How do you look back at your association with Amitabh Bachchan?
We worked together a lot. Our association started with the film ‘Parwana’ where he played the villain and Navin (Nischol) was the hero. Om Prakash was in that film. Om ji saw him (Bachchan) and thought very highly of him and recommended him to Hrishi Da (Hrishikesh Mukherjee) and that is how he was cast in ‘Anand’. That was the original recommendation. We produced another film around that time titled ‘Bombay To Goa’ with Mehmood. Then he became Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s favourite. The last film he did for my brother was ‘Satte Pe Satta’. There’s another connection between us which makes our association closer, we sold the bungalow we used to live in Juhu to him. That’s Jalsa now.
Initially, a lot of people used to say Amitabh Bachchan was unconventional looking and not the ideal mould to play a hero. What convinced you that he would be a fit for the hero’s role?
Bachchan has created a name for himself which nobody had done before. In the case of Hrishi Da you have to understand that he was not one of the commercial directors. In those days, he was known as the director for the balcony audience. But his films managed to reach wider audiences and the films were cost-effective. I mean, a superstar like Rajesh Khanna did Anand for free. Although that did not happen in totality. We gave him the Bombay distribution rights. But Hrishi Da had his aura.
The relationship that we had with Hrishi Da was very unique in its own way. My father never questioned him about what he was planning to make. And Hrishi Da never interfered in office matters. They were both partners. Hrishi Da was not just hired to direct a film. He was a 50 percent partner in that company.
Was Amitabh Bachchan also considered to play a role in ‘Guddi’?
Yes. But some date issues happened with Amitabh Bachchan which Hrishi Da got upset about and he came to the office and told to make a contract in the name of Samit Bhanja and send it to Calcutta. That time we didn’t even know who Samit Bhanja was. We asked him what happened. He said I’m replacing Amitabh Bachchan.
How did ‘Parwana’ happen?
The director of ‘Parwana’ was a gentleman named Jyoti Swaroop – the man who directed ‘Padosan’ as well. He was part of the Mehmood family as well and very close to them. At that time, Bachchan used to live in Mehmood’s house. Somewhere that link worked or whatever it was and that’s how he was cast for ‘Parwana’. Other than ‘Bombay To Goa’, all the films he had done for us were very unconventional. He got kudos for ‘Anand’.
Did ‘Anand’ pave the way for Amitabh Bachchan to become the next superstar after Rajesh Khanna?
Over the years, Bachchan’s image started changing. That is why Manmohan Desai did wonders with him in ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’. That was a total change from Bachchan’s normal look. And that’s why he was accepted in his stints like ‘Satte Pe Satta’. He was a professional to the core. There’s no denying that. At that time, it was a very rare quality.
How was your working relationship with him?
Mine was a desk job, so we didn’t get to interact much. We didn’t even go to ask for his dates because Hrishi Da would tell us when he was going to shoot. That was all Hrishi Da’s department.
How did Hrishikesh Mukherjee come up with the iconic kurta look for Amitabh Bachchan?
One day Bachchan complained about his outfit. I think it was in ‘Chupke Chupke’. Hrishi Da told him not to worry and that he will sort it out. He took out his own kurta and made him wear it. And that is not one of the pleasant things to happen. I don’t think he ever complained about his attire. See, he (Bachchan) comes from an educated family so obviously there were a lot of things that were different from what we were going through, seeing what others do. He had his own mesmerizing quality.
Some stars procure the rights to their own films sooner or later. Did Mr Bachchan ever ask for rights to his iconic films?
No. That never happened. Till today, we are the negative rights holders of each and every film that we have made except some films that we have lost out on such as ‘Satte Pe Satta’, ‘Anand’, ‘Chupke Chupke’, ‘Mili’ and ‘Alap’. There are three of these films being shown in the ongoing Amitabh Bachchan film festival.
Do you think any of Amitabh Bachchan’s films can be remade today? There were reports of a ‘Satte Pe Satta’ remake some time ago.
There were reports, but that has run into a lot of problems. Sanjay Dutt wanted to make it with some big production company at that time. They owed money to the publicist so they transferred the rights to him. Then I think it went to Hrithik Roshan. Then there was a problem with two people claiming to have the rights. I guess Rakesh Roshan said that if the Babu character (Amitabh Bachchan’s character) is not there then it does not make any sense.
Is the ‘Mili’ remake happening?
We have not been approached for it.
Do you think the iconic ‘Chupke Chupke’ could be revived as well?
An individual had bought the rights to remake ‘Chupke Chupke’, quite some time back. I can’t recall his name, because it happened quite a few years ago. The last time I heard about it was that they were planning to remake it with Rajkummar Rao.