‘Agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaho toh saari kaynat tumhe usse milaane li koshish mein lag jaati hai’
- Om Prakash Makhija
Things were cool. Were going to get cooler as I was off to London(very bad joke, sorry) to meet Charles. I was running seriously low on money and had just got permission to use a small gym in Pali Hill, FREE, which was outfstanding. Very nervously I had sent a text to the owner of the gym if I may use it and pat came the reply “…of course Bro!”
And Sanjay Dutt had only met me once before. (If you look closely at that statue of Atlas holding the earth on his shoulder...you will see the face of Sanjay Dutt.)
I met Charles in London and he gave me the lowdown on making a futuristic film. In such films creating the world is very important. The world in which the audience is going to reside for two-odd hours. The world they will see for the first time and hopefully won’t want to leave.
In ‘Borivali’, as in ‘Aladin’, I was trying to create a new world … and that meant WORK. Everything needed to be worked out in precise detail. The look, the feel, and every single ingredient of that Mumbai of the future. It’s this work which would allow the audience to believe that a Mumbai of the future could exist. Just like we believed in ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ and in a watch that made Arun Bhaiyya invisible in ‘Mr. India’. It meant more than a year of pre-production, shoot and an equal amount of time in post-production.
It meant embracing a long forgotten word - DISCIPLINE.
I was one stop short of fainting. It was a Charlie Brown moment of GOOD GRIEF! How do we make this? Suddenly a simple thriller became a very expensive simple thriller! And a lot of green cloth appeared out of nowhere in the budget... The lighting budget tripled. An 8 hour shift suddenly became just 2 hours of productive work and my number of shooting days got multiplied by 4. I was not allowed to move my camera. Moving the camera would be directly proportional to increasing the budget. HUH!!?? ...
It was a wake up call. A resounding slap in the face. Even Rana didn’t slap Dr. Dang so hard in ‘Karma’! Uss thappad ki gunj still echoes in my ear!
With that budget-breaking news from Charles I headed towards a distribution house. My friend Shabbir had asked me to visit a company called Eros and meet a person called Kishore Lulla. I had no clue who he was... and at that point of time I didn’t care... I was too messed up trying to figure out how to make ‘Borivali’ work. Because I was almost there... just a stop short of getting to work with Amitabh Bachchan.
And now this whole funda of creating a world required me to rob a bank. Time was nigh to dig out copies of ‘Kaante’ and ‘Rififi’.
But I had to. Nothing was going to stop me from working with Mr. Bachchan.
When you are a Bengali, born in THE( pronounced THEE ) Kolkata...a few things are your birthright … Satyajit Ray, Rahul Dev Burman, Kishore Kumar and, of course, Amitabh Bachchan.
No matter what you say, they are ours. No matter who tries to stop us... we will always love them. To prove a point in case.. let me narrate an incident which Mr. Bachchan told me.
Kolkata. Inside a cinema hall. ‘Main Azaad Hoon’. Last scene.
Azaad, as he promised, plunges to his death. Suddenly there is a cry up in the balcony… “GURU TUMI EKLA JAABE NA“( you will not go alone) and proclaiming this… the fan along with Azaad jumps from the balcony.
PHWEEEEEE and THUD! (Thank god it wasn’t a SPLAT!).
I could see Sir’s concern when he told me this... he felt responsible but had no idea how to stop something like that. God forbid anything happened to that fan he would have never forgiven himself. I have never seen anyone who loves his fans as much as he does and have also realized: it’s great to be a star, but not easy. As Aunt May said to Peter “… with great power comes great responsibility”.
But somehow I like that incident. It is funny, it is scary, it is madness - but it is Kolkata. Love, king size.
And in 1978 I saw a film called ‘Muqadder Ka Sikander’ – the best DEVDAS ever - with the audience of Kolkata, and was converted. I just wanted to do 2 things. See every film of this actor called Amitabh Bachchan and get a middle parting in my hair. (Apart from Moses I think Sir is the only person who can claim to have parted anything on such a large scale.)
ICICI bank building in Prabhadevi, Mumbai. Sets of ‘Baghbaan’.
I met Sir for the first time and underwent what was... one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. I was in complete awe and shit-scared … should I say something out of place...
But he was very kind. He took my concept and promised to read it on the flight as he was leaving for Europe that night.
And after I came out of that meeting I realised I had just spoken to Amitabh Bachchan.
That feeling, unfortunately, I cannot describe in words.
Since then I have met Sir on the sets of ‘Khakhee’, ‘Lakshya’, ‘Black’, ‘Babul’, ‘Cheeni Kum’… and finally, on the sets of ‘Aladin’...
I never gave up. And Sir never left my side.
Every time I met him he encouraged me.
‘Home Delivery’ flopped miserably,.. He encouraged me more.
The trick is to.. ‘rise again’.. he had told me.
And thank you for that Sir.. because.. rise we will.
I sat in front of a man called Kishore Lulla. A complete bundle of energy. Watching him jump from one task to another was like watching a tennis match…
He painted the true commercial picture to me. ‘Borivali’ was going to cost a lot of money and did not seem a viable project at that point. I was mentally working out the time and cost to make Borivali and realised …it was going to take a bit of time… so I had to do a smaller film in between...
My friend Suresh Nair and I had written a story called ‘Home Delivery’...
“What other films are you thinking of?” Kishore had asked me.. I casually mentioned ‘Aladin’ to him.
“...I will do it” Kishore said.. “Right now you have my commitment”...
But I wasn’t listening.
It came through one ear and straight out of the other.
What ‘Aladin’? If I can’t make ‘Borivali’... how will I make ‘Aladin’? ‘Aladin’ was 20 times bigger in scale than ‘Borivali’…
I wasn’t listening.
… and I didn’t even hear the wheels of saari kaaynaat as they began to hum and grind that day...my mind was on other things...and stayed there a while…
(To be continued…)