantaram and was moving to Bombay to join Shantaram in his new studio called Raj Kamal. Dada Paranjpye also worked as make artist in Shankar Sarnaik’s theatre company but shifted to film after the decline of that company. He told my grand father, “ I am getting to do a Leela Chitnis film in Bombay why don’t you come and assist me?” Papa Ajoba thought that to be a good prospect as he had an uncle’s house to live in Bombay. Thus started papa ajoba’s tryst with Bombay: as an assistant make up artist on Kissi Se Na kehana in 1941 with a salary of Rs. 25.

Some other thoughts:

I am very aware that my grand father is old (85) and there might be concerns that his memory is failing. But he is very lucid and has a great memory. For e.g. while he was telling me about the coming of colour in Hindi cinema he named a foreign camera technician who had come to Filmistan to help with transition to colour. Papa ajoba said that his name was Chinn and he was a second unit cameraman on Treausre Island. Of course the cynic that I am, I didn’t believe him and I did an IMDB search and it revealed the truth. Also one of the discussants at Sarai had suggested that I ask him to retell the stories, which I am doing and as luck would have it he was interviewed by Mumbai Mirror and he actually said a lot of things to the journalist he had said to me in the past.

Some asides while chatting with Papa Ajoba
:He used to watch silent film shooting at Aryan Film company in Pune and the leading heroine there was named Ambu. Ambu later came to be known as Lalita Pawar, greatest character actress of the India film industry.

When Himanshu Rai of Bombay Talkies fired the hero for their film Achut Kanya, a certain Mr. Najmal Hussein he was replaced by one of the ‘educated boys’ who worked in the processing lab called Ashok Kumar.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

some photos

Below are some photos that I have started scanning.My Second post is a bit delayed but will be up soon. One is a photo of my grand dad with Dilip Kumar at a party and the other is with Shammi Kapooe during the shooting of the film Janwar (1965)

Post No. 1- 6th march

I am Anuja Ghosalkar, I have been a lecturer and researcher in film in Bombay for the last five years. I have also been involved with an experimental theatre group in Mumbai for over half a decade, called The Company Theatre. All of last year I was a research associate with Rosie Thomas who was writing a book on early Indian Cinema and the Stunt film. I have also been a co-curator of Made By Women, an international women's film festival. I am currently working with Breakthrough – a globally active human rights organization.

My research project is on my grand father who I call Papa Ajoba, which is also the project title.

This project will chronicle the life of my grand father, as a make up artist in the Hindi film industry from 1941 to 2000: from his early years at Raj Kamal studio with V. Shantaram (when they literally made their own make-up) to his 17 years spent at the Filmistan studio. There will be a sharper focus on the 1960’s - when he predominantly worked with Shammi Kapoor, Asha Parekh, Sadhana & Saira Banu. It will also document film history from the point of view of a technician who might lacquer it with his own stories. It is finally, a tribute to a grandfather who narrated stories of his everyday life, not knowing that stories often become history.

The research will primarily be through interviews, previously published books on the history of Indian cinema and material from magazines like Film India , Rangabhoomi, Screen, etc.

The presentation will be in an audio-visual form with a written thesis.

Update on the Research: I have just finished recording one, one hour audio tape with my grand father with some basic information of him and industry. I just realized that even though I have lived with him all my life, there are so many things that I did not know, I now need to transcribe the tape and do some more recording.

So that’s where I am at right now… getting started hesitantly but also with a sense of great excitement.