Two weeks ago, a special screening of Teesri Manzil was hosted as part of an ongoing film festival, 46 years after it released.
The special guests included the lead actors, Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh, producer Nasir Hussain’s nephew Aamir Khan, director Vijay Anand’s son Siddharth, and singer Asha Bhonsle, among others. The evening brought back a flood of memories…
In 2002, I’d met Vijay Anand, fondly called Goldie, and he’d recreated the film for me as a tribute to his producer-friend Nasir Husain who’d just passed away. It was from him that I learnt that the murder mystery had been inspired by a lone scene Nasir narrated to Goldie.Starting point
Two girls are waiting at a petrol pump for their car’s tank to be filled up. One is on her way from Delhi to Mussourie, following her sister’s death from the third floor of a hotel. Many believe it’s suicide, she suspects a drummer, Rocky, of having pushed her sister.
“How will you recognise him?” her friend asks her. “I believe he wears dark glasses,” she replies. Cut to a young man on a bike, listening to them. He immediately whips off his glares and tucks them away.
“What happened next?” Goldie prodded, as Nasir trailed off. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “Never mind, we’ll develop the story. It’ll make a perfect film,” Goldie assured him.
This film, born three flights up, continues to be a draw even today, even though the identity of the murderer is no longer a secret. Goldie explained its evergreen appeal with a quotation from Keates: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
Cut to an RD Burban chartbuster, Tumne mujhe dekha…. While it was being picturised, Shammi learnt that his wife, Geeta Bali, who was shooting her film Rano in Punjab, had contracted small pox. He flew her back home, but couldn’t save her.
After her death, Nasir kept the expensive set standing and waited for a grieving Shammi to return to the sets. Weeks passed, he was inconsolable. Finally, one day, Goldie stomped into his house and dragged him to the location, telling him they had a film to complete.
Shammi was on the verge of a breakdown, but Goldie stuck to his guns. “We’re going to finish this song in two shots, with the camera going around you in circles,” he told the star. “I can’t do it, I’m a broken man!” Shammi wailed.
In a gentler tone, Goldie reassured him that if it was too much, they’d pack-up. Reluctantly, Shammi stepped in front of the camera… And delivered a perfect take! There was jubilation on the sets till Goldie’s voice intruded, “I want a retake.”
Pin-drop silence, everyone waited for the explosion. It didn’t come. Shammi quietly stepped in front of the camera and once again, delivered a perfect take. Goldie was satisfied. And Shammi Kapoor was back in control!
Surprisingly, the two never worked together again. Goldie didn’t direct another film for Nasir Husain either. But they stayed in touch. When Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak that launched Nasir’s son, Mansoor Khan, as a director, and his nephew, Aamir, as an actor, opened, the biggest bouquet came from Goldie.
On September 4, as they watched Teesri Manzil again, Shammi and Aamir must have remembered the feisty filmmaker who never took a “no” for an answer. I do.