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Thread: 'Goodbye, Lalla...,' says Big B
05-18-2009, 12:06 PM #1
'Goodbye, Lalla...,' says Big B
Yesterday morning brought in news of the passing away of Prakash Mehra.
What is it about death that draws one away into a vacuum and then starts filling it up with memories and nostalgia?
It was early 1971 when I met Prakashji for the first time at RajKamal Studios. He had come to ask me to work in his first home production film, Zanjeer. Salim-Javed that had written the script, had suggested my name to him. He had had a few successes as an individual director with the stars of the day — Dharamji,
Shashiji and now wanted to go independent. That first meeting translated itself into a relationship, much documented now, in the annals of Hindi cinemahistory.
Prakash Mehra was an allrounder in his craft. He was first a writer and coming from the North had great sense of the language and its temperament. Writers gain recognition because of their inert story-telling capacity. That was Prakashji’s forte. He was a great storyteller.
A teller of stories that imbibed the qualities of drama and emotion and the farcical — all within the context of our rich national morals, culture and ethics. All of his films contained sufficient quantities of this. He was also a gifted lyricist, which many were unaware of. His contribution to the songs in his films were never credited, but there was never a moment in them, where he had not made significant contribution.
And, he was a musician; his knowledge of the craft ably reflected in the music scores that adorned his stories and his films. Many of the tunes that were selected were at times actually sung by him to give an idea to the musicdirectors on what form or tenor he wanted from them.
What he did not possess and what he paid scant respect to, was technology. Complicated camera angles through the use of sophisticated equipment, editing jugglery, excessive reliance on cinematic calisthenics, were distasteful to him. “Log kahani dekhne aayenge, camera ki kabaddi nahin!” was his oft-repeated refrain. His frames were simple therefore, steady and respectful to what the artists were doing; never distracted by excessive zooms and trolley movements. He would place the camera at a spot and allow the scene to progress for as long as the artists could go.
When we erred, he would not ask for a retake. He would merely cut the shot and move closer or at a different angle and ask us to continue from where we had last stopped. His early years of apprentice with some of the most prominent makers of the time had perhaps insulated him from any of the more modern techniques.
But his investments in other modes of modernisation in filmmaking were most relevant — the first Arriflex camera with the blimp, interesting lenses, a dubbing studio with state of the art facility, being some among them.
He was a simple man who had come from very humble beginnings. His commercial successes never ever betrayed his respect for the people that he grew up with or with those that remained with him during his phenomenal journey.
He addressed me endearingly as ‘Lalla’ as did I him and each time he would be impressed by a shot that I gave, he would quietly walk up to me and kiss my forehead. He had an air of fun and comedy about him. Many a humorous moment in his films were on the spot instinctive introductions; though his own suppressed laughter, during the time of its enactment once the cameras were rolling, remained a perennial distraction for the artist and more particularly for the sound recordist! On many an occasion we had to plead with him to leave the set in order to be able to ‘can’ the shot without interruption.
He remained my neighbour throughout his film career; sympathetic and caring in moments of distress and exuberant in our moments of joy. He named his second son Amit after me and remained a proud father to his other two, Sumeet and Puneet. He bore the trauma of his ailing wife, lying in coma for years at his house, with great fortitude.
We have lost a great filmmaker and a wonderful human. Lalla, I shall miss you. May you remain in peace wherever you are.
05-18-2009, 06:19 PM #2