Shyam Benegal was felicitated with the Raj Kapoor Award for his contribution to Indian cinema, at a gala in the US hosted by the Friends of South Asian American Community. He’s the first Indian to receive the honour, Benegal remembered RK as a quintessential filmmaker who worked in the golden age of Indian cinema.
“He was a showman without parallel, and in terms of popularity, the only one whose films had as big a following in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, China and the Middle-East as they did at home,” says Benegal who’s just bagged another National Award for Well Done Abba.
Benegal who had accompanied the showman to the Moscow Film Festival recalls that he was the only one to get a luxury coach all for himself. “It was such a thrill traveling in his company because it made the Russians really hospitable and accorded us with a lot of respect,” smiles Benegal. Quiz him on his favourite RK movie and he says he loves them along, including Awaara. “It’s been a long time since I watched them, I should go back to them soon,” he muses.
Benegal is already at work on his next project but refuses to divulge details because it’s too premature. He was part of the core creative committee that also included lyricists Prasoon Joshi and Javed Akhtar, to conceptualise the opening and closing ceremonies Prod him on the galas and he says that what they had given the nod to an entertaining package which was then handed over to Bharat Bala to execute. “I hope things finally happen the way they should have. Delhi’s working 24x 7 on the Games but unfortunately the floods, the worst in three decades, have played havoc,” he points out.
Rahman is likely to perform to the CWG anthem, Swagatham… on Day One. What is Benegal’s take on it? “I think it’s pretty good, an Indian song with an international feel,” he says. “Unfortuantely, in our country, one negative comment and you’re history. But in this case, I think the anthem should work, it packs plenty of energy.”