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The magnificent Mukherjees

Filmmaker Shomu Mukherjee, who passed away yesterday, belonged to a family of illustrious filmmakers. Brahmanand Singh writes on the magnificent Mukherjee family.

entertainment Updated: Apr 11, 2008 14:52 IST
Brahmanand Singh

It's out-of-sight-absolutely-out-of-mind here. Shomu Mukherjee, who passed away on Thursday, belonged to a family of illustrious filmmakers.

Once, Tanuja had said that she would marry a Bengali.. she did.. they separated years later, albeit still bonded by their daughters. It is said that Kajol inherited her father's eyes and his name.. the family had nicknamed him ‘Kajolda' for his expressive eyes.

The early founders and the movers of the family are much more than a footnote in film history, writes Brahmanand Singh

From one generation to another
Sashadhar Mukherjee

The beginnings of the Mukherjee clan can be traced to that one bold step a young Bengali took in Jhansi. Sashadhar belonged to a family of lawyers. His father wanted Sashadhar to becoming a judge, but he caught a train to Bombay in 1934.

He met Himanshu Rai, who owned Bombay Talkies, and was employed as assistant sound engineer, soon to become an indispensable part of the studio's team.

When Himanshu Rai passed away, Sashadhar had to keep the wheels turning, and worked like a man possessed. In three months, he wrote and made Bandhan - the first jubilee hit of Bombay Talkies. The late 1930s- early '40s were whoopee time with tickets selling by the cartload for Bandhan, Naya Sansar Jhoola and Kismet.

<b1>Kismet ('43) made history by running for three years straight, a record in those days. He nurtured the talent of Ashok Kumar and gave breaks to Ramesh Sehgal, PL Santoshi, Subodh Mukherjee, Nasir Hussain, IS Johar, OP Nayyar and Usha Khanna.

He set up the legendary Filmistan banner, and when he had problems with his partners he stepped out to start Filmalaya.

From the 1960s to the '70s, he was associated with major hits like Dil De ke Dekho, Love in Simla, Ek Musafir Ek Hasina and Sambandh..

He initiated an acting school at the studio.. Sanjeev Kumar, Sadhana, Asha Parekh, Joy Mukherjee and Simi Gerewal were Filmalaya trained.

Satirani, his wife, was the only sister of Ashok, Kishore and Anup Kumar.

Subodh Mukherjee
Sashadhar pulled his younger brother Subodh away from the nationalist movement and jail to Bombay. Subodh Mukherjee's Munimji ('55, Dev Anand-Nalini Jaywant) and Paying Guest ('56, Dev Anand – Nutan) were whopper hits.

After Love Marriage (Dev Anand – Mala Sinha), Subodh eventually ventured into colour with Junglee ('59).

The Shammi Kapoor-Saira Banu film, shot in picturesque Kashmir, celebrated silver jubilees at three different cinema halls in Bombay and two in Secunderabad-Hyderabad.

Shagird

was another record-break ing hit.



..and Sons

Sashadhar detected the potential talent of nephew Ram Mukherjee (elder brother Rabindra Mohan Mukherjee's son) and brought him to Bombay, entrusting him with the reins of

Leader

and

Hum Hindustani

, under the Filmistan and Filmalaya banners.

Daunted by their commercial failure perhaps, Ram moved on to make Bengali films, returned, and for a while, looked after the management of Filmalaya (along with S Mukherjee's elder son, Ronodev).

Sashadhar's eldest son Rono Mukherjee made only one film, Tu Hi Meri Zindagi, with brother Debu Mukherjee. Next, he managed Filmalaya.

Sashadhar's second son Joy was easily one of the most popular heroes of the 1960s. The effervescent star shot to limelight with Love in Simla.

Among his all-time moneyspinners count Love In Tokyo, Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon, Ziddi and Shagird. He turned producer director with Humsaya and Love in Bombay. Neither clicked. His sons Toy and Boy could not make waves as movie debutants.

Third son, Debu Mukherjee, like Joy opted for acting and did quite a few films - Tu Hi Meri Zindagi (directed by brother Rono), Aansoo Ban Gaye Phool, Sambandh and Ek Bar MuskuraDo.

Eventually the production bug caught up with him too and he produced and directed Karate (starring Mithun Chakraborty, himself, Kajol Kiron and Yogita Bali) but not many saw it.

<b3>Sashadhar Mukherjee tried to, for some unknown reason (maybe because he'd seen all his children gradually taking to films without showing spectacular results), resist fourth son Shomu's entry into films and encouraged him academically sending him away to England for studies.

However, you can't keep fish away from water for long. Shomu made Ek Bar Muskura Do (with brothers Joy and Debu and Tanuja), following it up with Fiffty-Fiffty, Chhaila Babu, Sangdil Sanam (Salman-Manisha, '94) and Bengali films like Jamai Babu and Ajker Santan.

Shubir moved to the U S, but not before trying his hand at producing a film: Teesri Aankh (DharmendraZeenat Aman, directed by uncle Subodh Mukherjee.

Grandchildren
Ram Mukherjee's daughter is Rani. Kajol and Tanisha are Shomu's daughters.

Rono Mukherjee's children, Sharbani Mukherjee (Border) and Samrat (Bhai Bhai), have tried their hand in acting.. but are still waiting for that much-dreamt-about big break.