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British media lauds Hrishida's skills

Lamenting film director's death, it hails him as 'chronicler of the conservative Indian middle classes of the 1970s'.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2006 12:54 IST

British media has lamented noted film director Hrishikesh Mukherjee's passing away in Mumbai and has hailed him as the 'chronicler of the conservative Indian middle classes of the 1970s'.

In detailed obituaries, The Times and The Independent lavished praise on his film-making skills but noted that the themes of decency and family values that dominated his films had been swept away in India's recent economic changes.

The Times obituary said: "He echoed the mood of the times, when there was little to buy in an economically isolated India and being wealthy often meant being decadent. It was a time when the good cherished family and the bad cherished money - at least, so said Mukherjee.

"His films contained no violence, crime or vulgarity. That, in itself, set him apart as Bollywood embraced blood as a substitute for erotica, which was limited by the censors to the shaking bush or clinging wet sari. Mukherjee mostly made films the entire family could see. That is why they are still played repeatedly on state-run Indian television. They are an idealised view of the past.

"Mukherjee was no communist but he was a product of the Leftist soul of a now-vanished socialist India. As India changed he went out of style, but in his heyday he was one of the kings of Bollywood.

"Funny or tragic, his films carried the same themes of a high-thinking, urbanised, educated middle class."

"His films also adhered to middle-class Hindu secularism and the belief that religion was personal - one value, at least, that generally survives. He stuck to his basic themes consistently, rarely experimenting with new styles while others pushed out the bounds of violence and sexuality. His films were like himself - decent and proper".

The Independent wrote: "Mukherjee understood the nuances that characterised India's middle classes and portrayed them with a skilful and charming mix of objectivity, realism, pathos, humour and mild sarcasm.

"He was one of the last truly Bollywood-rooted directors, deliberately eschewing stories set in overseas locales and featuring flamboyant stars who dressed outrageously and acted outlandishly.

"The nub of almost all of Mukherjee's films was that most things in life can be made easier with laughter and simplicity".