Bollywood Flashback: When Hrishikesh Mukherjee punished Jaya BachchanFebruary 14, 2022
Yesteryear stars shone as brightly as those of today. Blockbusters, romances, scandals, fights, eccentricities…you name it, they had it since the earliest decades of Bollywood history. We dig into some of the juiciest gossip and snippets from the past for your eyes only.
“Retakes was a strict ‘No, No’ on Hrishi kaku’s sets” – Jaya Bachchan
This week we bring you the hugely talented and one of the finest actresses of Indian Cinema, Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan, who talks about the filmmaker – her mentor and guide, Hrishikesh Mukherjee on the occasion of Hrishida’s 93rd birth anniversary (September 30). Besides his movies that will remain immortal and will be admired for generations to come, one of Hrishida’s greatest gifts to Indian Cinema is also the discovery of the exceptionally talented actress, Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan, who was particularly known for reinforcing a naturalistic style of acting in both mainstream and middle-of-the-road Cinema. In the early 70’s when Bollywood was packed with great actresses like Nutan, Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz, Hema Malini etc., Jaya made her debut with Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Guddi’ (1971) and created an uproar in Bollywood. In the few years of her journey, Jaya had established herself as a strong and versatile actor. From 1971 to 1976, in a short span of just five years she reached the pinnacle of success and placed herself in the legacy of legendary actresses like Meena Kumari, Nargis, Vyajantimala and many more. In an exclusive heart-to-heart chat with Pinkvilla, the powerhouse of talent, Jaya remembers another legend and doyen of cinema, her ‘Hrishi Kaku’.
Says Jaya, “I called him Hrishi Kaku, it means chacha in Bengali. He treated me like his daughter, I have lived in his house. I was so comfortable around him. His unit was like a home to me. All that I learnt after passing out from the FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) is more from him, not because he taught me because I’m not a very good student. I pick up a lot by watching, by being, by hearing. He set the tone for me as far as what I would want to do, what I wouldn’t want to do, what I should do, what I shouldn’t do. I wanted to do things that made me comfortable, I would never make any compromises in life, and he reaffirmed that belief of mine.
How Hrishida discovered Jaya Bhaduri and how she bagged ‘Guddi’ is an interestingly tale. Read on….
After the mega success of ‘Anand’ (1971) Hrishida wanted to make ‘Guddi’, a movie focussing on a young and vivacious girl’s fascination for Bollywood heroes. He was in search of an actress who could look like a teenager and also possess talent. After many rejections he happened to watch a film made by a FTII graduate and was flabbergasted by the performance of the film’s leading actress. After ‘Guddi’, the two worked in many movies like ‘Abhimaan’, ‘Mili’, ‘Bawarchi’, ‘Chupke Chupke’, etc.
In Jaya’s own words
The ‘Guddi’ story is very interesting. There was this couple in the institute – Vikas Desai and Aruna. One day while chatting they told me that Hrishikesh Mukherjee was going to make this film. I heard the story and was very keen on doing it. But then I heard that he has already done the casting. I was really disappointed. It was all forgotten and I went back to my studies and shooting a diploma film as well. Hrishikesh Mukherjee one day visited the institute with some of his unit members. He went to the editing department to see some of the Diploma films of the students. There were very few girl students those days. He saw my ‘Suman’ which was made by Madan Bavaria and it had got the President’s Award. After watching the film, he went to the Prinicipal’s room, and I was called, I was just shooting outside. He told me – ‘I am making this film, do you want to do it?’ I immediately exclaimed, ‘Yes, of course, I want to do it, I have been wanting to do it’. He wanted to know who will be handling everything for me because I was still very young. He knew my father, who was a well-known journalist having authored many books, too. My father told him that it was totally his daughter’s decision and that he was not part of it. We were all very independent people and were allowed to take our own decision but only after giving it a thought, because my father felt that we should be aware of the consequences after taking any decision. That is how ‘Guddi’ happened.
No special treatment on sets
On the sets, Hrishi Kaku never treated anybody like a star. All of us belonged to the same unit, we ate the same food, no special ‘Madamji’ was allowed. He was very casual about it and I loved it that way, that is how it should be on every set. He never ever made any unreasonable demands. One day, he came up to me and said, ‘‘Chupke Chupke’ karna hai’, it is not a big role, but it is a good role. If you do it well, people will enjoy your performance’. There was no question of saying ‘No’ to him even if it was a bit role. ‘You better do it’, he would say. Whether it was Amitji or me, he just said it and we were there.
Retakes was a strict NO, NO
He wasn’t a strict director as such, he was very, very lucid. He would give us lines and allowed us to improvise. If you added something more, he was ready to accept the change. Many a times he would give us the scene and let us decide our dialogue. But he was very very strict about retakes, he just never allowed retakes. Being an editor he was very strict. If you felt your first take was not good and you pleaded for one more, he would really get angry and say, ‘Why another take, would you pay for this, for the footage and time? You should have thought about it before. It is the producer’s money, don’t fool around, you better rehearse properly’. Unless it was some technical glitch he just wouldn’t allow for the second take. It once happened during the shoot of ‘Mili’ when I was not too happy.with my first take and he was so angry with me. He told me – ‘You are not going to decide. If I think your work is good I will keep it that way whether you like it or not. I am the director, I have to like it’. But then he would take a close shot and edit it right there. He came with edited scripts. And because of that incident where I wanted another take, he punished me. He said –‘People have been talking about you so it has gone to your head and you have the gall of telling me that you want a retake’. So when we were dubbing for ‘Mili’, he didn’t allow me to see the picture.Those days, we had to see the whole scene to dub and then you were given the headphone. He said, ‘Nothing doing… you have become a very big star. Let’s see how big you are’. So he just gave me the head phone and told me to dub and sync it with what I have said. I dubbed the film without the picture. He treated me like his daughter so I didn’t feel bad about it. I remember him even telling Ashok Kumar – ‘I am sorry, no retakes allowed’. When I would start sulking, he would say, ‘Achcha, now don’t sulk, I will go into a close and go to do a mid shot’. He also humoured us a lot. It was always like a picnic on the sets. It was like being at home and being filmed. His films were very simple and basic. At times he would shoot with whatever clothes we were wearing. There were no dress designers. He preferred natural look. If he saw make-up on our face, he would immediately say – ‘Jao, dho ke aao. Go wash your face and come’.
No stepping out of the sets
Hrishi Kaku never allowed us to leave the sets. Once you get into the set, we were not allowed to go in the make-up room or the van. He would say, ‘You have to sit here to realise and to get involved. It’s not that you have to be present here only when it is your turn to give a shot.’ Then, he never told us our scenes before. He would come on the set and give us the scene. So there was no question of preparing. For me, when I heard a story, I would start preparing in my head from that time itself.
How ‘Abhimaan’ happened
Amitji and I were very keen to do a film with him and one evening we went up to meet him at his residence. We told him that we would like to do something together…something strong for both of us since by then we have done many different genre of films with him. He would always be ready with so many stories, and he immediately narrated ‘Abhiman’ to us.
When Jaya started leading “another life”.
All the films that I did with him were my favorite. I don’t think he would offer me something that I would not enjoy. I wish I had continued working with him. Later, when I would tell him that nowadays he was not offering me any films, he would say, ‘Now you are married, you are leading another life, you have to look after your kids. I find other actors who may be can do something like you’.