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.