Basuda, the producers’ delight, the ‘fallen’ man, and my personal courier service!...Nandita Puri remembers Basu Chatterjee
His movies delighted everyone who grew up with Hindi cinema. That was because Basu Chatterjee himself was joy personified.Updated: Jun 07, 2020 02:23 IST
I had two Basudas in my life. One was Basu Bhattacharya, who passed away in 1997. The other was Basu Chatterjee, who died last Thursday at 93. Coincidentally Chatterjee cut his teeth in filmmaking as an assistant under Bhattacharya in Raj Kapoor’s Teesri Kasam.
Both were as fond of me as I was of them and both treated me with a lot of love and affection. I miss them both dearly.
Both the Basudas were introduced to me by my husband, Om Puri, who worked with them in the course of his extensive career. But the reason he introduced me to them almost 25 years ago was that they could add a balm to my “missing Kolkata” phase by way of cha and adda sessions in Bengali. Needless to say, I took full advantage of them. Including the full course Bengali meals they treated me to!
Mr Zoom Chatterjee
I used Basuda (Chatterjee) many times as my courier to ferry theplas and chivda from Mumbai to my mother in Kolkata (as he shuttled between the two metros) and bring back sandesh, nolen gur and other such delicacies from her to me. Before video chat existed, he would give her all the “khobor” about me over cha. Mind you, Basuda did it happily.
We all know about his films, so I shall not go into that. We grew up with Rajnigandha (1974), Khatta Meetha (1978), Rajani (1985), Kakaji Kahin (1988) and so much of his work. But the best thing about Basuda was that they never sat heavily on him. He was simple and fun loving at heart.
My husband Om Puri played the character of an aspiring and corrupt power broker in Kakaji Kahin, a political satire based on Manohar Shyam Joshi’s Netaji Kahin, one of Basuda’s masterpieces for Indian television. According to Om, (in his biography, Unlikely Hero: Om Puri): “Basuda was an economic filmmaker, used a lot of zoom (often called, Zoom Chatterjee) and compromised cleverly on locations. Though not a very smart thing to do in film grammar, he was a producer’s delight. Once during Kakaji Kahin, when a location was not available, he shot the remaining bit by taking tight close-ups of us actors against a black background!
“And he is perhaps one director, who if he tells you he requires you till say 3 pm, chances are he will release you by 1 pm.”
“Om Puri wrote in his biography, ‘Basuda was an economic filmmaker, used a lot of zoom, and compromised on locations. He was a producer’s delight!”
I was privy to this during the filming of Triyacharitra (1994) in Allahabad in 1994. Apart from Om, the film also has Rajeshwari Sachdev, S M Zaheer, Naseeruddin Shah and Deepak Qazir. We were put up in a small circuit house and I have a phobia against carpets. Specially the dusty kind. So I decided when the unit would be out for the shoot the following day, I would get rid of the carpet from the room. Om said he would be back by 5pm and I had to do it before he returned. In the midst of removing the dusty carpet, I heard voices in the corridor. It was 1 pm. I opened the door to find Rajeshwari there and when I asked her why she was back so early, she happily said the shoot was over. And then I saw Om behind her!
And at that rate the shoot ended a week ahead of schedule!
Berth of a legend
Basuda and his wife, who I called Mashima (strange equation this, of brother and aunt in Bengali), were stopping by in Delhi and asked Om and me to join them to savour the Delhi winter. We agreed. The train journey to Delhi was memorable.
Basuda and Mashima were sleeping on the upper berths while Om and me were on the lower. In a few minutes, the men were snoring. We women continued our chat sessions in whispers. Finally I decided to sleep and told Mashima to do so. She said her husband had a tendency to get up in the middle of the night. She was worried that while climbing down, he might fall. I assured her nothing of the sort would happen. But she insisted. Every time I dozed off, she’d repeat her fears. Finally I fell asleep and awoke to a huge crashing sound. I thought the train had crashed! We all woke up to find Basuda had indeed fallen!
He brushed aside our concern, and without much fuss headed to the toilet. Om quickly took the upper berth to avoid further disasters. Basuda returned to the lower berth after much cajoling. I told Mashima to sleep. “Yes I will,” she replied. “See, I told you your Basuda would fall. Now I can sleep. Goodnight!” Indeed.
Thank you Basuda for providing so much fun and laughter and happiness. I will miss you for sure.
(Author Bio: Nandita Puri is an author, chairperson of the Om Puri Foundation and wife of the late actor Om Puri)
From HT Brunch, June 7, 2020
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