ye kyaa huaa, kaise huaa, kab huaa
kyon huaa, jab huaa, tab huaa
chhodo, ye naa socho
humne jo dekhaa thaa, sunaa thaa
kyaa bataaye wo kyaa thaa
sapnaa salonaa thaa
khatam to honaa thaa, huaa
When the end came, it was really sorrowful. But as all good things come to and end, so did the life of Shakti Samanta. The above lines are from his movie Amar Prem and they are so true. Shakti Samanta made a humble start in the movie industry. He came to Bombay with dreams of becoming a hero, but he ended up becoming a producer/director; and he excelled at it.
The music in his movie was always great, he had a fantastic sense of music. These songs continue to be played by radio stations and people hum the songs to this day. But music was not his only strong point. Shakti da’s films had a very strong emotional quotient, sometimes they would turn out to be tear-jerkers as in Amar Prem. But in most cases, the emotional content was well-balanced with the romantic sequences that would leave a lump in our throats, as in Kati Patang, Amanush, Aradhana etc.
After the success of his initial movies like Bahu, Hill Station and Inspector, Shakti da launched his own production house in 1957 called Shakti Films. The first film under this banner was Howrah Bridge made in 1958, a nice suspense thriller starring Ashok Kumar and Madhubala. The song Aaiye Meherbaan of the movie is one of the most seductive numbers sung by Asha Bhosle.
Howrah Bridge had another hit song to its credit, Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu. The movie was a run-away hit and gave more muscle and money to Shakti da to continue producing and directing movies. His next big movie was in 1962 called Chinatown starring Shammi Kapoor, Shakila, Madan Puri and Helen. This movie was written by Ranjan Bose who had earlier written the thriller Howrah Bridge. Chinatown was again a thriller about look-alikes where one Shammi replaces another. This was among the first movies to come-up with that concept which was later copied in so many other movies like Don. Chinatown had a fantastic Rafi number Baar Baar Dekho which is counted among the best Rafi and Shammi songs.
Between Howrah Bridge and Chinatown, Shakti da had directed two other movies; Insaan Jaag Utha with Sunil Dutt which was a rare Shakti da movie about rural India and plight of farmers; and the other was a Dev Anand and Madhubala starrer Jaali Note.
Then came the era of Eastman colour and Shakti da came out with Kashmir Ki Kali in 1964. This time again, Ranjan Bose wrote this nice romantic movie which had a twist towards the end. The movie starred Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore in an unforgettable romantic journey. The movie had a beautiful soundtrack by OP Nayyar and the songs are evergreen with such richness and depth, they are such a pleasure to the ears.
Apart from Ye Chand Sa Roshan Chehra, there were other great songs like Isharon Isharon Mei, Subhanallah Haseen Chehra and Hai Duniya Usi Ki. The lyrics were penned by SH Behari, now totally forgotten. This movie established Shammi Kapoor as a romantic hero of this new era of color movies, especially because he could carry-off comedy scenes so well. A proof of that romanticism is evident in this song as well, Deewana Hua Badal.
This was one of the first hits of Sharmila Tagore and it entrenched her in the Hindi movie industry. And sparked-off a long movie making relationship with Shakti da. After the success of Kasmir Ki Kali, he worked with Sharmila again in his next movie Sawan Ki Ghata, co-starring Manoj Kumar. The movie was quite an indifferent work by Shakti da, who came back to his own self in 1967 with An Evening In Paris. This movie was again among the first few movies to be shot totally outside India. Sharmila was seen again with Shammi Kapoor, and this movie too had a marvellous musical score by Shankar Jaikishan and some great singing by Rafi. He had become the voice of Shammi by then, and he sang four solo songs for Shammi in this movie.
The title song saw Shammi going bonkers on the streets of Paris and infront of Eiffel Tower, but he carried it off very well. The movie had Sharmila playing double role Roopa and Deepa, a bad girl replacing the good one. Raat Ke Humsafar was a beautifully picturised song with slow and romantic moves, then there was the Deewane Ka Naam To Poocho where Shammi continues to prance around. But Asmaan Se Aya Farishta takes the cake in terms of song picturisation and the story of the song recording is legendary.
Shammi was not around when Rafi was in the recording studio. Shammi was unable to reach Rafi and was not sure what kind of nuances Rafi would add to the song. Shammi had that quirkiness which was so well captured by Rafi, but for that Shammi had to be around; that was the reason why Shammi was worked-up. But when he heard the track, Rafi had sung it just as Shammi would have liked him to. The way Rafi matched up Shammi’s madness was like two-body-one-soul.
Again, when the song was being picturised Shammi just could not hear the song because of the helicopter noises and yet his lip-sync is perfect. The song would start and Shmmi would immediately get the rhythm and keep the rhythm going in his mind till the time the helicopter was lowered. This madcap genius was so fantastically captured by Shakti da.
That was the golden period for Shakti da, whatever he touched turned to gold. After the super success of An Evening In Paris, his next movie was Aradhana in 1969. He continued with Sharmila, their fourth movie together, and Rajesh Khanna was signed. He was barely new to the industry and still struggling, but this movie and a few others following this catapulted him to superstardom. Aradhana was a remake of To Each His Own which was made in 1946.
As with other Shakti da’s movies, this movie too had soul stirring music by SD Burman. The songs have become immortal and will be sung for eons to come. This movie was in a way the much needed boost that Kishore Kumar was looking for. Rajesh Khanna and Kishore Kumar together went on to write history with their face-voice combination. Rajesh Khanna breathed and Kishore sighed, Rajesh Khanna smiled and Kishore romanticized it, it was a rapturous collaboration. On hindsight, Shakti da was responsible for this historical feat which enthralled the nation. Songs like Baaghon Mei Bahaar Hai, Gunguna Rahe Hain Bhawre, Roop Tera Mastana and Kora Kagaz Tha Ye Mann Mera were on everyones lips. These songs continued to be sung despite the absence of any publicity from FM radio, internet, tv channels only because of its merit and melody.
The movie Aradhana again was a double role stuff, wherein Rajesh Khanna played father and son as the movie panned two generations. Sharmila as the mother with greying hairs was as adorable as she was when she danced around in her youth, in the movie. The critics had written off the movie, but against all odds the movie became a huge hit. This was the biggest hit of Shakti Films and one of the best movies of Shakti da. The way the story unfolded and the way he handled Rajesh and Sharmila was wonderful, and his contribution in music sessions with SDB and RDB is commendable.
After the super success of Aradhana, Shakti da made Pagla Kahin Ka in 1970 with Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh. I felt the movie had some traces of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but was quite different. The title song of the movie became popular, Ashiq Hoon Ek Mehejabeen Ka, Log Kahe Mujhe Pagla Kahin Ka and Tum Mujhe Yu Bhula Na Paoge. The movie was quite forgettable though, coming from Shakti da. But his next movie, also in the same year, Kati Patang was a huge hit.
Shakti da worked again with Rajesh Khanna but this time the actress was Asha Parekh. It was made on a short story called I Married A Deadman by Cornell Woolrich. The movie was made in Hollywood not once but twice, first as No Man Of Her Own and then as Mrs.Winterbourne. Anyways, this fact notwithstanding, the movie was a good entertainer. Asha Parekh plays a widow and Rajesh Khanna plays a misogynist because his wife turned out to be a runaway bride. But Asha sparks love in his barren life and he falls for her. The songs of the movie are sweet and there is a song on every conceivable mood. A sad song Na Koi Umang Hai, a Holi song Aaj Na Chhodenge Bas Humjoli, a picnic song Ye Shaam Mastani, a cabaret number Mera Naam Shabnam, a romantic song Pyar Deewana Hota Hai.
The movie had its own sad moments and Shakti da captured sorrowness with as much expertise as he captured happiness and romantic moments. His next movie turned out to be more of a tear-jerker than romantic. In 1971, Shakti da made Amar Prem whuch had Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore. The movie was a remake of a Bengali movie Nishipadma which starred the superstar of Bengali movie industry, Uttam Kumar.
Amar Prem had a bold theme about society and people’s insensitive and apathetic attitude towards prostitutes. It highlighted how people abhor such acts and call it immoral by day, but revel in their pleasure by nights. Rajesh Khanna as Anand Babu finds peace, love and comfort in the company of Pushpa, played by Sharmila. And Rajesh Khanna’s dialogue ‘Pushpa…I hate tears‘ has become legendary. The movie boasted of really good songs like Raina Beeti Jaye, Bada Natkhat Hai Re Krishna Kanhaiya, Chingari Koi Bhadke, Ye Kya Hua and Kuchh To Log Kahenge.
All the songs were soulful and beautifully written by Anand Bakshi. Once Javed Akhtar had said that he would like to have the pen with which Anand Bakshi had penned the song Kuchh To Log Kahenge.
Shakti da’s next few movies were social dramas like Jaane Anjane, Anuraag and Charitraheen. While Jaane Anjane was a story about reforming a petty thief to live a respectful life, Charitraheen was about how a woman scorned in loved ends up becoming a victim of circumstance and takes to prostitution. The starcast of the movies were topnotch. Jaane Anjane had Shammi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna, Anuraag had Rajesh Khanna, Nutan and Ashok Kumar while Charitraheen had Sharmila Tagore and Sanjeev Kumar.
In 1974, Shakti da came up with Ajnabee where Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman were paired. The movie dealt with marital discord and the re-union of two hearts that love, but not without some suspense and a murder mystery.
Ajnabee had some really good songs like Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mei, Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se and Hum Dono Do Premi, the music was by RD Burman. The Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mei song was remixed by Leslie Lewis and Anupama Verma featured in the video, thereby giving it a new lease of life, people had forgotten about it.
The next year, 1975, saw the release of Amanush starring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. The movie was bilingual, in Hindi and Bengali and Uttam Kumar with the help of Sharmila and Shakti da did total justice to the character. The Bengali version was a mega success in WB, but the Hindi version did not do all that well. Kishore’s vocals, though, gave us a very haunting sad song which is sung time and again by us.
Utpal Dutt was seen in a rare negative role, but he was awesome in the movie as the conniving merchant.
Shakti da’s next movie in 1976 was a reincarnation story called Mehbooba. The movie starred Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini who play a singer and a courtesan in a palace. A tragic accident sends them down a valley, and how they are reincarnated years later. Since it was based on singer/courtesan it had to have good music by RD Burman with songs like Gori Tori Paijaniya sung by Manna Dey, Jamuna Kinare sung by Lata Mangeshkar and of course Mere Naina Saawan Bhadon sung by Kishore and Lata, in their own versions and not as a duet. This song formed the recurring theme of the movie as Rajesh was trying his hardest to help Hema recall their past birth.
After the success of Mehbooba, Shakti da made the movie Anurodh in 1977, continuing with the singing character of Rajesh Khanna where he sings for AIR and works as auto-mechanic as well. The movie also starred Vinod Mehra, Ashok Kumar and Simple Kapadia. The movie did not fare well at the box-office and interestingly enough, the reason given out was that Rajesh Khanna was married to Dimple in real life and in the movie he romanced Simple, this did not go down well with the audience. Anyways, the music was just about ok but lacked the punch of previous Shakti da’s movies. This time the music director were Laxmikant-Pyarelal, and two of their memorable songs were Aate Jaate Khoobsurat Awara Sadkon Pe and Aapke Anurodh Pe.
Anand Ashram was Shakti da’s next movie but was a disaster. It spoke of spiritual healing and starred Uttam Kumar. This disaster pushed him to come back with a blockbuster and so came The Great Gambler in 1979. Shakti da was back with another movie about double-role and look-alikes changing camps to get the roller-coaster going. Amitabh Bachchan played Jai and Vijay, one a cop and other a gambler; and the co-stars were Zeenat Aman and Neetu Singh. The movie was extensively shot outside India. Although the music was by RD Burman, just one song registered in the minds of everybody Do Lafzon Ki Hai.
Shakti da worked with Amitabh Bachchan again in Barsaat Ki Ek Raat in 1981. It was a simple story of a forest officer who marries a blind girl played by Rakhi, and how their life is shattered by Amjad Khan who harms his wife. Though the movie was very predictable, it mad e for a good watch. The movie was a bilingual, it was made in Bengali too.
The last time that Shakti da collaborated with Rajesh Khanna was in 1985, their 9th movie together was ironically titled Alag-Alag. The movie co-starred Tina Munim and had Bindu in a vamp role. RD Burman was back as the music director and Kishore sang some very good songs for the movie. Rajesh again played a singer, a street talent whom Bindu finds and wants to groom him for the movie industry.
Shakti da also went on to make some Bengali movies like Anyay Abichar, Debdas and Geetanjali. But he did not enjoy the great success that he had enjoyed through the 1970′s. Although his directorial capability was never in question, nor was his production of movies but the overall quality of movie writing had led to his downfall. Also, age was not on his side. So, he was unable to act with the same energy and vigour.
All these musicals point to the fact that he had a deep sense of music and understood it so well. Shakti da being the producer and director always must have had tough choices, whether to be honest to the movie as a director or become saleable because he was the producer as well. Its to his credit that he has handled movies of such varying themes. It really saddens to see such a poor response to the loss of such an eminent movie-maker. In fact, the last video-song Kabhi Bekasi Ne Maara is quite apt here, especially the second stanza. But let me also add that, whenever anyone sings a song from Shakti da’s movie they will be paying a tribute to him, his works.