Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Saaransh: The Life and Times of Mahesh Bhatt

It has been such a long time since I did one of those 3000-word jaw-dropping, migraine-inducing compendium posts on Bollywood. So, while watching Hum Hain Raahi Pyaar Ke the other day, I decided to do one on Mahesh Bhatt, best known for having a cynical opinion on life, universe and everything. Might as well because the number of good films he has done is surprisingly low. (For me, good is usually a subset of original.) But even that number might be enough to get him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mahesh Bhatt films have three kinds of characters: (1) Illegitimate children of famous people, (2) People falling in love with psychotic characters and (3) Illegitimate children of famous people falling in love with psychotic characters.

There are some films that don’t have the above characters but they were either rumoured to be ghost-directed or a copy of a Hollywood movie. At the peak of his career, Mahesh Bhatt used to direct anything between three to six films a year so I guess all of the above could well be true! At one point of time, he never made a film without Mushtaq Khan, Avtar Gill and Akash Khurana. At approximately the same point, Pooja Bhatt never made a film without him either! I am certain Pooja Bhatt holds a couple of records like – Most Number of Films Under Daddy’s Directorship and Most Number of Films as Character Named Pooja.

Manzilein Aur Bhi Hain (1974) – I heard some vague rumours that this film was rejected by the Censor Board since it presented a depraved view of life involving a prostitute and two criminals. I have no clue whether this film actually released or what?

Arth (1982) – An art house classic, this was Mahesh Bhatt’s first claim to fame. Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil both turned in terrific performances while Kulbhushan Kharbanda continued to chew while delivering dialogues. From Shakaal to a photographer was a huge comedown but not as much as having to go back to your wife when your girlfriend turns psycho! This is generally hailed as a feminist favourite but I failed to see why. I mean, leaving your spouse because his/her lover is paying for your desserts is hardly a female monopoly. Anyway…

Saaransh (1984) – Mahesh Bhatt selected an unknown actor (in his late 20’s) for the lead role of B V Pradhan, a 65-year old retired headmaster. His production house wanted a bigger star so they forced him to take Sanjeev Kumar. The new actor came to his house and gave him hell, even calling him a cheat! When Bhatt saw the outburst, he realized he had got the man who can give his climax a completely new dimension. So he told his producers to bugger off and took the new actor in. Incidentally, the new actor’s full address was Anupam Kher, c/o Mrs Kaur, Khetwadi, Khar!

Janam (1985) – Illegitimate son of famous director. Makes first film despite severe odds. Father recognizes him at awards night. Yawn. Anupam Kher was the father and Kumar Gaurav the son.

Naam (1986) – This was produced by Kumar Gaurav (or Rajendra Kumar) thought it should have been produced by Sanjay (or Sunil) Dutt. As the misguided youth teetering on the brink of collapse, Sunju did his first role of consequence and became the toast of the industry. The even more famous feature of this film was the NRI anthem – “Watan se chitthi aayi hain” (sung on screen by Pankaj Udhas). Musically, it is one of the worst songs I have ever heard but when cute Sardars cry to a song, its hit status is the surest thing on this side of SRK’s abs!

Kaash (1987) – An interesting take on male chauvinism, this was about a declining Bollywood star (Jackie Shroff) who is averse to his wife working to support him but is even more averse to giving up his bottle and moving his arse a bit! Dimple was very good in the wife’s role and Jackie played the role in the only way he can – like a Teen Batti tapori!

Daddy (1989) – A teenager’s attempt to reform her alcoholic dad was a film made for television. Anupam Kher gave a lovely performance as the alcoholic. This was Pooja Bhatt’s debut film, I think - and she turned up in dad's films at unfailing regularity.

Awaargi (1990) – Govinda. Anil Kapoor. Meenakshi Sheshadri. Don’t even recall which film this was lifted from!

Aashiqui (1990) – Along with QSQT and MPK, this was the final nail of the action films’ coffin! Even hair as bad as Rahul Roy’s and acting talent as non-existent as Anu Agarwal’s could not stop this movie from becoming a runaway hit. T-Series, Nadeem-Shravan and Kumar Sanu tasted stardom for the first time and raked in the moolah! Sanu’s house in Bombay is apparently called Aashiqui! And before you ask, Rahul Roy’s mom was his father’s second wife.

Jurm (1990) – Vinod Khanna plays a cop and Meenakshi Sheshadri his wife. He has to protect Sangeeta Bijlani, who was a witness to the murder of Akash Khurana. The horny cop sleeps with his ward and his wife throws a fit. In between all this, the bad guys zoom in on the elusive ‘saboot’ (which, in typical Hindi fillum style, was hidden in a railway station locker) and you have a extra-marital crime thriller. This movie is primarily known for the song “Jab koi baat bigad jaaye…” – which, as you have rightly guessed, is a lift!

Junoon (1992) – Ever seen Cat People? Apparently, its an English flick about an ichhadhari tiger! I think the scriptwriter of this movie is the only person in India to have seen it. You see, Rahul Roy got bitten by a pregnant tigress whose hubby he killed. This made him turn into a tiger on every full moon night! He had no recollection of his murders and when he woke up every morning in the buff, he wondered why there was blood on his hands and mouth and news about his enemies getting killed.

Sadak (1991) – Okay, if the serious movie buffs promise not to dissolve in laughter, then I will tell you that the plot is loosely based on Taxi Driver! The original had none of the foot-tapping music by Nadeem Shravan. Imagine De Niro singing "Rehne ko ghar nahin / Sone ko bistar nahin" and you’ll realize what you missed! Pooja Bhatt played the golden-hearted virgin prostitute and Sanjay Dutt the Habib-styled, long-haired cabbie. The scene stealer, obviously, was the villain (vamp?) – an eunuch called Maharani, played with great relish by Sadashiv Amrapurkar. (Incidentally, Filmfare inaugurated its Best Villain award this year to honour Maharani.)

Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (1991) – Oh damn, this is a copy again. This time, Frank Capra got ripped as Aamir Khan did the suave Clark Gable act of It Happened One Night. He and Pooja went from Bombay to Bangalore by road while singing all their songs in Ooty! Tiku Talsania, as Aamir’s manic boss, was hilarious. As were the stories of Aamir’s perfectionism – which were recounted by Pooja Bhatt to anyone who cared to listen. Net result: Aamir never worked with her again.

Saathi (1991) – This was Mohsin Khan’s debut film. Who is Mohsin Khan, did you ask? Mohsin Khan was a Pakistani cricketer, who opened their innings along with Mudassar Nazar. He married Reena Roy and tried his hand at acting. The name suggests a story about friends but nobody knows too much about it anyways.

Saatwan Aasman (1992) – A love story between two terminally ill patients, played by Pooja Bhatt and Vivek Mushran or somebody equally insignificant. Why was it called Saatwan Aasman? Search me!

Tadipaar (1993) – What if Roman Holiday was remade and instead of a reporter, a roadside tapori became the hero? What if the ending was happy? What if the Gregory Peck role was played by Mithun? And the Audrey Hepburn role by Pooja Bhatt? Aaaarrrrrggggghhhhh – I died after the last possibility came true!

Gumrah (1993) – Copy of Bangkok Hilton. Dumb belle Sridevi gets conned by her boyfriend (Rahul Roy) into carrying drugs into an Oriental country (I forget, which), which has the death penalty for drug traffickers and Occidental jailers in their prisons. Her hunky boyfriend – Sanjay Dutt – followed her into the foreign country and the prison to get her out. Also, to elongate the storyline, a sentimental dad (needless to say, estranged) in the form of Anupam Kher was injected.

Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993) – Everybody has seen this movie. Everybody has heard the Most Popular Bad Lyrics of the Century – “Bombay se gayee Puna / Pune se gayee Dilli / Dilli se gayee Patna / Phir bhi na mila sajna…” Everybody has also heard that this film was completely ghost-directed by Aamir Khan. It was his home-production anyway!

Sir (1993) – Chhappan Tikli! Long before Nana Patekar polished off 56 goons, Gulshan ‘Get-up’ Grover played a small-pox infected villain, who polished off his enemies on tennis courts. His nemesis was Paresh Rawal, whose daughter was Pooja Bhatt, whose boyfriend was Atul Agnihotri and all of whom were taught the lessons of love by Sir (Naseeruddin Shah)! Joke of the day: What do you call a Jurassic professor? Dino-sir! Thought of the day: Who counted the 56 spots on Gulshan’s face?

Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayee (1993) – Yet another rehash of a filmmaker’s affair with a mentally unhinged girl. Rahul Roy and Pooja Bhatt starred in this film – which was made for the inaugural transmission of Zee Cinema or Zee TV. I have never seen a film on television with so many ads… and to think, this was more than a decade back. Just in case people missed the Mahesh Bhatt touch, he flicked the poster design from Basic Instinct!

The Gentleman (1994) – This was the remake of a Telugu hit called ‘Gentleman’. For a very enlightening discourse on the addition of The in the Hindi version, Juhi Chawla’s dance steps and Chiranjeevi’s reactions thereof, please read this.

Naaraaz (1994) – Mithun (in the title role) was the Untouchable friend of upper caste Atul Agnihotri. Their romantic duet (“Tere bin main kuch bhi nahin”) while looking dreamily into each other’s eyes was in the pioneering traditions of Dharam Veer described here.

Milan (1995) – The only film I know in which Akash Khurana (the most sincere looking guy on this planet!) plays a villain, a psychotic one at that. He tries to molest Manisha Koirala when Jackie Shroff is sent to jail. Why? Who the hell cares? BTW, Mahesh Bhatt got a little bored copying plots from films. So, for this completely original storyline, he flicked the ad line from the Mel Gibson starrer Forever Young. “Time waits for no one. True love waits forever.”

Criminal (1995) – Copy of The Fugitive with Nagarjuna essaying the Harrison Ford role. And to beef up the length, a love triangle was inserted with the help of South Indian belle – Ramya Krishnan. Manisha Koirala is the first angle. Some of the scenes were so identical to the original that I have this feeling that they went and shot on the sets of The Fugitive! Had one hit song (composed by the strangely named M M Kreem) – “Tu mil dil khile…

Naajayaz (1995) – Naajayaz means Illegitimate. Oh god – not again! Ajay Devgan played the title role, as a cop who is trying to come to terms with his step-dad (Naseer) ignoring his mother AND carrying on a thriving racket! Juhi Chawla was the comely police inspector in uniforms so tight that criminals would auto-ignite!

Papa Kehte Hain (1996) – Mayuri Kango turns out to be this really irritating babe with a really screechy voice. She goes on a hunt for her father – oh God, again? Yup! And she is helped in her pursuits by Jugal Hansraj, who looks as Masoom as ever. Wonderful songs, though.

Dastak (1996) - Sushmita Sen played the role of an Indian Miss Universe winner - finally, an original story! And she was stalked by a crazed lover and protected by a bodyguard. Oh damn - The Bodyguard! Sushmita was gangly, giggle and could not act to save her life. Sharad Kapoor played the crazed lover and I have not seen anybody flare his nostrils as much as he did in this movie. On the night before the release of the movie, a friend heard a Hindi news channel end its 9 o'clock news with "Yeh thi khabrein aaj tak. Intezar kijiye Dastak..."

Chaahat (1996) – SRK was the Hero. Pooja Bhatt played the Love Interest. Ramya was the Crazed Lover (though she replaced flaring nostrils with heaving bosoms). Naseeruddin Shah played the Crazed Lover’s Doting Brother & Mafia Don. Anupam Kher played the Hero’s Father and featured in the landmark parent-child bonding song – “Daddy cool cool cool / Mera beta fool fool fool…

Tamanna (1997) – An eunuch finds an abandoned girl child and raises her as his own. Paresh Rawal was fantastic in his role as the eunuch but Pooja Bhatt (in the title role) could not match up and the film collapsed in a heap of melodrama.

Duplicate (1998) – One of Yash Johar’s earlier productions (before his son wielded the baton and earned him a gold mine). If you hadn’t guessed already, the film had SRK in a double role (his only?) and excellent music. SRK continued his manic act from where he left it at Anjaam and Darr as he played the growling Mannu Dada with more ham than a sausage factory.

Angaaray (1998) – Akshay Kumar. Nagarjuna. Pooja Bhatt. Who else? Who cares?

Zakhm (1998) – In between the huge numbers of copies, Mahesh Bhatt occasionally came up with a film like this and redeemed himself. The story of a Muslim woman burnt by a Hindu mob in the Bombay riots and her son’s efforts to get treatment for her was poignant at one level and brutal at another. Ajay Devgan excelled in his role as the helpless son. A brilliant twist to the story was the other son – who was a fast rising Hindutva leader and denied his mother was a Muslim. Oh – and the mother was again the second wife of a film director!

Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan (1999) – Saif played a conman impersonating a rich NRI in a ho-hum story, also starring Twinkle Khanna.

Kartoos (1999) – A death row convict is released by the cops on the condition that he will kill a dreaded terrorist. He meets a grossly overweight Manisha Koirala and wants to reform! Blind duffer… and very soon, both the cops and the terrorist are out to kill him. Sanjay Dutt sleepwalked through the film, as did Mahesh Bhatt!

Did somebody count the number of films in which there is (a) Illegitimate children, (b) Psychotic lovers, (c) Pooja Bhatt and (d) All of the above?

No? Damn – there was a question worthy of Bollywood Ka Boss in there!

Apart from the above, Mahesh Bhatt’s filmography includes: Kabzaa (1988), Siyasat (1988), Thikana (1987), Abhimanyu (1980), Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979), Naya Daur (1978), and Vishwasghaat (1977). I have no clue about any of these. Would anyone care to enlighten?


Anonymous said...

i think in zakhm pooja bhatt is burned by some muslim guy when she was going to the church...

priya said...

the original "Gentleman" is in Tamil, dubbed into Telugu.
MM Kreem's name is actually Keeravani. any theories on why he has a different screen name?
wouldn't madhuri dixit be in contention for the Most Number of Films as Character Names Pooja record? But i guess she'd come a distant second...
And kartoos... what a perfectly horrible movie that was, with Sanjay Dutt looking every bit a zombie, and manisha, a vampire. The reason i remember the movie is due to the [insert abusive adjective] picturization of nusrat fateh ali khan's ishq ka rutba.

nilendu said...

YOU ARE YET TO WATCH SIYASAT? And Abhimanyu too? Boy, you almost hurt me here!

Greatbong said...

Kaash: Kya hain tumhara naam? Aladddin Aladdin....can never get that out of my head.

Daddy: The greatest lullaby song since "Zhu Zhu Zhu"

Aashiqui: Dipak Tijori's hand gesture started a trend.

Junoon: Amazing movie.

Sadak: In Stonybrook in 2000 there was a on-campus housing crisis and I remember desi students joining voices to sing: "Rahene ko ghar nahein"---an anthem it became.

Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin: Main khayoonga pappad aur tu khayegi thappad.

Saatwan Aasman: I saw it in a seedy guest house in Haldia. Fits the bill.

Gumrah: "Main Tera Aashiq Hoon" dance from Sanjay Dutt was historical.

Sir: Chappan Tikli! What a movie. And being a Bengali guy, I could never sing the "Yeh ujli chadni jab hasraton ko gudgudayegi" with a straight face.

Naraaz: Pooja Bhatt singing "I am a cool cat on the prowl" and shaking her bottom at the camera. Something deeply Freudian here.

Milan: Akash Khurana was creepy. Period.

Criminal: Monisha Koirala's ho(a)rse whispering "I want to love you for ever for ever" during Tum Mile just did it for me.

Naajayaz: I love the song "Abhi zinda hoon to je lene do". Seriously.

Papa Kehte Hain: India's first lesbian flick.

Dastak: Yeeks

Chaahat: Ramya burnt a rose if I remember correctly. She was a fine lookin woman.

Tamanna: Weepy

Duplicate: The nadir of SRK's hamming...

Angaraay: Only thing I remember was the "Aande" song which was a countdown favorite.

Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan: Lots of good songs...of the 90s variety. Also Twinkle Khanna showed a lot of navel if I remember (pre-Mela) leading her to be given the title of "Peti-woman"

Kartoos: "Na main sharab janoo na main shabab janoo"---yeah right Monisha !

nilendu said...

Some observations -

(1) Tamanna - I always thought it was Pooja Bhatt who is the eunuch, and Paresh Rawal his / her daughter. Paresh Rawal is a genuine good actor in any case.

(2) Duplicate - We all were more keen on watching "Making of Duplicate" than "Duplicate". Sonali Bendre was wearing this amazing shorts that .....

(3) Naajayaz - Remember
"Laal laal hooThon pe gori kiska naam hai?
Dil mein tu rehta hai, tera hi naam hai..

Uh Huh..UH HUH..."?

(4) Papa Kehte Hain - Uttamkumar once apparently defined "star" as soneone who is seen more on his Bentley than inside a theater.

Mayuri Kango was one who was seen more often in BEST bus stops than in theaters.

(5) Manzilein Aur Bhi Hain - Dude, in 1974, with B R Ishara firing on all cylinders, if you had made a movie without a prostitute -- you would have to go to one. Your wife too would have deserted you!

(6) Arth - Later remade with more success as "Gharwali Baharwali".

I am so fed up with Mahesh Bhatt's "auto-biographical" stories. All bullshit. Lately, after Parveen Babi died, he even produced an audio cassette of her talking about her "issues". Bullshit. Bangla has a wonderful phrase for such claims "dhoper chop".

(7)Kaash - Actually, a very good movie. I learned so much on marriage from this one. Every married couple should rewind the tape on every anniversary and promise to watch it in the next.

(8)Aashiqui - Apparently, Mahesh and Rahul were in similar relationship as Karan and Shahrukh are today.

(9) Jurm - Awesome movie. Total copy from Hollywood, but Vinod Khanna was so good at hitting on ladies -- it was a pleasure watch someone could get it all, interspersed with beating up multiple people, drinking and reflecting upon his pathetic life over some alcohol. Brilliant!

It was like Rajendra Kumar once had said on Raj Kapoor about their roles in "Sangam". "Raj saab got the girl, his friend sacrificed his own love, they are on honeymoon to Alps, the hot wife is doing a special strip show for her husband -- and YET..the husband sings --

"dost dost na raha.
Pyar pyar na raha"

Raj Kapoor just could not tolerate a melancholic moment to be passed on to some other actor!

(10) Junoon - Blame one of the VHS copies of this movie that was stuck in the title for this. Himmesh was 19 that time and could not get over it.

"Junoon junu junu junu junu junu.."

Wish there were clean DVDs available those days!

P.S. Someone should do a post on all such animal movies. Include Jack Nicolson's "Wolf" too.

(11) Sadak -- Do a street song list too. Tezaab's -

"Show gaya yeh Zahan" -- was about a lonely kid's rants as his parents went to watch a late night.

(10) Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin - Some themes are like yorker. They always work. Journalist-rich and spoilt girl-together for a few nights - yet not screwing each other - queuing up for toilet in the morning - journalist shouting at the millionaire and at her daughter.

This is called "romantic" when you are in school. Called "nostalgia" when you are not. In each case, perfectly watchable.

(11) Saathi - You forgot Jolly Bakshi and his baritone!

(12) Saatwan Aasman - One of the few "iinglish" songs I bragged I knew!

"Where is the time to hate.
When there is so little time to love"

(13) Gumrah - Forget Sanjay Dutt. This is historic for the traces of "forced" lesbianism between the jailer Kunika and the inmate Sri Devi. Hear, I am not condoning it -- just a mention.

(14) Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke - Remember how Juhi Chawla snubbed that south Indian classical guy saying why he nodded like a train?

The same Juhi now is happily stuffing Ashoka paratha and doing her riyaaz with Padmini Kolhapure's dad!

(15) Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayee -- Zee TV it was. Remember the other movie that was advertised 7 times an hour, but was NEVER shown? "Majhdhaar" with Manisha and Vikas Bhalla-gay-na?

"Sagar se gehra hai pyar..


Tum hara."

Majhdhaar was ZEE's first debacle that would later florish as ICL.

(16) Milan - Akash actually played villain in a couple of other movies too. In this movie he had this crazy fetish of putting on lipsticks and smack it on the girl he is about to rape too!

Greatbong said...

Wait Nilendu wasnt it "Yeh Majhdaar" . Did it have Vikas Bhalla? I thought it was Salman and Rahul Roy.

I remember it for its rainsong with Monisha and Salman. Two other Zee specials were "Mohini" (starring Madhu and Sudesh Berry) and "Dil Ka Doctor".

Divya said...

1) I think Mohsin Khan's debut movie was Shaan where his character is called Ali who is the 'khabri' or Amitabh and party and gets killed by the bad guys. he also has a song in the movie - 'Ya Ali, Ya Ali, Mera naam hai Ali'.
2) Cat People was a played quite frequently on Star Movies in later 90's...so yeah I am aware of it though I couldn't bear to watch it completely! (So that means Junoon was a bad copy of a bad original!!)
3) Saatwan Aasman was inspired from another bollywood movie - 'Yaad Rakhegi Duniya' starring Aditya Panscholi and Rukhsana (who made her comeback in 'D' and 'Sarkar'). In both the movies the lead pair is terminally ill and falls in love under similar circumstances. Infact a couple of scenes were a literal lift off...if I remember correctly.

nilendu said...

Yup! Right you are. My bad. Majhdhaar had Rahul Gay and Salman cavorting with Manisha. "Dil Ka Doctor" had Poonam Dasgupta, incidentally a CMC student who later turned into soft-porn films in south. "Mohini" was shown in "late night slots" -- never really found the reason other than Sudesh Berry was made up to be *really* ugly -- kind of "Sataym Shivam Sundaram" in reverse gear, except Sudesh Berry's breasts did not spill from under the blouse (thankfully!).

nilendu said...


The guy in Shaan is "Mazhar Khan" - he never played cricket, just drank a lot and so died of Cirrhosis later. Also the song lyric is "Naam Abdul hai mera". "Ya Ali" is from "Ajooba".

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

After a long & satisfying post, I had GreatBong and Nilendu discussing Sudesh Berry and Yeh Majhdhar. I think my life is made and I will just retire from blogging! It can go downhill from there....

@ Divya: The Shaan song started with a loud Yaaaaaaliiiiii which is the reason for your confusion between Reena Roy's husband and Zeenat Aman's.

nilendu said...


BTW, "Duplicate" was not Shahrukh's only double role. "Don" comes to mind as the latest one.

nilendu said...


Salman-Manisha also had an awesome rain song in "Sangdil Sanam" (remember Raja Murad as "ChaMdi Seth"?). Amit Kumar's -

"Aankhon mein bandh kar loon.
SaaNsoN mein samaa jaa.
Kahee kho na jana mujh se."

That's a landmark song since Salman started showing more than his heroines from this point.

Divya said...

Oops! My bad!!

greatbong said...

@Nilendu: Oh yes...Sangdil Sanam Sanam was the refrain in the background ---remember the trailer songs after the last song on Tips/T-series cassettes --this Sangdil Sanam Sanam was a favorite along with the "Tu jo mera yaar baane roomba ruba roomba ruba" from "Pathreela Rasta".

An awesome song from "Dil Ka Doctor" I cannot forget is the one which went like this:

"Bandh darwaze khuli khidkiyaan,
Andar nacche ladke ladkiyaan,
Dance chaloo hain
Romance chaloo hain"

The memories...

marina said...

Auditions for MTV Cornetto Luv Reel

Do you want to act in a movie or be a playback singer or compose music for a movie?
visit http://www.hojaanede.com/ and upload your audition reels and you could be selected to star in a movie. Cornetto Luv Reels will air 3 movies on MTV in the month of June.

The location of the movies is finalised...they are getting shot in London by Shahrukh Khan company Red Chilies entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Well the point seems to be missed that Saathi was loosely copied from Al Pacino starrer SCARFACE.

And so was the opening lullaby section of Tum Mile (copied from an Enigma single - couldn't remember the name :S.

Good post though. :)

Abhishek Mukherjee, BSc MStat said...

Shah Rukh also (possibly) played a double role in English Babu Desi Mem.