Chit Chat

Two-thirds of the films made every year are trash: Basu Chatterjee

The creator of classics like Chitchor and Shaukeen gives us his take on remakes and the trend of mindless comedies

The 83-year-old veteran filmmaker hasn’t spoken to the media for the longest time. So, Basu Chatterjee sounds surprised when we call him for an interview. He agrees but snaps when we ask him for his address, telling us to ‘figure it out’. The maker of classics like Man Pasand and Rajinigandha greets us effusively at his simple Santacruz apartment. Excerpts from the interview:

Should classics be remade? Sai Paranjpye is very upset Chashme Buddoor is being remade. Ditto for your Shaukeen…
At times, it is the producer who takes the call, the director has no say. Rajshri Films tried to remake my Chitchor with Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, which turned out to be a dud. The concept of Chitchor revolved round a 17-year-old girl and they cast Kareena in the lead role, who could never look like 17 or 18. Classics should be taken on, but correctly and only if you are competent enough. Else you have to face the music.

You changed the face of television twice – with Rajini and Byomkesh Bakshi…
I shall never forget those two shows. Do you know I fought with Doordarshan to not split the stories of Byomkesh into two episodes? Oh those were the days (looks away).

Do you watch your daughter Rupali’s show Uttran?
Hardly. As needs wane, so does interest in various spheres. I have stopped reading too. Once upon a time, I was a voracious reader. I read so much of English and Bengali literature. But yes, I still very much want to make a film. And I am almost ready with a script, it’s a comedy, but… (pauses)

But what?
I am looking for a producer.

Do you feel films today are a wasteful expenditure?
Absolutely. Two-thirds of the films made every year are trash made with commerce in mind.

Comedy was your forte. What do you think of today’s filmmakers, who make comedies?
How do they get away with such trash? I guess, the public’s taste has deteriorated too. If you make a crass film, you don’t lose money. Unless the level of education of our entire nation goes up, things will not improve. In foreign countries, anything even remotely silly is rejected.

It’s said Hrishikesh Mukherjee and you made similar films. Was there any rivalry?
Hrishida had lot of raw material. He was born and brought up in Bengal, he made many Bengali films first and made them in Hindi. No, there was no rivalry.

Jaya Bhaduri was your favourite actress. Why didn’t you ever work with Rekha and Raakhee?
I requested the principal of FTII to allow Jaya to work in my first film Saara Akash. The principal refused saying she was too young. What kind of a principal was she, who had no foresight. As for Rekha, I was supposed to do a film with her but it didn’t work out. And Rakhee? I didn’t offer her any role, nothing against her though. Also, Vidya Sinha was a good actress. I introduced her in Rajinigandha.

She was 28 then…
Maybe she was more than 28. You should ask her. Now she may just tell us the truth (laughs). There was one more film, which was very close to my heart, Jeena Yahan. It didn’t do well, but that’s another story for some other day. Now if you will excuse me, I need to get on to the computer and start writing again. And hey, I have embraced technology and stopped writing with a pen (he settles down to open a saved document on his computer. Apparently it’s his new script, and ethics demand we don’t peep into it).

Parting question. Have Jaya, Amitabh, Amol, Vidya or anybody else kept in touch with you?
Nobody has kept in touch. Apparently, they are very busy.

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