When Shyam Benegal first came to Mumbai looking for work in the film industry, he met his cousin legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt, who advised him to start off on his own rather than be an assistant to him.
Bengal said having a director like Dutt in the family was a huge inspiration for him to leave Hyderabad, and come to Mumbai in the hope of making a film here.
“Having Guru Dutt as a cousin was a great advantage. Not that he helped me, but it was a kind of goal. Because he was a film director, it meant I could also be a film director,” said Benegal.
When he quit his job in Hyderabad, Benegal reached Mumbai and headed to meet the Pyaasa helmer. “When I went to meet Guru Dutt, he said, ‘Listen, what are you going to do with me? You will be an assistant and would get no opportunity to do anything else. You will just be a ‘gofor’. In film line, a ‘gofor’ is a ‘go for this go for that’ person. Which means you won’t really get to do anything except run errands for me.”
Benegal was speaking at the National Institute of Industrial Engineering’s special event Avartan. The director was part of the celebrity talk show - Cita De La Prerana - which also included Piyush Mishra and Makrand Deshpande.
In the quest to achieve his dream of making a film, the Welcome To Sajjanpur director followed Dutt’s advice. “He (Dutt) said, he had started of as a dance director and made his way to directing... So eventually I also thought the best possible way would be to join an advertising agency, as I had a certain amount of ability to write.,” Benegal said.
After working for many years in advertising agency, he finally made his directorial debut in 1974 with Ankur.
The director, however, shared that he had approached a well-known advertising film distributor, asking him to produce the film, who in turn agreed to do so but had two conditions. “One was, I am going to give you a sum of money, which was actually very small, and I won’t give you a penny more than that to make the film. Second was, you won’t get any money after you’ve been paid your fee. If the film makes money, I make money. But remember, you will make a name...I made a film called Ankur which became very successful. It happened exactly the way he had said. He made the money, I made the name and so my career started,” he said.
Post that, Benegal went on to make films like Nishant, Bhumika, Mandi, Manthan and Zubeidaa.
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