He was boss. In the 1970s, the director was right there in the vanguard..he invent ed star careers, resurrected talent. Narrated superb stories and inspired timeless music from his composers.
Of his 41 films in Hindi and Bengali, many of them are remembered..yet the 82-year-old auteur is leading a retired life today. The last film he directed was Devdas in Bengali four years ago. Alright then, over to Shakti Samanta of Aradhana, Amar Prem, Kati Patang, Anuraag, Amanush.. I meet him in his Andheri studio office:
You were operated three years ago for a heart ailment. How have you been after the operation, sir?
Well, all’s fine. I spend some time at Natraj studio (which he owns in partnership). There’s a building coming up there. I’ve also been actively involved in various film guilds, including IMPPA (Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association), so that used to take up a significant amount of my time.
How do you look back at your achievements?
I feel satisfied..I did what I had set out to achieve. There’s no room for regrets in my heart. I pretty much got what I wanted. I’m proud of my movies.
Do you take credit for making Rajesh Khanna a superstar?
(Laughs) If you want to dump the credit on me, I don’t mind.. but I think he was a good actor. You cannot make a superstar out of a talentless actor. Although I’m not in touch with him, I still admire him for the performances he gave me. If you ask me, he’s one of best actors we’ve ever had..it’s sad that he lost his way.
Why did the Khanna magic wane?
He didn’t keep up with the times. Look at Amitabh Bachchan. He’s still working and doing so well for himself.
Although your films with Rajesh Khanna worked wonders, with Amitabh Bachchan, you didn’t form a great team.
You can’t compare the films of two different actors. Both were highly efficient. When I made films with Amitabh, cinema had changed.. action films were working then.
It is no secret that in the 70s, you were as big as Yash Chopra. Today, his Yashraj Films is the biggest production house..but Shakti Films is a former shadow of itself.
See, we’ve been working at our own pace. I never had any problems with Yash. In fact, his brother BR (Chopra) saab is a good friend.
Do you find it surprising that none of your films won a National Award?
You can’t win awards by ethical means..for awards, any kind of award, you have to lobby. And I never did that.
How do you look back at the heroines whom you introduced in the Bombay movies?
Well..Sharmila (Tagore), Moushumi (Chatterjee)..I just feel tremendous that after my films they went on to even bigger successes. I also look back at pride with the fact that Uttam Kumar was really appreciated in Amanush..but you know how it is in cinema..I don’t want to take any credit for the impact they made. They were extraordinary artistes in their own right.
The legacy continues..
Shakti Samanta’s son Ashim has made six films including Ahankar and Aakhri Baazi and a few television serials. He started off assisting his father.
“Working with dad was a super learning experience. It’s surprising that though dad’s from a family of engineers, he made it big as a filmmaker,” he says.
Ashim plans to launch his son Aditya, a business management graduate, as an actor. His other son, Vidyut, is interested in filmmaking. The Samanta legacy will continue with his grandchildren.