Bollywood has lost another veteran filmmaker in Shakti Samanta, known as the wizard of entertainment after giving pure entertainers like An Evening in Paris and Kashmir Ki Kali.
The veteran filmmaker died Thursday after a month-long hospitalisation in the Nanavati Hospital at Ville Parle in the western suburb of Mumbai. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Though Samanta started with making B-grade movies in the early 1950s, he became one of the most successful names in the business a decade later.
As the unstoppable star of the 1960s, Shammi Kapoor helped Samanta steer his career to success. So did Rajesh Khanna, the superstar, during the following decade. And the filmmaker admitted that unequivocably and with all humility.
"What made Shakti Samanta different from many other successful filmmakers was that he never took recourse to cheap subjects to pander to the box office. His movies saw box office success by their own merits," said filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
During the 1970s, Samanta made one successful movie after another. Hits like Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Amanush and Anand Ashram put him on a pedestal and made his Shakti Films one of the most sought after banners.
"In spite of all the adulations he received from his audience and peers, he remained a humble man. He never allowed success to turn his head. That speaks for the man's character," said Kiran Shantaram, owner of Rajkamal Studios in central Mumbai.
A science graduate, Samanta began making his living as a school teacher in a remote village in Maharashtra. It was his love for films that brought him to Mumbai in the early 1950s.
Thanks to producer Karimbhai Nadiadwala, he got an opportunity to make four movies - Bahu, Sheroo, Inspector and Hill Station. But it was his 1958 film "Howrah Bridge" that brought him success.
Uneasy with making B-grade movies, he tried his hand at a socially relevant theme with Insaan Jaag Utha in 1959. It disheartened him when the movie received a lacklustre response from the audience. So he reverted to making entertainers and found a saleable star in Shammi Kapoor - he teamed up Shammi in Singapore, China Town, An Evening in Paris and Kashmir Ki Kali.
Later he teamed up with Rajesh Khanna and it was Samanta's Aradhana that made him a superstar. The duo later worked together in films like Amar Prem, Anurodh, Awaaz, Kati Patang and Mehbooba.
With the decline of the popularity of Rajesh Khanna, Samanta's grip over the box-office also started slipping. None of the movies he made with other stars, except Great Gambler (1979) and Barsaat Ki Ek Raat (1981) with Amitabh Bachchan, could bring him the success which was his for the asking in the preceding decade. Suddenly he lost his Midas touch.
It was at about this time that he slowed down the pace of his filmmaking and handed over the reins of Shakti Films to his son Ashim Samanta. With time at his disposal, he became president of the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association (IMPPA) and later also assumed the post of chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
In the mid-1990s, his health began deteriorating and later he had a cardiac arrest. He had a pacemaker placed in his heart about a year ago. Last month, he was rushed to the Nanavati Hospital for a prostate gland operation.
The cumulative affect of having to withstand a weak heart and the operation became too much to bear for the 84-year-old filmmaker. He was discharged from the hospital only a week before he died.
After BR Chopra, Samanta's death is seen as another huge loss for the Hindi film industry.