King of destiny: Prakash Mehra | india | Hindustan Times
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King of destiny: Prakash Mehra

The Indian film industry lost three of its stalwarts within a span of two months. Shakti Samanta, Feroz Khan and now Prakash Mehra. With his death, a pillar of commercial Hindi cinema has come crumbling down, writes Madhur Bhandarkar.

india Updated: May 19, 2009 21:02 IST
Madhur Bhandarkar

The Indian film industry lost three of its stalwarts within a span of two months. Shakti Samanta, Feroz Khan and now Prakash Mehra.

With his death, a pillar of commercial Hindi cinema has come crumbling down. Standing in front of his lifeless body, I kept going back to the days when I had met him. This same very lifeless body was once the soul of Indian cinema in the 70s and 80s.

Prakash Mehra was a true entertainer. He was the king of stories where the hero would either be disgruntled in love or by society. He started off his career with Haseena Maan Jayegi starring Shashi Kapoor and Babita, followed by Mela, which was the perfect formula for a commercial hit. Then came Samadhi and Ek Kunwara Aur Ek Kunwari. All this while, he was directing for other banners. With Zanjeer — a cult film that marked the advent of the ‘angry young man’ in Indian cinema — he started his own banner. His combination with Amitabh Bachchan proved lethal at the box office and belted out a string of hits from Zanjeer to Sharaabi.

My association with Prakashji goes way back in time when he was at the peak of his career. I and my friends used to go to his trial theatre-cum-office at Sumit to get the stickers of his latest release, which he always gave away generously. I remember pushing my way through for the shooting of Namak Halal in Andheri. Another thing that fascinated me was the air-conditioned shooting floor — in those days, it was not a regular thing to have AC shooting floors. Seeing the maverick at work was an experience I shall cherish all my life.

I met Prakashji around 6-7 months ago. He was frail and weak, yet in full form, narrating to me anecdotes of his films. He had the ability to bring the reel characters closer to reality.
Prakashji was a trendsetter — he changed mainstream Hindi cinema with his sense of drama, Indian emotion and above all his ear for great music. His songs are still thriving, despite being decades-old.

Prakashji will always be cherished in the memories of his audience who whistled, clapped, dance and cried with him in his films. Filmmakers like Prakash Mehra do not live just through their films but become immortal in the memories of their audiences, too.

These words from his Muqaddar Ka Sikandar stand so true: “Zindagi toh bewafa hai, ek din thukrayegi / Maut mehbooba hai, apne saath lekar jayegi / Mar ke jeene ki ada jo duniya ko sikhlayega / Woh muqaddar ka sikandar jaaneman kehlayega.”