Bollywood Legends - Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Yet, another banyan of Bollywood has fallen. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who spilled his genius onto the tinsel screen to make some of the greatest movies, is no more. This sun rose in the east—he was a Bengali by birth (born on Sept 22, 1922), shone in full glory over the length and breadth of the country and bade adieu to the mortal world, in Mumbai, on the fateful day of 27th of August 2006 in Mumbai’s Leelavati Hospital due to a fatal stroke. He was suffering for long from kidney trouble.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee used his films to vividly depict the ‘melodrama of life’ so intrinsic of our middle class lifestyle. Surely, we have not only lost a great filmmaker but a champion emoter of tragedy and comedy on the tinsel.
For who else but he, could have created the Amitabh-Rajesh Khanna starrer, Anand (1970), where pain and jest vie with one another, till destiny announces its inevitable verdict— of death. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s journey into filmdom began with assistantship to famed director Bimal Roy in 1951. It, too, is common knowledge that he assisted legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray, on sets of some classic movies and no wonder, a gleam of Ray’s artwork always stayed on with the illustrious disciple.
Anari (1959) starring Nutan and showman Raj Kapoor was the first directorial hit of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Was it a sheer coincidence or a calculated jugglery of letters that his first five of his greatest films including, Anari and Anand, had names starting with letter A—Anuradha (1960), Anupama (1966), Aashirwad (1968). In the process, Hrisihda had the experience of directing stalwarts like Balraj Sahni, Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, and Ashok Kumar. Guddi (1971) the first known success of Sharmila Tagore, further won him critical claim. Abhimaan (1973) to this day is regarded as the greatest accomplishment of Bachchan duo. Chupke Chupke (1975) starring Dharmendera, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bahduri, and Sharmila Tagore is a family drama based on middle-class, basking in the warmth of new-fangled education and knowledge.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee never allowed real life emotions and human element to be subdued by histrionics in the forty odd films that he made. Aashiq (1962), Bawarchi (1972), Alaap (1977), Golmaal (1979), Khubsoorat (1980), are some other movies that bear the unmistakable Hrishida hallmark. Namak Haram (1973) another hit served as a precursor to the new genre of films that ruled the filmdom for the next twenty years.
But he couldn’t change much with changing times and his creative genius remained at low ebb ever after prolific age of filmmaking of 70s, although he made films like Bemisal (1982) that stood by their name in box-office. From mid-eighties to mid-nineties, there is inexplicable vacuum in the career graph of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He tried to stage a comeback in 1998 by making Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate, but the film failed. He tried his hand at small screen too but not without much success.
Hrishida was a versatile genius, who besides directing, wrote scripts, edited and produced a dozen or so films. In various phases of life, he was conferred with many titles like the President’s Medal (1960), Padma Vibhushan, and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He also served as the Chairman of National Film Development Corporation and Central Board of Film Certification.
Hrishida is survived by three daughters and one son. His son is settled in the US. His wife died thirty years ago. The common man’s filmmaker has left the mortal world but he will live on in his great works for ages to come.