There are stars and there are makers who make those stars. Raj Khosla is one of those directors who made actors like Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Sadhana, etc stars. Raj Khosla is known for bringing in ‘neo-noir’ & style in Indian cinema since black & white times. He is also called as a “women’s director” because he showcased actresses at their best.
He was trained to be a classical singer, but Dev Anand felt he had other talents and hired him to be Guru Dutt’s assistant on films, and eventually he became director. His most famous films are C.I.D. (1956) (which introduced Waheeda Rehman to Hindi audiences and made her a star), Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) (which gave Sadhana her signature role of the “mystery girl”), Do Badan (1966) (which made Asha Parekh into a serious actress and won Simi Garewal the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award), Do Raaste(1969) (which made Mumtaz into a household name), Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978) (which won Nutan the Filmfare Best Actress Award at a mature age).
He was known for his excellent song cinematography, probably stemming from his musical background. Raj Khosla initially entered the Film Industry with hopes of making it as a playback singer. He however went on to become one of the great directors of Hindi Cinema.He assisted Guru Dutt and in 1954 got a break with Milap, starring Dev Anand and Geeta Bali. In this film, not only Raj Khosla made a debut as a Director, but a new Music Director, N. Dutta gave debut music. Despite excellent music, the film failed to create waves but Khosla’s second film produced for him by mentor Guru Dutt, C.I.D. (1956) propelled him into the big league. C.I.D. was a slick crime thriller that highlighted Khosla’s stylish shot taking and innovative song presentations, something passed down from Guru Dutt. C.I.D. and Raj Khosla combined the ‘noir’ style of Hollywood thrillers with pure Bollywood romance and masala.
When asked by Dev Anand what he is supposed to do in song Leke Pehla Pehla Pyaar for film C.I.D., Raj Khosla simply said just walk and look handsome!
That is exactly what he did!
Guru Dutt had reportedly gifted Raj Khosla a swanky foreign car after the success of C.I.D.
From here onwards even as he continued to make films, Khosla ricocheted from style to style while adding his own touch to each genre. Never wanting to play safe Khosla made some films, which were startlingly different in those times. Solva Saal (1958) was a story of a single night wherein a girl elopes with her lover who dupes her and is helped back home by a journalist before her father wakes up and realizes what the girl has done. Bambai Ka Babu (1960) had the hero, a killer, entering the family of the man he has killed as their long lost son and falling in love with his ‘sister.’
Khosla explored a variety of styles be it crime thrillers (C.I.D. (1956), Kalapani (1958)), musicals (Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962) – whose starting point was seven songs composed by O. P. Nayyar), suspense thrillers (Woh Kaun Thi? (1964), Mera Saaya (1966), Anita (1967) – his mystery trilogy with actress Sadhana), melodramas (Do Badan (1966), Do Raaste (1969)) dacoit dramas (Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) – which inspired Sholay (1975)) etc.
Though he made films after Mera Gaon Mera Desh and had hits like Nehle Pe Dehla (1976), the mid 70s was not too good a period for Khosla. Films like Prem Kahani (1975) starring the then hottest pair of the day Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz sank and it was with Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978) that put Khosla right back on track.
In Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, he evoked sympathy for the mistress even as he told the story from the wife’s point of view. Khosla was a director who understood women and was known as a women’s director much like George Cukor in Hollywood.
After enjoying big hits like Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978) and Dostana (1980) with Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Shatrughan Sinha, Khosla ran into some rough weather as his other films started flopping.
A dispirited Khosla took refuge in drink and died in 1991, totally disillusioned with the Film industry.
During his last days he quoted on film industry by saying ” It’s a losing game. There are no winners here.”
But we all know, Raj Khosla was not one of them. With musical gems like C.I.D. (1956), Woh Kaun Thi?, Mera Saaya (1966), Do Badan (1966), Do Raaste (1969) he is still winning hearts of the millions even long after his death on 9 June 1991.
The legacy left by him is still being continued by his son Milan Luthria as director in many recent films like Kachche Dhaage (1999), Taxi Number 9211 (2006) , Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (2010), etc.
Tagged Raj Khosla